The RiutBag, now in its second generation, is a ‘backwards backpack’ that has the zips against your back, which makes it harder for pickpockets to access and steal your belongings. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the RiutBag R10 and R15 have been refreshed for 2016, packing new pockets, adjustable straps, coloured bands and an attractive new Navy blue colour.
The backpacks are available in two sizes: the R10 is the 10-litre version and the larger R15 is a 15-litre bag, which includes a handy bottle holder. However, both feature a similar internal layout and can accommodate up to 15-inch laptops, a tablet and A4-sized documents.
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The 2016 edition of the RiutBag is definitely more of an evolution than a revolution. It’s still got the zips on the back, it’s still made from waterproof Cordura, and it’s still a comfortable and spacious backpack. While nothing fundamental has changed here, a few new features and a couple of minor tweaks to the design make it an all-round better backpack.
Quick access is the name of the game this year, with a new D-pocket (named for its shape) at the base of the back of the RiutBag, which has been designed for accessibility. The pocket allows you to get your stuff out – whether it’s your keys, wallet, phone, train tickets or passport – without taking the bag off your back. The handy top pocket has also been improved, being now significantly deeper so you can store more than just hand-gel, mints and a pair of backup earphones (what else do you need?).
There’s a new trolley suitcase strap, which means you can slide your suitcase or baggage handle through the strap, so you don’t have to carry your RIutBag on your back all the time – very handy if you’re a frequent flyer.
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One of the simpler, but no less smart improvements is the ability to adjust – and even remove – the chest straps from the RiutBag. I took them off pretty much straight away, as it made the shoulder straps look tidier and more professional.
My favourite new feature is the addition of four colourful RiutBands, which you can attach to the bag’s top handle. Bundled with all 2016 RiutBags, the red, blue, green and pink bands allow you to personalise your bag – so if you come across another RiutBag, you’ll know which is yours.
More importantly though, on the reverse of the RiutBands is a reflective material which makes your bag – and, by extension, you – much more visible on the road. So if you’re a cyclist or regularly walk in the dark, this is a great new feature.
Speaking of colour, the RiutBag is now available in Navy blue (my favourite) as well as black, although the original grey model is no longer being offered.
At its core, the RiutBag is a comfortable and smart-looking backpack that wouldn’t look out of place in the office or even on the school playground.
But that in itself doesn’t warrant the RiutBag’s £89.99 asking price – £99.99 for the larger R15. What does make it special, however, is the innovative backwards design, which genuinely gives me peace of mind when I’m carrying expensive equipment around London.
Pickpocketing may not be as common as it used to be, but when you’re packed onto a crowded tube train, most of us are still acutely aware of the potential for people to open the zips and slip their hand into our bags.
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The RiutBag is especially great for crowded spaces, such as concerts, where it's often hard to be vigilant. It also gives you peace of mind when you're on holiday and exploring places you don't know well.
The general organisation is good, too. You can fit everything the typical commuter would need, such as a laptop, pad of paper, tablet and all the detritus that comes with them, with no fuss at all. There's ample padding, too, and I love the way loose bits of strapping can be contained in an elastic strap so they don't dangle around.
Fundamentally, it's a great bag for everyday use.
There are one or two things I'd change about the RiutBag, though. One feature I would like to have seen is a dedicated space for my camera. There’s a laptop and tablet pocket, but it would've been great to have a protected area for camera or other equipment. A bigger 20- or 25-litre RiutBag model would also be nice to have, as I sometimes struggle fitting everything in the R15 even when I’m simply using it as an overnight bag – cramming in clothes, coat, laptop, tablet, toiletries and so on.
My review sample is the RiutBag R15 – the model I’d recommend – but I think if I bought one for myself I’d have to hold my breath and close my eyes as I dropped 100 quid on it. That’s not to say it’s not worth it, but £100 for a backpack is expensive in anyone's book.
Having said that, I tend to use backpacks for a good few years before I replace them, and if the RiutBag protects my belongings in the process I’m happy to consider it a bit of an ‘investment’.
It’s hard to get excited about a backpack, but the RiutBag genuinely offers something more than a traditional rucksack does. I carry around cameras, laptops and tablets every day and, regardless of whether I’m walking down a busy street, hopping onto a tube train or catching a flight, I genuinely feel my belongings are safer – which is one less thing to worry about.
It’s a little pricier than I'd like and I wouldn’t rush out to upgrade to the new 2016 model if I already owned the original RiutBag, but for everyone else I highly recommend it.
A great buy for anyone who wants a bag that's secure – it holds almost everything and gives you peace of mind.