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HolidayBuyer's Guide

For your weekday commute or weekend trips

All your tech and a pair of shoes

It's a grower!

Slash pocket

Pockets good for (almost) nothing

Padded bottom

Fill 'er up

Unzip for deeper storage or direct access

Bottom of the top

Folded down

Lock it down

Getting in from the top

A view from the top

Accessory pocket

It's all about that base

Magnetic closures

From the side

Plenty of padding

Passport pocket

Luggage pass-through

Key master

Strap for cash?

Tighten up

Stabilizer or headphone strap

Stabilized!

More magnets

Grab and go

Laptop compartment

Another accessory pocket

Up to a 15.6-inch laptop

Secret passage to the center

Open up

Another look inside

Zipped up tight

Alpaka Shift Pack arrives February 2018

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. Currently on Kickstarter and fully funded, pledges for getting a Shift in February 2018 start at $179 or approximately AU$225 in Australia and £135 in the UK. 

I got a chance to test out an early sample of the bag for a few weeks and overall, it's a really good design, with some room for improvement. This is the company's second Kickstarter campaign for a bag. Alpaka recently finished shipping its first bag, the 7ven Messenger, to backers. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Once completely unzipped, you can just fold it down.

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

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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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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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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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

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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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Currently on Kickstarter and fully funded, Alpaka expects to ship the Shift Pack to backers in 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. 

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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