Last spring we got a look at some of the colorful, made-to-order backpacks from Prague-based Braasi Industry. We even borrowed the bright floral PaperJoe backpack for a few weeks for a mini review. While we liked the look and solid construction of that bag, for a bike commuting and traveling backpack we wanted to try something we wouldn’t mind getting dirty, and some more storage wouldn’t hurt. So we Braasi introduced us to their Wicker backpack. Starting with a higher volume roll-top pack, it adds on an exterior net of adjustable webbing that lets you expand its hauling capacity. We’ve spent the better part of a year riding around town & flying around Europe with the Wicker, hauling everything from a simple laptop inside to large packages and even some wheelsets. And apart from some mud from a little dirt detour on this morning’s commute, it still looks like new….
The base body of the Wicker is a 28l bag made from a very durable and water-resistant, coated 1100D Cordura fabric. On top of that a grid of 10 crisscrossing 1″ nylon straps creates an expandable net that can be used for additional storage. At the bottom of that wicker-like net is also a reinforced base of the same Cordura that offers a bit more protection and also helps keep anything you stuff under the net from sliding out from the bottom. Most times we used the net to stash an extra layer, like the silver highly-reflective Proviz jacket above that has been a mainstay for our winter commuting.
Inside, much like the smaller Paper Joe, the Wicker gets a softer, tighter-weave, coated gray nylon lining. The coated sides of both the black exterior and gray interior nylons face into each other where they are safe from wear for long lasting water-resistance. Inside the main body there are three simple open stash pockets. The larger one has plenty of room for a 15″ laptop (a 15″ MBP here) and the smaller pockets which usually serve us for a power supply in one and a system camera in the other.
The pack of the Wicker uses a soft padded mesh panel that does well to distribute the load on out back without undue pressure. The shoulder straps also use the same fabrics in their padded mesh configuration, all of which is created from scratch by Braasi. The mesh plus padding does a decent job at breathability. It isn’t a performance sport bag though, so even relatively low-intensity commuting in the peak heat of the summer will leave you with a sweaty back. The bag also gets a simple buckle closure sternum strap that slides freely up and down on the lowest strapping loop on the padded shoulder straps.
The outside net of the Wicker is fixed to the reinforced base which keeps you from hauling giant items inside. But on either side of the bag there are three D-loops that let you expand the capacity of the net 20cm more away from the bag, essentially doubling the load carrying capacity.
Closure on the bag is again a simple roll-top, with two adjustable buckles that can be cinched down tight or expanded to haul a bit more. Braasi tends to cross the two straps keeping in line with the crossed net, but we tend to use the straps direct across as it keeps the bag a little lower profile on our back (less with the tips of the roll pointing up in the air.)
On the outside of the Wicker there is also a zippered easy-access pocket as well, that extends about mid way behind the padded back panel. This one gets a bright yellow lining to make it easy to find things inside, and is quite helpful since it is pretty deep. Braasi says it will fit an iPad Air. We use it mostly for keys and wallets, but it is a solid 28cm deep.
The 180€ bag comes only in black, as Braasi crafts it from the most durable Cordura and webbing available, which they have previously told us is only really available in black (and some olive & tans) because it is made exclusively to meet a military spec requirement. With that said, they’ve just started to tease some orange fabric and straps that suggest that the color options may be expanding a bit, so we’ll keep an eye out for that.
With the seemingly limitless lashing points of the Wicker net design, we’ve been able to strap all kinds of things to the bag. Usually good for hauling clothing and mid-sized packages (up to say 50cm wide & 75cm long), we’ve also strapped a few wheelsets on to drop them off for other testers or a trip to BikeRumor friend & pro mechanic Václav Svatoš when we were swamped with work and needed a rush glue job to make it to the next cyclocross race.
The expandable nature has also meant easy attachment of another specialized bag for travel. I travel a decent amount to test new gear. So being able to pack all of my riding kit in a very organized fashion into the custom BikeRumor Scicon Rainbag, while carrying a couple days worth of clothes, notebook, and camera inside the main bag, means that the Wicker has become my goto carry-on for quick trips. The net lets me stuff an extra jacket on the outside, easy to access, and expandability means I can pick up some small presents on the way home to keep my wife and kids happy. If I could change anything on the bag, I would maybe expand its size about 25%, so that it could serve me for a couple of days longer of travel. But if I did that, I’d probably just fill that up too and end up lugging around more than I need. Sometimes paring down is good.
The only real nits we would have to pick on the Wicker would be that the sternum strap is a fixed, sewn loop that can only move up and down about 8cm. For the most part that has been fine, but when the back is really loaded down, it would be nice to move it a few cm higher for better load stability. A couple times we also wished the bag had at least the option for a removable waist belt. The shoulder & sternum straps did a surprisingly effective job at keeping the bag from moving around, but there is something in the back of my head that even though it would be in the way the vast majority of the time, I kinda wish I could secure it around my waist on occasion.
Other than those minor thoughts – which don’t really detract from the bag’s performance but are more ideas for a future iteration – I’ve been totally pleased with the Wicker in every way. Its construction really is top notch, and as much as I have tried to abuse the bag, it seriously looks like new a year on. With our EU team being based in Prague, it’s nice to know that everything is being made locally here.
The Wicker has replaced both a messenger bag I had used for years, being a more comfortable way to carry my gear on the bike, another similarly sized backpack that just doesn’t offer anywhere near the same flexibility and expansion capability. And with how the bag looks after a year of hard use, it’s sure to hold up to many more years of bike commuting and travels.