I broke the backpack so you don’t have to
“Tried&Tested” is where I push my carry goods until they are on the verge of being un-useable. Everything I do to my packs in Tried & Tested is beyond warranty coverage. Before you buy the RAINS backpack, I want you to know how it performs under the worst care and neglect possible. Life’s too short to worry that my things can’t support me in the everyday.
For TLDR: Summary, and Final Verdict: scroll to the sections at the bottom.
After 2 years, 3 countries, and hundreds of carry miles later, I finally broke my beloved RAINS backpack. I’m probably the first person to ever do this.
I’ve trudged through tropical rainstorms in Singapore, hiked though the scorching summer sun in Seoul, walked the streets of Oxfordshire, braved the bitterly cold coastal winds in Brighton, and lugged 3 kilos of food and water up through mountains in Korea with it.
It’s metal hardware is rusted, the coating is chipped in places, and the straps are fraying at the tips. The matte material is scuffed, cut and scratched in many places, especially along the edge binding. The waterproof zipper of the rear hidden pocket has torn away inwards. It also no longer holds its crisp, clean shape.
- Beach-to-boardroom looks
I’ve worn the RAINS backpack through hell and back — posh hotel lobbies, airport lounges, sweltering jungles, misty mountains, sweaty bus rides in summer, and cold co-working offices.
The slim, but coated straps on the RAINS backpack are much more comfortable than they seem. And boy, do they pay dividends in good looks. The matte polyurethane (PU) material, the slim profile, and minimal details on the RAINS backpack blend with whatever I’m wearing, wherever I am.
- Water resistance
What they don’t show you in slick Kickstarter demo videos is that water-repellent coatings don’t last, and repel only water, not dirt and oils. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post before. Unlike other packs, the RAINS backpack doesn’t rely on water-repellent coatings: the material is itself impermeable to water, oils, and dirt.
But one thing to note is that the pack’s seams are still permeable to water. Under torrential rains (🗸), and prolonged soaking (also, 🗸), water will eventually seep in . Swimming with it is a really bad idea (✗).
- Stain resistance
I’ve had everything from mud, whipped cream, fried chicken grease, mayonnaise, and nacho cheese dip smeared gratuitously on my backpack. The RAINS backpack’s matte polyurethane (PU) material wipes completely clean with a simple wet wipe, or a wet cloth and hand soap.
I dare you to try that with any other pack.
I love how the hidden pocket on the RAINS classic backpack sits safely against your back, while still allowing for easy access to my wallet, passport, keys, cards or other valuables. Too often I see people on the subway with their bags left unzipped, especially smaller pockets in front.
- Scuffs easily
The matte material RAINS uses looks fantastic, and is super stain and water resistant. Here’s the catch — it scuffs and scratches really easily. But the Cordura nylon panels on the base and back are pristine.
- Limited Accessibility
The backpack only has a flap-top access. It’s tall, deep and hard to reach. Small items frequently pile up in the deep recesses of the pack. I would have really appreciated adding water-resistant zippers running down the sides to allow the front panel to open up for lay-flat packing, or for easy access to the contents in the main compartment while carrying it.
- Poor Padding
I have to be the first to say that as an urban, everyday carry backpack — this was hardly an issue.
But I have to say the lack of padding for my laptop on the base always makes for a heart-wrenching “thud” whenever I accidentally set down my bag too hard.
There were times, especially in more rugged places like Bukhansan mountain, where I started to really become annoyed with the lack of comfort under heavy loads on long, steep hikes. The thin straps start to dig in, and the full weight of hard objects presses into your back.
Can this pack take you through day hikes, or trips to the beach? Yes. Is it the best pack for that? No, but the fact that it still shrugs off dirt, and inclement weather in such environments is a massive plus point for me.
Also, the lack of padding on the back can also mean that sweat does build up when the weather gets warm. I usually just sling it on one shoulder to let my sweat dry off. But the great thing about the thin straps on the RAINS, is the absence of sweat patches which most packs create with fatter, thicker straps.
Durability. I hate to see stuff I love break. The RAINS backpack is still useable, but not for long. To be fair —I took it places it wasn’t meant to go, loaded it with weights it wasn’t designed to carry
Protection. The laptop compartment is poorly padded. But so are most packs. Don’t expect to throw fragile gear around without padding inside.
Capacity. It comes in two sizes — both of which I own. I carry the large version with me on travels, and the smaller one for everyday use. The pack is slim, but holds more than enough for daily, urban use. Laptop sleeve is spacious, and will hold up to 13" laptops.
On hikes, it’s carried my:
- 1L Contigo water bottle,
- a pair of Sperry’s boat shoes,
- a change of clothes and toiletries
- infantry-issued gore-tex raincoat.
It’s also served me well as a picnic basket. It held:
- a UE Roll bluetooth speaker,
- 2 full glass bottles of Chilean chardonnay,
- 2 packs of pretzels, and
- a pair of proper wine glasses.
Organization. Minimal pocketing, but positioned really well. Less pockets means less stuff goes missing.
Accessibility. It’s a cavern in there. Would have loved zippers running down the sides for easier packing of clothes. Not ta big issue given that the quick access pockets for small items are well placed against your back, and near the edge of the mouth of the bag.
Aesthetic. It’s done all of that while managing to look absolutely slick, and requiring minimal cleaning.
I have never — ever — once felt out of place, or ashamed to be carrying the pack, no matter what I was wearing.
Comfort. Unless you’re carrying loads in excess of 5 kg, or walking for hours without rest, I have never found the thin straps, or lack of back padding to be an issue. In fact, the thin straps prevent sweat patches from forming. Sweat still forms at the back, due to a lack of ventilated padding.
Cost. At about €80, or about just under US$100 (ex. shipping), the RAINS backpack is worth every penny.
“Good vs. Great” — For the cost, and the performance. It’s still a definite buy. For something so versatile, it’ll carry you for at least a couple of years of daily use. Perfect for formal settings as much as casual. Blends with all outfits really well.
It’s pretty damn close to perfect, but certain issues are definitely present with the PU material’s durability, and the lack of padding. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps.
Manufacturing complexity and material costs have to be considered — which is why it is still rated as a “buy”. But then again, don’t we all wish we would find the perfect pack someday?