This backpack makes lugging life light work [Review]

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Shift Pack
The Shift Pack by Alpaka.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

My closet floor resembles a bullpen. But instead of pitchers, it houses a rotation of backpacks and bags ready to be activated for work, day-long excursions or extended travel. Depending on the week, I could shift between four or five bags.

But when Shift Pack recently arrived for a tryout, it threatened to retire a couple of my veterans. It is a single backpack that aims to cover all the bases, work, play and travel or all at once if necessary.

Created by the Australian company Alpaka, the water-resistant Shift Pack takes its place in the emerging category of roll-top backpacks. A spec list of more than 20 features helps it separate from the rest of the pack.

However, the Shift Pack is still in development with Alpaka seeking to fund production on Kickstarter. While some Kickstarter projects fall through, Alpaka enjoyed a successful Kickstarter launch last year with its first tech bag, the 7even messenger bag.

Early backers can pre-order a Shift Pack for $159.

Alpaka sent me a prototype for review. The company says the prototype lacks some features that will be added to the final product. I can’t imagine what more could be done to a backpack to make it more functional.

Alpaka Shift Pack: Totally functional

Shift Pack
Shift Pack can carry all your tech gear and a weekend’s worth of clothes.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The main compartment, especially when the top rolled out is cavernous, which gives it plenty of room for a weekend trip. The compartment zips shut. When rolled down, the top gets secured with straps whose magnetic fasteners dock and lock to side clips. A button releases the magnetic latch.

There is a separate water-resistant bottom compartment designed to specifically fit a DJI Mavic or Spark Drone. Apparently, a senior member of the team and drone enthusiast insisted on this feature, however, it is also a nice place to store a pair of shoes or a DSLR camera and a couple of lenses.

Shift Pack
Roll out the main compartment when it’s time to pack.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The bottom is stiff and flat so that the pack stands up.

There is a separate tech compartment that opens along the padded back. Inside is ample space for a large laptop, tablet and various tech accessories

There are a lot of tiny details that add to the comfort, convenience and air of cool the Shift Pack possess.

The lower back has a sturdy luggage sleeve which also includes a zipper pocket meant for a passport. There are quick access pockets on both shoulder straps, one with a keyring and one that could carry an I.D. or credit cards.

The backpack shoulder straps and a carrying handle have reinforced stitching at the end points.

And comfortable too

Shift Pack
A bottom compartment designed to fit a drone, but also good for other gear and up to size 11 shoes.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

All of that is meaningless if he doesn’t feel good to wear on a commute and I don’t have one of those jobs where I bike to work or walk to catch a train. However, I have a dog and so I loaded the Shift Pack for two different walks.

I put a camera and lens in the bottom, MacBook Pro with charging cord in the tech compartment and unfurled the large main compartment to hold shoes, shorts, a couple of shirts, boxers and a dopp kit.

Some backpacks when loaded cut into my shoulders and it doesn’t take too much weight before a pain in the back of my neck begins to throb, thanks to years of slinging heavy cameras for a living.

Shift Pack
The tech compartment has pockets for a laptop, tablet and space for accessories.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

I could feel a slight flex in the shoulders straps as it accepted some share of the weight. The weight also felt event across my back down to my hips and so at least walking with it for more than a mile on two occasions was not a problem.

Plus, as backpacks go, it is sharp looking without bulking up your profile. Even when I rolled the top out (it looks better when it is rolled tight toward your back), it still looks like a really nice bag for traveling.

If Alpaka reaches its funding goal and stays on its production schedule, Shift Packs will begin shipping in February.

Where to buy: Currently on Kickstarter. Eventually, it will be sold on the Alpaka website.

Price: Kickstarter early backer price currently $159 ($70 of expected retail price).

Cult of Mac received a prototype Shift Pack from Alpaka for this review. Read Cult of Mac’s reviews policy.