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Bontrager’s Harelbeke pack was our top travel/commuter backpack pick; sadly, it’s no longer available. So we gave the Chi Town a shot — it shares some of our favorite features from the Harelbeke, albeit in a larger package.
First and foremost, the Chi Town is super rugged. It’s got a heavy-duty waterproof top, bottom, and front, made from a tarpaulin cloth. And the sides are made from ballistic nylon with a PU coating to give it structure but also some flex.
You can access the massive main compartment through the flap top, which also features a zipper. Or you can get inside without having to unroll the top by unzipping a side access. And the interior material is a hi-viz yellow, which makes it easier to find items.
How massive is massive? We could easily fit a helmet and shoes in there with room to spare for kit and other essentials on the morning commute to the office. Unrolling the top flap creates even more space inside. If you routinely tote small boxes and letters to the post office, the Chi Town is up to the task.
Aside from the main pocket, there’s also a fleece-lined laptop pocket (fits up to a 17-inch laptop), a small passport pocket, and a pass-through opening so you can integrate the bag with roller luggage. That’s all integrated with the back panel of the bag. Like the Harelbeke, the Chi Town’s shoulder straps feature comfortable and supportive padding.
On the face of the bag, a front organization pocket offers enough room for a tablet, wallet, and other small items. There’s a key fob in there too. It’s sized perfectly for daily essentials or airplane carry-on must-haves.
Two daisy chains are ideally placed for hanging a U-lock or a light. And perhaps best of all, there’s no Velcro in sight, just buckles and zippers, which tend to interfere far less when you’re loading and unloading your bag.
Of course, that leads to a fairly heavy product. At almost four pounds, it adds weight to your daily commute. And it certainly isn’t cheap.
Fortunately, the Chi Town impresses with its rugged construction and ample storage space, but the weight is certainly a contentious point. For daily commuters carrying just a laptop and other small basics, this is overkill. But if you’ve got a lot of gear to haul to the office, or if you’ve got a family trip on an airplane planned, the Chi Town offers more than enough space and durability that’ll get you through years of travel.