I already liked the Freitag Victor rucksac when it landed. In appearance at least, it seemed eminently practical with plenty of load carrying space in its boxed construction and an indestructible look and feel thanks to being made from truck tarpaulin and seat belt webbing.
A messenger bag style roll down top finishes it off nicely and promised great waterproofing and quick access. It's on trend and stylish with Freitag as a brand commanding a premium price tag and sporting good eco-credentials re-using industrial materials which make each bag one of a kind for that exclusive appeal.
Freitag call it 're-contextualised' which is something of a marketing term but what I like about Freitag's products is how they treat the tarpaulin and seat belt webbing much like any other standard materials, for example just as leather, cordura, canvas etc might be used to make any other kind of bag.
Significant work is required to clean, flatten and select the patterned shapes before the material can be used. Significant workmanship and design goes into transforming them into the finished product. There is no saving of effort or restraint on design because of the materials' origin. Only the benefits of the material are carried through in that it is a very appropriate base material for making very hardwearing bags and the quality of the bag's construction speaks for itself.
That said there is a significant charm that comes along with the process, knowing that the material has been given a second chance in haulage of another kind and of course the fact that just about every bag will be unique.
So when it came to review time, its aesthetic charms had already won me over and when it came to performance and value I was mindful of being somewhat biased. On the other hand I had high hopes too and didn't want to be disappointed.
Unfortunately when it came to practicalities, despite all the excuses I was prepared to make for it, it was a case of the latter and the Victor's practical shortfalls started to mount up.
The Victor swallowed one standard supermarket basket of shopping with ease, but the ride home was anything but easy.
The shape of the bag is great. It stands up and open easily so it's easy to pack and unpack and to see what is loitering in the bottom.
Initially it seems a great design for load carrying. For example eight bottles of brown red or white booze fit neatly across its flat bottom and stand upright with plenty of space on top for other essentials. Pick it up with such a load and put it on your back, and things start to go wrong.
The straps are narrow with pretty much no padding and there is no sternum or waist strap to aid stability or to control where the straps will lie against you. That means that the bag and the load dictate if and where the straps will cut into you, and they will.
The back of the bag is padded to an extent but isn't stiffened in any way so it doesn't hold its shape or wrap around you so bulky objects sit awkwardly against you too. Remember not to bend over either or the whole bag will attempt to exit over your head.
In short my ride home from the supermarket, which wasn't beverage dominated that day as it happens, was perhaps the most awkward and unstable I have experienced. I was glad it was only a mile and a half without much traffic interaction and I was relieved to be home.
I have carried heavier loads in a number of other bags – backpack and shoulder style courier bags, so this was quite a blow to my love affair with Victor.
It didn't get too much better from there either. Initially the roll top closure looked good but it wasn't as easy to get in and out of quickly or as weatherproof as you might expect.
To get the Victor securely closed the Velcro tab needs accurate placement before you fold it down and it doesn't so much as roll down as fold over. If you want to avoid gaps in the side you can't have an awful lot in the main compartment and have to be careful closing it.
The closure strap over the top is secure but the quick release buckle adds slightly to the process of opening and closing. While this is tolerable for occasional entry it can quickly become tedious if you are always in and out of the bag. In that respect it's no competition for other courier bags and if you use the whole load volume you will have gaps that you can poke a finger through, which makes something of a mockery of the whole roll-top closure.
The front pocket is of a useful size, with an organiser inside for phone, wallet etc but also suffers the same sealing issues. Fold down the flap and there's a large gap in the side through which rain can get in and things can get out. All this means the very waterproof, durable material is somewhat wasted. An extra lip on the pocket that folds down with the flap would make this front pocket much more protected.
Then there is the lock sling at the very front, which fitted none of my three U-locks. They all very nearly fit but the sling was about 5mm too narrow to push the shackle through. Unless there was a particular error with this sample, if the outside measurement across the shackle of your lock is any more than 130mm you may have the same trouble.
In the front pocket there is a large zipped compartment that will take a 13in laptop, and in the main body there is a sleeve that will take a bigger laptop '' around 15in '' so that it sits against your back. Again there are no stiffeners though so you need to be careful that other items in the bag aren't creating point loads and bending screens etc. This can also happen against your back if the shoulder straps are too tight.
Lastly there is a handy zip pocket between the main body and the front compartment with the added bonus that you can access it while wearing the bag. Freitag's promotional video shows the bag being filled with boxy objects before a set of keys disappears into this pocket but in reality it's difficult to get anything but small thin objects into this pocket if all the other compartments are already full. A big bunch of keys wedged in here can dent and bend things in the main compartments if you're not careful.
In many ways the Victor is very versatile but it is limited in many ways also. On the whole it's not practical enough to be a performance bag and will need to play on its aesthetic qualities to win you over, so it's very much a fashion bag. I wouldn't use the Victor for carrying large, heavy loads or water sensitive items like electrical equipment, but I still do like it and tend to use if for everything else including daily commuting, weekends away and flights. When all is said and done, I still find myself using it as often as I can, and there is something to be said for that.
Stylish, unique and very well made with green cred but functionally compromised
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Make and model: Freitag Victor
Size tested: Red, Grey
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?
"F151 VICTOR is the padded, variable, fit-it-all-in Messenger backpack with a water-repelling roll-down flap."
I would say from my experience "messenger style". Having spent a small amount of time as a messenger I would not use this in a professional function. It's more of a fashion item.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
350 �– 140 �– 430 / extended 550 mm (l �– w �– h)
13.7 �– 5.5 �– 16.9 / extended 21.6 inch
16 to 23 litres
Water-repelling roll-down flap system
Zippered quick-access outside compartment
Storage pocket for
Seemingly very well made.
Functionally flawed, doesn't live up to its courier bag look.
I can't fault the construction. Very well put together and very good quality. We'd have to wait a fair few years to get results on a durability test I think.
Not light, but tough. Not unreasonably heavy at 1.5kg for such a durable bag.
Reasonable when lightly packed, but becomes very uncomfortable and unstable with heavier loads.
When it comes to scoring value it has to be said that, if we treat it as a fashion item, there are plenty of impractical but desirable examples out there in the world of bags that command a high price tag and make this look cheap. As such it would be harsh to mark it down too heavily but it comes with the caveat that you need to know what it is and why you are buying it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Not as practical as its looks promised.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The aesthetics, materials and construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It was disappointing that it didn't live up to its potential functionally.
Did you enjoy using the product? I did.
Would you consider buying the product? Almost, but I think there are better products out there functionally, that still look good.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they wanted to buy on style alone, yes but with caveats.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
As a general bag without any particular performance requirements, I love it, but as a bike messenger bag it's too flawed.
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