One thing I’ve never really thought that much about is the bag that I’m carrying my gear in. I know it’s a big deal to many but for me as long as stuff fits in and it’s reasonably comfortable I’m set. I have a couple of different bags that I rotate through but other than them being able to hold what I need they are an afterthought. After my recent Video Editing Go-Bag article I was contacted by GRUV GEAR about taking one of their bags for a spin. With a couple of trips up on the calendar I gladly accepted.
Gruv Gear sent me their Club Bag. It’s a very nice, well constructed backpack with a ton of features. At $150 it’s somewhat in the middle of the market as far as cost. An extra part of buying into the Gruv system is that you can get more than just the backpack when putting together your system. Any number of small Bento zipper packs can be purchased to store all of the little odds and ends you might need to carry. These little pouches are handy and well constructed. Divide your things up right and you can quickly grab one of the Bento Boxes separate from the bag if you need to just take one of them along without the whole bag.
They also utilize the Sliiv Technology Sleeve system which is an extra layer of protection for your laptop as well as some safety when traveling (more on that in a bit). It also came with an orange tether hanging off which makes it compatible with Gruv Gear’s Krane carts and, from what the website says, “most luggage handles.” I hadn’t heard of Gruv Gear but apparently they are well known in the music circles. PVC’s sister company Filmtools sells a couple of the Gruv bags which is what put them on my radar.
When it comes to a good backpack I think the most important things are ample, usable space, ease of access to what you might carry in the backpack and overall comfort. Let’s look at those three things.
There is very good but very purposeful space in the Club Bag. This differs from my usual daily backpack which is just a whole bunch of pockets that will attempt to hold anything you throw in. The most obvious pocket in the Club is the laptop compartment. It’s in the back and padded just as a laptop compartment should be. There’s also a flat pocket (and a business card pocket) in there that’s a great place to stick a couple of magazines. This laptop compartment is deep enough to also fit my beloved Apple Extended keyboard with keypad which I consider a necessity when doing any real mobile editing with a laptop.
There’s also what they call a glovebox which will be one of the most accessed compartments on the Club Bag. It’s a medium sized space behind a zippered door that is designed to be that abundant and easy access space where you’ll probably keep most of your day-to-day stuff.
There are 3 zippered mesh pockets inside the glovebox as well as a large velcro strap at the top designed to hold a pair of glasses, headphones or something similar. It’s a clever little addition but I’m not sure I’d want my glasses hanging lens down if the glovebox is packed full of stuff and the bag is getting jostled around. One thing missing from this bag that I would have expected to see in the glovebox is a hook for a set of keys, a Tile or something like that. I didn’t think I would miss that but I have.
The main compartment and largest storage area of the backpack is a rather cavernous section of the bag that can be divided in two with a velcro shelf. It makes for some nice very functionality as you have a choice in how to use the Club Bag’s biggest storage space. Access to this area is via two zippered locker doors on either side of the bag. When you have the shelf installed and you open the doors it really looks like a ton of space.
For my recent trip to Adobe Video World I was carrying a Sony Rugged RAID with me. While it was too big to fit in the bag with the shelf installed it fit perfectly without it.
This left enough space in the compartment for the RAID’s power cables and one of the zipper pouches to sit above it for all the other cables and peripherals I had to take with me. I could have shoved a few more things in there but I didn’t want to pack it too tightly. Add the RAID and cable to the laptop and a few other power cables and such in the glovebox and I had a very nice, updated video editing go-bag that performed very well.
Ease of access
The quality of this Gruv Gear backpack is very good and the zippers fell like they will withstand a lot of use. Bright fabric tassels make those zippers easy see and grab. The upper glove box door pivots out when unzipped so that’s good access to dig around in and find what you want. If orange isn’t your color GRUV GEAR has a some other color options as well.
A zipper pocket on the glovebox door is where I would keep my keys, some change and a couple of USB sicks.
The laptop compartment has two zippers than can unzip all the way down to the bottom of the bag so depending on what kind of access you want to that pocket you can unzip a little or a whole lot.
In addition to an outer, zippered passport/boarding pass pocket, there’s also a couple of small velcro pouches on either side of the locker doors. These are easy to access even when wearing the backpack. The velcro on these pockets isn’t terribly strong so I had a thought of how easy it might be for someone to open one without the wearer knowing it if you were in a big crowd so I don’t think I’d put my wallet or cell phone in one of those outer pockets. It would be nice if one of them had a clasp or latch of some kind.
When I had the Gruv back full of laptop, RAID, everything else for my trip it weighed around 18 lbs. That is not light.
The GRUV GEAR Club Bag was very comfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are well padded, breathable and easy to adjust. There’s a chest strap that claps to keep the shoulder straps together. This is a must on a backpack that is going to be worn for any real length of time and carry a heady load. It was always easy to grab that second strap and get the thing on my back even when packed with the full weight of the on-the-go editing system.
I also spent a good deal of time with the backpack hanging from only one shoulder and that was comfortable as well. If you don’t need the shoulder straps (or on need one) you can tuck them into a pocket on the front.
This is great as shoulder straps can get in the way when you’re not wearing them. It’s also nice to have them out of the way if you’re just carrying the Club Bag with the padded handle on the top.
A little extra airport security
A nice feature for those laptop air travelers is the patent-pending ScanFly laptop system. This system uses two velcro straps at the top of the laptop compartment that connects to a Sliiv Tech Sleeve (sold separately). The idea here is that when you get to airport security (or anywhere that asks you to remove a laptop to go through an x-ray scanner) you can just flop the connected laptop sleeve out of the bag and lay it into the security tray to go through the x-ray tunnel. Since the laptop is in the Sliiv sleeve and still connected to the Gruv bag there is some extra security there as it would be a bit more difficult for someone to steal the laptop while it’s still connected to the bag. The Sliiv Tech Sleeves run from $30 – $35 depending on size. There are smaller ones for an iPad as well. An $18 shoulder strap will attach to make the Sliiv its own separate protective carry bag. A nice addition. While the website mentions the Macbook several times I can’t see why the Sliiv Tech Sleeve wouldn’t be compatible with any Macbook Pro-size laptop.
You can see in the image above how the connected Sliiv system works. My 15 inch Macbook Pro is out of the backpack in the tray for scanning as requested by security. It went through just fine. I wouldn’t suggest taking a picture right at the TSA security point though, they’ll give you a dirty look.
In addition to the Sliiv system making things a little more secure as your laptop goes thought airport security I think it makes your computer a little safer overall. Some laptop theft occurs when you turn you back long enough for a thief to get the computer out of a bag. With the Sliiv system connected it takes a bit of work to remove it. The velcro is very strong and the whole system requires some time for laptop removal.
The Sliiv system isn’t just for this specific backpack as there are others bags that support this system as well.
There are a million different options when it comes to backpacks and travel bags. Just look at the Storify near the bottom of my video editing go-bag article. How do you choose a new backpack? Sometimes I think a new bag comes from another’s suggestion. Often it’s browsing around the internet. I’ve had my old backpacks for a long time and they have performed well. I can honestly say I wasn’t in the market for a new backpack but when this Club Bag showed up to try out for this review I was quickly able to see how outdated and uncomfortable my main gear-bag backpack really is.
Overall I can safely say that the GRUV GEAR Club Bag backpack is a big update from both my all purpose backpack as well as my more gear and travel-centric Lowepro camera bag. I don’t think the GRUV GEAR Club Bag would ever be my day-to-day backpack that I take to the office as it’s more purpose built for heavy-duty traveling and doesn’t have enough different compartments for what I carry day-in and day-out going to my office, client offices, meetings etc. But it’s much more functional than the Lowepro camera bag both as a backpack that is going to carry a DSLR-camera kit and a video editing go-bag (A DSLR trip is next). And it’s way more comfortable. While I’d gladly sacrifice one of the little side velcro pockets for a mesh pocket that can carry a water bottle overall the Gruv Gear Club Bag is a comfortable, roomy and convenient backpack.
- Roomy and comfortable
- Easy to take off and put on
- Enormous and functional main storage compartment that is easy to access
- Optional Sliiv laptop system for extra traveling security as well as the Bento mini cases makes for maximum flexibility as well as pieces and parts that can be utilized without the Club Bag
- No dedicated hook to hold your keys
- No specific port to route a pair of headphones out of the bag but does anyone use those anyway?
- Options can add extra cost
- Test out the sunglasses holder before you trust your best pair to this storage option