ILE, or Inside Line Equipment, is a trendy American brand making bags, by hand, in their San Francisco Bay factory. We test ride the new Apex Day Pack, and see whether trendy can also be practical.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an ILE bag here at Cycling Weekly. We tested their Race Day bag and we liked some of the features, especially the materials, but we didn’t get on very well with the bag in practice.
The Apex Day Pack should be a very different beast indeed. Not only is it a lot smaller, only 11 litres, its stripped down design should be a lot more user friendly.
As with the Race Day Bag, the Apex first grabbed our attention with its lovely materials. A choice of either Cordura, Waxed Canvas or XPAC – a waterproof sailcloth – are available, as are a variety of colours, including a particularly bright model with reflective paneling, although our bright red test bag certainly caught the eye too.
Our test bag was made up of Cordura, and it’s as tough as it is soft. A great combination of qualities, and perfect for backpack use. ILE must be confident in the quality, because they offer a lifetime warranty on materials and craftsmanship. That quality, and the fact the bag comes with the ‘Handmade in San Francisco’ tag, goes some way to explaining the price of £124.
As mentioned, it’s a fairly small bag. My normal day-to-day rucksack is an Alpkit Gourdon, a 20 litre roll top that is the epitome of simplicity. I was looking forward to downsizing to the Apex though, as I often don’t need the space the Gourdon 20 provides. And for the days I do need a bit more space, the rolltop closure enables a little flexibility with the amount you can carry.
Rolltop backpacks tend to be very simple; it’s the key to their success. The Apex goes with this philosophy, but improves it slightly, thanks to the large front opening. It’s one of those features I never knew I was missing until I tried it. The ability to remove an item from the bottom of the bag without first removing everything else inside is a great feaure.
The small zip at the top of the bag wasn’t such a revolutionary idea. It’s big enough to pass a bladder straw or headphone cable through, but why not just have a small rubber hole for either of these uses?
Unless you want to run multiple items through the opening then it seems uneccessary to me. Frustratingly, it’s too small to get a hand in, otherwise it’d be handy for quickly grabbing something at the top of the bag.
In general use, the Apex Day Pack is a good piece of kit. It’s a comfy bag, with a generous amount of back padding, and soft straps. The fit of the straps is quite wide, which really helped the comfort levels when the bag was fully loaded, although for someone with narrow shoulders, like me, it had a tendency to slip off a shoulder unless the chest strap was engaged.
Exceptionally well made, and thanks to its simple construction, the ILE Apex Day Pack is a good option for those after a faff-free carrying device. The size may be an issue for some, as 11 litres is no warehouse, but it's just about right for a change of clothes and some lunch and so became a regular on my regular work commute.