How revolutionary can a backpack really be? This was the question Rheanna-Marie Hall asked herself as she waited for the Riut bags she would be reviewing – one for commuting and one for long-distance travel – to arrive. And for travellers of business and leisure alike: is a backwards backpack the best way to keep your valuables more secure on the move?
Designed and marketed by its inventor Sarah Giblin, the Riut bag is a revolutionary new brand of backpacks that come in all shapes and sizes, making them perfect for travellers, commuters, and festival-goers alike. So far, so traditional. However Riut also boasts a unique feature for maximum security: the zips of the bag are against your back.
Revolutionary? The office was as baffled as it was intrigued by the idea of a ‘backwards’ backpack: cue much discussion and inspection of the (now delivered) bags. The entire concept goes against what we have been used to since the days of primary school trips. The zips are against your back. An unfamiliar, and yet totally logical, concept.
As intriguing an invention as Riut is however, the question on everyone’s lips was how Riut bags would fare in the real world. I took two backpacks, the R10 for commuting and the R25 for long-distance travel, and put them to the test.
R10 (10 litre capacity)
Testing ground: London trade show
If you want to seriously test a product designed to withstand the most crushing of commutes, then head to the English capital. The city of London, on any day of the week, is a heaving mass of people. Tourists, locals, and businessmen and women all hurry to get to their destinations, and as such, the main streets are chaotic. And that’s before you have even descended below street level to catch the Tube!
Members of the team were due in London for an industry event, a massive affair that saw over 250 exhibitors and thousands of visitors flock to Olympia event space. With travel to and from London, as well as every morning and evening to and from the venue, it was the perfect opportunity to give the R10 the ultimate test.
Unlike many of the backpacks out on the market which have a distinctively sporty look about them, or else are built purely for fashion and hold approximately three items (if you’re lucky – and don’t even think about a laptop), the R10 is fit for business. Inside there are multiple compartments, the best of which is a secure laptop sleeve with additional elasticated straps for complete peace of mind. There are also three inner zip pockets in varying sizes, as well as the thoughtful touch of elasticated pen holders sewn into the sides – so if you’re the office pen supplier, no more rifling through the bottom of a packed bag.
The tube was arguably the best measure of how secure I felt the Riut to be. I trusted its performance, and I trusted it to withstand nifty fingers: I knew the zips weren’t exposed to other passengers. The padding and neat design also meant that I trusted my valuables to be adequately protected from knocks and bumps – an unexpected bonus.
Admittedly it was strange to swing my backpack round onto my front at key moments, only to realise that I could no longer retrieve something from this angle anymore. I did this several times while in London, absentmindedly fumbling for zips that weren’t there and finding no alternative but to rest the bag on the floor or a wall while I got what I needed (prompting a couple of desperate moments at the Tube gates as I desperately reached for my Oyster card). On reflection however, this was only more proof that it really does thwart easy access and opportunistic fingers.
Verdict: I would definitely recommend the Riut10 for commuters who travel with a light to medium amount of baggage, and especially those who carry a laptop. Its flat fronted design won’t allow bulkier items, which can be limiting depending on what you are intending to carry (I found that a rounded make-up bag was a tight fit once my not-too-slim laptop had been inserted into its sleeve).
R25 (25 litre capacity)
Testing ground: Flights to Prague and back
Forgoing the suitcase for my recent short break, I opted to instead try the R25 which, as far as most UK airlines are concerned, is the maximum capacity for hand luggage. With significant space in the main part of the bag, and additional compartments and pockets, it made the R10 look miniature. I was confident that it would hold everything (and more) I could possibly need for a three-day break to Prague.
As I quickly realised, during my customary last-minute rush of packing the night before the flight, the big positive of the R25 is the multiple pockets and compartments. Rather than throwing everything in and hoping for the best, I could pack items together and breathe easy that everything was packed and where it should be.
The inner back panel of the bag includes two large zip pockets, a sleeve for papers and magazines, and a laptop sleeve (with the same elasticated straps as the R10). The main body of the bag has a mesh zip pocket sewn into it, and an extra mesh net which can be stretched across the inside and clip fastened to hold the contents securely in place.
There is also a small pocket at the very top of the bag, and another on the outside at the base of the back panel (the ideal storage space for travel documents needed at a moment’s notice). Finally, another welcome addition, which the R10’s compact design wouldn’t allow, is a pocket either side for a couple of water bottles – or, in my case, a water bottle and a hairbrush respectively. Go wild!
Safe to say, everything fit. Without going into too much detail of my packing list, this included several changes of clothes, toiletries, make-up bag, Kindle, chargers, a small day-bag, numerous bits and bobs I was inevitably convinced might come in handy, and yes, the aforementioned water bottle and hairbrush. I’m no light-packer (as evidenced) but the R25 held all of it effortlessly. Even the scarf I shoved into the top as I rushed out of the door – it was March, it could snow! (It didn’t.)
I was flying with British Airways from Heathrow, and while I can’t personally vouch for other airlines or airports, the R25 passed through check-in and boarding without a problem. The bag’s measurements however are available online, so you can make sure it fits with the guidelines set by your airline (check them here).
The padded straps made long airport queues, and indeed the walk to the hotel once I arrived in Prague, less taxing on the shoulders. The compartments I’d packed so carefully before leaving meant that once I was in the hotel, I could immediately grab what I needed – money from that pocket, guidebook from that one – and head out. No more digging through a full suitcase.
Verdict: I returned home knowing that I would be taking an R25 on holiday again. Easy to carry, easy to store, and even easier to pack. For a journey free of did-I-pack-that? worrying, and additional security while moving through busy airports and transport hubs, swap the suitcase for an R25. Hand-luggage heaven.
Revolutionary indeed. Put the zips on the back: the deceptively ‘simple’ notion that underpins Riut’s success.
Want more? Jealous of how easy my packing was (and how could you not be)? Head over to www.riut.co.uk