Riding to work, I have used my Vincita B050WP-A panniers for about four years now. Unfortunately, in that span of time, they’ve sprung leaks. The RF welding connecting the pieces of material together has failed on a number of areas, greatly increasing the risk of water ingress. While these panniers aren’t 100% watertight, and they will let in some water after a while, the introduction of holes pretty much negates their supposed waterproof-ness.
While on vacation in Paris recently, I was mulling my options. I could have these repaired by stitching or repeat RF welding, or replace them with Ortlieb’s larger, world-famous panniers (which are finally available locally, but are sadly out of my budget). Then I stumbled across a surprise of a shop and saw this, the only thing I really shopped for while there.
Yes, it’s a backpack. While loaded riding with a rack and panniers has its benefits, I’ve started to rethink what exactly I have to bring on the ride to the office, and a backpack is hard to beat for sheer get-up-and-go, especially with light loads. Panniers are awkward to handle when off the bike, and dismounting/remounting the rear rack each weekend does get old after a while.
Best of all, it made me do a double-take and ask…“It’s a Samsonite?” While renowned for attache cases and hard-shell luggage, I had one of their early backpacks; it was devoid of all style or appeal, basically a big squarish thing you strapped on your back, looking like 1/3 of a Deliveroo box. Yet more than ten years later, here is a Samsonite backpack that I actually like.
- 24 L rated capacity
- Weight: 800 g
- Material: Polyurethane-coated 600 x 600 denier polyester, weather-resistant
- Padded laptop compartment, fits a 15.6″ laptop maximum
- Integrated tablet pocket, fits a 10.1″ tablet maximum
- Ergonomic straps and adjustable sternum strap
- Integrated ID tag
- Deployable mesh bottle holder, stores in side pocket
Confession time: I’m a sucker for the yellow-and-black colorway. The moment I saw this hanging on the store shelf in Paris, I was instantly reminded of a similar backpack I had in college…one that I also remember got dirty way too easily.
Fortunately, the Paradiver stands up better to scuffs, easily dispatched with soap and some wiping. Its external shell is similar to the tarpaulin of my Vincita panniers, just softer and a bit more “premium” feeling. A short but torrential rain shower proved it has much better water resistance than my longtime mainstay, the venerable Deuter Giga. I’m under no illusions that it will outperform my panniers, though. As beefed-up and gasket-equipped as they may seem here, zippers are often the weak link, and they are the first points of water ingress.
Compared to the boxy Giga, this largest “L-Plus” iteration of the Paradiver Light gives up 4 L of outright capacity, and the tapering shape cuts into the interior volume somewhat. Yet, despite doing away with a full hip strap, the Paradiver Light feels better to walk and ride with when laden, especially when the straps are bound together by the sternum strap. The load feels much closer to your center of gravity, improving the load distribution over shoulders and chest.
Save for the corners sometimes getting in the way of the main zipper, the Paradiver Light swallows my 15.6″ laptop fine. A pocket in front of it handles tablet duty, and both are cinched down by an elastic band with Velcro at the end. The padding on the wearer’s back also serves as protection for the laptop. I like that it doesn’t scream “hello world I’m a laptop bag!” when it’s perfectly capable of carrying one.
Clever touches litter this rucksack. The integrated ID tag hides in a rubbery pocket taking price of place front and center, secured by an elastic band that automatically pulls it in when you’re done reading it. Samsonite includes three label stickers for the ID tag, and you’ll want to use a ball-point pen here.
It may not have a full hip belt, but the bracing on the hips helps contain unwanted load shifting, and this works really well with all the straps. The hip braces are actually where the main straps are anchored into at the bottom.
There’s even a hidden zipped “safety” pocket cut into the padding around the top of the main straps – and it’s surprisingly deep. My whole karate-chop hand fits inside.
There are a few flaws. As nifty as it is, the mesh bottle holder has the same kind of utility as a German sports car’s cupholders: minimal. Loading with a bottle has the whole thing flopping about more than a properly sized and dedicated side pocket. A key hanger is advertised, but I can’t find it anywhere, and it could do with at least one reflective patch.
More of a cycling-specific flaw is that the top grab handle is set a little too far into the main strap area. This seems like a style thing. While a non-issue for most other uses, if you wear the Paradiver while bent over on a road bike, the textured grab handle rubs on your nape, especially when you turn your head. It’s not terrible, and I got used to it after a few weeks, but it shows that this isn’t really designed for riding. As the handle is finished in a somewhat coarse grippy material, nape abrasion may become an issue on a really long ride; it may be remedied by wrapping the handle in something smoother.
Finally, backpacks being backpacks, wearing this is inevitably going to cause some back sweat. Apart from making the back panel padding somewhat “breathable” and its covering out of mesh, there are no concessions to improving airflow in this area.
Overall, Samsonite’s got a good thing going with the Paradiver. At EUR98 (PhP5950), it’s on the pricey side, yet it allows a level of comfort and style in load-lugging that might just make it worth your added cash. Good if you can get it for cheap, especially if you ride a more upright bike.