The Chrome Industries Barrage Freight backpack is extremely robust, waterproof and the front webbing is incredibly useful for transporting awkward loads. However, it is very heavy at over 2.3kg, the large pockets aren’t so practical for smaller items, and its great height makes it difficult to access items at the bottom of the bag.
Very robust construction
Extra storage from nylon webbing
Fits a 15in laptop
Reflective detailing on main strap
Bottle holders aren’t compressive
Webbing straps are long and trailing when not in use
Tall design not friendly to those with shorter arms
By Stefan Abram
The Chrome Industries Barrage Freight backpack is designed to be stylish and with plenty of capacity for transporting awkwardly bulky – and sometimes mucky – items such as shoes and helmets and waterproofs.
Chrome Industries has been making luggage solutions for the urban environment for over a quarter of a century, with a range that has been branching out into greater cycling specificity with more on-bike bags.
Chrome Industries Barrage Freight: construction
Made from a waterproof and incredibly robust-feeling fabric, the Barrage Freight backpack certainly has an air of toughness to it. This overbuilt construction extends to the shoulder straps and main buckle, both of which are large and similarly rugged.
The Barrage Freight’s party piece is its front nylon webbing, which is adjusted by four straps and can easily swallow a helmet, pair of shoes and a waterproof. These are generally quite awkward items to carry, being either quite bulky or just not the kind of thing you’d want to chuck inside with the rest of your stuff. The ability to carry these on the outside stands to be a real boon.
There are two side pockets for carrying water bottles or a D-lock. These pockets are made from the same material as the rest of the bag and so there’s no elasticity for holding the items tightly in. They do, however, have drainage ports at the bottom so that they don’t fill up with water in the rain.
At the sides of the front of the bag, there are two zipped sleeve pockets. One of these is quite large and better suited to bigger items – such as a map or tool roll. Although the pocket is lesser in size, the absence of any internal dividers does limit its use for organising smaller items.
At the edge of the roll top there is a zip, which you might expect to lead to a sleeve pocket encompassing just the flap of the roll top. In actual fact, it extends all the way down to the very bottom of the bag, making its two-dimensional area massive although without much volume.
Inside the main compartment of the bag, there is a very simple and non-elasticated sleeve pocket for a 15in laptop or folders, with the rest of the bag being simply a large blank canvas of cavernous space.
The shoulder straps are padded and come with straps for adjusting how closely the bag sits against your shoulders. On the front, there’s some Velcro straps for quickly attaching items to the shoulder straps for immediate accessibility. There’s also a chest strap for keeping the bag placed securely on your shoulders.
Picking up the Chrome Industries Barrage Freight, the first thing you notice is the weight. At 2,330g, it’s incredibly heavy for a backpack. For context, the Stubble&Co The Roll Top backpack is less than half the weight at 1,060g – although it does only have a 20L capacity (the Barrage Freight has 34L) and doesn’t feature any webbing.
More direct competition comes from the Vaude ExCycling Pack, which has 40L of capacity and an expandable compartment, while still weighing only 1,250g (claimed).
If you’re after a lightweight solution for zipping about town, the Barrage Freight isn’t for you. On the other hand, the construction of this bag is such that it feels like it could withstand a direct hit from a meteor, so durability shouldn’t prove an issue.
The front webbing is an incredibly useful feature. Typically, it’s quite difficult to find a good place for transporting a helmet in a way that it won’t get battered about, while shoes and raincoats are also items which aren’t generally best stowed away with the rest of your belongings.
But with the generous length of the straps securing the nylon webbing, these could be simply and safely strapped to the front of the bag. However, this did mean when I wasn’t using the webbing, there was a lot of excess material from the straps flapping about and not a clear way of managing this.
With the side pockets made from the same material as the rest of the bag, their contents aren’t held particularly securely in place. It also means there isn’t any ability for the pockets to expand and accommodate larger loads. It would be great if the pockets could instead be constructed from an elasticated mesh or feature an extra fold and an elasticated hem as you see in some other designs.
With three zipped pockets and the sleeve inside the main compartment, there is potential for neatly partitioning your things. But this is somewhat mitigated in that all bar one of these are huge – and without any internal dividers, you still have to dig around to find your smaller items. The dark material doesn’t help with this, unlike designs which utilise a bright inner lining.
With the roll top unrolled, the bag is incredibly deep – pretty much the complete length of my arms – and so fishing things out of the bottom is a little bit of a pain. For reference, I’m 177cm and would imagine this would be even more of an issue for shorter people.
For its volume, the Barrage Freight isn’t particularly deep for its height. If it was made a little shorter but stouter, it would make it a lot easier to reach the bottom of the bag. The length of the bag does also mean that when cycling in an upright position, there is potential for the bottom of it to foul on the saddle.
Although, in being quite wide, the bag does do a good job of staying squarely in place and not flopping off to one side.
At £200, this is quite an expensive backpack, especially given some of its idiosyncrasies.
For a stylish roll top backpack for riding around town, Stubble&Co’s The Roll Top is almost half the price at £105. It’s also significantly lighter, has elasticated bottle pockets and more internal dividers for keeping smaller items organised.
But it does have a smaller capacity, at 20 litres compared to 34, and it doesn’t have the webbing, so for transporting cycling kit, the Barrage Freight is more practical.
Alternatively, there is the Vaude ExCycling Pack, which boosts more storage at 40 litres and also has an expandable pouch. This one is a bit smaller than the Barrage Freight’s, but the straps are more manageable. Cost-wise, it comes in much cheaper at £120.
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