Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gear Review: Snugpak Kit Monster

As a little change of pace, here's something I've never done before: a gear review.

Finding a bag that meets my criteria has been difficult.

Bags / suitcases with wheels I've found to be completely impractical, because I'm not going over smooth surfaces most of the time. A real full-on backpack has a couple of disadvantages -- one, it kind of looks stupid on a middle-aged guy. Two, in general travel, you're often slinging your bag on and off frequently, and getting a backpack properly sitting and strapped on takes a bit longer than I liked. A usual one-shoulder-strap duffle bag, however, is inconvenient for periods of longer carry, putting you off balance and also usually pretty uncomfortable.

So I had hopes for this baby:

The Snugpak Kit Monster. I was off course eager to put some affiliate links to Amazon up, but my account is based in a home state that doesn't permit such chicanery. C'est la vie. (I got mine at the Sportsman's Guide website, which will also not give me any percentage if you buy something there.)

I of course liked the name Snugpak Kit Monster! but it also had a lot of things that I'd always been looking for. It has a padded shoulder strap AND a couple of padded chest straps for the heavy-duty walking. Compression straps? Nice idea. Heavy duty handles fore and aft, so that you can pick it up from different angles? Yeah now there you go! That's something I'd been looking for. 

And you can usually find one on sale for $50, so it won't break the bank of even the most underemployed of English teacher. 

I've been using it basically since last October, and been on the road pretty steadily all that time. A 2-month heavy duty backpacking expedition in Peru and Ecuador, a one-month easy duty trip to Prague, Karlovy Vary and Budapest, a one-month easy-travel in Cyrus, and then a 3-week moderately-heavy-duty voyage to Sri Lanka, followed by an easy week in Dubai and then a month in Thailand. 

I liked the design and carry of it pretty well. The side flap-opening allowed easy access, the zippers were heavy-duty and you could lock the zipper tabs to a steel loop for security, and the padded straps were pretty damn fucking comfy. The abundance of straps and loops and hoists meant you could easily pick it up from any angle. The only thing I didn't like were the outer pockets, which were too small for my tastes. There's a mesh compartment on the underside of the opening flap though, which is quite cool.  

Sadly though, the fucker is already failing on me. The canvas flap over the zipper is ripped and starting to come off, and it's got a rapidly-widening hole in it on one of the seams near the strap I usually carry it by. I sewed the bastard shut with dental floss, as you do, but I'm not sure if I'll be buying another one of these. Not exactly a catastrophic failure, but you think it would last at least a year. 

Anybody have any recommendations about a backpack / carryall that really kicks ass, drop a comment. 


Anonymous said...

I used to use more dufflebags, but now I go with the laptop backpack so that I can carry my laptop, tablet, books, and some clothes. I really like the omi or evo ones. The swissgear ones don't have as many pocket options. The one I've had is going on two years. The only downside is that the volume is low so you can probably get about 3 days of clothes without extra shoes and sandals in it. I have found that small wheely carry-ons make good luggage to take anywhere.

Jug Jugette said...

I agree, those little cabin-friendly wheelies are the best of a bad bunch, but buy a quality brand - those Chinese brand cunts fall apart before you even get to the airport. And with new regs coming for cabin baggage size, watch out you don't get shafted there.

Anonymous said...

Standard roller is still the best solution in my opinion. Skyway is the old standard for flight crews and they are solid and dependable. I get an easy 5 years out of one. My second bag is a decent day pack that I pack empty in my roller bag - it takes up virtually no space (or buy a cheap one at your next destination). Second bag is a soft briefcase. I'm a pilot and I've tried everything - for both work and leisure. The standard crew set-up is the roller and the briefcase. Still can't be beat.

englishteacherx said...

I've always found roller-bags inconvenient, they're fine when you're in the airport but as for going overland any distance, they were pretty useless. Try to drag one onto a ferry, for instance, like during a trip to Koh Chang once, it just bugged me.

Chris said...

A backpack/duffel is a pretty unique format, and it lessens your options. Some good ones may exist, and you would just look for heavier nylon and better zippers than what you have now. Just do a search for the nylon you want in that format.

Apart from that, Filson bags are generally seen as the ruggedness standard. Perhaps try their large duffel. Though, you have to be okay with the process of the waxed canvas taking on its 'patina' that is marketed and seen as desirable, but is also objectively the process of the bag getting dirty. It's just part of the deal with waxed canvas. Also, you won't save money with Filson, though I would check Ebay, but you will get what you pay or with luggage on the cheap end. I haven't found an exception to that rule. My links are not affiliate links.

Here's another option, and their bags are guaranteed for life. I'd look around their site for their other offerings as well:

Anonymous said...


Luggage? Isn't ETX supposed to be extremely wealthy from the time in 'the sandbox' and therefore is more of a flash packer than a backpacker?

englishteacherx said...

I might give one of those Filson ones a try, that looks like it would suit my head-banging lifestyle.

As regards being a flashpacker, you can take the guy out of the trailer, but you can't take the trailer out of the guy.

Chris said...

If you give Filson a try, check out how each color looks after it gets a patina to make a choice that you may be happy with. Looking at the clean, new color doesn't really give the necessary impression.

Here's an example of the beige color on the Pullman design, both which I like. This bag is probably at least 10 years old years old, given the leather wear:

Happy globetrotting