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Alpaka Shift is an everyday backpack for tech pack rats

Hands-on with a funded Kickstarter bag that grows with your tech needs and makes getting at all your gear a snap (or zipper).

Joshua_Goldman.jpg
Joshua_Goldman.jpg

Joshua Goldman

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For your weekday commute or weekend trips

The Shift Pack from Alpaka is designed to not only grow with your load, but make getting at what's inside easy regardless of where it is in the bag. 

I tested the bag for a few weeks and overall, it's a really good design, with some room for improvement. Though it started as a crowdfunded project on Kickstarter, the bag is available from Alpaka for $249

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All your tech and a pair of shoes

The bag is laid out in three sections: a main compartment with a smaller padded compartment at the bottom and a laptop/tablet section at the back. The main section has a zippered rolltop that fastens to the bag on each side with magnetic clips. I like the look and feel of the faux-wool nylon fabric. It's been treated to add some water protection, too. 

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It's a grower!

The rolltop really increases capacity, but also lets you shrink it down when it's not full of your life junk. 

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Slash pocket

The zippered slash pocket in front is deep. I kept a Kindle Paperwhite, sunglasses and an iPhone in there. Disappointingly, this is really the only pocket big enough for a phone on the outside of the bag. Alpaka would be happy to sell you an add-on pouch for a phone or a water bottle or umbrella, though. 

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Pockets good for (almost) nothing

There are some pockets positioned horizontally in the slash pocket. I found them to be too small and shallow to hold anything, and if you happen to put the bag down sideways, what you can fit in them falls out. Had they been deeper and made of some sort of elastic they would be a nice extra. (Maybe they'll fix it in the final version.) Also, a pen pocket would be welcomed here. 

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Padded bottom

Below the slash pocket is a zipper to the bottom section. Oddly, this is my favorite part of the bag. It's not only padded and waterproof, but it's designed to keep the bag standing when you put it down -- even when it's full of your stuff. 

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Fill 'er up

There are two small pockets at the top of the compartment (again, I wish these were elastic to keep stuff from sliding out) and enough room here for a DJI Mavic Pro drone or a small dSLR or mirrorless camera. 

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Unzip for deeper storage or direct access

There's a zipper around the top panel of the compartment that, once open, lets you fold that panel down and flat to the back of the bag. This not only makes it easy to get to stuff that you've packed at the bottom of the main compartment, but makes it so you can have one big main compartment if need be. 

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Bottom of the top

Once completely unzipped, you can just fold it down.

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Folded down

See? Now you have one big main compartment for storage. 

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Lock it down

The bottom compartment zipper has travel lock holes so no one can easily walk up, open the bag and leave with your camera, drone, shoes, etc. 

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Getting in from the top

Unroll the top to load the bag. You can roll the top either to the back or front -- your call. The side straps cinch everything down. 

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A view from the top

There's a weather-sealed zipper that closes the top so even if you don't roll it down, your gear stays clean and dry. 

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Accessory pocket

Inside the main compartment, there's a deep zippered pocket. 

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It's all about that base

Again, one of the best parts of this bag is the bottom. Regardless of how much or how little is in the bag, it stays upright. Also, after the campaign ends, Alpaka will be selling a camera kit insert that will hold up to two full-size camera bodies and four lenses as well as magnetic straps for the bottom to hold a tripod. 

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Magnetic closures

These magnetic clips lock on practically by themselves and opening them takes just a simple button press. 

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From the side

The side straps are adjustable so you can tighten the top down as much or as little as you want. 

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Plenty of padding

The back of the bag and the straps have a good amount of padding. 

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Passport pocket

There's a small zippered pocket between the lower padding that has room for a passport or wallet. 

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Luggage pass-through

That bottom section where the passport pocket is, is also a luggage pass-through, so you can just slide the bag down on the handle of a rolling bag. 

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Key master

Inside each strap there are zippered pockets. The one on the right strap (while wearing it) has a removable key ring in it. Just press a button and pull your keys off and you're good to go. 

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Strap for cash?

The pocket on left strap is empty and wide enough to hold an ID, credit cards, cash or a pen. Sadly, it's just a hair too small for most smartphones. 

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Tighten up

Pulling on the straps makes them easy to adjust while wearing the bag. Plus, there's a small loop fixed on the end of each strap to keep excess strap from flapping around.

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Stabilizer or headphone strap

To help keep the bag on your back while you're moving, there's a stabilizer strap on the left shoulder strap. If you don't need it, you can keep it up and out of the way attached to a clip at the top of the shoulder strap. This creates a loop that Alpaka suggests you can use to hold your headphones. 

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Stabilized!

Both sides of the stabilizer slide up and down so you can place it right where it's most comfortable.

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More magnets

The stabilizer strap uses a similar magnetic clasp making it very easy to attach and release while still staying firmly locked when you need it to be. 

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Grab and go

The carry handle on the top is substantial and nicely cushioned. It's also attached to the top of the shoulder straps and not the bag. It allows you hold the bag with one hand and access all of its pockets without changing your grip. 

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Laptop compartment

The padded laptop/tablet compartment is separated from the main compartment, so you don't need to undo the rolltop to get out your notebook. 

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Another accessory pocket

In the laptop section there's another zippered pocket that's perfect for your power adapter, cables and mouse. 

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Up to a 15.6-inch laptop

There's plenty of room in the bag to travel with a laptop and a tablet.

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Secret passage to the center

I don't typically like rolltop bags because you usually have to unroll the top to get at anything inside, and if you've loaded the bag, getting things at the bottom is a pain. However, here, Alpaka put a zipper around the divider separating the main compartment from the laptop compartment. Between this entry and the one in the bottom section, you can get to anything stored in the main compartment without taking anything out of the bag first. 

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Open up

This divider can also be folded down into the main compartment to make a slightly wider single section. 

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Another look inside

This additional entry point also makes accessing any camera gear in here that much easier. 

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Zipped up tight

Alpaka is using high-quality YKK zippers with weather sealing to keep water and dust out. 

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Alpaka Shift Pack arrives February 2018

If you want a backpack to take you from a daily commute to weekend getaway, this is it. The fact that you have to buy additional pouches to have somewhere to easily stash your phone or a water bottle is just about the only thing I don't like about the bag. If you look past that, though, this backpack is pretty great. See the company's site for more details

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