San Francisco's Chrome has been making ultra-tough messenger bags for donkeys' years but only recently have they been making commuter-focused bags, and the Krakow is the smallest of their rucksack-like laptop carriers.
On first impressions, it's sleek, smart and very robust. The straps are comfy, and adjusted by industrial-style camlock grippers. All very flash: it makes you feel like you're off exploring, even if you're only riding along the Brompton Road to the office.
It is, I'd say, a little big for your average laptop. Chrome says it holds a 17-inch Apple Powerbook (of course it's a Mac...), and the Velcro-fastening laptop sleeve in the main compartment will easily swallow anything up to that size. What's more, it will keep the thing damn safe too. The internal sleeve is reasonably padded (and there's decent, vented foam padding externally for your back), but it's in the waterproofing, materials and construction that the bag really wins.
Drag a Chrome bag through a hedge backwards, subject it to rainstorms, puddles, splashing, and it'll keep its contents safe and dry. The Krakow is made with the same weatherproofed, coated nylon outer and the same independent truck-tarp inner as the rest of Chrome's bags. That means the waterproof inner is entirely separate from the outer and that, even if the outer takes a soaking, there's still an impenetrable layer between your goods and the elements. On some of the company's models, they boast you can fill the waterproof compartments with ice and use them as beer coolers. Not sure I'd want to put my laptop in one pocket and an icy beer lake in the other, but you get what they're saying.
All that said, the Krakow's main compartment is not absolutely waterproof, as the company's roll-top bags are. The heavy-duty zip round two sides of the bag means that some compromises have to be made in that respect, but the waterproof taping on the zip is very good. Neither are the two front pockets, nor the zipped pocket on the front flap (big enough for wallets, phones, keys and small essentials), completely waterproof. But they're very well protected and I've had no qualms about riding with the Krakow in any weather.
In use, the bag performs well. It sits comfortably on your back and the zip is placed so that you can access the main pocket quickly. Everything is easily to hand but there's not tons of room. Aside from your laptop, the main compartment will fit a fistful of papers and documents, as well as a few thin-ish books. Of the front pockets, one is simply a sleeve, and the other a pleated, expandable compartment, both running more or less the entire height of the bag. This also has a few handy pen loops and whatnot, for odds and ends, but that's about it. The bag holds deceptively little - much less than its size and 19-litre capacity suggest.
In fact, two of the pockets are suitable only for thin things - files, papers and books. Even a laptop charger is a bit of a stretch. There's only one pocket - the outer - which can expand into the third dimension, and accommodate chunky, bulky or irregularly shaped things. So if you have one of those effortless commutes in 19°C sunshine carrying nothing but an Apple laptop and a Kindle to your design studio where, after showering, an assistant will towel you down and help you into that day's white T shirt, jeans and Converse, then this is the do-anything bag for you. However...
I tend to commute light: the laptop, notebooks and papers go in the main pocket. Lock and lights in the slip pocket, then a fresh T-shirt in the front. But what about somewhere to stash a wet rain jacket, or cap and gloves in case of the cold? And I'm in my SPDs, so what about some shoes? Tools and a spare tube? You get the idea. If you're a minimal kind of person, or want to streamline your life, this is great. If you embrace clutter or need a load of odds and sods wherever you are, go buy something bigger.
Oh, and as Columbo used to say: just one more thing. There's no loop on the bag upon which to affix a rear light, a standard fixture on most bags including the rest of the Chrome range. Not a deal-breaker, but worth knowing.
Great laptop bag, and suitable for lightweight commuting, but if you need to carry much more than that, it's probably not for you.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Krakow Backpack
Size tested: Black/Red
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Says the website: "Our laptop daypack for commuting to work or school. Guaranteed for life."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Zippered main compartment with padded laptop compartment fits up to 17'in MacBook Pro laptop
- Large external pockets with Velcro flap closure for file folders and other work tools
- Zippered external flap pocket for travel documents
- Industrial strength Velcro accessory shoulder mounting straps
- Ergonomic shoulder strap design with EVA foam back panel for improved fit and breathability
- Sternum strap for load distribution
- Industrial metal cam lock under arm compression buckles
- Weatherproofed 1000 denier nylon outer shell with P/U coating
- Weatherproof independently suspended military grade 18 oz. truck tarpaulin liner
- Nylon 69 thread and YKK zippers
- Dimensions: 14in wide, 19in high, 4in deep
Great, for its stated purpose.
Expensive, but will definitely last, and with a lifetime guarantee.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The looks, the durability, the zip along the side.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The constraints on putting stuff in it!
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Strato road or fixed commuter hack.
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,