CASTELLI Backpack Review
My Castelli Backpack review fit in nicely my recent Giro coverage, when I received one of the first media samples in Sanremo Italy. It’s part of their new line bags for the serious cyclist that offer up the quality, durability, and easy to use designs you’d expect from this top brand of cycling apparel for the roadie, and here’s how it looks…
When a brand goes for an extension into another category, I’m often skeptical because I’ve seen many ‘brand extensions’ that end up as nothing more than cheap advertising which ultimately cheapens a brand’s overall image and value. Now, doing a gear bag or backpack in cycling is nothing new. I’ve seen at least a dozen of them over that past few years, only a couple of which I liked enough to still use today.
But Castelli has a reputation for doing things that need doing, and while their line up is huge – they make something for every type of road cycling weather condition – I’m pretty sure no single rider needs or would use every one of the items they make, simply because they offer so many variations that the overlap of some products allow riders to choose only what they need for localized riding conditions. For example, living in Vancouver I have little need for lightweight kit designed for very hot days, but I do have a serious need for gear to keep my dry and warm on wet days.
They’ve really pushed the boundaries of fabric development – they’re rain repellent and breathable Gabba jersey has practically invented a new category in wet weather protection. And as I write this, Castelli are working in the wind tunnel looking still closer at airflow around a cyclist’s body, and how different fabrics cut and placed in different areas on the body affect airflow and drag.
Materials are high-quality feeling poly throughout, and the outside is treated to repel water and other junk. Like everything else I’ve seen from Castelli, the construction and materials are top-notch.
And something else that just sorta smacked me in the head was that Castelli ONLY DOES ROAD GEAR. Look, I know I’m no Sherlock on this one, but this singular focus is another reason they’ve taken a leadership roll in the category. So even though I was skeptical when I heard about a full bag line launch coming now, I was also excited to see what their innovative thinking and technical applications would produce.
The straps are wide enough to hold even a fully loaded pack comfortably on the shoulders, and the inside is made of a pretty deep mesh to keep ’em breathing against your skin. I rode my bike around a pretty warm Florence at the Giro, and on these short commutes detected no sweaty under-strap moisture. Note the two loops on the straps near the bottom of the frame – they’re stretchy and a handy place to tuck something on the fly .
The backpack launch itself was tee’d up for the Thursday before the Giro in Sanremo Italy, but when the RCS changed the teams’ press conference schedule to conflict with Castelli’s plans, the launch was down-sized to a one on one meeting with Castelli’s Steve Smith who was delivering bags to select members of the media. Low key is a style done well by these guys and is a natural and genuine way to do things when your US head office is based in Portland.
The zippers were all really easy to move – so much that I made note of this. I sort of expected the main pack zips to stick because that highly sealed seam that covers them hides the zippers out of sight and water-repellent when closed.
The presentation went something like this:
“So here’s the bag… Oh and inside is a t-shirt and a Castelli retro baseball cap.” ..said Steve. He ran me through its features in a couple minutes … no need to take any longer – it is a backpack after all – we all know how they work.
So it’s a medium sized pack- not so big that you’ll be tempted to shove extras of everything in there (they’ve got something coming for that), but perfectly sized to hold a change of clothes in two large storage compartments. The backpack is part of a whole bag lineup that will include a large duffel bag, and hard shell carry-on sized suitcase.
Two main compartments offer plentiful inside stowage, and even though the body is a self supporting structure so it doesn’t really collapse on itself, it felt like it expanded as I stuffed more gear inside. There’s plenty of room for cycling shoes, helmet, and a pretty much all the clothing you’d want to take along to support a day on the bike. It also held a full morning’s shopping after collecting items for Mrs. Pez in Florence.
But that’s not all…
The inside stowage includes a laptop pouch, and enough zippered, meshed, and elastic’d pouches that staying organized will be easy (my tester actually got lost with my suitcase on the way back from Italy, and I didn’t count these pouches beforehand, but there’s gotta be a dozen or more of em in there.) What else…? How about that red interior material – chosen as a hi-vis alternative to the usual black-hole inspired fabrics almost every one of my other packs uses. Here you can actually see what you’ve got inside!
The outer shell is a pretty rugged feeling material that’s also impervious to water. I wouldn’t expect many of you to take this for an extended outing in a serious downpour, but it’s still good to know that your gear inside will be protected from everything except a full immersion in water…
Speaking of which – here’s what that looks like:
I enjoyed some good use of this pack on my days at the Giro, and for my return home I placed it inside my suitcase as extra padding for the wine I was bringing home – it fit nicely into my suitcase and squished down with no problems, even though I mentioned earlier that the structure has enough integrity to support itself. Sadly, Lufthansa lost my suitcase and as of this posting, it’s still missing. My fingers are crossed though that my suitcase will be found, but then come mid-June they’ll be available in bike shops, so I can always buy one. The packs will run about $200, which is what I’d expect to pay for a well engineered and super-functional carrier like this one.
• See more at Castelli-Cycling.com
• Check pricing at Amazon.com here