Pros for the Bravo 2.0:
- Very comfortable main straps and sternum strap
- Padded back
- Waterproof main compartment with rolltop
- Strong velcro
- A couple exterior pockets
Cons for the Bravo 2.0:
- Laptop compartment is not waterproof
- Velcro is loud, and cuts into the back of my hand
- Takes a bit of finagling to fit all my commuter gear
I love the feel of this bag compared to others I've tried, and I find the design simple and elegant. Though, there are a few design choices that I found odd, as noted below.
It's a little smaller than my old 32 liter North Face Bigshot II, but still holds 28 liters and has a rolltop which allows for extra storage capacity.
I'm able to fit my typical daily commuting cargo gear, and I'm just barely able to fit my "extended day" cargo gear without needing to flip the roll top.
My "extended" cargo load is a little larger than my typical one because I'm including spare shoes and a sweatshirt, which I normally only pack for special occasions. I usually keep an extra sweatshirt and pair of shoes at the office.
Unfortunately, I discovered that I have to pack my laptop before my cargo. The internal space used by the laptop compartment and the main compartment collide a bit, and it takes a bit of rearranging to get things right. Loading my laptop first seems the best solution for me.
Based on how severely the cargo from the main compartment can creep into the laptop compartment's space, I feel much safer using a dedicated laptop case/sleeve before loading my laptop.
Even with all that gear, the padded back feels pretty comfy. It doesn't contour to my back quite as well as I'd like though. With all backpacks I find I have a difficult time striking the balance between a rigid back that doesn't allow my cargo to stab into me and a back with enough contouring that I'm not aching the next day from having a big flat surface pressed against my spine.
The bag has some mildly ambiguous waterproof phrasing on the Chrome website.
Featuring a welded-waterproof main compartment
I find that phrasing a bit ambiguous because the bag is listed as "Weatherproof", and other bags on the Chrome website say they are "100% waterproof". After some analysis, it's clear why Chrome does not call this bag "100% waterproof".
Only the main compartment is waterproof and not the laptop compartment or other compartments. There may be water resistant material in various spots on the bag, but only the main compartment seems truly waterproof, which is a bit problematic as explained below.
The bag apparently uses "Abrasion-resistant 1050d nylon", and for this material Chrome says they "coat the back with polyurethane for extra water resistance." I'm assuming this nylon is the material used over the majority of the exterior.
The interior has a tarpaulin liner, which comprises the "welded-waterproof main compartment".
There's another velcroed compartment accessible from the main pocket. I had mistaken this as the laptop compartment at first.
This velcroed compartment runs along the back of the bag and it does not seem to be waterproof from what I can tell.
This velcroed area off the main compartment is not a separate pocket. It essentially allows you to get behind the waterproof liner all the way to the bottom of the bag. So any items put in there are immediately taking space away from the main compartment. I'm assuming it is intended for wet items like gym clothes.
At first I mistook it for the laptop compartment, but after taking a closer look, I think I should never use this for my laptop as it could be more exposed to the elements.
I then discovered The "Dedicated laptop compartment" and was glad to find that it did fit my 15" Apple MacBook Pro including the dedicated laptop sleeve I use.
I had a rather difficult time finding a Chrome bag that fit my laptop plus sleeve, so I was really satisfied when I found this fit in the Bravo 2.0.
The exterior facing wall on the inside of the laptop compartment seems to be waterproof, but not every side of the laptop compartment is waterproof, which is frustrating, as another Chrome reviewer points out on their website.
Most frustratingly though, the roll-top section is the only truly weatherproof section of the bag, NOT THE LAPTOP SECTION ( note laptops do not like water). Rain has a nasty tendency to pool in the outside top seems of the laptop compartment due to the design of the bag. I got caught out in a storm in San Francisco and was less then delighted to find my laptop was covered in water, in a properly closed bag, due to these pools quickly inundating the fabric and creating leaks. My laptop now requires repair, not ideal.
My worst fear! No-one wants a ruined laptop.
Another review on this same bag from REI's website agrees with my mindset here that the lack of waterproofing for electronics is an odd choice.
- The main compartment of the bag is waterproof, but the area where you put your computer, phone and other electronic devices is not. This makes no sense to me
I think making the laptop compartment waterproof like the main compartment would've made much more sense, or at least having the laptop compartment be inside the main compartment to share that waterproofing.
I could put my laptop in the main waterproof compartment, but I'd rather not. I like to put my clothes and rough cargo in the main pocket and have a dedicated compartment for my laptop. The idea of having a laptop compartment, but not feeling comfortable putting my laptop inside it, is a bit frustrating. Especially after having recently suffered water damage with a different backpack after getting caught in the rain without an umbrella.
The sides (left) and backing (top of the photo) of the laptop compartment do not seem to use a waterproof material. The shiny side (bottom) does, which makes sense, since that's the side facing out and would be most exposed to the elements.
I should pause here to note that I do not really know just how resistant the laptop compartment is to rain, but considering how Chrome carefully uses the term "waterproof" in describing this bag, and looking at other reviews, and feeling it myself, I would not be comfortable with the safety of my laptop if I was stuck in a hard rain.
See here for an external view of the laptop compartment side. It seems the side walls of the laptop compartment use the same material outside as in (the 1050d nylon I suppose).
The lid flap of the laptop compartment seems to use the same waterproof (again, I think it's waterproof) material as the flap that covers the roll top. This makes me feel better about the waterproofing, but I'm still a little nervous that every side of the laptop compartment is not waterproofed like I hoped. Especially considering that review from another Chrome user I posted above.
The design of the laptop storage with a bag like the Chrome Barrage Cargo Backpack makes more sense to me since the laptop storage is inside the main waterproof compartment on that bag.
I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to the usefullness of the straps. I suppose you could tighten/loosen them as your cargo fluctuates, but the main interior compartment is so rigid that I have a difficult time imagining they would make much difference.
I had not planned on using these exterior cargo/cinch straps, but I don't see their value either. Perhaps good for hauling a yoga mat or something similar that's fairly large and has some natural friction to it, but I'd be afraid to put anything of value there for fear it could slide out the bottom.
There's a smaller front zipper pocket that could be handy for items like a wallet. Based on the feel I think this has a waterproof lining around it.
The part of this bag I like least is the velcro. I'm generally averse to velcro because, in my mind, it's going to wear out faster than a simple fastener like a buckle, clip, or snap. The velcro is the only mechanism used to seal the rolltop main compartment. Velcro is also the only mechanism to seal the laptop compartment as well.
I feel that velcro will attract dirt and dust and lint that decreases the viability. In reality, I have never used a bag with velcro before, so perhaps I should not be so quick to judge.
The velcro on this bag is very loud, which I suppose is good because it's strong, but it's also awkward in quiet spaces when you need to grab something from your bag. It's also a bit of a pain to adjust the rolltop with velcro, in my opinion. I find that it takes at least a couple adjustments with the velcro to get the flap sealed to my satisfaction.
I would have preferred a large sturdy plastic buckle or two.
I've only used the bag a couple times and have been tinkering with it a bunch as I get a better feel for it and try different cargo loads. In that brief time the velcro between the wet/dry parts of the main compartment has managed to cut up my hand a bit as I fished around inside for things.
I'm sure that sounds a bit silly, but I assure you it's very annoying. At first I thought it was an allergic reaction my skin was having to the waterproof material in the main compartment, then I realized the velcro on the bag is scraping my hand. Now I try and avoid using that separate "wet" compartment because I keep scratching myself.
Overall I love the feel and look, and although I have a lot of gripes, I do think it's a nice bag. I'm sure it'll work well for most people, but the lack of waterproofing on the laptop compartment has me wondering how comfortable I will be with this bag in the long term.