I am a damned fool for Kriega stuff. My solution to every travel challenge is basically: add more Kriega stuff. Sitting in my gear closet at the moment I have a US10 bag, two US20s, and a US30, which all have a goodly number of miles on them. But perhaps one of the most useful bits of Kriega wonderfulness I own is my R20 backpack.
You may be familiar with Kriega. The British company has built a reputation for making ultra-durable – and, in the case of its US and OS series, 100-percent waterproof – luggage over the past 18 years. Kriega gear is so preferred by overland travelers that Triumph has specifically designed its Tiger 1200 and Tiger 800 models to accommodate Kriega luggage straps.
The R20, meanwhile, is a stalwart accoutrement of the moto-journalista class. Every time I attend a press event, I spot at least two of my peers wearing one. The bags are comfortable, useful, and – as my own experience of crashing while wearing one has proven – pretty damn durable.
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Priced at £119, the R20 is made in Vietnam (No. 140 on the Democracy Index).
One of the great selling points of Kriega stuff is that it looks bad-ass. It has a utilitarian aesthetic, looking like the sort of thing that would be worn by a SWAT team while storming your house. Basic black is broken up by robust straps and a simple bit of reflective branding.
The backpack’s unique across-the-chest securing clip works really well but also looks really cool when worn with gear. I almost always choose to wear my R20 when riding with my Hideout Touring jacket simply because I feel it completes the look. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s useful to always have waterproofs and a bottle of water on my person, but more importantly, I look cool.
The R20 fits better than any other daypack backpack I’ve ever worn. In terms of comfort and fit it’s on par with the ultra-expensive packs I used to use when trekking the Superior Hiking Trail. But rather than hauling stuff through the wilderness for several days, the R20 is designed to be worn by actual motorcyclists riding actual motorcycles at actual speed.
That’s the thing with some gear aimed at motorcyclists – you’ll look at it and think: “Has the person who designed this ever actually been on a bike?”
No such issues with the R20. Its semi-rigid back pad is contoured to avoid catching in the wind. Curved shoulder straps are angled away from the arms to ensure freedom of movement. That cool superhero-esque chest clip helps shift weight in such a way that it displaces evenly across the chest and back. And the four-point “Quadloc-lite” adjustment system for the shoulder straps, along with an additional belt strap, help secure the bag so it won’t shift when you’re really moving around (eg, when tearing through corners).
Kriega pitches its Quadloc-lite system as a “set it and forget it” deal, with the straps robust enough that they don’t really pull lose. But I wear the bag with a number of jackets, as well as my Aerostich R3 Roadcrafter, so I readjust it regularly. As such, I can assure you it’s easy to do. Meanwhile, the only time I’ve ever had the straps loosen with wear is when that wear involved sliding along a Florida highway after being viciously attacked by a trashcan.
The aforementioned crash saw me slide, then roll for a combined 300 feet or so, while I decelerated from 65 mph in a highly uncontrolled manner. I reckon most bags would have come off in such a situation. They also would have shredded open and spilled their contents across the highway. The R20 did neither.
The straps loosened just slightly but were easy to readjust once I stopped tumbling. The R20’s 420D ripstop nylon construction got a little scuffed, but the damage was not so great that it’s prevented me from continuing to use the bag.
The 20 in the R20’s name refers to the 20 liters of stuff its main compartment can hold. That means easily holding a Dainese D-Crust waterproof jacket, a pair of Dainese D-Crust waterproof trousers, a large bottle of water, and a baseball cap – the stuff I carry on almost every ride. I know from experience that it can also carry a Macbook, hoodie, spare pair of gloves, and small towel.
Within the main compartment there is a strap-adjustable pocket to hold either a back protector (clever) or a CamelBak bladder. I find the pocket makes a great spot for my laptop. Also in the main compartment is a smallish zip pocket where I keep my wallet, phone and passport when flying.
There is a thinner external pocket that is large enough to hold a few maps, or, in my case, a Kindle and the myriad wires needed for all the electronics I tend to haul to press events. If the bag itself isn’t big enough for you, there are 1000D Cordura loops to which you can strap a US10 or US20 waterproof bag.
The R20 has water-resistant zippers but makes no claims of being waterproof. I have worn it in surprise showers without internal items getting wet, but that may have had more to do with the fact my body was blocking the rain. As such, when carrying my laptop I always wrap it in a waterproof bag first.
It’s hard to find fault with a product you crashed in and still use almost every time you ride, fly, or day hike. It’s an expensive piece of kit – there’s no getting around that – but I’ve probably put 40,000 miles on it over the past two years (considerably more if you count air miles) and all the bits that didn’t get dragged across the asphalt still look great.
The backpack is comfortable, adjusts to create a perfect fit, and is hardly noticeable when riding – even at very enthusiastic speeds. I think one of its best endorsements comes in the fact that most of the moto-journalists who wear them actually paid for their R20s, like I did. If people who are often given free stuff for review are digging into their pockets to get something else, you know it’s got to be good. And it is. Very good.