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Back to Schooling: Showers Pass Nails the Commuter Bag

Rain-proof your stuff, not just yourself

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Showers Pass, makers of outerwear so waterproof that it barely even bothers to rain on me anymore, have migrated over into the backpack realm, and in keeping with their emphasis on all-out quality (cost be damned), they give you the Transit Waterproof Bag.

Item: Transit Waterproof Bag
Maker: Showers Pass, Portland, OR
Material: 840-denier ballistic nylon (deniers are a unit of thickness and 840 of them is a lot)
Price: $264
Order: Showers Pass Link
What it is: An all-purpose commuter pack.
Strengths: Roomy, comfortable, great construction, a million useful features.
Weaknesses: Price; a bit bulky; don't love the waist strap (but it's removable).

I can't help but think of the Showers Pass customer as the people I see riding to downtown Seattle on Dexter, in droves, all throughout the winter. They sport the classic yellow jackets that Showers Pass has been selling for years. They don't look like they take many days off from commuting. They carry plenty of stuff. And they seem very serious about what they're doing.

So it comes as no surprise that when Showers Pass created the Transit, it made a bag speaks mostly to serious bike commuters. They didn't create a slick, stylish item for hipsters with just a laptop and U lock. They didn't create a lightweight bag built to win the weight weenie wars. They created a beast of a backpack that is loaded with practicalities for constant, daily, bad-weather use.

I can't really get to all the features, but I'll start with this: rain is irrelevant to this bag. The top flap does the heavy lifting, and employs little nylon arches over the tops of any zipper lines on the off-chance water thought it had finally figured out a way in. More importantly, water coming off the rear tire from below doesn't stand any better chance of getting in. The seams are pretty much welded shut. The zippers are rock solid. Obviously there are plenty of other bags on the market that have water exclusion down pat, but this bag is made for the Northwest, where you don't take anything for granted.

Next is the size. Compared to another sleek pack I'd been using (mostly happily) for a couple years, the Transit is not small. The height and width dimensions are typical of a biking bag, which shouldn't be too large considering the wearer is sitting down, but the 8" depth (contractable with straps) is a difference, and while at times it feels like too much, it's a godsend for packing lunches or other oddly-shaped items. The upshot is that a sleeker pack is fine for short bike rides with laptops and papers, but the Transit is something I'd use on a long day hike too. Hell, it even has aluminum clips and strap loops for, I dunno, attaching an ice axe?

And then the features. I'm sure I'll leave some out but here's a rundown:

  • There are button lights on the rear and sides, the latter being a real need for commuters, plus plenty of reflective tape, for maximum visibility.
  • The array of pockets is staggering. Inside are two fleece-lined ones sized for a laptop and a tablet (and good for documents). Small side pockets are where I stash my wallet and change. There are external ones on the flap (for my badge) and the side (for my keys). There's a large compartment on the back where I've put my tools, but where you can also stash a helmet. There are three more small pockets that I don't even know what to do with.
  • There's a few straps around -- on the sides, holding the button lights, perfect for U locks, and one on the back that I swear is for an ice ax. You are invited to get creative.
  • Finally, the harness. The contact on your back is nice mesh with some comfortable padding, and two shoulder straps. There's a waist strap too, which I really don't like for cycling, but after about five weeks I figured out that it's designed to be easily removable. Oh, and when you remove it, it can serve as a waist pack, e.g. for running, with two small pockets and a couple nylon loops. I swear, if the goal was to think of everything, mission accomplished.

The upshot of it all is whether you need this bag, versus something else. The cost is the primary reason to even ask yourself that question; otherwise the Transit would be the one to have. If I were a student this would be my dream bag for the new school year (as long as my parents paid for it). And don't get me wrong, a bag built to last and to protect important items like your electronics is definitely worth the cost. It's merely a recognition that you have a lot of choices, including lower priced, quality stuff.

I'm thrilled with the Transit. It's clearly put a lot of the other stuff I've tried in my rearview mirror. But then, I'm a rain commuter with a lot of stuff to carry, day in and out, on and off the bike. This bag is definitely done with me in mind.