Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fly Product: Review of the Topo Designs Sling Bag and Accessory Bags

So its taken me far too long to get this review written...big apologies. I got in touch with Topo Designs back in March to review one of their packs, right around the time Lilly was due. She came two weeks early, the packs came after she was born in May...not an excuse, just explanation and apology. It has indeed given me and Zach plenty of time time to review the Topo gear thoroughly! Click below to see the full review...

Anywho, first impressions of these pieces of fly gear came before I even received the bags. Topo Designs is a company that doesn't revolve around the culture of fly fishing but based on the face it resides in Colorado, it has the sport within its roots. This is pretty obvious through their Instagram (how can you not be if your based in CO?) and their story...

"Growing up in the mountains of the West we’ve been using gear from our earliest memories. We are fishers, hunters, ski instructors, hikers, climbers, bikers, travelers, and through it all we’ve searched for gear that really works – as well as satisfies the styles that we’re attracted to. Never satisfied with the standard fare, we sought out ski gear from France, bags from Japan, all the while honing our tastes and growing a seed of desire to create something ourselves.
Topo began well before it began, in discussions, sharing ideas, and just the desire to have quality products that were in our heads rather than the ones we saw in stores. As everyone that’s made something knows, it takes a lot longer to make something than to decide to make it. So we took our time, made prototype after prototype, tested, re-tested, took vacations just as an excuse to test, and we finally had our first bag. At this point we’d gained some skills and the following bags came more quickly. After some initial success in Japan we realized we’d need to step up our production a bit so we started working with a local production shop known for making quality bags. And that brings us to today, designing, sewing, prototyping, and moving forward. We strive to make products that are simple, functional, and beautiful – think canoe vs. motor boat. We’re the canoe.
At Topo Designs we talk a lot about how things are made and why, about the value of creating versus consuming, and how to work with that tension. When making the decision of where to produce our designs, we talked about importing and making locally. While drawn to the ideas of making things in the US we also understand the importance of making things work. After research we were pleased to find that we could make things locally and even more, we could control quality at a closer level, we could drastically reduce minimums which gave us more flexibility and, if we were careful, we could bring things in at a price that didn’t reduce it to a luxury item. We’re global citizens and enjoy things made all around the world, but we’re very proud to be making and producing things in the country we call home. We hope you enjoy them.
Topo bags are all made in a LEED certified building in Colorado, USA with an amazing view of the Rockies."

At second look, I fell in love even more with the company based on their simplistic style and design of bags and accessories made with the basics; canvas, paracord, leather, and nylon. The design of each bag is similar (because of that basic, fundamental design) but the overall use of each is totally different. The best part? They are all handmade and did I mention, in the USA?! They have the basic colors any outdoorsman is looking for, including my personal favorite, an old school duck camo. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about...

So I had the privilege of trying out 4 separate Topo Designs products: The Sling Bag, and three separate Accessory Bags (small, medium, and large). The guys over at Topo were awesome to deal with and totally up for the review, easy to communicate with, and sent gear in the blink of an eye. Awesome. Of course I got the duck camo, I may be reviewing it for fishing but will definitely be using it for hunting...!

First impressions are everything, especially with reviews. I have to say, the first impression I got from these bags when I first got to actually hold them and sling them over my should was an astounding "wow". I was thoroughly impressed with everything from the quality of build to the feel. They were just right.
The Accessory Bags were put to use first. Using the smallest one as a gadgets bag for my indicators, floatant, putty, measuring tape, etc. It was perfect, it measures 8.5" x 5.5" and is ideal for this use. The medium sized bag I used for my GoPro and its mounts which it was perfect for since the bag measures 9.5" x 7.5". The last bag, the largest, measures in at 8.75" x 11.25" (just a little bit bigger than a piece of paper) and was perfect for holding all of my freshwater fly boxes. The organizational possibilities are endless with these bags. They fit perfectly into The Sling Bag and leave plenty of room for other fun. These little Accessory Bags are made extremely sturdy because of the materials used, which also help keep moisture out slightly (that doesn't mean you should go dropping your bags with your camera and it or your phone in the water, they aren't waterproof). We also loved the little "paracord hook loop" added to each so you can just clip them onto a bag or pouch with a small carabiner. The only thing I see that could make these bags better, would be the trademark Topo Designs leather patch on the back so that you could slip a belt through them and make them into hip pouches. So, how much do they cost? A fitting price was placed on each of these bags. The small comes in at $13.00, the medium at $15.00, and the large at $17.00, OR you can buy the set of three for $39.00, saving you $6.00, worth the buy. Overall, the Topo Designs Accessory Bags got a 5 out of 5 stars. There is honestly nothing wrong with these bags, they are perfectly made for what they are meant to do. They come in the following colors ("Kelly" is a green color):

Olive/Kelly, Kelly/Navy, Silver/Black, Purple/Yellow, Camo/Orange, Purple/Kelly

On to the next one, The Sling Bag. One thing I forgot to mention, Topo makes all of their gear with super sturdy YKK zippers. What does this mean, these zippers are tough as hell, top of the line. So the Sling Bag also really got me pumped when I first held it. It has an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to where and what you can hook to it as far as carabiners and accessories go, especially with the trademark Topo Designs "leather lash tabs" that you can hook their Accessory Straps into (which Topo was also kind enough to include in the kit they sent us) that can hold blankets, jackets, or even rod tubes! 

The straps come in at $15.00 and are also well worth the buy, they are sturdy (like all Topo products) because they are made of 1" nylon webbing and plastic hardware and can be cut from their original length of 24" down to the size you need. An easy 5 out of 5 stars there. The come in the following colors:

Black, Navy, Red, Yellow, Red Pattern, Beige Pattern

Back to the Sling Bag. Its made of 1000d CORDURA® fabric outer with coated pack cloth liner and comes in a wide variety of colors from Camo to Olive to Silver to Black. We tried out the Camo, duh. With the amount of storage, you'd be surprised by what little space this bag has to offer. It is perfect for its uses I guess for the everyday commuter but honestly not ideal for the fisherman looking for a trip bag. But, thats why Topo offers bigger and better things in the department of packs. The volume of the bag is only 960 cu. in./15.7 L so like I said, using this bag for a big trip was less than ideal, but was perfect for a hike the family and I did and does have amazing organizational possibilities limited only to how much stuff you can put in it. Here are the features per the Topo website...

"Natural leather lash tabs, heavy duty metal hardware, heavy duty strap reinforced with seatbelt webbing, inner organizer pocket. Inner sleeve for iPads and small laptops."

I don't know about you guys but I don't plan on taking my laptop or iPad into the stream but on a trip, absolutely, how else can I keep in contact with you guys?! Thats why for the future, Ive decided to use this as a traveling bag for sure, but not necessarily the one I take out on the flats, or into the stream when away from the home waters (definitely will take on the GP and local waters here and there). Now for hunting, thats a whole other ball game and you can bet I'll take this into the blind with me with extra shells, calls, and layers of clothing. The bag is amazingly lightweight and adjusts perfect to fit you. It fits well and thanks to the included "stabilizer strap", its clings onto you like a charm, much better than the Orvis sling pack that tends to loosen up sometimes or even kind of slip around you making it awkward to cast. Maybe you should learn from Topo there Orvis...

Overall, we fell in love with this bag, we did find a few things wrong with it such as the size but because of the fact that Topo does offer a lot more packs and bags than this one, we let it slide. Coming in at $90.00 this "messenger"-like bag is a bit pricey. Even if it is a high quality bag, handmade in the USA, I felt like this was way over the top at first but after I gave it a shot and took it hiking and traveling, I do have to say it is worth around that much but not quite that steep. We gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. The 0.5 was lost in the price, still not bad at all.

We will definitely go on to buying more Topo Designs products in the future, especially if we do follow through with the Alaska trip thats on the drawing board right now for sometime in the next few years. I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the guys at Topo Designs that helped make this review happen, especially Mark, your the man. Thank you guys for this opportunity and we would love to continue this relationship in the future!

Head on over to Topo Designs and show them some love. Let them know the guys over at TLTFF sent you too. You can find them on their Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram accounts as well.


*This review was completely unbiased and this/these product(s) were lent to me for review purposes only. This review, as with all of our reviews was, completely fair with no intentions coming into it of giving it a "good" or "bad" rating. We do our best to keep all reviews as fair as possible with biases being thrown out the door.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice and inspiring. I really appreciate quality brands that connect with people at a personal level too. I hope to pick up the accessory bags soon! Thanks!