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Chrome's Barrage Cargo is a bit of a beast when it comes to a commuting backpack. It looks a bit like an extra from an urban video game with the cargo net and is made from super-tough 1050d nylon which should last forever. It has some great details, too, including a well-hidden side pocket, an EVA back panel, and the Chrome buckle, albeit in miniature. But it's certainly not easy on the pocket.
Chrome describes the bag as its "most rugged all condition backpack" and it's fair to say that it certainly feels extremely tough. The 1050d Nylon is often referred to as Ballistic nylon as it was originally used to make flak jackets in WWII, so it's very unlikely that anything you put in it or rub it up against on your daily commute will penetrate the material.
As for being 'all conditions' – well, that depends on the style of commute you wish to subject it to. It's a heavy bag (more on that in a minute) and there is no hydration port or bladder sleeve so it's not for long adventures where you might need to carry lots of water. The cargo net might become snagged if you go for a quick blast through the woods on the way home, and it's just too good looking to get covered in filth for muddy mountain biking. So, not all conditions, but it is perfect for commuting on the road or on your gravel bike along lanes, bridleways, canal paths, and generally less muddy wooded trails.
My general requirements for commuting are pretty much the same as anybody else's I would think: I need a laptop sleeve, a 15in one not a diddy one, and I want to be able to access my keys and emergency stuff without having to empty the bag on the floor. I need the bag to be waterproof, and I need to be able to put a change of clothes, shoes and food in it as well. Externally, a pocket for a water bottle or a lock is useful as you really don't want to mix liquid with your laptop. The Barrage Cargo handles all this and much more with total ease.
It has a double skin construction with a fully welded and watertight internal liner made from 18oz truck tarpaulin to keep water out, which no doubt is partially responsible for the overall heft. Once the top is rolled over a couple of times the bag has proved completely impervious to the weather. I've also seen the liner tested in reverse at events with beer and ice floating inside, creating a somewhat unusual portable cool box, so I can vouch for Chrome's watertight welding capabilities.
The outside of the bag features a webbing net allowing multiple storage options for your helmet and kit. The cargo style net has an adjustable capacity to hold large trail helmets or just clothes, coats and beanies. The net style also allows multiple items to be attached to the bag in various locations.
The roll-top closure features a large plastic buckle with a long reflective seatbelt-style strap and needs only two folds to seal the bag, which is quick and easy to do.
The back panel is made from an ergonomically contoured EVA foam panel with just right amount of padding to be comfortable when fully laden, but thin enough so it can mould to your back. The straps are attached via a yoke to the top of the bag and feature quality reflective details and attachment rings.
Once on, the straps are well positioned, easily adjustable and feel right. At 1.4kg it is a lot heavier than my previous bag (around 780g), but you don't really notice the weight, it's that comfortable.
There are two external pockets for locks and bottles but if the bag is reasonably full they are very difficult to use. The pockets are not bellowed or expandable so only flattish items will slide in when the main bag is packed, which is fine for your D-lock but not your water bottle. The buckle immediately above the pocket makes stowage and removal of anything round like a bottle really awkward and needs to be undone to access the pocket. It's not a huge issue, and having it might be useful for security should you need it.
There is also an excellent hidden pocket along the righthand side of the bag which is ideal for getting to items without having to undo the whole bag. It's large enough for your wallet, phone, keys, mini-tools and suchlike.
Inside the bag, there is the usual laptop partition and, importantly, the sleeve doesn't go all the way to the floor so you can rest assured that your laptop will not clank if you accidentally drop your bag down. The EVA panel acts as a bumper and prevents your expensive electronics hitting the floor first even when lightly loaded, which is well thought out. There are no other features inside the bag, it's just a 22-litre watertight sack which you can fill with anything you wish.
So far, you might be thinking this bag is nigh-on perfect but unfortunately it's not quite full marks for the Barrage. And it's a frustrating omission which prevents that perfect score (well, that plus the price), and something that is present on just about every other bag I own: that of loose strap holders/keepers. When you ride along at any speed, the loose ends of the shoulder straps and the cargo net straps flap and buffet annoyingly. Really annoyingly.
I ended up interlocking the cargo net ones into the net to stop them flapping, and tucking the shoulder strap ones under the strap. But it shouldn't be necessary to do this; there should be extra loops to hold the ends still and tight. The sternum strap does have a 'keeper', but it is too loose and slips towards the buckle on every journey, so the strap ends up flapping anyway.
These are simple fixes that you could do yourself, but for £175 you definitely shouldn't have to. Come on, Chrome, this is a simple fix.
The second issue, and it's the elephant in the room, is the price. It's an expensive bag and although the quality is undeniably there, and Chrome's lifetime guarantee will look after any defects that might arise, it's a lot of money.
For me, using the Chrome backpack has been an excellent experience. It is extremely comfortable to ride with, and although it is expensive the quality is obvious. It's large enough to handle all the kit you should need for work and its stylish super-tough construction will probably outlive the owner.
Extremely comfortable to ride with, very well built and good looking, but it's expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo Backpack
Size tested: 22L
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?
The Barrage Cargo is labelled as an 'all conditions' backpack and is aimed at commuters and urban riders looking to carry more than just their laptop to work/college on routes that aren't always paved. Its large, tough, waterproof manufacture means it's suitable for putting just about anything inside and is really comfortable to ride with.
Chrome says, "The Barrage Cargo is our most rugged all-condition backpack. Featuring a watertight, fully-welded main compartment and an adjustable exterior cargo net, the Barrage is built to adapt to any environment or payload. Like all our bags, the Barrage is guaranteed for life."
I think it hits its market pretty much dead on, albeit a wealthy one. As long as you don't read 'all conditions' as muddy trail riding which it is too heavy and too pretty for – plus it has no bladder option.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Accommodates up to a 17" MacBook Pro
Easy access side U-lock/water bottle pockets
Sternum strap with quick release push plate buckle for load distribution
Rolltop closure accommodates a range of load sizes
Abrasion-resistant 1050d nylon exterior
Welded-waterproof 18oz truck tarpaulin liner
It'll probably last longer than I will. It's stitched neatly and tidily and all seams are perfectly aligned.
It does need 'keepers' to stop the loose straps them flapping; there are a lot of them and they make a racket at speed. Once the cargo straps are interlocked with each other and the shoulder straps tucked away, it's fine, but you shouldn't really have to do that on a £175 bag.
So far – five months and not a scuff or wear mark.
It's pretty heavy compared with others in the market, but it's so well made and comfortable that I think you'd forgive it.
It's one of the most comfortable bags I've worn on my commute, whether fully loaded or not.
It's really expensive. It's beautiful but really expensive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed really well, with no concerns apart from loose, flappy straps and the side pocket/buckle location clash.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort and the large hidden side pocket.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The loose, flapping straps.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared with the Shimano Tokyo 23 at £119.99 and the Samvaer City Camino at £109, it's expensive; and it's really expensive when compared with the Craft Cadence bag at £69.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a brilliant bag that should last a very long time. It's extremely comfortable to wear and swallows a lot of kit. The EVA back panel is super-comfortable and even when I'm riding some of the large hills around here out of the saddle, the bag stays put really well.
About the tester
I usually ride: Fairlight My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, bikepacking, adventure, gravel riding