Equilibrium Urban Survival Gear Review
Cool bags for the geek in us all
Equilibrium USG – What Is It?
I love bags. I have a nice collection of geek-themed stuff holders that I don’t use all that often because I’m afraid of staining them, or losing them, or wearing them out. At C2E2 in April of this year, though, I discovered Equilibrium USG. This company, based close to me in Skokie, Ill., creates functional, modular bags. They’re extremely durable, flexible, secure, padded, and customizable. So, naturally, I had to test one out. It took until late July for me to get my bag, as they’re made at a factory in the Philippines and then put together here, but this month I was finally able to take it on a trip with me and test the thing out.
The company likes to call its gear “the LEGOs of bags.” For the P.A.C. system (Portable All-Purpose Containment), there are two available types of base, or harness – a basic one, and one with more storage called the Vertex harness. There are four types of “payload” – your basic storage component, including the Recon Prime, shown above. “Ordnance” refers to smaller accessory-style bags that can be attached to the payload or harness or SKYN. Then you have the SKYNs themselves. These come in many different designs, or you can design your own, as long as there’s no copyright infringement.
The durability and water-resistance of the bags comes from high-grade material – 840 and 1680 denier Ballistic and Cordura nylon (the same sort of thing used for making bulletproof vests) and YKK zippers with reverse tape. The insides are lined with polyethalene sheets for rigidity and protection. Each Recon features more than 250 assembled parts, sewn together.
By the time I received mine, I had pretty much forgotten how to operate it, so this past weekend I stopped by Equilibrium’s booth at Wizard World Comic-Con in Chicago. (I also picked up an ORDN-50 Heat while I was there.) But I’m so glad I stopped by. Company representatives showed me how to attach my new Heat to the front and sides of my base, to my harness, even to my SKYN. I can attach all kinds of things to my harness. I can turn my SKYN inside out and put things on the front of my bag, too. I am clearly deficient in imagination, because none of things had occurred to me on my own.
Do Equilibrium Bags Perform As Advertised?
I’ll be honest. I have an awesome Lo & Sons bag that I usually prefer to travel with, because it’s got this handy pocket that allows me to slip it over the handle of my carry-on luggage, and it’s so roomy. I took a look at my new slash-proof Assault Panzer, and thought it looked small and too rigid. I wanted something that would be able to handle a bit of a bulge, in case I brought back lots of souvenirs. I switched all my belongings to my Lo & Sons O.M.G., and then I changed my mind. What the heck. I was traveling light, and I really wanted to test my Equilibrium bag out. So I switched everything back and stuck my sunglasses into one of the outside mounting straps. My USG felt really balanced on my back, once the harness/base (basically, a vest that attaches to the “payload”) was on. Then I had a brilliant idea. I realized that because the harness is separate from the actual bag, it also does fit over the carry-on handle. This made me very happy, as it was the main reason I’d been thinking of leaving my USG behind.
The verdict: I’m sold. This is actually the first backpack I’ve owned that I actually prefer to wear on my back. It’s comfortable, not too bulky, and doesn’t look huge on me (I’m a rather small person). I could have put it on my luggage handle so that it was supported by my suitcase, but mostly I didn’t.
I don’t have that many accessories yet, and I feel like my Panzer doesn’t have enough pockets, but it does have a “secret” pocket behind the SKYN where I store my ID and cash. There’s also one on top perfect for all my chargers. I admit I have not tested the slashproof capabilities of my USG, and I hope not to ever have to do that. Also, I haven’t yet tested out the bag’s messenger-like and cross-body capabilities, but it’s designed with a very slight curve, so it fits snugly into your body as a messenger or cross-body bag.
Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?
When I returned from my trip, my kid and I stopped at Culver’s for dinner on the way home from the airport. Almost instantly an employee behind the counter asked about my bag and where I got it and wrote down the company information so she could get one, too. And this isn’t a one-time occurrence. The cool factor of Equilibrium USG bags cannot be denied.
The main downside is that these bags can be pricey. The Recon Prime that I covet runs between $100-$140 based upon size (S, M, L). But it has so many pockets! And a separate laptop compartment that will fit items larger than my 11.5″ MacBook Air! And lots of mounting straps! A custom SKYN runs $50, and the tricked-out Vertex harness can cost $105. The problem with the prices is that I keep wanting to buy more. Just like LEGOs. I think I see what they mean now.
Also, my kid keeps begging me to let him take my USG to school because it’s so cool. He doesn’t even want to use it with a SKYN, because the black and orange look of my USG is apparently cooler than my Totoro SKYN. I’ve promised him that when I upgrade to the Recon Prime, he can have my Assault Panzer.
Aside from the fact that I can’t ever remember the names of any of the parts I’m purchasing – “Assault Riot” and “Recon Prime” evoke nothing descriptive to me at all – I do like this system. And until, well, today, I was still mixing up harnesses and bases (I felt like the “base” should be your main bag, not the thing with the straps on it). Also, there are just so many straps and attachers sometimes I’m not sure what to do with them all. But Equilibrium makes a durable, well-designed bag, and I’m looking forward to adding to it, figuring out configurations, and getting more geeky SKYNs. I’m grown up, but I still like toys, and this is one I can both play with and utilize in an adult manner.
For more information on Equilibrium USG, visit www.equint.com.