USWE’s shouty USP — that its bags promise to rid the dancing monkey from your back — is how it’s derived its rather unconventional design.
How does this No Dancing Monkey (NDM) technology perform, then? Is it just a gimmick or does it solve the age-old problem of having a wayward pack strapped to your back?
USWE Airborne 15 backpack specifications
With a total carrying capacity of 15 litres that’s shared between two large compartments, the bag feels almost modular in design – with the elasticated helmet pouch sitting between the two main sections.
Inside the two compartments are 12 individual organiser pockets of varying sizes. Some are closable with zips and one has clips for keys. On the outside of the bag there’s a removable and waterproof phone pocket.
The shoulder straps form an ‘X’ shape across the front of your chest that couple together with a single clip. The straps are both elasticated and 4-way adjustable thanks to Velcro sections.
The helmet pouch and outer-most pocket are attached to the bag’s shoulder straps with adjustable sections. The back-facing section of the pack has padded, ribbed sections for ventilation.
The large/extra-large pack I tested is designed to fit torsos from 84cm to 110cm in diameter.
USWE Airborne 15 backpack performance
Thanks to the multiple storage pockets, I was never left scratching my head wondering where I was going to store tools, food and valuable items. These pockets help reduce the chance of fragile items getting damaged by bulkier items such as tools.
The external phone holder is good in theory with easy access to your mobile, but the pocket’s size is restricting, especially if you’ve got a larger, modern phone.
In reality, I found that the phone holder got in the way of the bag’s strap release catch and I was reluctant to store something so sharp and bulky that close to my chest in case I crashed. I kept my phone in one of the internal storage pockets, instead. Luckily the phone holder is removable.
Even with the bladder at its 3-litre capacity, there was still plenty of room in the bag for other things and I never felt like I needed more space even on day-long excursions.
The higher than normal position of the pack took some getting used to and I found that with it at max capacity the shoulder straps dug in. But the bag was exceptionally stable even on rough as hell tracks, especially when it was tight.
The required tightness to keep it from moving coupled with where the weight of the bag was concentrated — over your chest where the straps join together forming that ‘X’ shape — did restrict my breathing on the climbs.
The solution here was to loosen the bag’s straps, but if I forgot to tighten them back up for the descents the bag did move around. I’m sure there’s a compromise, but I couldn’t work out what it was.
The bag’s four adjustments are quite hard to master and it took a while for me to get it set up so that it was comfortable and stable. When the bag’s tight, it can be quite hard to get off, especially with the phone holder on the straps because it can get caught in your clothes.
It brushed off rain well and nothing inside the bag got wet.
Open face helmets are easy to secure in the pouch that sits between the two compartments, as long as neither compartment is carrying anything particularly solid or bulky. Once the lid was in there, it couldn’t bounce out over rough terrain.
Full face lids can be stored using their chin guard. However, getting the compartment tight enough to stabilise their bulk wasn’t possible and, over very rough terrain, the lid did bounce out.
When carrying an open-face helmet, access to the main bladder-storing compartment is restricted, and full-face lids block access to all of the bag’s pockets, which is frustrating.
USWE Airborne 15 backpack bottom line
The number of internal storage compartments is truly welcome and when the bag was tight enough it didn’t bounce around, just as USWE claims. But to get it tight enough, I found it restricted my breathing on the climbs, which isn’t ideal.
It was also tricky to get set up correctly and can be hard to take off. This all makes me wonder whether its unique design creates a solution to one problem but generates others along the way.