Observation Bags

Let me confess: I am a bag junkie. My habit started during my messenger days when I was always looking for something bigger, better, more comfortable, or more durable, and I now have a bike room filled with close to two-dozen bags representing 20 years of design—a virtual museum.

I should have a bag to suit any and every purpose, but that’s not the case. Riding a longtail (a Bilenky “Chuckwagon”) with a tall seven-year-old seated tight behind me on the rack deck leaves little room for luggage. Most bags position their load low enough to sit at my son’s face level; he could use it as a pillow (and on more than one occasion, has).

Enter the Arcteryx Arro 22 backpack. Long, narrow, and vaguely triangular in shape, it comfortably carries its load high, leaving plenty of headroom for the boy behind me. The Arro is large enough for a day or three of necessary (and unnecessary) gear and is ridiculously overbuilt–burly waterproof zippers and ultra-thick cordura, Armourlite, and Hypalon panels. The bag has two side pockets (asymmetrical—one with elastic and one with velcro) that are perfect for a pocket-sized lock and small Sigg bottle, a waterproof exterior pocket, and a capacious interior pocket. That’s it—none of those supposedly useful but ultimately superfluous pockets most bags are encumbered with. Matte black, the bag has subdued styling that works as well in the city as it does in the woods. As with most Arcteryx products, there’s a bold logo stitched across the exterior pocket, but it’s a small price to pay for an otherwise clean appearance. Just because a bag isn’t specifically designed for cycling doesn’t mean it can’t be perfect for cycling.

The rub? The bag is hard to find. For some reason. Arcteryx apparently makes few and many of them find their way to Japan (where high-design outdoor gear is fetishized). If you can find one, buy it. Immediately. Around $150,  they aren’t cheap, but by my esteem, it’s downright perfect and worth every penny.

by Matthew Card