Portage: 40 litre MOLLE backpack

I’m pretty obsessed with bags. I believe that bags maketh the bicycle. The ability to carry reasonable loads converts your bike from being a piece of sporting goods to a useful machine.

I’m a big fan of the urban, courier bag aesthetic but not a fan of the unbalanced load on the left shoulder. I’m a big fan of military designs too. So imagine my joy when I found a bag which combined military spec with an urban friendly look.

The bag in question is Kombat UK’s 40 litre MOLLE bag. ‘MOLLE’ is an acronym for the multi tabbed system on the bag’s outer, enabling all manner of stuff to be secured externally. More on that later.

The bag is made from ultra heavy duty PVC backed cordura – 1000 denier to be precise. This promises long long life and a fair degree of weatherproofing too.

The straps are well padded and comfortable with a sternum strap and broad, comfortable waist strap to keep everything stable when you’re out of the saddle.

The back system is simple, just padded mesh but in my experience complex back systems rarely do a better job of keeping your back sweat free.

The bag also features a hydration pack slot behind the paddle mesh back, so it’s useful for longer rides and hikes.

The main body of the bag, however is where the action is and features three roomy compartments. The main compartment is big enough for a 13 inch laptop, charger, full change of clothes and more besides. The medium sized compartment is perfect for waterproofs, tools etc – the sort of stuff that you might want to separate from the main compartment. The smallest compartment is great for small items that you access regularly, such ad wallet, keys, phone etc.

Each compartment is secured with chunky self repairing zips which feel very robust if a little stiff when new.

Quick release compression straps cinch the load in when not full but allow easy access to gear when needed.

The bag isn’t light: anything made from 1000 denier ‘truck tarp’ material will never be but it’s ultra hardy, with not a single mark on it in nearly a year of commutes in all weathers.

It’s not completely waterproof but it holds off most of the weather. I’ve gaffer taped the drain holes in the bottom to prevent road spray entering from beneath.

The real USP of this bag is the MOLLE system on the exterior. While conceived to attach ammo packs etc it’s great for attaching bike related items. As you can see from the image, I’ve attached my lock and slid a hi viz wrist slap into the tabs. The possibilities are endless.

In winter or at night the bag is easily festooned with led lights or you could easily strap big bulky items to the tabs.

I love it. It compares well with high spec bags like Vans’ Fortnight pack and Timbuk2’s Especial range but it’s a whole lot cheaper. Just £35. Kombat UK are not the only supplier of these US military inspired bags. Google MOLLE rucksack and you’ll find a variety of styles, manufacturers, colours and pricepoints.

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Loopline or Lifeline

This is the Liverpool Loopline, in full summer plumage. Who’d have thought an old railway line could be so pretty and inspiring. Well, Sustrans did actually.

This is my everyday getaway, though some days it’s my stealth route home, my path of least resistance. The old track bed is covered with grass here, while the path uses the old West Derby station platform before darting beneath the road bridge and heading north.

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