Outlier Minimal backpack  £100.00

8/10

Brilliantly minimal, waterproof and practical for commuting but a little on the pricy side.

Weight 160g   Contact  www.outlier.cc

by John Stevenson   June 14, 2012  

The lightest backpack we've ever used, the Outlier Minimal is surprisingly effective as a barebones commuting gear carrier, but for a pack with almost no features, it's a bit pricy.

At a feathery 162g – a third to a quarter the weight of a similar-sized full-featured rucksack – Outlier's Minimal backpack truly lives up to its name. This is a backpack stripped to essentials: a seam-sealed roll-top compartment, a pair of adjustable straps, and, er, that's it. Bells, frills, whistles, extras, doohickeys and gee-gaws have all been ruthlessly binned in pursuit of what Outlier calls 'the simplest and lightest pack we can make that is still suitable for daily use.'

The secret to both the low weight and high price is an ultra high molecular weight polyethylene laminated fabric that Outlier calls Dyneema, though it seems to be more commonly known as Cuben. (Dyneema is a thread made from a similar material that also happens to have cycling applications: the Dutch team at the Olympics will be using shorts from BioRacer with Dyneema panels for crash-protection. Not that we'd ever wish a crash on anyone, but it'll be interesting to see how it holds up.)

To make the Minimal, Outlier teamed up with Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) http://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/, who had already figured out how to work with this apparently rather awkward fabric, and a 26-litre bag was born.

Outlier and HMG have done a great job, nailing the shape of both the bag and the stiff, broad shoulder straps so it's comfortable with a commuting load: clothes, books, keys, wallet phone, towel etc. I didn't miss a chest strap, but you could add one to the loops on the shoulder straps if you can't live without it.

I was pleasantly surprised how little I missed having lots of extra pockets and compartments, but maybe that's because I'm stupidly absent-minded. With the Minimal I can't forget which side pocket my wallet's in. It's in the big compartment with everything else. Simple.

The Outlier is also the first rucksack I've ever owned that's got me into a conversation at a set of lights. A young musician (unless the violin case on her back actually contained a sniper rifle or smuggled diamonds) looked at it and asked, 'Is that Cuben fabric? I've got a groundsheet made from that stuff. Best groundsheet I've ever used.'

You want a commuting rucksack and a groundsheet to be extremely waterproof, and the Minimal fits the bill. Our sample arrived just as the weather turned glorious, so we simulated a downpour with ten minutes in the shower. No sign of water inside the bag.

The Outlier brilliantly fulfils its brief of a super-light, rock-bottom-minimal pack, then. It's comfortable for general use and commuting, it's tough and waterproof.

However, it's not cheap. Its $152 price tag translates to around a hundred quid and getting it here from the USA adds another $40 or so. At first sight that's a bit jaw-dropping. Shop around a bit and you could get two Osprey Talon 22s for the same money. But compare with other waterproof packs and they're similarly expensive. They also have full harnesses and padding, but the price you pay for that is weights in the 1-1.5kg range.

The value for money question isn't as clear-cut as it first seems, and the Outlier Minimal is unarguably excellent at fulfilling its design brief. If you like to go light and minimal, you'll probably judge it worth the money.

Verdict

Brilliantly minimal, waterproof and practical for commuting but a little on the pricy side.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Outlier Minimal backpack

Size tested: White

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?

Outlier says it's "a pared down city pack. Waterproof, featherweight and backcountry tough. Made with nonwoven Dyneema, it's light enough to float on water, but tough enough to haul bricks. Roll top closure, taped seams and packs down to fit in a jacket pocket."

Can't argue with any of that.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The fabric application is the interesting aspect here, an unusual, expensive and hard-to-work material pressed into service in a novel way.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Seams fully taped, stitching tidy.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Comfortable for round-town, shopping, my 10km commute and felt like it'd still be comfortable in another 10km. No padding, so you do have to load it intelligently so you don't get spiky things in your back.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

No signs of wear after several weeks. Cuben/Dyneema fabrics have general good rep for durability, but at this weight obvously it's not Cotton Duck.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
10/10

Almost ludicrously light.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
7/10

Shoulder straps spread the load well, but the back is unpadded.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

Great though the Minimal is, it's hard to justify spending this much on a commuting backpack, when something half the price would do the same job as well, albeit at higher weight.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Exceptionally well - it's comfortable, light and effective.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Clever materials, very light weight, minimalist design.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Only the price.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but the price is a deterrent.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they were a serious weight-weenie, yes. Otherwise, no.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 190cm  Weight: 98kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I've got one of these and it's really rather good. And cheap. Fully waterproof, rolls away, not QUITE as light as the Cuben fabric but still pretty damn light.

http://www.facewest.co.uk/Exped-Cloudburst-25.html?utm_source=google&utm...

posted by Leonie Jennings [298 posts]
14th June 2012 - 15:37

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Dyneema is more normally used for lightweight webbing slings for rock climbing. Using it for clothing and rucksacks is generally recognised as a fashion over function trick among mountaineers - the material is very strong for its weight, but sensitive to sunlight and wears under abrasion faster than standard nylon.

If you want a light, simple waterproof rucksack, get an Alpkit Gourdon:

http://www.alpkit.com/gourdon/

Stewie

posted by stewieatb [298 posts]
14th June 2012 - 15:54

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what does it do that a number of, say, ortlieb products do much cheaper?

Really, though?

posted by workhard [293 posts]
14th June 2012 - 20:45

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Dyneema.

Is.

Fricking.

Cool.

Kitted out my laser with Dyneema ropes after I snapped the control lines, the mast will brake before the rope!

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1725 posts]
14th June 2012 - 22:29

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"'Is that Cuben fabric? I've got a groundsheet made from that stuff. Best groundsheet I've ever used."

Cool What a chat up line, I have got to remember that one Wink

Sean

Sean

posted by seanieh66 [192 posts]
15th June 2012 - 5:30

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seanieh66 wrote:
"'Is that Cuben fabric? I've got a groundsheet made from that stuff. Best groundsheet I've ever used."

Cool What a chat up line, I have got to remember that one Wink

Sean

Yeah, should be followed by "would you like to try it out?" Big Grin

posted by Leonie Jennings [298 posts]
15th June 2012 - 7:22

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Glad someone else got the Alpkit recommendation in. Cracking little bags and only barely more expensive than a non-waterproof cheapie from the high street.

posted by steff [81 posts]
15th June 2012 - 8:28

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Can second the Alpkit. They also do great sleeping bags and down jackets.

On a different note - Dyneema and Cuben Fibre are 2 different materials. Dyneema is basically a polyethylene thread, like cotton or nylon and can be woven into all sorts of things.

Cuben fiber is a fabric that is not woven, but basically a mix of dyneema and carbon fibre threads laminated or sandwiched between 2 layers of fabric (PVC or similar.)

This gives it really poor puncture resistance and isn't great for day to day things like rucksacks - although there are a few companies making ultra lightweight bags and tents out of it.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [293 posts]
15th June 2012 - 12:50

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I've had Dyneema flying lines on my powerkites for years; if 4 thin lines can lift me it's got to be strong.

I love the smell of cleats (mexican accent, you do the jokes)

posted by paulfrank [79 posts]
16th June 2012 - 22:37

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This would be great to keep in a pannier, for use on the way home if you need to do some shopping.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1301 posts]
18th June 2012 - 15:14

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I have the Alpkit 25 litre Gourdon. Build quality/thickness of material dipped a few years back but they seeM to have got it back again. Short of full immersion it's 100% waterproof. I can't see myself dropping almost a ton on a dry bag no matter how techy it claims to be. If you go for the Alpkit I would go up a size simply to avoid over stuffing the 20 litre. I killed my first 20 litre on that way, it's just not quite big enough for commuting kit a decent D-Lock and a bit of shopping, the 25 is spot on.

posted by MKultra [106 posts]
31st January 2014 - 17:36

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