The Spare Camel Backpack is made by BO Gear in their studio in Brisbane. It’s spacious, stylish, versatile, and well constructed with a high quality, heavy duty zip that you can see is going to last the distance. Every backpack is numbered, so #1217 will always be able to be traced back as the one supplied for review on BNA. BO Gear offers a “dirtification” guarantee which means that they will repair or replace their gear if it gets damaged in the first twelve months, regardless of how much you use and abuse it. They also offer to build new backpacks using reclaimable parts of old ones. The Spare Camel backpack screamed all of this at me the moment I got it, and all that before I even got onto my bike.
I was excited to receive my navy blue Spare Camel with hi viz orange finishing on the shoulder straps, buckles, and across the back, and I was quick to pack it with towels, toiletries and work wear for my next commute. The plan was to leave the backpack at work on a non-commute day and then carry it home on my next ride day to see how it felt. At the time of receiving the backpack, my commute was 30km on country roads, so the hi viz orange and strip of reflective tape earned my immediate tick of approval. Anything that will make me more visible to other road users is a winner and this pack stands out.
As good fortune would have it, the day that I took the fully loaded Spare Camel to the office was the day that my grandson decided to enter the world, resulting in a change of plans. I made a quick diversion home where I added some overnight gear to the pack and hit the road by car to meet the little fellow.
A couple of days later I repacked the Spare Camel for my Friday morning swim followed by another repacking the next day for a return visit to my grandson. Monday morning it was repacked for the first day of my new job – 15” laptop, various books, notebooks and magazines, my favourite coffee mug, and lunch. By now I was getting the hang of packing quite efficiently and deciding which items lived in which internal space, but dang it, I hadn’t even got the thing on my back, let alone on my bicycle! The only dirtification this bag was getting so far was in the boot of my car which I like to keep as well-cleaned as my bikes.
Finally the day came and I set off for my commute home; with my new job it’s a 45km ride. After a couple of stops to adjust the length of the padded shoulder straps until I found the right fit, I almost forgot that I was carrying a backpack. Other backpacks that I have cycled with have straps and buckles at the waist that either cut into me when I’m riding or dangle and blow in the wind if I don’t buckle up. The Spare Camel doesn’t have a waist belt (although they are available as an optional extra), but the pack never slid or felt unstable on my back. The removable backpad and framesheet fitted comfortably and protected my back from the contents in the Spare Camel.
At times the bag seemed to ride a little high on my back and rasped against the base of my helmet, particularly when I experimented with a more aggressive riding position. However, I rarely do this on my normal commutes so it really wasn’t a problem. Needless to say, the Spare Camel Backpack has become a standard part of my bike kit whenever I need to carry more than I can fit into my jersey pockets and saddle bags.
The Spare Camel Backpack has a 30L capacity and opens out flat so it’s easy to pack. My previous packs never did this, so it was a pleasure not to be stuffing gear down a black hole or digging around in the dark to find stuff. I used the pleated back wall pocket to keep my shoes separate from my clothing, while the two zipped pockets on the front wall were ideal for phone chargers, snack bars and other bits and pieces that I didn’t want mixed up with my clothes.
After several weeks of usage I discovered yet another zippered pocket on the inside front wall above the two main pockets. It’s hidden just below the main zipper and turned out to be the perfect place to carry my keys, mobile phone and a bit of emergency cash – easily accessible without having to dig around in the body of the pack and more secure than using either of the outside pockets.
Speaking of outside pockets, there are two. The top one is zipped with a protective flap to hide the zip and keep it clean. The other pocket is more like an open-ended sleeve. This seemed somewhat unusual and impractical to me. Not only would anything placed in here be vulnerable to opportunistic thieves, I suspect it would also get wet during a rainstorm. I’m sure it has a purpose, but the BO Gear help pages, which tell you about all of the little features of all of their gear (yes, really!), hasn’t been updated for the Spare Camel … yet.
The Spare Camel is now my “go to” pack of choice. Next year I will get to test BO Gear’s claim that it is “legal carry on size” when the new job takes me interstate and overseas. At the very least, I know it will be easily recognisable in a busy airport.
The Spare Camel Backpack is available in several color combinations for $198 from bogear.com.au
Photos © Justin Matthies