The winner of multiple design awards, the Wolffepack rucksack is a Kickstarter success story, winning over backers with a novel design that looked to re-invent the backpack. A well-executed pitch won even us over, but is the Wolffepack a solution looking for a problem? Is there really all that much wrong with a bog-standard bag?
What Is It?
Essentially, it’s a rucksack. It has zips. It has pockets. You can put items in it and carry them from one location to another. It does not have expandable storage (though you can probably force more in than is recommended). Splash proof, it’s a neat black bag with red trimmings and lining. It looks smart.
HOWEVER. The Wolffepack has a unique feature that makes it worthy of discussion on Giz. It makes use of a bungee-like cord system with a release mechanism that lets you swing the rear carrying pouch around to your front, letting you clip it securely onto the shoulder straps. It’s why Wolffepack’s designers have christened it the world’s first “orbital” backpack.
Who Is It For?
The Wolffepack comes in two different styles and sizes – the 22 litre Metro, designed for commuters, and the smaller, lighter 18 litre Escape, designed with hikers and bikers in mind. I’ve been using the Metro bag.
Really anyone with a need for a bag can make use of the Wolffepack. The real question is, can you justify its extra expense for the “orbital” feature, one that (as I’ll explain) will likely prove divisive for some wearers? With both bags priced at £99.95, you’ll want to think long and hard.
How Does It Work?
The Wolffepack is designed in such a way so that you can pull its carrying pouch around to the front for easy access. In order for this to work, the back pouch section is connected to three "Dyneema" cords which, when a release mechanism is activated, offer enough slack to let you swing the bag around in front of you. The release mechanism comes in the shape of a chunky red button which sits on the end of a separate fabric strap, fastened to the right padded shoulder strap with a small magnetic catch. It works a bit like a parachute – hold the button down, give the strap a yank and you’ll feel the bag release, letting you ease it away from its moorings and around to the front.
Is It Any Good?
That, surprisingly, kind of depends on how tall you are. The release and “orbital” back part all work, but it’s a bit more fiddly than the promo clips and GIFs would have you believe. Unlocking the release mechanism is no problem – just hold the chunky red button on the end of the cord down and pull away from yourself. You can then ease the cord to your desired length so that you can pull the backpack’s pouch around to your front.
All as expected there then.
However, where the Wolffepack falls down is reattaching the holdall to the backstraps. In order for the pouch to stop swinging around, you’ve first got to release the cords to their full extension, which, unless you’re comfortably over 5ft 5-inches tall, means it'll be dangling behind your calves. It’s not the sort of thing you can do on the fly – any convenience afforded by having your backpack accessible around the front is undermined by the faff of getting it back onto your back.
So, it’s quite literally a mixed bag then. As a standard rucksack, the Wolffepack is very accomplished – the Metro version is roomy enough to fit a 15-inch laptop alongside a tablet, has two big compartments, as well as side and front pockets. It’s well padded too, keeping the gear inside safe, while its rear meshing allows for good airflow and as little sweaty-back action as is possible. It’s hard to find fault in that respect, so it’s certainly no worse than a regular bag. But mileage will vary with that headline feature.
Should You Buy One?
Do you have a comfortable rucksack? Do you rarely take it on cramped commutes? Do you hardly ever need to crack it open when on the move? Then you probably don’t need a Wolffepack. It is, after all, simply a receptacle for your gear with a single flashy feature, and standard rucksacks have carried out that core carrying task pretty well for an age.
However, if you’re on the market for a new bag, don’t like the thought of your rucksack hanging off your back out of view when on the tube (and can’t be bothered swinging it "manually" off your shoulders) or are a photographer/ sporty type / fusspot that’s always rummaging in and out of a holdall, then the Wolffepack may just fill a niche for you. Its cord-release system is clever if not perfect and, on those irregular occasions when you need to do it, it’s useful being able to securely fasten the bag to your front for easy-access. Just be warned that you’re buying perhaps the only rucksack that comes with an instruction manual, and it’s one you should certainly read if you’re going to get the knack of that release mechanism.