It’s good to see Poler Stuff focusing on their outdoor travel line and flexing their trail muscles in the Orange Label. The larger volume Rolltop and Rucksack offer well-padded hip belts and shoulder straps and more organizational options, making them a much better answer to day-length outdoor adventures than Poler Stuff’s other offerings. The cavernous main compartments and features like the padded laptop sleeves and internal stretch mesh pockets also make them viable as carry-ons and travel bags.
Who It Suits
Mountain town chillers, university students, and weekend warriors, these bags are tailored to get you through your itinerary and look good while doing so.
“The larger volume Rolltop and Rucksack offer well-padded hip belts and shoulder straps and more organizational options, making them a much better answer to day-length outdoor adventures than Poler Stuff’s other offerings.”
Who It Doesn’t
Folks looking for a pack for higher intensity day hikes; these ones are still house cats. Commuters, these bad boys are a little big for public transit.
These both carry wonderfully. They really do. With bare-bones loads to and from work, to full days on the trail, they’re very comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised by how plush the shoulder straps and the hip belt are. The ventilated mesh and foam would be warm in higher temps, but for causal adventures and cooler weather, it’s really quite nice.
“These both carry wonderfully. They really do. With bare-bones loads to and from work, to full days on the trail, they’re very comfortable.”
The organizational options are also good. There’s a pocket for everything you carry and then some. Both the Rucksack and Rolltop have internal stretch mesh pockets, padded laptop sleeves, and smaller pockets for everyday essentials. My favorite thing is the zip pockets located high up on the side walls. That’s the most underutilized space in bags, and it’s a perfect spot for smaller fragile items: keys, phones, small point-and-shoot cameras, etc.
“The organizational options are also good. There’s a pocket for everything you carry and then some.”
The Rolltop has main compartment access via a side zip and the Rucksack has a main compartment access zipper right down the front. I found myself using these more and more as I carried them. Both the bags also feature a removable hip belt, which is great for transitioning between work week/weekend.
The Not So Good
1.) The compression straps could be better placed. The bottom compression straps on both bags are nearly useless. They’re way too far down to compress anything, though you could use them to attach a pad or blanket to the outside of the pack. The vertical compression straps that attach to the Rolltop are sewn into the face fabric half way down inside the stretch mesh side pockets and it interferes with cleanly packing anything inside of them. The top strap on both bags covers the small zippered pockets high on the side walls, making storing or accessing anything in those pockets a real pain if your Fidlocks are engaged.
“The compression straps could be better placed. The bottom compression straps on both bags are nearly useless.”
2.) The face fabric provides almost no water resistance. I don’t believe it’s even been PU coated. Ironically, both bags are covered in PU-coated zippers. On two separate occasions, my party took ~¼ inch of rain and my contents were noticeably wet. So lesson learned: use the included rain cover at the first sight of rain.
“The face fabric provides almost no water resistance.”
3.) The Fidlocks are asymmetrical. This was really upsetting to see on a rolltop. The compression straps could pass with them, but the rolltop must be rolled an even number of times for the male and female components to align with each other. The more I used the bag, the more frustrating this became. Also, it’d be nice if the rolltop had one male and one female component so you had the option of mating them together dry bag style. You’d just have to switch one set of the components on the vertical compression and it would still work two ways.
“The Fidlocks are asymmetrical.”
1.) The vertical pockets on the front face are way too narrow to hold anything substantial. My buddy managed to cram a small flexible tripod in there. I use it to hold my spork. It could work as a pens/cords pocket. I’d like to see the same front pocket layout as the Rolltop, even if it was just one full face pocket rather than two, and move the main access zipper off to the side rather than right down the center.
“The vertical pockets on the front face are way too narrow to hold anything substantial.”
2.) The shock cord netting on the bottom isn’t really going to get used. Most of the time that netting is on the front face of the pack so that when you set it down, you’re not dropping your jacket right into the dirt. I tried to attach my pad there, but that proved too difficult. This is another case for switching the pocket layout to what the Rolltop has going on. Move the front access zip over to the side, on the other side go full face pocket, and that frees up the front face for the shock cord netting.
“The shock cord netting on the bottom isn’t really going to get used.”
3.) Some of the daisy chain bar tack stitching on the vertical compression strap failed. I don’t know when it happened, but I carried it for a month and had it out on the trails twice. I also noticed that the Fidlock attached to this same piece of webbing was routed and then sewn in incorrectly. I tried to reroute the webbing through the ladder lock correctly, but the Fidlock had been backed off and the doubled over webbing wouldn’t fit through.
“Some of the daisy chain bar tack stitching on the vertical compression strap failed.”
Alternatives to Consider
Most notably is the Burton 44L Fathom, and the Mountain Standard 38L Mountain Utility Pack, which have many of the same features and a similar vibe, as well as the Madden Equipment Daylite, and United by Blue 45L Range Daypack.
Between the two, the Rolltop is definitely the way to go with usable volume and pocket layout. The more I use the bag, the less I like the Fidlocks for the compression buckles. That’s a huge pain to manipulate in less than ideal situations, especially on the Rolltop. I found myself using the side zip on the Rolltop for main compartment access, and just leaving the flip top disengaged on the Rucksack because the Fidlocks are such a pain to open.
“Between the two, the Rolltop is definitely the way to go with usable volume and pocket layout.”
For all the shortcomings these have, they do carry pretty well. If I were a frequent traveler, or lived in a mountain town with less rain than Seattle, I think these might work as a weekender. There are other bags out there in that 40L category though that I think would ultimately handle the adventure travel role better.