Timbuk2 Robin’s reflective backpanel on display

Like the Turdus migratorius (American Robin) the Timbuk2 Robin ($179) is part of Timbuk2’s new spring line, a beacon of hope of things to come. It’s a reflective, weatherproof roll top-style commuter backpack with a magnetic closure and a flock of enchanting features for the cyclist.

My hope is that if I review enough pieces of gear for bike commuting, there will be at least one that is the impetus to get more people to park their cars and ride bikes to work. But then I am reminded of the immortal words of Downton Abby’s Dowager Countess: “Hope is a tease, designed to prevent us from accepting reality.”

I tried. On to the review.

Timbuk2 Robin’s reflective side striping on display

What I liked:

Sturdy construction with sturdy materials. Those materials would be 600D PVC coated fabric coupled with 940D Cordura nylon. You could crash on your bike and skid down the pavement on your back for 100 feet and not even come close to compromising the pack’s integrity. There is a downside to this: It’s heavy (2.8 pounds of commuter-cycling love).

Outstanding reflectivity. As an avid bike commuter, this is what I like to see—because a lot of times, drivers don’t see us. First, the back of the pack. There is a wide reflective mesh panel at the lower third of the pack and a prominently-placed logo on the top flap. The result is really terrific when light hits.

On the side pockets are reflective striping. On the shoulder straps there is a long and wide swath of the same reflective mesh as well another prominently-placed reflective Timbuk2 logo. And if you have further doubt or faith in a driver’s ability to see you in the dark morning or evening hours, there are two vista loops to which you can attach blinkie lights.

Timbuk2 Robin’s reflective shoulder straps on display

If you want to get really obnoxious, use the detachable, stashable rain fly that has even more reflective elements. The other thing I want to point out is that the Robin’s reflective element work very well in low light, too, not just darkness and in the presence of streetlights or car headlights.

Dual-stretch side pockets. They’re not huge but they hold my Abus bike lock and Camelbak Podium Chill squeeze bottle with the grip of life. They also have grommeted drain holes although for the life of me, I can’t imagine what purpose they play. To let rainwater drain through if you choose not to engage the stashable, integrated rain fly?

Narrow, streamlined silhouette. I loathe any commuter pack that is wide. I just don’t find them all that comfortable for my body size as they tend to skew weight distribution . The Timbuk2 Robin keeps everything nicely positioned on my back and doesn’t impeded my field of vision when I look over my shoulder.

Timbuk2 Robin’s reflective rain fly on display (as seen by cars)

Ventilated back panel. Yes! This is the first time I’ve seen this style of back panel on a Timbuk2 back pack. It’s called “Airmesh” and it is comprised of two three-wide strips of heavy closed-cell foam covered in breathable mesh that runs vertically down both sides of the spine. It conformed nicely to my back and it was comfortable, even with a laptop inside.

As for how well it mitigates back sweat, I cannot say just yet. I tested this pack in January and I live in Minneapolis. Not exactly the best time and place to test a back panel’s breathability. But it does have all the signs that it will be a comfortable pack in warmer weather.

Suspended laptop compartment. Why do I like this? Because I have dropped packs before and this feature helps protect my laptop in falls.

Timbuk2 Robin’s reflective rain fly on display from the sides (as seen by cars)

Storage is just right. There are packs that have pockets in the double-digit numbers. I don’t think they’re necessary. All they do is encourage me to fill them, which only increases the weight on my back. A pocket for an iPad, you say? Hang on while it grab one! A pocket for a Kindle? I’m on it! A soft stealth pocket for delicate electronics? Well…I’m sure I could find some to fill it…Pen and pencil holders? Don’t use them but they’re there for a reason so…

You see where I’m going here? Instead, the Timbuk2 Robin offers a large internal compartment (with a separate padded, Velcro-flap-secured laptop compartment) and two smaller exterior pockets—one of which is secured with a magnetic closure and one of which is secured with a sturdy zipper. It doesn’t encourage you to fill the pack with everything from your home office. Just what you need for the day.

What I didn’t like:

Heavy. Not disc-bulging heavy to the point where chiropractic care is needed but an empty Robin is 2.8lbs of extra weight after you load it with your laptop, clothes, shoes, phone, lunch, etc. Weight, sadly, is the collateral damage of sturdy construction with sturdy materials. It’s just a choice the cyclist has to make. Heavy pack = durable construction. Light pack = not so durable construction.

Velcro flap that secures the laptop compartment. Yes, I realize this makes the laptop extra secure but I also found that it’s an extra (cumbersome) step to get to my laptop. Especially because the Velcro is so durable.

Final thoughts:

The Timbuk2 Robin is easily the most impressive pack I’ve seen from Timbuk2 in a while. Its price point certainly reflects the thought, design, and purpose. It is an outstanding pack for the commuter cyclist because it’s highly reflective while not be overloaded with extra pockets and features that the commuter cyclist doesn’t need.

Plus, it’s Timuk2 so it comes with a lifetime warranty. This is a pack that will be with you for many years of bike commuting.

The Timbuk2 Robin is a Gear Gals Piece of Recommended Gear—with absolutely no reservations.

  • Timbuk2
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