This is a different type of bag for me. While this pack doubles as a backpack, it is mostly designed as a duffel bag. When taking on the form of a duffel bag it almost becomes like a weekender briefcase.
I love having my hands free and the less parts of a bag dangling around my body the better. So I’m typically a backpack guy but often when I’d be tired or just walking a short distance I’d find myself wanting to carry my existing Solo backpacks like a duffel bag. But the dangling backpack straps always felt awkward while carrying it so to my back it would return. In this case though, I was intrigued to see how a duffel style approach would be while still having the option of a backpack and so far, I don’t hate it!
I took this Solo All-Star Backpack Duffel around for a few weekend trips to get a feel for what it’d be like not living that backpack life BUT with the option for it if I needed it.
Same as always, I’ll resort to compartmentalizing my thought process into Design, Look, Comfort, and Quality.
The design of this bag, like other Solo bags, is simple. Everything seems to find itself a purpose here. The main compartment is fairly spacious and has 4 pockets lining the sides as well as the expandable “dirty laundry” / shoe compartment I’ve seen used on many Solo bags.
There are two main sleeves on the lid of the main compartment. One on the exterior and one on the interior. The interior one is a very thin piece of fabric, I wouldn’t put anything heavy in it so I ended up putting my raincoat in here. The exterior sleeve is more padded and has an additional zippered pocket inside. I used this one for my laptop as there wasn’t really a home for it inside the main compartment itself. Plus I do want access to my laptop without opening the entire pack.
When it comes to other exterior pockets, there is only one. It’s small too. I used this for chargers, cables, my iPod, and some other random items like mints, advil, etc. I do wish there was at least one other exterior pocket available, maybe at the other end of the pack.
The biggest design aspect of this bag has to be the fact the bag can be worn with the one side strap as a duffel or as a backpack with two straps that emerge from a sealed pocket on the bottom. I always prefer displacing the weight across both my shoulders as opposed to just one so this is ideal for me. I always want a backpack option and to be honest I ended up using this as a backpack way more than a duffel.
I found as a duffel the pack was a little boxy and I was moving it away from other pedestrians and placing it upright on my lap while on the subway to take up less space. Situations in which a backpack would already be out of everyone’s way and upright upon sitting. So although the option of the duffel is nice, essentially I started using this as a backpack anyway but that doesn’t mean you will. Maybe it’ll be primarily a duffel bag for you. Time will tell!
The look is sleek and attractive like I’d expect from Solo. Not much to say here, the bag is sexy, at least to me. Minimal is what I’m into. The majority of the bag is black with accents in burgundy and they have an option where the opposite is true. Basically when I walk into the room and the bag is sitting there all packed up… I’m like “damn, look at you.”
Comfort wise the backpack straps are really nicely padded. I felt very little discomfort when using the bag as a backpack.
The same padding is used on the single strap for using it as a duffel and I did find my shoulder getting tired when the bag was fully loaded and I didn’t have the bag configured as a backpack.
To be fair, I’m not a super strong muscular guy and this happens for me when weight is not evenly displaced and weighing down on me for extended periods of time. So I’d say overall, it’s a comfortable pack but even more so in backpack configuration.
The zippers are quality, they feel strong and long lasting. The nylon fabric holds up nice against wear and tear and hopefully mild rain though I do not believe this bag claims to be waterproof.
I did notice when the bag is used as a duffel, the strap does kind of pull on the pack in a way that seems like it might be stressing the fabric and zipper. I photographed this but I’d need more time with the pack to see if this becomes a stress point down the road.
If you’re like me and prefer a backpack most of the time, you’ll probably end up using your favorite backpack more. If you’re a duffel bag fan, you’ll probably end up using that when the occasion arises. I don’t think this bag will replace those two bags if they already exist in your arsenal. But it might help fill the void in between.
In the end this bag does a lot for just one pack. You can grip it by hand from multiple handles, shoulder strap it as a duffel, or backpack it. It meets a lot of needs and while the minimalist in me tends to want one pack that does everything I’ve found over the years, specialization is key. This bag doesn’t seem to specialize in being a duffel or a backpack but it sits efficiently somewhere in middle.
You can find the Solo All-Star Backpack Duffel on Amazon for $79.99.