Maxpedition are a company with an aim. I don’t think that this is an aim written on their literature or website. Instead it is written large – very large – on every product they make. The aim is this: A Maxpedition product must never stop working. To this end they over-engineer everything and refuse point-blank to cut corners that would have a lesser company’s accountants snapping their pencils in half and issuing a “seal all exits” alert.
I rather think I like this approach!
I have a quite a few Maxpedition products: Gear Slinger, Key Fob, Proteus Bag, Wallet and Gear Clips. Every single one of them, despite years of abuse in daily life and hardcore airsoft, look brand new. If any of the above list have faults at all it is that they are so over-engineered that sometimes they are not easy to use. For example the Maxpedition key fob is almost too big for my pockets and has enough Velcro on it to stick to an wild boar. We will hear more about Velcro in a moment. To this list I have added the Rolly Polly Extreme and it is that product I will be reviewing now.
I am on a world tour at the moment and my packing needs are very clear. Firstly, I need a bag that will store away. Secondly, I want a light bag that I can use as an occasional day sack. Thirdly, I need something that I can hike/bike/ski/ride with all around New Zealand’s mountains. I already have a good city bag – what I call my tech bag – in the Crumpler Sinking Barge. This bag holds my laptop, camcorder and everything needed when visiting a city. It does not do so well in trekking the wilds as it is too heavy and not so well endowed in storage space. So the cry went up for an ‘occasional’ bag that would not be used every day and not take up much space.
After searching the web and my favourite gear-haunts I came up with the Maxpedition Rolly Polly.
Basic Facts and Figures
This bag continues the high-end build quality that Maxpedition aspire to:
The Rolly Polly range from Maxpedition is designed more or less as a backup bag or “bug out” bag. Its main feature is that it rolls up small when not in use. How small? Lets look:
Rolled up and ready to rock
The bag rolls up very small indeed. A mere size: 5” x 5” x 4” in size when folded. On the outside comes a few options for storing the bag in this mode – either by the hoop, the clip on the top or the molle loops. Its closure is held by the strongest of Velcro, but a single hard tug on the grip below the label will pull it open. Once pulled the bag rolls out revealing the straps. The straps are then pulled around to the rear of the bag and the Velcro flap (that held the Rolly Polly shut) becomes the top closing mechanism. This Velcro is the main thing holding the top closed. This is both a good and bad thing as the insides are quickly accessible but the flap cannot be secured by a lock. The other thing holding the top shut is the way the straps are designed: by wearing the bag the straps pull the top closed. I would have preferred a zip here, but I guess it is a question of weight and space for a bladder.
That top closing – notice how the straps hold it closed
Rolling it back up is not hard and I was able to do it without practice. To quantify that last sentence consider this: I have a “three second” pop-up tent and, sure, it takes only three seconds to put up. To get it down and back in its bag is like practicing Judo on Zebedee from Magic Roundabout – its not easy! If putting a three second tent away is a level 10 (on the scale of “bastard’ness”) then rolling up the Rolly Polly is only level 4. The procedure to restore ‘packed’ mode: You empty the bag, fold in the sides, fold in half length-ways and then roll it up and Velcro closed. Finally, sit on it and adjust.
On the rear of the bag are two zippered pockets and one zipped liner pocket (shown above the Velcro patch on the left image) These pockets are good places to store items that would move about in the main compartment and the lower one comes with a fob for keys. I keep my camcorder in this one with no hassles. As you can see the bottom pocket also has a large patch for Velcro attached items – such as ID tags, etc. The straps (shown in the second image) are very light and strong with a chest clip and Molle loops running up the sides. The two top loops are rubber Molle and would perform very well for drinking bladders. The straps are well balanced and will not crumple when the bag is in use.
Inside the main compartment (shown in the third image) there are three sections. The first is a fold out Velcro lined zippered pocket. This is perfect for any items that would perhaps fall out of the compartment. The second is the main holding space. This is much bigger than you think and the bag ‘balloons’ well to accommodate larger items. At the bottom of this is a drainage hole. The third section is separated by a thin membrane and this is where you would put a bladder.
One nice feature, and a throw-away one that will possibly come in handy, is the inclusion of mini whistle on the chest clip.
The whistle on the clip
One good blow on this is very loud and since it is always accessible it is very welcome.
In the field:
Field testing any bag always highlights the real issues, I have broken many products that felt strong and good out of the box in the course of my adventures (I am looking at you Viper!), and think a proper field test is vital to any product being successful in its function. For this bag I chose a real test: cycling up Mt John in New Zealand.
I filled the bag with the following:
The bag was full in volume but about half the maximum comfortable weight. We cycled up the mountain in about 3 and a half hours, which was seriously hard going in places and bloody windy. At the top was a large observatory that had a nice little cafe. The bag was pulled around and taken on and off many times. It performed very well and all the seams withstood whatever I threw at it. It was also very comfortable to wear with no tugs and pulls against my frame through bad design. The Velcro holding the bag closed did not come lose once and all in all I am very satisfied.
To compare it to its competition I have tried on and used Cesca’s similar Life Venture fold up bag. This one is simply not designed to the level of the Rolly Polly and is nowhere near as comfortable to wear. It has lasted 4 months use with few issues, Cesca reports, but I am the one massaging her shoulders when it hurts! The main differentia is the price.
So a quick recap of the good and bad points:
Overall I like the Rolly Polly a lot and use it everyday. If it does fail in any respect I will write a “Epic Fail” post so check back. However, given Maxpedition’s reputation, and the strength of my other Maxpedition items: I have no doubt it will be working fine in years to come!
Overall it scores a good 8.
Basho defeats Mt John!