I love backpacks. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find a backpack you want to use for everyday items. Either it looks like you’re on your way to your first day of pre-K, or you look like you might summit Everest on the way to the office. Case Logic’s Griffith Park Ion backpack aims to sit between those extremes.
It’s a bit of a silly comparison, but I do think that the hard part about using a backpack to carry your stuff as an adult is figuring out the appropriate style. You don’t want to look like you’re carrying your textbooks, and unless you’re using it for a legitimate outdoor pursuit like a hike or a bike ride, you probably don’t want to channel that look either. Some backpacks dodge this by going with a very under-engineered look, making the outside smooth and shoving all the organization to the inside, while others go slap happy with pockets and zippers galore. Case Logic seems to have found a nice balance in the Griffith Park Ion, though. If you look purely at the aesthetics, you can see they have made a very functional backpack look attractive enough for a range of activities.
Let’s start with the outside of the Ion. There’s a main pocket with a zipper that runs across the whole top half of the pack, plus a little stash pocket above the handle. Below the main area is another, smaller pocket, plus a slash pocket with a clasp to close it and a very small zipper pocket in the front, plus another pocket at the bottom. The sides have water bottle holders that are kept nice and neat when not in use by zippers as well. Plus the Ion has cinching clasps on both sides that let you keep the whole pack as tight as possible; no one likes the feeling of a huge hump on their back if they can help it! Basically, the entire pack is full of pockets and organization opportunities, but Case Logic made sure to design it in such a way that everything blends in with the body of the backpack. Even fully stuffed nothing sticks out, so you maintain the aesthetics even when you’re hauling the contents of your home office around town.
Inside there’s every pocket you could imagine and then some. The main pocket has a nice padded area for an iPad (or two iPads, or an iPad and a laptop, or the way I used it, which was two iPads plus a paper magazine). The rest of the pocket is deep and can hold plenty. When I first went to use this pack, it was for a family trip, so in addition to the two iPads I also had to put a change of clothes for all of us in the main compartment (not for overnight use, just because traveling with a toddler can lead to lots of wardrobe changes for all). This type of packing normally makes a backpack feel tight even before you start filling the other pockets, and I was quite pleased with how the Ion swallowed up our stuff without distending out of shape. The organizer pocket has a few pockets; there’s a slash pocket sewn into two separate pockets, plus a mesh zipper pocket and a keyring holder. The mesh pocket was great for holding all our chargers, and the two slash pockets were the perfect size for my wallet and phone. There was also still room in the loose part of this compartment, the perfect size for a small paperback, a tablet in a well-padded case, or other loose items that don’t need to be secured. The side water bottle pockets easily held a normal sized water bottle and a small thermos.
What really amazed me about the Ion is that I felt like I had it stuffed pretty well, yet there were pockets I didn’t even use! Because we were traveling, I didn’t feel comfortable using the bottom zipper compartment or the open, clip-closed front pocket. It seemed too likely that I would forget I had items in those pockets and either toss the bag too hard to the ground or tip it funny and lose something. Likewise, I didn’t have anything small enough to sit in the compartment by the handle. But it did impress me that there were that many little places to spread out items and place them for easy access. There’s nothing worse than perfectly packing up your backpack, only to realize you’ve over-organized yourself and the item you need is deep inside a packed up area. Also, no matter how much I had in it, it remained comfortable to wear for long periods. There’s a chest clip for stability if you have it particularly loaded up, and the handle on top is rubberized and quite comfortable to use, so if your shoulders were tired or you needed to manually carry the pack you could do so with ease.
The Griffith Park Ion backpack is extremely well made, with no loose stitches or other signs of poor quality. The straps are solid, the zippers have a satisfying feel to them, and the whole pack feels like it COULD survive a rough hike if that’s where it was headed. But it’s style is one that’s distinctly more everyday, and Case Logic did a great job with it. I’m also impressed with the price; $79.99 is fairly reasonable for a solid backpack, and I’ve seen “laptop” backpacks that go for double that with less quality designs. The Griffith Park Ion is comfortable to use and stylish enough to look like an adult backpack, a winning combination!
Source: Manufacturer provided sample
What I Liked: Comfortable to wear; excellent build quality; plenty of organizational pockets.
What Needs Improvement: Some of the pockets are not terrible usable.