As journalists and video producers, our team members – both adult and those on our SNEWS® Youth Reporting Team – are constantly darting to and from different meetings, referencing files and carrying hard drives, packing up a carry-on for a business trip, or just filling a bag with notebooks and electronic accessories for meetings. We need bags that can handle multiple documents, all of today’s electronic accessories and charges, as well as sometimes a light load of camera equipment. Most importantly, we need to stay organized and be professional – our youth team members particularly want to look like pros as they work jobs. We just cannot spend time digging through the deep, dark, depths of a bag trying to find stuff when we should be meeting with clients or taking notes or photos. What we want is a new way to organize.
A unique design from the pack innovators at Ivar – a 4-year-old company begun by a 20-something that first showed up at an outdoor trade show in 2009 – gave us hope for the end of the seemingly endless abyss that one usually has in a traditional daypack. With Ivar’s patented design, instead of one large compartment, there is what the company calls a “shelf-system” dividing the pack into three compartments slightly slanted away from the back from bottom to top.
Our testers found that the best feature of the pack and its shelf-system is the upper “shelf” level. It is not as deep at the rest of the main compartment – perhaps less than half the depth -- so it’s a breeze to grab small stuff out of it, from external hard drives to pocket-size digital cameras, to wallets or cell phones. This top most section is ideal for the items you need to access most often. No digging around. No fuss. What a beauty!
The two lowest “levels” are the deepest parts of the compartment and are the ideal size for folders, files, binders and a laptop. The middle shelf is meant for a laptop, but the protective flap is somewhat over-sized. It was slightly annoying and seemed to get in the way more than protect, so our testers ended up tucking it into the pocket and leaving it there behind the laptop.
As for the rest of the pack, the front “organizer” pocket is, yes, extremely organized, but could still use improvements. The pocket has compartments for power adapters, pens, and other smaller items. But once the compartments are filled with CDs, power cords, business cards, flash drives, and our favorite small and medium-sized notebooks, accessing the bottom of the pocket is nearly impossible – partly because the zipper doesn’t extend quite deep enough on either side.
There are a few other issues we found a little bothersome. The pen pockets were not deep enough for us, leaving the pens sticking out higher than they should have and getting in the way (but maybe as journalists were just finicky about our pens). The sternum strap is adjustable up and down to accommodate different body types, but it could not be moved far enough up for either of our (female) testers. A small felt-lined pocket on the top just behind your neck was a nice place for small electronics, sunglasses or keys, and we used it often. However, a hand grip just behind the pocket was pretty stiff and large, constantly tangling in the long hair of one tester.
There is also a large, open, mesh utility pocket on the front that secures with one clip for quick stashes (think sweater, snack or even a helmet). We used it mostly for quick snacks, tickets or a fleece jacket, but unfortunately, the netting on one of our packs started to come apart from the seaming down the middle – we fear we pushed its limits while using it repeatedly on a three-week European business trip. However, there were also two side pockets that worked well to quickly stash a water bottle or snack.
In our use, we came to the conclusion that the pack is likely best suited for lighter loads and for students or for simpler around-town use. Can we say it made carrying heavier loads less of a strain? Not necessarily. But the shelving did keep us more organized.
Overall the product worked decently for our testers. Our SNEWS youth team tester said she found it particularly comfortable, even riding her bike with it about 10 miles round-trip with a full pack with minimal problems. (It also has a waist strap to keep it from swinging around.)
Despite a few nit-picks, for the right uses the “shelf system” definitely has some merit.
SNEWS® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $90 (various models, $60-$100)
For more information: www.ivarpack.com