If you cycle for any purpose other than purely for exercise, not needing to stop anywhere until you return home once again and with everything you need fitting neatly into one or all of your three jersey pockets, then you will have need of an additional means of carrying things.
A while back, someone came up with the idea of putting a strap or two on a bag and throwing it over their shoulders, and it’s kind of taken off since then. Some call them backpacks, and Henty calls their newest version the Tube.
Henty is a newish producer of bags from the rugged and beautiful place found asunder the bigger Down Under – Tasmania. That makes sense to me as Tasmania doesn’t seem to make a huge deal about how awesome it is, but quietly carries on with the job of blowing your mind with stunning scenery and tearing your legs off with epic cycling.
That’s Henty. Thus far I only have personal experience with their Tube backpack, but most of its features are found in their other products as well. What you get is a strong sense of quality, thoughtful design, and modest, clean aesthetics.
What is it and what do you get?
The Tube is Henty’s “ultimate sports bag for the active urbanite”. It follows the same general idea as their original Wingman, offering ample storage if needed, but rolling into a smaller packed size when not required. One of the key features with the Tube is the separation of the main compartments – more specifically, the main dry-bag compartment from the others.
Henty expects you to really use this bag. Get dirty and sweaty and/or wet, and then cram that foul stuff into the bag for the ride home, safely segregated from the things you wish to be kept free from the results of your laborious tasks. And, needless to say, as it’s quite waterproof indeed, commuting in the rain is no problem at all. Of course, you adhere fastidiously to rule #9 at all times, right?
Here are the features: three sizes to choose from (15L, 20L, and 25L), available in a single strap if you fancy yourself a messenger-type, waterproof main compartment with a full length zip making for easy access, two further large compartments on either side of the main one and accessible from the outside of the bag (the one with the waterproof zip is designed with tablets, etc in mind) and a third, small pocket for keys, phone, wallet, etc, also seam-sealed, an open-top pocket to fit bottle or rolled-up yoga mat sized objects, reflective elements, padded back, handles at various points for carrying or hanging up in the locker room when accessing your things, and various loops to attach lights, locks, helmets, or anything else you might want to attach to the outside of the bag. You can even clip it into the Wingman for another level of practicality. Smart.
That’s actually a much longer list than I was anticipating…
How does it work?
I’m pleased to say, very well indeed.
(I’m realizing that I’ve said that about a fair number of things that I’ve reviewed, but rest assured, I have absolutely no interest in tickling anyone’s balls in order to curry favour. I have a few criticisms that I’ll get to, but I just wanted to clear the air in case you were starting to make any assumptions…)
What I like (and a few things to note)
First, the build quality. These guys have made a bag that feels like it will last a lifetime. Robust stiching and handles, rugged material, big chunky zip on the main compartment with a tether to make using it easier, and the buckles are large and close with a solid snap – so far so good.
The thoughtful design. You can tell that the folks at Henty who are responsible for designing the Tube live the life that the Tube was designed for. The practicality of the waterproof – and therefore easy to clean – main compartment is really useful for keeping the gross in and the water out. Aside from the waterproof main compartment, the exterior zips on the other compartments are also seam sealed. The material is quick to dry out, which I can tell you from personal experience having been caught in a storm or two with it. The full-length zip makes it really easy to load the Tube up and rummage through if you need to find something, unlike having to fishing around for that thing at the bottom of a traditional top-load backpack, unable to see what you are doing. The hip belt is big enough and sturdy enough to actually lend support when loaded up. You can use a hydration pack with it. The various handles (at the top, bottom, and along the main zip) are useful for moving the bag around or hanging it up when you’re using it as a portable closet. The way it rolls up always keeps the overall size to a minimum, regardless of how full it is (to a point). There is some reflective material built into the straps for when the day-pack turns into a night-pack. The hip belt and adjustable sternum strap anticipate you loading the bag up a fair bit, which it can handle without a problem. Finally, the ample straps and loops give you many options for attaching things to it, such as lights, but I have used the straps to loop my bike lock through when the bag is too full to put it inside.
Clean aesthetics. This is subjective, and it’s “only” a bag, but I think it looks good. Mine is a special-edition colour, which won’t be for everyone, but I actually like the brown. The standard black colour is arguably nicer, and will obviously deal better with all the hard work you’re going to put this through over the years to come. Design elements are kept to a minimum, but the labels are embroidered rather than printed, and lines of the bag are pleasing to the eye. Winner.
Generally, I have found the bag to be very comfortable for regular use on and off the bike. The padded back works and the straps don’t irritate my chest (not that this is normally an issue…), even when loaded up.
The full length zip makes loading and unloading the Tube a breeze. I have defaulted to using the main waterproof compartment (as you would), but the large exterior pocket (with the smaller zip) also provides easy access, even with the buckles done up, and the large pocket on the other side is just as easy once the buckles are undone and the bag unrolled.
It really does hold quite a lot more than I had thought, as my first trip to the grocery store proved. Keep in mind that if the bag is filled to capacity with any non-pliable objects (like groceries), you can no longer roll it over and do up the buckles, so they’ll be hanging about until you unload a few things, and the bag will be slightly less than compact. It’s not really a critique, per-se, as the Tube was designed to be rolled, it’s just the fact that because I can fill it to the brim, I have on occasion. So, while it can hold quite a lot, ultimately, it gets a little more awkward once you start filling it past the “tube” section.
Something else to bear in mind is that when the main compartment is filled to a reasonable capacity, the external pockets do not offer any more space, and the small wallet/phone pocket is tight even when the bag is less full, making it quite tight indeed when the main compartment is loaded up. I keep my wallet and two sets of keys in there, and usually have to take nearly everything out to get my house keys when I get home, as it’s too tight to fish them out past my wallet (it’s just a thin, card wallet, for the record).
Basically, the total amount of space that the bag offers is shared between all of the pockets combined, which sounds terribly obvious, but anything you put in one of the compartments will use up that amount of space in the others. If you don’t regularly fill it up to capacity, then you won’t really be bothered by this, and if you do, there are two bigger sizes to choose from. This is just to point out that you can’t fill one compartment fully, and then expect to get much of anything into the remaining ones.
The Tube is a great bag, but if I could make any changes to it, I would start with the small exterior pocket I have just mentioned. Yes, it would add complexity to the construction and cost more, but ideally I think it would benefit from having a little additional material added to it so that the pocket is external to the bags capacity, ensuring it still remains useful when the bag is reasonably full.
The other thing relating to that pocket is the waterproof zip (see below). It’s quite a good seal, but unlike the large waterproof zip running next to it and parallel to the main compartment, this one is a challenge to open and close. I’m sure the zip itself is fine, but I think the waterproofing contributes a fair amount of resistance, and combined with the fact that the zip is on a curve, especially if the bag has anything in it, it makes it quite challenging to use. I might even use the word struggle.
While the padding on the back is actually quite comfortable, it doesn’t do much in the way of ventilation. Again, I can’t really call this a critique, as Henty isn’t claiming that it should, but it would be nice to have something to combat the sweaty back that you will encounter on warmer days or on less-than-casual rides (for example, those found on Deuter or Camelbak bags).
I also said that the straps didn’t irritate my chest, but I left out that they do cramp my neck a little. I’m going to attribute this to the tube shape that this bag is all about – if they were spaced any wider then that might affect the fit in another way, but in any case, they are spaced a little closer together than any other bag I have had in the past. This hasn’t been a problem for my normal daily commute with the bag, but when loading it up with a decent amount of weight I have taken note of it. If, for some bizarre reason, I had to ride a long distance with a heavy load, I might reconsider my bag choice, though, thinking about it, that’s not going to be a great deal of fun with any bag…
Finally, another comment that isn’t really a criticism relates to the roll-up nature of the bag. If, as is quite common, you have to stop mid-journey and quickly grab your jacket from within the bag or put something in it, you have to go through the short procedure of unclipping both clips, and unfolding and opening the bag while it rests somewhere with a bit of surface area under it (your handlebars will do), rather than just unzipping-and-in-you-go like a normal backpack, for which you don’t even have to stop riding in some cases. Again, not a fault of the bag, not a design flaw, and not a criticism, but just know that your on-the-bike-bag-procurements will come to an end with the Tube.
Yes. The gripes I have with Henty’s Tube are small and certainly not enough to stop me from giving it a recommendation to buy. The folks at Henty clearly understand the kind of people will appreciate their product. The quality and robustness is the first thing I took note of, the design makes it a pleasure to use, and the aesthetics should offend no one. I can’t say how large the bigger bags are, but my guess is that the 15 litre (the small one) is probably the size most people will choose. And, at $119AUD (for the 15lt), it’s actually very reasonably priced.
If you are after a bag to cart around your soiled equipment, need something with a decent volume to do the shopping with, or just want a rugged, all-purpose backpack for any situation, then the Henty Tube should be on your short-list.