Joel Te started AMRAP, as many reviews as possible, as a way to deliver the CrossFit community with unbiased reviews of fitness gear and equipment. Joel is also the owner of CrossFit 805, where he compared HYLETE's icon expandable and icon XL convertible backpacks. Here is what he had to say.
Over the years, I’ve seen a little company that used to just make t-shirts and shorts turn itself to one of the major clothing brands in the world of functional fitness, going as far as even supplying the NPGL with their uniforms. Along the way, they’ve added many new products to their line-up, past the basics and innovating things in ways that the world hadn’t seen yet. A couple of these products, namely the icon expandable and icon XL convertible backpacks, are the topic of discussion today (clothing is coming shortly).
A good backpack should be functional, have plenty of storage, not be cumbersome, and be stylish. I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has owned a Jansport backpack, while great at the time, those days are long gone. I’m far from being in school anymore, but I wish something like the icon expandable backpack was around back then. I remember I would need to buy a new backpack every year when I used those old Jansports. The Icon series bags are made from a 1680 denier ballistic nylon outer shell that's not only water repellent, but is also abrasion resistant. Though this bag would be ideal for your day to day life, it would also be able to handle the toughest environments from the gym to the mountains. “God is in the details” applies to both backpacks by HYLETE, as there are no loose stitches to be found anywhere you look and the zippers are extremely heavy duty.
From a functionality standpoint, one can almost refer to these backpacks as the Swiss Army knives of bags. The main compartment is spacious enough to hold a few day’s worth of clothing, before expansion (more on that later). Inside of that compartment, you’ll find a zippered mesh pocket on the “door” and one more mesh pocket at the back of the area, both to help organize the little stuff from getting lost in the void. There are two side compartments that extend the height of the bag, both of which extend into the main compartment’s space and only one of which is insulated. Kind of a bummer that loading up these areas takes up space, but it’s fine since the main compartment is so large; though I wouldn’t mind seeing these redesigned to extend out a little. Also, I wish this compartment could have the option to extend outwards, like the XL bag. There’s also a zippered pocket on top of one of the side compartments that serves as what I use to hold my keys, wallet and cellphone; handy.
Not really in the need of a gym bag? Well this would make for a great work bag as well, considering there's a whole zippered back area that serves as more of a work friendly space. Inside this compartment you’ll find pouches that could hold pens, chargers, business cards and pretty much anything on the flat side. Not to mention you get a separate padded laptop sleeve that also zips up. Finally to top it all off, as the name says, the bottom of the backpack unzips to unfold a lined wet/dry compartment. Put whatever you want in here, stinky gym clothes or your oly lifters. It’ll fit, and it will also increase the amount of space you have for your main compartment. Pretty trick.
With all that storage, you’d wonder why they even made an XL bag. If you truly live in your gym bag, then the XL bag is for you. If you looked at the backpacks in their normal state side by side, there really isn’t a huge difference in size. They look the same, they’re made out of the same ballistic nylon and basically have the same kind of pocket scheme. Unzipping the “main” compartment, or I should say first compartment leads to a more basic storage space. The party trick here is that the second set of zippers expands this area outwards, like what I would have liked to have seen in the expandable bag. The third set of zippers leads to the real main compartment. On the back side of the door, once again you’ll find a padded laptop compartment, though not zippered it does have a velcro strap to secure your computer. On the outside of that, you’ll find the same kind of pouches for stationary that were in the rear of the Expandable bag.
One of the coolest features of the XL bag lies in the main compartment, in the form of a “to-go” drawstring bag that clips in and out of the XL. This would be handy, say you went on an excursion and didn’t need to bring your whole bag, but just a few things when you got to your destination. If the amount of pockets in the XL bag weren’t enough, the drawstring bag has a few more and a bottom that expands. Once again, like the expandable bag, the XL has side compartments that extend inwards with one being insulated and one having zippered pockets on the outside, but this time there are two.
Finally, what makes the XL bag what it is, is that like the expandable bag, the bottom unzips to reveal a whole new compartment. Unlike it’s little brother, you also get the option to turn the XL into a duffel bag by tucking in the straps into their own flat compartment, and attaching the shoulder strap from one length of the bag to the other! This expandable compartment now comes with three interior “cubbies”; you could honestly probably fit a weeks worth of shoes in here if you wanted to. If you were looking for an end all be all bag, this would be it. Honestly if you needed any more space, you should just be looking into luggage…and nice luggage is a ton more expensive…
…Which leads me to price! The expandable backpack will set you back $165 and the XL $200. Honestly, for a nice backpack I don’t think this is a ton to pay, but that’s subjective. Most people aren’t keen to spending over $100 on a gym bag. Realize, you’ll probably be using this every day and when you think of it like that, you’ll quickly get over the initial sticker shock. While price is subjectively a con, the only other real negative to this bag is the tacky front logo. It’s shiny and looks like the material you’d find on a toddlers backpack. I loathe shiny black things, especially on stuff that's designed to be thrown around and touched often. They might look good initially, but within a month they’ll look dull and cheap (yes, I’ve owned a black car).
HYLETE’s customer service is top notch. Unfortunately, with some of their earlier pairs of shorts, the velcro would come off, but every time without fail, they replaced them with no hassle. Shop with confidence, you won’t be let down.
To read more of Joel's reviews, visit AMRAP, as many reviews as possible.