Chrome Industry's Soyuz laptop bag makes it into Gear of the Year's hallowed halls due its bomber construction, fast-forward aesthetics and hyper functional feature set. So what if what if people would look at you funny in the backcountry.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
Looking for that perfect function-to-fashion ratio in a laptop bag? Bike-messenger apparel heavyweights Chrome Industries may have ended your search. Sure it may not work out in a blizzard on the uptrack, but heck, we Backcountry Skiing Canada reviewers are gear mongers in the “dry months” as well. We even occasionally spend time in cities.
The Soyuz consists of bombproof materials that provide your urban goods with the same protection you would expect of a more outdoor-survival type pack, such as several others reviewed here at Backcountry Skiing Canada. Not only does the Soyuz offer your PBR and 12”s the T.L.C that you’ve always wanted, it also doesn’t show any aesthetic compromise. Admittedly, the bike-messenger look is particularly in vogue right now, but this pack’s looks aren’t solely dependent on fixies, tiny caps, and mind-boggling handlebar-tape colour schemes reigning supreme over many North American cityscapes. The Soyuz’s design is humble, yet interesting enough to catch the eye and obviously practical; making it a pack that can only garner more gear-love from its owner.
First I’ll touch on the features of the pack and how they accommodate any walk of urban life--from booze hound to law student. I’ll then go into how the thing actually feels once said items are crammed in there (yes I cram). The main compartment’s walls are lined with 100% welded waterproof military grade truck tarpaulin, which is a mouthful, but it really does the trick in keeping beers or other bevies cool and secluded from the side-access compartment that I’ll get into shortly. The main compartment is of course good for more than one’s choice of booze or kool-aid. It features a roll-top opening, held shut with industrial-strength Velcro that unrolls into another foot or so of storage. This permits for larger items to be jammed into the pack. Some may even poke out of the opening but are usually held fast by the shape-holding walls of the pack. I have carried yoga mats, tennis rackets, and even a small synthesizer keyboard this way.
The main compartment is really where this pack sets itself aside from most other laptop-friendly options. If having multiple packs for different social or recreational arenas isn’t an option, the Soyuz is a welcome alternative to other products catering to the extremes of business/school and leisure. Even if I fill the pack’s main compartment with sweaty sportswear or picnic supplies, (hopefully not simultaneously), I can be reassured that my laptop and other important school or work documents lie safe and dry in the adjacent compartment made accessible by a water-resistant zipper running along the side of the pack. The padded interior is divided into two sections; one offering a mobilizing strap to prevent your laptop from being jostled around too much throughout the day, and the other left available for the remaining notebooks or what have you’s.
The Soyuz can fit a 17” Macbook or laptop of similar size, along with any accompanying wires, plugs, chargers, etc etc. This sums up the two main compartments. As for the front of the pack, it offers another whole plethora of storage options for smaller objects. The face of the pack features an immediately accessible zippered compartment fit for travel documents or the like. Opening the Velcro fastened flap above reveals two identical vertical pockets that run the length of the pack, providing further (unnecessary?) beer or bevvy storage. They are of course fit for holding other stuffs such as pens, paint brushes, chocolate bars-you name it. Lying behind these pockets is the third and final compartment. I find it the most useful for divvying up travel essentials as the many pockets and slits keep one’s phone, toiletries, snacks, etc. organized and accessible. Staying true to the company’s roots, this zone also boasts a perfect spot for my bicycle lock, eliminating its involvement in the dreaded rattle of my slightly deteriorating but nonetheless beloved Apollo (that’s a bike).
I could go on and on about further storage options, but let’s get into the feel and fit of the Soyuz. The adjustable ergonomic shoulder straps provide for an excellent fit for extended city bike rides or quick grocery runs. The sternum strap works as load distributor, only enhancing the comfort with which one can lug around the often-cumbersome objects of daily routine. The overall fit of the pack is in my opinion its best feature. I really notice the bike and travel friendly design when I’m racing to school or other destinations. The Soyuz and its burden always remains centered on my back whether I’m hunched low on my handlebars or cruising upright enjoying the sights, something that I have found hard to come by in other laptop bags. The shoulder straps also offer daisy-chain mounting loops for carabineers or bike lights. To top it off, the Soyuz comes equipped with an EVA foam back panel that somehow both hugs the back and provides excellent breathability--a godsend in the summer months where arriving at your destination with the pack-shaped sweat stain on your white tee may not be your first choice of look or feel.
Chrome Industries Soyuz at rest. Carabineer not included.
Roll-top action for style and water proofing.
Laptop sleeve with stabilizing strap.
Fully-loaded from the front.
Roll top open, from the back.
Suitable for biking.
The Soyuz is extremely functional for any type of urban voyager, looks good in all of its adaptations and roles, and is undeniably well-made and reliable in cases of downpour or extreme heat. It keeps the contents cool, dry, and protected. I will mention that I haven’t used the Soyuz in any winter climes. Perhaps the zippers slow down…I can’t imagine any areas of potential underperformance in the cold. The obvious and admittedly important consideration is the price. The Soyuz goes for $180, which is a bit steeper than other packs in its area of expertise. The reality is it kind of has its own place in the laptop bag arena due to its flexibility and adaptability in function and style. The Soyuz is a hybrid, and a successful one at that, which inevitably comes with a bit of a price hike. I strongly recommend this pack for any urban enthusiast that may not have the time to keep their social life separate from their business and school.
Fashion and function collide.
Dimensions: 35 x 56 x 20cm / 14 x 22 x 8” (W x H x D)
Volume: 26 L
Weight: 1,406g / 3.1lb
Military grade materials in a laptop bag
Business/play goods are kept protected, separate, and organized
Aesthetic focus and success is the obviously functional design of the pack
Comfortable/breathable fit, regardless of load
Bike friendly features are merely a bonus on an already rewarding pack for all walks of life
Blends lifestyle with business/school effortlessly
Price? See above for why this shouldn’t be an issue…
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.