BackTpack: A Bag for the Zombie Apocalypse (and Good Posture)

Karen Voyer-CaravonaKaren Voyer-Caravona is an admitted bicycle dilettante in Flagstaff, Arizona, who blogs about her adventures on two wheels, vélo envy, her husband’s cooking, and cross country skiing at Visit her Website for her endless opinions on the most stylish shoes for pedaling, critiques of bike parking, and the best bike date dining destinations.

The BackTpack is different from any backpack or bike bag I have reviewed thus for Commute by Bike. The bag was designed by a professional physical therapist and educator for the specific purpose of encouraging “tall, strong posture,” necessary for fitness and injury prevention. She developed the bag in response to pain and injury experienced by people who regularly carry backpacks, especially school children whose packs are weighted down with textbooks.

BackTpack and KarenUnlike traditional backpacks that are worn across the back, the BackTpack resembles a vest with carrying compartments (12 in all) situated at the wearers sides, about waist or hip level.

Instead of the weight of the load being on the wearer’s back, often forcing him or her to lean forward to compensate for the weight, the BackTpack applies the load to the “vertical spine axis through the shoulders.”

According to its developer, this is a more efficient position for bones and muscles and for the body to work in harmony with gravity. Although I’ve spent a lot of time with physical therapist for any number of running and lower-back related issues, I’m not qualified to render a professional opinion about proper body alignment but the tag on the bag reads that the product is endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association. So there!

Image: BackTpack

The BackTpack Website provides a wealth of information about the bag, how it benefits good posture, how it facilitates the carrying of heavy loads, and who the product is designed for. The Website also includes an abundance of gallery photos and instructional video on how to properly load, don, and remove the pack, and how to adjust it for proper fit. The BackTpack comes in three different versions and in a variety of colors.

I was given the BackTpack3 to test in my color preference of Leaf Green (exterior) and Seafoam (interior). The bag is constructed of tough, durable crinkle nylon and is waterproof. The heavy-duty nylon straps are adjustable and come with solidly made buckles that open and close without difficulty. The two large pockets are padded all the way around and come with 12 interior and exterior pockets of various sizes. The two large primary compartment zip shut and each contain another zipped pocket in the interior. Several other pockets have flaps that close shut with Velcro. Other utility features include a key fob, a mess water bottle holder in each compartment and a headphone port for when you need music.

BackTpack Street ViewIf you are at all familiar with my previous bike bag reviews for Commute by Bike, or with my blog She Rides a Bike, you already know that I require a nice balance between style and function when it comes to actually using a product beyond the test phase. I am ashamed to admit that style frequently trumps function with me — though at times function and utility win out.

My husband and I frequently fall back on a couple of truly unattractive, boxy panniers for big trips to the grocery store because, for the money, they really do the job.

While I originally thought that I would fall all over myself to purchase the Lane Leather Bicycle Pannier Messenger and pedal around Flagstaff like some bike commuting version of Emma Peel/Diana Rigg (Google her for the definition of eternal feminine hip and cool!), until it combines some of the practical utility of my Timbuk2 Shift Messenger Pannier I won’t be making the switch.

In terms of functionality, the BackTpack really seems to do all it says it will do. It’s comfortable to wear, and the straps easily adjust to a proper fit. You can carry a lot of weight in this bag and do so without pain or feeling dragged down.

BackTpack Interior
BackTpack Interior View

I liked that the two small pockets in the front of each compartment made my cell phone and camera easily accessible, probably more so than any other bag that I currently use. I think this would be a great bag for a photographer or anyone who has a job that requires one to move fast without a car and travel with a portable office. Given the economic times, this could become the norm.

BackTpack in briefcase modeIf traveling from job site to job site on a bike, the wearer only needs to lock up the bike and go because he’s literally got everything he needs on him. The BackTpack3 version folds and can be carried with a briefcase-style handle built into the construction if the user prefers. Other people who might benefit from the pack are parents toting young children, or, as the Website notes, people who have to carry personal medical supplies or devises with them in case of an emergency. Personally, my favorite feature is the fabric (has a touch of shine to it) and the choice of colors. I’d give anything for a nice trench coat in the same fabric and color.

One issue I did have with functionality was the necessity of carefully arranging the both compartment to weigh roughly an equal amount. As a regular bike commuter, I accept that I have to do a bit of planning to make my trip as efficient as possible. But with all the coming and going that one might have to do during the course of the day, equalizing the weight is just something I have neither the time nor willingness to do.

BackTpack Rear ViewAll that said, I don’t think that I’ll use the BackTpack much beyond this test because what I gain in functionality can’t compensate for what I lose in style, and I think many bike commuting urban professionals would agree with me. Despite the best efforts of my mother to convince me of the contrary, I live in a world in which appearances matter, and, unfortunately, the BackTpack just makes me look like a little garden gnome. I’m short and this bag just makes me look further hammered into the ground.

Although I received the small size, I still felt rather overwhelmed by it. On top of that, it just doesn’t convey the right image. It makes me look like I’m going on vacation not to work. Frankly, despite his penchant for hopping the globe collecting objects of antiquity, I cannot see Professor Indiana Jones wearing it either. My husband remarked that all I need is a set of binoculars hanging around my neck and a safari hat to resemble a middle-aged tourist in Yellowstone National Park. He urged me never to wear it, especially in his company.

Nonetheless, I do plan to hold on to the BackTpack. I have a bike trip to the Grand Canyon planned with some friends for later this fall and I may just use it then. Bob will be going too so he’ll just have to man-up and deal with his garden gnome of a wife for four days.

Zombie Cyclist
Zombies: Still working on the bike thing | Flickr Photo: armadilo60

The BackTpack might just have real touring possibilities and it could end up being a bit of a lifesaver. I sure that most of you are well aware of the possibility of a zombie apocalypse and are as anxious as I am about preparing an escape. Obviously, car dwellers will be doomed due to their dependence on gas and the inevitable shortage auto parts and/or an utter lack of car repair skills when they break down on the highway as a hoard of the walking dead close in. Bob and I plan to high-tail it to the safe zone on our bikes but it’s clear that we’re going to need to take supplies. Sure bikes don’t have the horsepower of an SUV but zombies are notoriously slow and clumsy so we’re unlikely to be overtaken with them on I-40. A patch kit, replacement tubes, tires, a few basic small tools, and Clif Bars will be easy to carry in the BackTpack. The pack itself will provide me with body protection in the event I encounter a zombie as well as offer convenient storage for my zombie blades. Without a doubt, during a zombie apocalypse, function most definitely out-prioritizes style.

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11 thoughts on “BackTpack: A Bag for the Zombie Apocalypse (and Good Posture)”

  1. Chrehn says:

    Great idea! But, visually, I just can’t find the right word…

  2. Cullen says:

    Would the, horribly named, “BackTpack” work for recumbent cyclists?

    If so, they should market it towards the recumb. crowd. I’d definitely consider one!

  3. I don’t see why you couldn’t use it on a recumbent bicycle, although I don’t have one to test it with. It seems to be marketed to a pretty broad audience.

  4. BluesCat says:

    Yeah, I think the BackTpack would work okay on a recumbent.

    ‘Course, I could tell you for sure if it works if BackTpack would send one of their products to me for field testing. 😉 (chuckle)

  5. just got back from the bike shop to try the BackTpack on a recumbent bike. I was amazed that it did work well. Thought there would be unhealthy pressure onto the abdomen from the sit strap, but the wide backrest took the weight of the bags. If you are wider than the backrest this might not work so well so be sure there is no pressure on your abdomen. Also the shoulder straps need to be long enough so that the “sit strap” works to unload your spine when you are getting on and off your bike.

  6. Also, if you see the zombies themselves wearing BackTPacks, you know that they are smart/fast zombies, and the end is therefore near.

  7. Kymba says:

    I’m usually really against wearing bags on me when riding, but I could see this being used as a BackTpack when I’m off it and walking, and when I get back to my bike either using it as designed or… slinging it over the rear rack for instant panniers! Looks like the tops/zippers would face forward, but it would work with careful tucking of the various straps.
    Interesting bag!

  8. janine says:

    I’m sorry but that is hideous looking and I wouldn’t be caught dead in one!

  9. Hi Karen,

    You’re going to need some zombie weapons to put in your bag. If you want to get some let me know and I can tell you were. Oh, and by the way, the zombie weapons I am talking about would match well with the bag that is in the pics on this post. They have handles the same color of green. Let me know.


  10. Patrick, I want one of those samari swords that Michonne flashes around!

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