If you're looking for a bag that's big enough to take pretty much anything you might conceivably want to take to work — packed lunch, gym kit, laptop, wallet, books, pens, kitchen sink — then the generously sized Broad Haven rucksack from Welsh brand Howies will be right up your street.
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While Howies advertise the bag as having an 18-litre capacity, in practice it feels like you can cram an awful lot more into its TARDIS-like interior.
There are enough pockets and compartments to safely stow pretty much anything you can think of. At the top, a fleece lined small zipped pocket is ideal for sunglasses, but also works for small items you may want to access quickly such as keys or purses. A second small pocket on the front is good for mobile phones, and then there's the open top mesh pocket as well as two open top-side pockets.
The bag has an internal divider and zip at the bottom, which means you can stow your smelly shoes or gym kit at the base of the bag and it stays separate to your other kit. This dividing panel is ample enough to expand down into the lower section if it's not in use so you have a larger main compartment, or upwards if you need to stow more kit in the lower section.
Strapped and secure
For those that wield a laptop, a separate padded fleece-lined compartment will keep your electronic book of joy safe and separate to the main contents of the bag, again with it's own external opening. Inside the main compartment there's a small zipped pocket for valuables and a larger pocket with elasticated top for paperwork or folders — it's big enough to take up to 15-inch machines.
The padded straps are good at cushioning the shoulders against the weight of a heavily laden bag and there's a chest strap to stop the bag moving around too much when cycling on the road, but no hip strap.
It's the lack of hip strap that means in our opinion this bag isn't quite right for mountain biking. For example, we found it wasn't secure enough over rough terrain, particularly with loads of things in it. It also means the full weight of the bag is on the shoulders and chest, rather than distributed across the lower back and hips too.
The Compression straps on the side do make it easy to cinch the bag to secure the contents however, and all the shoulder and chest strap adjusters are easy to use too.
What about water?
There are numerous reflective details on the Broad Haven, and it also comes with a waterproof bag cover with a bright reflective detail — so again a handy feature for those darker Autumn commutes. It's particularly handy as the bag itself isn't waterproof.
One thing it doesn't have is a hydration system, or compatibility with one. If you want liquids you'll have to opt for storing them in an old-fashioned water bottle or bidon, rather than a hydration pouch.
While there are many good features to this bag, in our opinion it doesn't quite have the performance characteristics to make it suitable for mountain biking or touring. However, it's absolutely perfect for commuters and back-to-schoolers, or indeed anyone else who carries tonnes of stuff regularly and switches between cycling, walking or getting the train, bus or car.
The Broad Haven rucksack is available from the Howies website for £49 / US$79. Australian prices aren't listed, but Howies do deliver internationally.