BOGear Chunky Toad First Impressions

Dave from Brisbane Outdoor Gear (BOGear) has been kind enough to loan me his very own Chunky Toad for review. The Chunky Toad isn’t some kind of bizarre sex toy it’s BOGear’s latest bag,  a chunky backpack.

BOGear’s Chunky Toad

Design and Construction

My first impression of the Chunky Toad was that it wasn’t all that chunky. Sure it had wide square shoulders but pressed down and cinched in with the compression straps it certainly wasn’t fat. A lot of bags look a little like a fat man in a pair of speedos when their compression straps are pulled in, kinda bursting at the seems, but the Chunky Toad gave the impression of being quite svelte. (My wife begs to differ. Just passing that on in case anyone thinks her opinion matters here.)

The bag is much more square in shape than a log of bicycle bags I’ve owned. In my youth I bought bicycle bags with one main requirement, that it could fit an LP so I could get my purchases home from the city. That unfortunately gives you an all too accurate impression of my age but my point here is that not many bags did or would pass that test and the Chunk Toad would pass in spades. The Chunky Toad seems to be designed with couriers in mind, so they can stash documents and folders safely without bending them. That’s good if you’re a courier and kinda handy even if you’re not. The courier is to cycling what a caffeine and beer fueled F1 driver would be to cars, the ultimate test machine for that all important trickle down effect (that supposedly justified the millions they spend on making cars to drive round in circles).

The other impression that immediately struck me was that the Chunky Toad was built to last forever. Having Dave’s personal bag  I feel a responsibility to hand it back in good shape, but unless I’m struck down by some wanker in a Prado while wearing the bag I fail to see how anything I do could have the slightest impact on how the backpack wears. Given this military strength design the bag is not at all heavy. We popped in on the scales and weighed it in at about 700grams.

You buy a cheapo bag and you get just that, a bag, one big compartment to stash all your gear. Your keys drop to the bottom and you can never find them when you need them and, if you’re a sour and impatient bastard like me, you spend a lot of time rummaging round cursing to yourself like some kind of foul-mouth Rainman. The Chunky Toad is well laid out with a multitude of handy compartments for storing keys, wallets, puncture kits etc. The first thing I did was remove the tools from my other bag (puddled in a heap at the bottom of the bag) and find them each a nice space to hang out in. I’m not by nature a very ogranised person but I certainly like the idea of being one. Chunky Toad has lots of pockets and compartments for stashing gear appropriatly so even if my life is a mess at least while on the bike I’m putting order into my chaos.

For a bag designed for bike riding the Chunky Toad has a very large and well padded hip belt. There is no chest strap.

Wearing the Chunk Toad

I love strapping on gear like this. It makes me feel all Commando. My first foray with the Chunky Toad was for a Wednesday night soccer match. The previous Wednesday my soccer ball, strapped into the helmet strap, had bounced off the bag to go crouch unobtrusively among some trees. Twenty-five minutes later I had pedaled all the way home and most of the way back to soccer again before I located it in the dark. That same soccer ball went straight into the Chunky Toad. Rest easy soldier.

Plenty big in there.

The Chunky Toads sits on the hips more than other big bags I’ve worn. Most bicycle bags sit on your shoulders and the straps are there to keep the bag from flapping. I don’t hike anymore because it’s altogether too painfully slow. Mountain biking is way more fun and the scenery is no less spectacular when it passes by in a blur and you don’t have to bore your partner to death by dwelling on it. But I do have some experience with hiking packs and that experience tells me that the philosophy there is to get the weight spread evenly around the hips and back, making the load more comfortable. The Chunky Toad follows this philosophy and it feels a little odd at first (when all you have is a soccer ball and some warm clothes) but you get used to it. The large webbed belt is made to share a great proportion of the load and be comfortable while doing it.

It wasn’t until last night, when a well loaded Chunky Toad had to accommodate a mate’s laptop (with bag, charger etc) I’d forgotten I’d promised to repair for him, on top of the soccer ball and warm cloths and loose change and tools, that I realized just how chunky this toad could be. When required the Chunky Toad can accommodate very large loads. Cycling home with a decent load aboard the construction of the Chunky Toad made sense. Carrying heavy loads is the Chunky Toad’s raison d’etre. With a small load it sits nicely on the back, but not as nicely as my comparatively dainty Deuter, but then the Toad has the ability to swallow some really prodigious loads. Never again would I get stuck at the supermarket having bought two or three items more than I can carry home. The Chunky Toad is a Tardis Toad.

Now weighing in at 5-6 kgs the Chunky Toad sat more on the waste then before, was stable and well centred. I made an analogy with hiking bags before and I’ve used hiking bags on the bike in the past to carry bigger loads, and they’re not all that comfortable fully loaded. Usually they hinder seated riding and sway around too much when out of the saddle. The Chunky Toad showed no such signs and showed no preference for either seated or out-of-saddle riding.

Malaysia Bound

We’ll get a notion of how the bag works for travel next week with two weeks in Malaysia scheduled for R&R purposes.  At first I thought Dave’s offer for me to drag it round Asia was unreasonably generous but I get the feeling now that he knows he has nothing to fear. According to Dave there is a secret pocket in the bag that is perfect for wallet and passport, but I’m wondering if Dave’s taking the piss because I sure as hell can’t find it. I’ll have to borrow some inquisitive children and set them the task of finding it because I’m altogether too stupid and lazy to locate the hidden anything.

There will be more postings on the Chunky Toad soon. I’ll let you know how it goes after more rides and a jaunt through the restaurants of KL and Penang.

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