Happy Cow provided their most popular Leather Hip Bag for review on BNA. Popular because it has "plenty of storage space without being bulky and obstructing movement." That sounds promising though it is not cycling specified product. For this review however I am looking at this as a cycling accessory.
It’s not often that you can use a product, and actually feel good about the way it’s manufactured. Organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have raised public awareness of the cruelty to animals in the manufacture of clothing and accessories. At the same time, overuse of synthetic materials also raises concerns about environmental sustainability. Happy Cow sells products made from recycled leather – they claim their products to be “100% sustainable and suffering free.” The explanation provided by Happy Cow is that their products are manufactured in “fair trade factories” in the north of India.
This bag is not a cycling specific product though Happy Cow encouraged BNA to trial the hip bag for cycling. Fashionable cycling – V?locouture – is destined to be big business, so lets take a look at this leather hip bag to see how fashionable and practical it is while cycling.
Inside and Out
My first impressions after unpacking the bag was that it looks like one of those “invisible” belt bags that smart travellers often wear underneath their shirts or skirts for storing valuable belongings such as passports and emergency money.
The Hip Bag is quite large – certainly large enough to hold a passport, and perhaps travel maps/brochures. There are three zippered compartments (using high quality zippers), and two pouches large enough to fit smart phones (eg. Apple iPhone), tissues or sunglasses, maybe even a small pocket digital camera.
The pouches, and two of the zippered compartments, are protected by a leather flap that is fastened with the two brass buttons, this offers some degree of rain protection when the flap is closed. I would have preferred if the flat were held in place using magnets rather than by ‘click/fasten’ buttons, but at least I am reasonably certain the flap won’t accidentally release under stress or sudden movement.
There is a third zippered compartment on the rear of the bag for quick access to contents (like money, or a map).
Overall, the bag looks really stylish and functional. Although it can be used as an “invisible belt bag” for secure travelling, that would be a shame top hide this good looking bag.
While I wasn’t sure what to expect from recycled leather, the bag feels no different from a normal leather bag. The leather surface is not as crisp or smooth as you would find with an expensive handbag, and the hip bag for reviews has what appears to be a few marks on the flap – I noticed that pressing my fingernail on the leather is enough to leave a mark on it, so the leather is quite soft.
The smell of leather is very strong, when I opened the package it was almost intoxicating. A week later, most of the smell has disappeared though a sniff-test confirmed remnants of the scent. I imagine the smell will gradually disappear with use.
The Hip Bag in Action
In evaluating the hip bag for use during cycling, I used it to store the kind of items I would normally put in the rear pockets of my cycling jersey: a mobile phone, keys, some money, tissue paper, sunglasses.
Even after putting a reasonable amount of items, the bag does not look too bulky and it would be possible to discreetly hide the bag underneath a loose fitting T shirt, or a free flowing skirt.
One caveat for storing items like mobile phones, sunglasses and other delicate objects in the pouches of the happy cow Leather Hip Bag – there is no lining underneath the brass buttons to protect against scratching so make sure you have a phone sock or at least a piece of cloth protecting those items.
In positioning the bag while riding, I just fastened the bag to my lower waist by using the belt buckle. When walking or hiking, the strap could replace your belt with the bag worn quite comfortably on the side. There are a generous number of belt holes however one problem that I occasionally encountered was the buckle prong will sometimes slip though to the other side of the buckle frame and needed a bit of a yank to reposition it correctly.
For cycling, I found it more useful to orient the bag so that it sits behind me as it’s too distracting when pedaling if I have it on the side. It’s not as easy to open the flap when the back is behind so it is simply best not to try and access any contents whilst cycling.
Who Would it Best Suit?
This is definately not a bag for a serious training rides, the back pockets in a cycling jersey can be used to store a similar amount of items. The hip bag is however better suited for commuting and short recreational rides.
While the Happy Cow leather hip bag is not a substitute for a backpack which a lot of commuting cyclists prefer, it is smaller and perhaps more stylish than a backpack. The advantage for me is when I want to carry only a few items with me (wallet, keys and mobile phone) and avoid the bulky backpack.
In conclusion, I think this is a useful and stylish bag and can recommend it though would expect lining behind the buttons in the pouches to prevent scratching of mobile phones and soft surfaces. The design is practical and aesthetic, but not overtly feminine so I think both men and women would feel comfortable wearing this bag.
The leather hip bag (code: HIPB6C) retails for $77 and can be ordered online. You can see the range of Happy Cow bags and accessories online: www.happycow.com.au