Believe it or not, we are living in the golden age of bags. This should come as no surprise, when you think about it. Picture the young software developer, madly pedaling his single gear bike up and down the streets of Silicon Valley. He needs a bag and (this is the important part) he has money – enough money to want something different and special that can safely transport his mechanical keyboard, his 15-inch laptop, his external hard-drive and other expensive and fragile tools of the trade. The bag not only has to offer significant protection, but it also has to look great, be comfortable and be made out of premium materials.
Brands like JanSport, Land’s End, Eddie Bauer and the other usual suspects were too big and slow and old to provide a real alternative that could fill this market need. Enter the kickstarters! The one I’m talking about today is a Salt Lake City company called Boundary. Their Prima System backpack, initially designed for fragile and valuable camera equipment, represents a small, almost bespoke, ‘everyday carry’ alternative. The Prima is an extremely well-made and comfortable pack, but it is the little touches, like unique magnetic straps that help it stand out.
When I first read about the Prima, I was not immediately bowled over. It is, after all, a monochromatic cordura bag. The only distinguishing features at first glance are that it is a “roll top” that also has a zipper that goes down the middle. This means that you access the main compartment either as a deep bucket or peel away the sides, more like a duffle with one end open.
My problem was that I didn’t yet understand modular EDC. I was looking for pockets and organizers, and the main part of this bag has none of that. I say the main part, because it also includes a removable folio that slides in the back, next to the suspended laptop compartment. The folio can hold a 12 inch tablet and has a pen and pocket organizer. I don’t think I would carry this on its own, but the fact that it’s removable helped me understand that the large main compartment is for other, smaller carry solutions. My fancy over-ear headphones came with a nice case. Throw it in. I got a roll-toiletry kit that I converted for dongles, cords and chargers. Throw it in. At 25L, you can throw a lot in.
The bag works well for a daily commute or a weekend escape. Stylistically its main attribute is the roll top, but this bag is more about the utility in all its details. Every zipper is reinforced to be rain-proof. I’ve had this bag in downpours and the precious cargo stays dry. I’ve already mentioned the magnetic strap connects, which are a bit of an extravagance, but I like knowing that there are parts that were specifically made by someone just for the purpose of going on this bag.
The shoulder straps are comfortable and there are segmented back pads to promote ventilation and avoid excessive sweat buildup. The grab strap at the top is large and detailed for comfort when lifting the bag in that manner. The main compartment can also be accessed through a side zipper, and there is a very small secret pocket that might hold keys and/or wallet, but not much else.
There is also a quick access pocket on the top of the roll, which is super convenient, but tends to get overloaded. It has a very nice built-in sunglasses case, but if I put wallet, keys, and leatherman in there it gets heavy and floppy and awkward as the top of the roll.
The Prima System includes additional modular components, such as the folio I mentioned earlier. That one and a small camera bag are included with the $220 price, but Boundary offers a number of other accessories that can be incorporated into the main bag, via more fancy magnet locks or traditional snaps.
Even if you are not a software developer stomping through the streets of San Francisco circa 2012, the Prima is a great bag to safely haul your precious gear.