- by Andrew Priest
- Published: 1 September 2009
Today we are reviewing a product that the UK outfit LEDwear call a “rucksack cover”. Despite their best efforts to confuse us, careful lab tests revealed the item we’d been delivered is in actual fact a backpack cover!
The cover itself is fairly predictably a yellow cover with silver reflective stripes, however what’s unique about it integrated LED system.
The 7 red LED’s are powered by two AA batteries housed in a pocket inside the backpack cover and the lights are operated by a button outside the cover. Why? Well, LEDwear claim that not only will this cover help to make you more visible, but it’ll keep all your stuff dry too! Lets take a look at the details.
Claimed battery life is 100 hours, which is on par for this style of LED lights. It’s worth noting, though that you can usually expect less battery life from the flashing modes.
So what can we tell you about the quality? We figured there’s just three things you want from a waterproof, high-visibility, backpack cover: It’s got to cover your backpack, it’s got to be highly visible and it’s got to be waterproof!
Does it cover your Backpack?
That’s a 30L backpack so their one-size-fits-all approach seems to be adequate. There is still around 10 centimetres of stretch vertically and a bit more horizontally there too. The cover also has elastic bands to hold the bag in place and the metal snaps are on the edge so they don’t dig into your back. We found the placement of the bottom band a bit low since you can see this particular backpack has a lap belt for example, but there was enough stretch in it that it was no big deal at all.
At around 250 grams and foldable to a size of around this:
? It’s rather portable too.
Is it highly visible?
Of course, it’s pretty hard to show in pictures what they actually look like but those reflective stripes are very high quality. They’ll pick up the flash of a single LED headlight from 50 metres away and light you up like a Christmas tree. Likewise it’s pretty hard to miss the red LED’s on the cover too. You can choose from a standard ‘on’ mode as well as two different flashing modes.
The stripes, as you can see, follow the contour of the backpack too and give you some side-on reflectivity as well. Some other backpack covers have horizontal stripes for this reason and I’m not sure why LEDwear chose to leave them out. In practice though, the lack of horizontal reflective stripes would not make this cover any less visible.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the bright fluro yellow is also highly visibilie in daylight and low-light situations as well. All in all, the package delivers. It’s bright and bold, reflects even the smallest bit of light and the LED’s are bright enough that they’re not drowned out.
Will it keep my stuff dry?
The cover itself is definitely waterproof and in a light shower it will certainly do the job. However, in our rather comical backyard garden hose tests, we uncovered a couple of issues.
First, the bottom of the cover doesn’t have drainage holes, so any water that does make its way in, can pool in the bottom. Second, the nature of the cover is that it’s going to let some water inside in most cases. Water can run down your back and soak the backpack from that surface.
The reality is of course, that completely enclosing the backpack is a bit impractical and even more so in a one-size-fits-all application. In fact both of the issues we’ve mentioned here are par for the course and in fairness this cover’s waterproofing qualities are exemplary in context. The whole exterior is made without seams so there are no weak spots and the battery pack is in its own waterproof pocket (although we’d have put it up high, not down the bottom).
In all, our hose soaking was pretty harsh and it would only be extremely heavy rain that could pose a problem, so you should take our criticisms in the right context. If you are going out in a tropical storm, you would need to consider other measures to gear your backpack completely dry though as a highly visible and portable solution, the cover a very practical solution for every day use.
The Final Word
We couldn’t find a backpack too big for this cover so we couldn’t fault it there. The combination of high-vis yellow, reflective stripes and integrated lights are really attention grabbing and are truly unique. You can never be too visible on the road and in that regard, the LEDwear product has few competitors. And yes, it will keep your stuff dry as long as you avoid using it for scuba diving and drenching tropical downpours.
So what about the price? We understand the rrp is going to be around AU$45.00. Considering you’re getting a light assembly included in the package and considering that its essentially without peer, we were pleasantly surprised. If you do a lot of commuting, this is a bargain – it’s easily the most visible backpack cover we’ve seen and it’s probably only a little bit more than you’d pay for a “normal” cover.
And yes, we know what you’re all wondering. The Rucksack Cover is laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant.
The LEDwear Rucksack Cover and other wet weather and night riding gear is currently available online from the UK via Cycle Clothing UK