Every now and then I’ll get a text from Raina that says “Cool. Get and review please?” That’s how we got the CleverPet that Nava continues to love. (Read the review.) And it is what happened with the Wolffepack Escape backpack. Its “expetoSYSTEM” is a “patented orbital trapeze technology [that] frees the bag [allowing it to] swing around.” It’s ingenious.
Before we dig into what makes Wolffepack Backpacks unique, and why Raina was thrilled to be taking this backpack on our trip to the Galápagos Islands, let’s look at the backpack as… a backpack.
This is as well-built a backpack as I have reviewed. The material, fit and finish are all excellent and, as a simple backpack, the Escape is sure to impress.
Along the back there is a strap to which carabiners and other items can be clipped. It is, for example, a perfect location for the small JBL speaker I reviewed last summer.
A small vertical zipper runs along a portion of the back and opens to reveal a small space for relatively flat items.
Clips on either side of the top hold the back portion of the backpack in place. When these are released you can unzip the back storage section. A variety of open pockets of different sizes let you hold small items and keep them organized. There is also a piece of ribbon with a plastic clip for keys.
The main storage compartment of the backpack has a number of open pockets. There is a zippered pocket for keeping important items safe and two open, felt lined, pockets for your laptop and tablet.
The felt doesn’t offer drop protection but will help keep your devices scratch-free.
There are bottle holders on each side of the pack and a padded grab handle at the top which makes it easy to pick up the pack when it’s time to get moving again.
Escape is, as the company says,
extremely versatile for a variety of activities, an all-rounder for commuting, hiking, cycling or skiing.
The Escape isn’t the largest or best organized backpack I have used but it has enough organization and is large enough for what most anyone would need for a day at school, the office or, in our case, the two daily excursions we will be taking during our cruise. The company offers additional styles and sizes so, if you need a backpack with more storage, or you want one that is specifically designed for camera equipment, you can get those too.
They describe the backpack shoulder straps as “air mesh straps” and point out that they are “wide, sculpted and fully padded for comfort.” Combined with the adjustable sternum strap, the Escape is designed to give you the best, most comfortable and secure fit possible.
The portion of the backpack that sits next to your back while wearing it has plenty of padding and air channels that help keep you cooler while walking in the heat. The padding is plentiful enough that wearing the backpack while hiking was never an issue for Raina.
The metal hardware has decent heft to it and, as noted, the material used in the construction is solid and feels as if it will put up with serious use. Seams are straight and evenly spaced. There were no loose threads on the review sample. Overall, I was immediately impressed.
- Technology protection: Padded sleeves lined with microfiber fabric for 13″ laptop and tablet computer.
- Organizer Section: one internal zipper pocket with key hook, pockets for chargers and all associated devices plus organiser section.
- Main compartment: Pockets for chargers, folders, day gear, phone and books.
- Back comfort: Generous back and shoulder padding, incorporating EVA and EPE foam.
- Airflow Back System: Sculpted channels provide airflow back cooling.
- Detachable chest strap: Fully adjustable, attaches to the front webbing loops.
- External waterproof zipper pocket: Travel pass & small items.
- 2 neoprene side pockets: Bottle/umbrella holders.
- Extra Features: Strap tidies, integrated strong top handle, internal zipper pocket, reflector patches, side compression straps, webbing loops, key hook and gun-metal zip-pulls and G-hooks.
- Materials: Water resistant fabric, high grade ballistic polyester, carbon fiber, kevlar, Dyneema cords.
- Color: Black exterior with red zip detailing, red interior.
In short, as a backpack the Wolffepack Escape has everything you expect from a small backpack and is a quality piece of work.
That’s only part of what impressed us with the Escape. You see, Wolffepack backpacks have a special feature that makes them among the most unusual backpacks I have ever seen. That “special feature” is the expetoSYSTEM and it is what drew Raina to this backpack in the first place.
A quick aside before digging into this unusual and brilliant design feature.
As I noted in the beginning, I requested a review sample of this backpack when Raina saw it on line and mentioned that she would love to use this for our trip to the Galápagos Islands. I received one and she used it nonstop during our eleven day adventure. She used it while traveling to Quito, Ecuador. She carried it while we toured the city. And it was on her back for each of the twice-daily excursions while we explored the archipelago. At one point she had the backpack on her back but was grabbing something from the main compartment when one of the other people on our trip said, “What in the world is that?” You see, while the backpack and sternum straps were still secured around her shoulders and chest, she had the main storage compartment in front of her.
That’s thanks to a system that allows someone wearing the Escape, or any of the company’s other backpacks, to release the storage area and swing it around to the front. That may not make sense so, here’s a video of what I mean.
The expetoSYSTEM is an innovative cable system that locks the storage to the back for normal use but has a hand release that sits to the lower front right of the wearer and can be used to release the cables, drop the storage area and, once freed, lets it swing to the front. In addition, once “freed,” the wearer can either hold the storage area or use the integrated clips to lock it in place on the front side of their body. Admittedly, we had some initial issues learning how to release and relock the storage area, but after a while it became pretty much second nature.
The company describes the system as having four different steps:
- 1. FREE YOUR BAG: Press the button and pull the handle to release 3 super-strong cords.
- 2. GRAB YOUR STUFF: Swing the bag from the back to your front for easy access to all your stuff
- 3. CLIP TO THE FRONT: Keep your valuables safe and in sight and leave your hands free
- 4. RAISE AND GO!: Pull the handle to lock and dock with one, simple, quick action
The idea for this design innovation came to David Wolffe when he got frustrated with his old backpack. He thought “there must be a better way to access gear.” He had an idea and started drawing. Fourteen generations of prototypes later he came up with this now patented system. The result was the Wolffepack backpack which lets you
Grab your kit fast, with hands-free access to all your gear. Avoid the hassle of repeated unstrapping!
And lets you
Stay one step ahead of the thieves [by letting you] clip the Wolffepack to your front and keep all your valuables in sight.
Now why would you want something that adds complexity to an otherwise well built but simple backpack? Here are a few scenarios.
While touring Quito, we were warned that the city was generally safe but pickpockets and backpack hijackers were abundant. A backpack sitting behind you in the usual position is left vulnerable to such thieves. The Wolffepack Escape allowed Raina to release the storage area, move it to the front, lock it in place and carry it in front of her the way new parents often carry their child when walking through the streets.
A second example.
When stopping during a long walk up an ancient lava flow on one of the islands Raina wanted some additional suntan lotion. (The Galápagos are, after all, on the equator and the sun was strong.) With a normal backpack Raina would have had to either take the backpack off so she could access the contents or ask me to go into the pack to find what she wanted. With this backpack she had a third, and a better option, available to her. She released the cable, let the storage area drop down, grabbed it and brought it to her front. All the while she had the backpack straps secured to her shoulders and had no need to sit down. Once she had the suntan lotion she pulled down on the cable control and brought the storage compartment back to its usual place and locked back into position.
All the while, the ergonomic release handle was easy to grip and, when not in use, locked in place with a “Fidlock magnetic system [that] guides the release handle into its clip.”
It is a brilliant solution and something I truly wish I had thought to create. Still, it is not perfect. As I mentioned, we initially had issues with the release/lock system and, even after we discovered the user-error that created the issue, the backpack didn’t always unlock or fully retract each time. It was not, however, a huge deal and the benefits of this unusual approach far outweighed the issues Raina encountered.
Here’s what she has to say about it:
A backpack is always my go-to carry-on bag when traveling, but it has always annoyed me to have to either awkwardly swing it around on one shoulder while twisting to get inside of it, or set it on the ground to more gracefully reach for something I need. So when I saw the Wolffepack online, I immediately asked Dan to request a review sample. This backpack is a really great find!
As Dan mentioned, learning how to use the expetoSYSTEM was a little tricky, but once we figured it out, this backpack proved to be exactly what I had hoped – a solution for keeping the backpack safely and securely attached to my body while having complete access to the inside compartments. I loved being able to clip it on the straps in the front so that I could use both hands to get whatever I needed, and never having to worry that it might be snatched or that content would spill out.
One feature that I’d like to see in a future version would be for the release cord to be better secured to the backpack strap, as sometimes while putting on the backpack my arm would go between the cord and the strap. This was a minor problem, though, and was far outweighed by the ingenious design.
The backpack looks great, is lightweight, and has lots of little compartments in which to stow all my gear – it’s wonderful for traveling and I look forward to bringing it along on our next adventure!
The Wolffepack Escape is a fantastic backpack. As a standard backpack it is well made, well sized and quite usable. It’s nothing to jump up and down for joy about but it is certainly a fine backpack. However, with the addition of the patented quick release system this backpack becomes something special. It served Raina well during our journey this summer and, sadly, I’ve been informed that it will continue to be her bag but, if I ask nicely, she might let me use it once in a while.
Wolffepack offers a number of different backpacks in a variety of sizes and styles. Each is built with the same impressive quality and each has the unique system that lets these backpacks stand out in a crowded market. Check them all out and order yours here on the company website.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Wolffepack Escape Backpack
What I Like: Well-constructed; Plenty of storage space and organization; Comfortable; Decently-priced at $150; expetoSYSTEM works as promised and allows you to access items without taking off the backpack; Allows you to carry items in front of you when worried about security
What Needs Improvement: Doesn’t offer a great amount of laptop and tablet drop protection; expectoSYSTEM took a while to learn and didn’t always work on the first try