Gear Review: Inside Line Equipment Default Bag

Here it is; My one-year long review of the Inside Line Equipment Default, my do-everything backpack.

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Disclaimer: I paid full price for this bag, and have had no affiliation with the company other than a few happy emails with the owner, Eric. ILE has no sponsorship or affiliation with me or my blog. 

The Inside Line Equipment Default Bag is an EDC bag designed and handmade in California. I’m always on board for “Made In USA” products and told myself the price tag on this bag, which is high, would justify itself if this bag stood up to the abuse that had claimed the lives of my other bags. I’m happy to report that it has.

Handmade, high-quality cycling bags are all the rage right now, and the options are plenty. I looked at the Mission Workshop Sanction and the Timbuk2 Aviator before ultimately settling on the Default. Don’t get me wrong; all of these bags look like fantastic choices. In such a glut of high-quality, buy-it-for-life bags on the market, the ultimate decision for me came down to size, style, and durability.

Without further ado, here’s my review of the Default from Inside Line Equipment.

The Review

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This bag sat strapped to the rear panniers when I crashed a bike at 25mph at the foot of the Rockies in November 2013.

1. Usage

I used this bag aggressively, to say the least. Over the past year, I’ve done the following:

  • Three bicycle tours in Canada, VT, and Colorado for a total of about 600 miles in all conditions, from desert to blizzard.
  • Daily commuting and riding, totaling upwards of 2,000 miles of riding in all seasons, from 100ºF to -18ºF plus windchill. My state salts the roads every winter, and I ride 365 days a year.
  • Quite literally lived out of this bag for extended trips. I took it aboard planes, boats, and trains, and I used it as a carry-on bag without checked luggage. Check out my one-bag travel list.
  • Used as a drybag in torrential rains and river crossings.
  • Used as a daypack and overnight camping bag.
  • Used as a bikepacking pack for overnighters and extended off-road tours.
  • Used as a mobile office for freelance writing and blogging.
  • Used as an overnight bag when my girlfriend and I lived in separate housing.
  • Used for groceries, alcohol, dirty laundry, clean laundry, bike parts, hammock gear, headphones, photography gear, raw corn, laptops, U.S. mail, climbing gear, tools, and just about everything else I own.

I used this bag every day, from work commutes to casual outings with friends. it was an everyday carry for me, and it was pretty rare that I went anywhere without it. I wasn’t gentle; this bag has been thrown, kicked, dragged, scraped, crashed with several times, rolled down stairs, and has probably come in contact with the ground over a thousand times.

2. Design

This pack has a main pocket that runs the entire length of the bag, with no organization inside of it. It’s a giant drybag that is perfect for unusually sized items.

On the front, there are seven separate pockets. Two long water bottle-shaped pockets on the front swallow everything from my phone to my chopsticks. Each has a different organizer pocket inside of it, and each is deep- almost too deep. You can really lose stuff in these.

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The border of the long front pockets frays from the velcro after several months. A coating of silicone seam sealer looks ugly, but solves the fraying.

There’s a laptop/tablet sleeve that unzips from the flap in the front, making it fully sealed against the elements. However, I found it easier to just slide my laptoip in the empty space between the long pockets and the main pack body. This pocket runs the length of the bag as well, but if you fill the rest of the bag, your laptop doesn’t slide down into the depths of the pack. I am not sure if a 15″ laptop would be as convenient as my macbook air if you used a neoprene padded case, but if you had a pretty slim hardcase, it’d be a perfect fit. As for my computer, it’s flawless.

Along the bottom of the front, there’s a long zippered pocket. This pocket, for me, is always filled with tools for repairing the bike, keeping them low and out of the way for good balance while I’m riding.

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I keep tools and work gloves in the bottom pocket all the time.

Finally, two bottle pockets on either side of the pack round out the features on this bag. They’re also perfectly sized for a pair of flip-flops, or a full-sized U-lock. I can also fit my 40oz Hydro Flask.

Two compression straps on either side of the bag do a good job of cinching down odd-shaped loads, but don’t expect to strap in more than tent poles or a tripod underneath them; there’s only 6 inches or so of extra webbing. The nice thing about working with a small company in the USA is that you can probably ask Eric to expand things like this if you were looking to strap on a yoga mat or sleeping pad, or even packages.

D-rings on the shoulder straps work great for holding keys and carabiners, and there’s also super-durable D-rings on the end of every strap. This prevents you from shortening or replacing straps yourself, unless you’re particularly handy.

The main compartment has two snaps that fold the sides in before you roll it up, and the roll-top is secured with a large velcro panel. This makes the pack extremely secure against the elements, and I have never had a problem with any moisture getting in the pack at all.

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The roll-top closure makes the capacity flexible for odd-shaped objects like bicycle pumps and canoe paddles.

Capacity is good; I can fit everything I need to live and work for a week if I pack light. It’s approved for TSA carry-on regulations, and it sits great on your back while biking. I use the sternum strap, but I opted to remove the optional waistbelt for simplicity. Even without the waist belt, the pack is still rock-solid while biking fast.

3. Durability

The durability on this bag was great. Don’t take my word for it; all the pictures (except for one) in this post are after 365 days of constant use.  I never had any problems with things that I expected to wear out; loose seams, runaway threads, wear spots, creasing, smashed buckles, and tears are completely nonexistant. This bag does not look new, but it functions like new.

The waterproof liners are completely intact. I washed the inside of this bag with soap and water occasionally, but otherwise, I wasn’t careful with the truck tarpaulin liner at all, and there’s no scrapes or wear marks.

Thankfully, not one piece of plastic hardware has broken in the entire time I’ve used the packs. I’ve aught the D-rings on the ends of the straps in several car doors, but no cracks or bends have come up at all. The buckles are very durable.

All zippers still work like new, although because of my particular storage habits, I don’t use the zippers very often. Most of the pack’s accessibility doesn’t rely on zippers, making it feel a lot more reliable.

The bottom section of the bag is made from extra-tough nylon cordura, and it really is indestructible. I’ve had this bag go through so much worse than the several other backpacks I’ve owned in my life, and it takes it all like a champion. I’ve filled it with more than thirty pounds and carried it by the grab-strap at the top, and none of the seams appeared to be under even slight stress. The mesh backpanel still looks great; I expected it to collapse or for holes to rub through at my shoulders, but it hasn’t.

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Super-durable stitching never hints at failure.

One thing was disappointing; the extremely large, long panels of velcro on the flaps of this bag catch and pull at the nylon used on the borders at the top of the slash pockets and the very edge of the foam back-panel. This makes these parts of the bag look fuzzy with extremely thin loose threads. I painted the edge of the slash pockets with Silnet silicone sealer; looks awful, but it’s not showing any signs of wearing further than it has. Functionally, it’s fine, but aesthetically, it’s a knock.

Speaking of aesthetics, this bag has been dirty for a year. I’ve never cleaned the outside. That doesn’t seem to bother it in the slightest; the material isn’t wearing out.

4. Comfort

The pack’s backpanel is a single continuous piece of padded mesh.

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The shoulder strap webbing takes after-market cell phone holsters. ILE makes one, too.

Like any backpack, riding in the summer produces sweat. This bag isn’t immune to this either, but it does ventilate reasonably. It’s better than some bags I’ve used, but worse than the “hammock” style bags that lift the entire pack body off your back. I found the back panel to be more comfortable than the “molded” back panels that try to create air channels; that seems to be more of a gimmick, since you still sweat at contact points.

The straps are wide and flat, and distribute weight well. Even when fully loaded, this bag was still comfortable for hours walking around Las Vegas and Colorado. I had to trek with most of my gear for 8 miles around Denver, and it never cut in or wore me out.

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5. Usability

This pack doesn’t scream “technical gear” like some packs from Osprey or Patagonia, and it doesn’t scream “Business Professional” like other laptop bags. It walks a nice line between originality, clean lines, and casual styling.

The pocket design is intuitive and easy to use. it doesn’t force you into any particularly obnoxious packing habits, like over-engineered packs tend to do. Large, multipurpose pockets make this a versatile pack for anyone. I find a small organizer or two in the main compartment really solves the annoyance of a single, large drybag-style main compartment.

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This bag easily transports the things I use everyday.

It very obviously doesn’t need to be babied. That’s one less thing to worry about. It’s completely waterproof, and that’s one less thing to worry about, too. This pack did a great job at eliminating things from my day-to-day.

Final Verdict

You can see what you get with this pack; it’s a lifetime investment and a simple, intuitive product that eliminates challenges. Carrying a backpack every day makes feeling prepared easy. It’s very convenient having a raincoat, a camera, or a snack at hand no matter what I’m doing.

I needed this pack to be convenient, durable, comfortable, and secure. It’s all of those things. The purse has ruled for long enough; I embrace the backpack.

3 thoughts on “Gear Review: Inside Line Equipment Default Bag

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