The Altura Zone backpack is ready for the urban jungle or the actual jungle, being both hydration-system and laptop compatible.
Within the large compartment there are three individual pockets alongside the main space. The first is padded for a 15in laptop. My 15in Macbook Air was swimming in the space whilst my 15.6in Toshiba laptop protruded a little too high for comfort, so this is definitely one to check if you have a widescreen style laptop to fit. The second pocket is nominally for stationary but an iPad also suited this space. On the opposite (front) side is a small fleece lined pocket, perfect for specs, phone or anything else that is delicate. The main compartment has a feed through hole for use with hydration systems, but one is not included in the package.
The smaller front compartment houses pen, tool, wallet and key pockets in both nylon and mesh (8 in total). It also includes a key clip so there is no need to fish for them after a trip out. On the outside of the front compartment a U-lock pocket enables a lock up to 230mm to be carried away from your back – much more comfortable than carrying it in the main packet as with most other backpacks. The elastic cord helps to keep the lock and everything in place, though on the test backpack one of the cord ends quickly broke out of its plastic housing. This seems to be a one off problem with an otherwise tough and well-made bag.
Finally on the pocket front there are two elasticated mesh side pockets deep enough for water bottles and the like. In addition to the 16 compartments and pockets (plus the ones for the high vis cover and the back brace) there are several loops for lights, helmets and other things which I can't figure out but if I ever take the backpack camping I'm sure I'll find a use for.
Despite the numerous hidey-holes and pockets, I found that the bag wasn't too good at holding bulky items, as it is quite slimline. The nominal 23cm depth was easily eaten up by a laptop and its padded compartment, which didn't leave much room for anything that wasn't A4ish in dimensions. This is not a bag to pop to the shops with. If you packed carefully, shoes and clothes could be stowed as long as there wasn't anything too bulky added to the mix.
There are shoulder straps (obviously) but also a chest strap and a removable hip belt too. The shoulder straps were padded but not overly so – I'd have preferred a softer foam layer over the shoulder area especially as the load capacity is 25 litres. A thoughtful use of additional elastic means that the chest strap stays taut even when you move. Loose ends are kept out of the way with either elastic loops or velcro leaving a very tidy result once you are kitted up.
The backpack was stiffened with a slightly moulded plastic panel. With it in place, I found the backpack unyielding and uncomfortable, but its placement in a zipped pocket and the way the panel was hemmed with fabric made me think that it was meant to be removable despite this not being a listed feature. Anyhow, without it I felt much more comfortable but I'm sure there are those who will welcome the rigid option. The back padding was supremely comfortable, thick and deep and mesh covered. The two pads with a central channel meant that the weight was very well distributed and sweat was wicked away effectively.
The backpack is showerproof, and waterproof with the addition of the included yellow high vis raincover which is . I thought I'd lost mine until I found it neatly stowed in a Velcro pocket at the very bottom of the bag. Cunning. Talking of visibility, there are bike light loops on each strap and at the bottom of the bag, so if you want to light up like the fairy on top of the Christmas tree then you can. Reflective elements are otherwise minimal, which is unsurprising on a bag in this price bracket.
In simple tones of grey, this bag could be a good choice for commuting to work, but despite the hydration-compatibility I wouldn't be choosing it for touring.
Good value option for around town if you value compartment choice over load space
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Make and model: Altura Zone 25 Litre backpack
Size tested: n/a
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?
Introducing the Altura Zone 25 Backpack. This bag has been designed with city riders and commuters in mind. This functional backpack has all the features to help you organise and keep your belongings safe.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Cargo Capacity: 25 Litres
Hydration System Compatible: Compatible
Back Panel: Airmesh back panel
Shoulder Straps: slightly padded
Pocket 1: Main compartment contains padded laptop and tablet sleeves
Pocket 2: Stationary organiser pocket
Pocket 3: External U-lock pocket
Pocket 4: External stretch pockets and one external zipped pocket
Laptop Sleeve?: 15" sleeve
Reflectivity: Reflective trim
Rain Cover: High Vis rain cover
A clip broke quite quickly - could be a one off.
It holds stuff, but not as malleable as it could be.
Average at best.
Good features to ensure a cool back.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The padded back.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The stiffening plastic insert.
Did you enjoy using the product? It did the job.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 36 Height: 5'7 Weight: size 16
I usually ride: Trek 7.5 WSD My best bike is: Turquoise Cruiser
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Novice
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, Leisure