Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Little Pack Mule

Remember a few days ago, when I said I'd spent some writing money on yet another backpack purse? Well, it arrived, and I think it's finally what I've wanted for several years now. This little beauty, a mere 8 by 10 by 4.5 inches, is the Victorinox Flex Pack, known elsewhere as the Swiss Army Flex Pack.

This pack solves several problems of previous packback purses I've owned. The straps are wide enough not to cut into my shoulders (for some reason, entirely too many women's backpacks have spaghetti straps), and the back's padded for comfort. The hardware on said straps -- which are infinitely adjustable via sliding buckles -- allows me to attach my cellphone case on one side, and a keyring with a whistle and mini-flashlight on the other. This keeps those objects in the front and gives me instant access to them. The pack's very lightweight, even fully loaded. There's a top carry loop which can double as a handle if you want to carry the pack like a purse.

And don't let the pack's tiny size fool you. Mine currently contains:

In the main compartment:

* My wallet, zipped securely into a pocket on the back wall.

* My Kindle.

* My journal.

* A sock-knitting project.

* A small case of knitting notions.

* A small notebook in which I record purchases.

* My business-card case.

* A cosmetic mirror and comb (tucked into an elastic pocket).

* My thumb drive (in the other elastic pocket).

In the top front pocket:

* A bottle of eyeglass cleaning solution.

* A microfiber cloth for wiping clean said eyeglasses.

In the front organizer pocket:

* Three pens and a Japanese folding fan (for those menopausal hot flashes), all of which fit neatly in a slash pocket. I was afraid that the lack of pen loops would be a drawback, but having unstructured space for pens is actually better.

* Lip balm, hand balm, eye drops, and Advil in another slash pocket.

* My lucky beach rocks in a small zippered mesh pocket.

* My small appointment calendar and a pack of tissues.

There's also a key fob, which I'm not using.

Oh, yeah, and there's a zipout mesh pocket on one side which will hold a water bottle or umbrella.

Security Features

I'm paranoid about purses. I've had three stolen: one was cut off my body by a guy on a bicyle wielding a knife -- in broad daylight on a very busy street in New York City -- and another was snatched as I walked back to my mother's apartment in New Jersey. To be fair, those two were easily snatchable, even though the first was a cross-body bag, because my hands were full with other things: lesson learned! But one wants to be able to carry other things, yes? The third bag was lifted from the back of my chair in a restaurant in New York.

Obviously, anybody who really wants my purse is going to be able to get it: I won't sacrifice my life for my Kindle, or even my socks-in-progress. But the Flex Pack has several very useful security features. The zippers slide into elastic zipper garages, which would make them more difficult for a pickpocket to open. The straps are not only pleasingly thick, but reinforced with wire, making them slash-resistant.

Finally, the fabric's strong nylon, also slash-resistant (and probably weather-resistant into the bargain, useful when the bag contains a Kindle).

The only weak spot I can see is that, because this pack can also be used as a cross-body or waistpack should one choose (hence the name Flex Pack), the straps attach to the main body of the back with quick-release buckles. Theoretically, a clever thief, or a pair of them, could reach out and release the buckles and then yank the pack from one's back, although one hopes they'd search out easier targets. To address this problem, I've ordered some cable keyrings I'll use to attach the two parts of the buckle. I'll use another of the keyrings to anchor the bag to my chair back or leg if I'm in a public place, to prevent its growing legs.

And the downside?

Because we don't live in a perfect world, the Flex Pack has two drawbacks. First, the price is a bit steep, although many good purses cost a lot more. I think it's worth every penny, obviously, but for several decades of my life I wouldn't have dreamed of spending this much money on a bag.

Secondly, it's not sexy. If you're looking for an elegant or pretty backback purse, look elsewhere. This is a black square with zippers. It's not going to win any awards for aesthetics, although the design's pleasingly clean. But although my other packback purses are prettier, this one's superior in every other respect.

Also, if you want something big, this isn't your bag. If you want something small but sturdy, it's perfect!

There you go. That's my review.

And in other news, I finished my Christmas shopping today (all but the knitting!).


  1. You need an alarm system for that're whole life is in there.

  2. How are the zippers? This looks very much like the sort of thing I've wanted to get for Soren.

  3. mbJ: Indeed! And you should see how much I can cram into larger purses!

    Velma: Nice to see you here! The zippers are great. (The pack's guaranteed for life, I believe.) The only slight problem I've noticed is that the fold out water-bottle holder prevents you from unzipping the main compartment all the way around, so access is mainly from one side. But it still works beautifully!

  4. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Susan, this sounds interesting. How does it compare in weight to your Baggallini? I thought the Baggallini was heavy empty.


  5. Sharon --

    Yeah, the Baggallini is heavy even empty, which is one reason I've switched to this one. It's much lighter weight. That's a pity, because the Baggallini's much prettier, but back pain trumps all, yes?


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