Chunky Toad: Last Words

My wife is frequently my conscience. The last several weeks she’s been telling me I should give the Chunky Toad bag back to Dave at BOGear. It’s his own personal bag, a pre-production model, and no doubt he’s missing it just as much as I’ve been loving it. To my own detriment, I don’t often listen to my wife, but I do find that if she sticks at something long enough I inevitably realise she’s right.I still had a few things I wanted to say about the Chunky Toad so I put Dave on notice that I would return it very soon, I promise, soon as I’d dragged these words out of my keyboard. Here goes.

One way of getting a new perspective on the Chunky Toad was to go back to my old Deuter. Having just ridden to soccer and back I’m now a bit concerned about my future with this somewhat diminutive bag. It’s a bit like that feeling you get where you’re with some mates, a couple of close mates and some guy you really don’t have much in common with but he’s mates with the other guys. Then your mates leave and you’re left with that guy…and it feels kind of awkward and uncomfortable.

Once fave bag now viewed with disdain.

The Deuter now feels like some flappy sack that’s attached to my back via some rudimentary straps, not like a backpack at all. On the way to soccer I noticed how it kinda pulled at my neck, like it was trying to gently tug at me to get my attention. On the way home I stopped for a six-pack of O’Brien’s (coeliacs beer of choice) and could only wonder, just wear the hell do these go? The Chunky Toad would have swallowed them whole but the Deuter needed some clever packing. No drama, I can do that. Dismantle the packaging and slot them in one at a time. Problem then was riding home. I’ve got a bit of a dodgy back and I wonder now how I was ever stupid enough to carry the Deuter with anything more than a puncture kit, a pump, a spanner and all that small change that accumulates at the bottom of the bag. No matter what I did with the straps (yes straps, funny little strips of strapping, not a properly padded belt) I could not get the weight off my back. Typing this now I can feel my back is going to be a little unforgiving. Thankfully they still brew alcohol into beer. Might stop and grab one now.

Okay. So this observation about the Deuter wasn’t what I meant to make the last Chunky Toad piece about. This was just a result of me thinking I should wean myself off the Toad, thinking I could wean myself off. I can see myself digging into my pocket in the near future for the purchase of one of these packs. I suppose that’s the danger of testing desirable objects.  The price, well a lot of guys might baulk at paying a fair price for a good product, and maybe I’m not really one of them but I am notorious tight-fisted, but when you compare the products, one a $120 backpack and one a $295 backpack, you can see the value in both of them. You get what you pay for and really my mistake was buying the Deuter in the first place when that $120 could have been used as part of an investment in a pack that really could haul some shit.

It might be a little unfair to compare my Deuter with the bigger Chunky Toad. I notice that Brisbane Outdoor Gear have a smaller pack in the pipeline. I wonder what it’ll be called…

The name Baby Toad is already taken by this guy.

What I wanted to blog about in this last piece was the lovely attention to detail and the quality of work on the Chunky Toad. It’s easy to pick up a pack and not think about the faceless people who designed and manufactured it. I don’t really know Dave, I’ve never seen his face or heard his voice, but I’ve swapped a few emails and I’ve got his bag, and that’s made me think about the actual design work that he did on this bag. All the little bits of textile, webbing, velcro and elastic that go together to make a bag. Looking at it I can’t really figure out how anyone designs a backpack and how the hell they ever figure out what shape to cut all the individual pieces knowing how to stitche them together and what shape they’ll be when finished so that you get something that is a Chunky Toad when finished. It made me think about the level of design and while I’m not advocating a Grand Designs for backpacks I am a little awed by the sophistication of design put into one humble backpack whether Chunky Toad or not.

Thankfully we have some insight into the manufacturing of the backpack thanks to this video by BOGear.

I’ve done a little sewing myself on mum’s or my wife’s sewing machine.  Made some stuffed toys for friends and friend’s babies. I’ve got a mate who made a bike bag on a borrowed sewing machine. He’s the same guy who made polartec boxer shorts. (They’re so hot and sweaty they’re unwearable even in a Melbourne winter.) I’m thinking now that I’m being held back because I didn’t have access to a Toyota sewing machine. Or one by John Deer. Or Rolls Royce.

Okay, I did promise some kind of chit chat about the actual pack? Something about attention to detail?

Apparently there is a hidden pocket in the Chunky Toad. I’ve been told roughly where it is and how to find it but I still can’t find it. Now that’s clever. And it’s a hint toward the kind of thought that Dave has put into something that many, like myself, don’t normally think too much about at all.

There’s a hidden pocket in there somewhere…

When I told Dave I would be taking the pack overseas with me he told me to go right ahead, that there really wasn’t anything I could do that would damage the pack. That doesn’t strike me as an idle boast. There are no mis-sewn seems or potential week points in this pack. The textile is thick and strong. The material reminds me of the old Gearsack panniers I used to have for my motorbike. They were indestructible. I spoke to a guy once who fell asleep on his motorbike and woke up sliding along the road. He picked the bike up and the crash had barely even scratched the logo on the side of the panniers. It’s the sort of quality that suits crash victims better than fashion victims. If you like to  change your stuff regularly then look out because you might be stuck with your Chunky Toad for life.

For me the real deal with this bag is the harness. It has the right assortment of pockets and stuff, but so do plenty of other bags. The Chunky Toad has a proper padded belt that is well designed and works perfectly to distribute the load. It is not, as mentioned before, just a belt for stopping the bag from flopping around. And that’s the kind of detail you don’t really notice until you go compare it with other bags. I’ve re-read my first article on the Chunky Toad and I remember how I felt when I first road tested the Chunky Toad. I was a little surprised by the large harness on this bag, that it felt more like something that would suit bush-walking than cycling. I was perhaps a bit apprehensive about how it would sit when riding. I can see now that I adjusted to life with the Chunky Toad a little too well. I can see now that Dave knew exactly what he was doing when he designed the Chunky Toad, that his eye for detail and design were spot on. I can’t imagine another big bag on the market so well suited to carrying large loads on your bike. If you want to carry any more than this guy can then get yourself a trailer or a cargo bike.

I borrowed this image

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