Shifter Pack from Alite Designs


If you follow me on twitter you have probably figured out that I have a thing for gadget storage, and just well.. storage in general. If you don't follow me on twitter then... hey guys I have a thing for storage, you may have seen a hint of it in a few blog posts I made.

Last year I got a Tenba: Large Messenger Camera/Laptop Bag to house all of my various trinkets whilst on the go. It worked great over the summer and performed admirably at PAX PRIME and on several occasions since then, however there were a few issues I had with it that planted a seed of need for a different solution.
1.)No matter how I strapped it to my back, it would slide down from my relatively stationary back down to my more mobile butt regions where walking caused it to shift up and down on my back. Which could cause pilling of whatever fabric it was rubbing against.

2.)Packed with various convention/travel essentials (camera, dice, a couple of magic decks) the bag didn't have much more room for stuff. Now an extra water bottle, a few t-shirts or w/e was fine, but anything more and the bag became to full to use, especially when trying to retrieve my camera. 3.)Not very practical as a day bag (see item 2.) Good for transporting tech, not so hot for other things.

Now, those issues aside, I still love my Tenba bag. If I am hauling tech gear, it doesn't get much better, the problem is largely in its performance as a hybrid/travel bag.

Recently I have been finding lots of cool stuff through and that was where I first found out about Alite Designs who make some pretty cool camper/urban survivalist gear.

I saw their Big Oak Backpack and got really excited because I have wanted a soft-frame camping bag solution, but then I saw the Shifter Pack and I realized what had been missing in my life.

DSC_0004 The Shifter Pack is a hybrid between a back pack and a more traditional backpacker style daypack. It features some very nice erganomically formed straps as well as securing straps across the chest and waist. Each shoulder strap has a reflective patch, some heavy duty nylon weave loops as well as some neat secondary straps that can be used for a variety of purposes. The padding against your back is a breathable mesh weave of a high quality nylon that doesn't catch at fabric but still holds the bag firm against your back.

The bag features a dedicated laptop pocket accessible from outside the bag via the enclosure shown, and internally there is a flap access. The external enclosure can be further secured with the adjustable clips. The entire bag is weather proof and water resistant (stands up to rain... don't go scuba diving with it). I can vouch for its weather and water resistance as I have used it camping and even when a dog bowl of water got tipped over on it, the water just shed off.

DSC_0001 The front of the bag features three pockets, a heavy duty canvas loop, and handle for an added way to pick it up and carry it in a pinch. The bag also features a pocket on the side that is large enough for a standard Camelback/Sports style water bottle but not quite big enough for a traditional Nalgene bottle. The top of the bag can either be fully extended allowing for extra storage, or folded over its self and clipped for extra security and weather proofing.

The first pocket is kind of a quick stash pocket, big enough to put some keys in, some snacks, doggy waste bags, or a crushable rainjacket. Small stuff you need quick access too, this is the pocket for you.

The second pocket, located on the right hand side of the front, zips vertically and is laid out across the width of the bag, it features an internal belt loop and is surprisingly spacious. Depending how full the main bag is you can fit quite a few things in here. At full capacity in the main bag this pocket can fit probably a DS and a game carrier, or a decent size book, maybe not ASOIAF sized but pretty big. A kindle will fit into this pocket easy as well as several other similar sized devices. I think it is big enough for an iPad but I don't have one to try and I am to lazy to measure.

The third front pocket is similar to the second. It has a vertical zip, is laid out across the width of the bag and has internal belt loops. The two pockets (2nd and 3rd) overlap each other so laying stuff out in them is most efficient if you do kind of a zizag pattern, loading one heavy at the top light at the bottom and the other heavy on bottom light on top. This gives you a number of ways to configure your stuff internally to have dedicated pockets and still not have a giant bulky bag. This pocket by default comes with a insert (what those little belt loops are for) that allows further division and separation of items within your bag.

Here is the extra insert which has two belt loop mounts that allow you to arrange it two different ways within your bag within either of the two large front pockets or in the main part of the bag there is also a place to mount it. It features a full width main pocket that zips closed and as the icon indicates (I am a sucker for this kind of little detail) it contains a ribbon and clip for securing your keys within. The other icons suggest other uses for the external pockets, though the camera pocket is only for those who have a little quick shot sports camera, I don't think it would even fit a micro SLR even if you took the lens off, it does however fit an iPhone quite nicely. When camping I used this to great success as my washroom kit, it fit all of my travel toiletries as well as my electric shaver.

The main bag is deceptively large. It contains one internal pocket divider which would allow you to separate some slimmer items from bulkier ones (D&D books fit in it perfectly) as well as the belt loop, mentioned earlier, and a flap to access the dedicated laptop pocket.

The laptop pocket is held closed with velcro with some nice overlap so that you don't have things falling in and bothering your precious lappy.

I had to, of course, test its capacity to see if it would serve me better for my needs, especially with another PAX on the horizon. So, I started grabbing stuff I would probably take or a rough facsimile to see how much I could get in there. This is probably about 75-80% filled. I didn't really utilize the front pockets all that much and I didn't use the optional top section even though it is currently unfolded.

Final Verdict: Yup, it holds lots of stuff. The lens and the air pump (in case you are wondering) was my stand in for my SLR which I was using to take pictures. All of this fit within the bag and I was able to strap it on my back just fine and had a fair amount of room to fit some soft bulky stuff like some t-shirts or w/e. A week ago I used it for a weekend trip to my in-laws and was able to fit clothing for 3 days, Dog supplies, all of my mobile work gear (laptop and accessories) and still some extra room for the inevitable stuff picked up on such a trip.

For the completionist, here is the list of what is pictured.
  1. Tamron 7-300mm lens
  2. Coleman 4D battery air mattress pump
  3. Full set of dice required for Dungeon Mastering
  4. 2 X full sleeved MTG Commander decks with sideboards in boxes.
  5. 3 X full sleeved MTG Standard decks with sideboards in boxes
  6. Travel Chargers for laptop and Nintendo DS
  7. Box of Munchkin (which has expansions 1-3 in box) as well as 1 extra expansion box
  8. Passport
  9. Nintendo 3DS in cushioned travel case with a few extra games inside
  10. Official Nintendo Club DS game and stylus carrier
  11. Kindle
  12. iPhone 4s in Lego case

I have had a few occasions to use this bag already, and I will have a few more over the summer before PAX Prime, but already I am in love with it. All the little details, the various places you can mount extra equipment and the attention to detail and solid construction just make me a happy, happy boy. I hightly suggest you check out Alite Designs for their other products and gear and if you are looking for a bag I would highly suggest checking out the Shifter.

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