The 174Hudson ($79.99) is a budget-friendly pannier that converts to a backpack. There is a symbiosis with this design that, on one hand, appeals to me. Converting from pannier to pack gives you carry options. But on the other hand visions of marble cake come to mind.
Yes, marble cake.
Vanilla, chocolate, make up your mind! Pick a side, pick a flavor.
Pannier, backpack, make up your mind!
Enough already. On to the review!
What I liked
- Comfortable shoulder straps. This has always been my beef with convertible couplings. So many just stitch on thin shoulder straps that cut into my shoulders making them pretty much useless. But the 174Hudson’s are actually nicely padded and comfortable when carrying heavier loads–which is hard to avoid when the pannier itself weighs in at three pounds, four ounces empty.
- Simple mounting system that’s easy to use. The 174Hudson’s mounting system consists of two non-locking, plastic clasps that hang from the top of the bike rack. A plastic flip-lock secures the pannier to the rack’s top bar. As the 174Hudson converts into a backpack, its waist straps attach to the bottom of the rack for additional security and stability. However, I found buckling them to be fiddly to ensure they do not come into contact with the rear wheel or spokes.
- Versatile. The 174Hudson comes with stashable backpack shoulder straps that fit conveniently into the same zippered pocket that houses the rack attachment hooks when not in use. Converting from pannier to backpack requires multiple steps. You first remove the straps from their pocket and clip them via the plastic waist strap clips. The sternum strap also needs to be unclipped. Once all buckles are attached, the zippered pocket is then zipped and the waist strap adjusted. To convert from backpack to pannier, unclip the waist and sternum straps and unzip the stash pocket. Stuff the backpack straps inside, making sure they lay flat so they don’t create any bulk. Then neatly fold the flap down inside the pocket to the zipper point.
- Durable. The 174Hudson is made from a heavy wax-treated canvas that is water-resistant in drizzle and light snow. The zippers that allow entry into the main compartment and the exterior pocket are waterproof–yet oddly enough, the rest of the pack isn’t. The mounting system is made of one plastic locking clip and two heavy and durable plastic clips.
- Nice features for the price. Organizational features of the 174Hudson includes one large main compartment one secured outer pocket that are sealed with waterproof zippers. Two additional outer snap-pockets work very well for carrying items like bike tools and spare tubes. These two pockets are deep making it very difficult for items to pop out. Inside the pannier is a padded laptop sleeve did hold my IBM ThinkPad. The zippered outside pocket easily carried my wallet, badge and phone. Two convenient mesh pockets on the sides held my commuter coffee mug and bike lock.
What I didn’t like/could be better
- No grab handle. The cyclist will always need to convert it to backpack for transport off the bike. Which requires some fiddling. Long story short, I rode to my local bus station in the ‘burbs of Minneapolis to catch a commuter bus into downtown Minneapolis. As I pulled my bike into the bike rack and locked it, I realized the bus was starting to pull away. Not having a grab loop or enough time to fiddle the pannier into a pack, I had to hold it to my chest while I sprinted to the moving bus. But this is why I don’t ride the bus very often.
- Heavy. It’s three pounds, four ounces empty. After packing clothes, shoes and other stuff for the day, I was humping a twenty pound pack into the office.
- Waist strap always has to be adjusted. The waist straps have a dual purpose: waist strap when in backpack mode and bottom rack clip when in pannier mode. This constant adjustment when converting from backpack to pannier and vice versa isn’t hard, it’s just one more thing to do.
- No reflective elements. WHAT?!! Come on, throw some reflective elements on, people.
- Not waterproof. The 174Hudson is made with a roll-top closure with waterproof zippers and heavy wax-treated canvas that makes is very water resistant in light rain and heavy snow. Here’s where I raise an eyebrow. The zippers are waterproof but the rest of the bag isn’t? Okay…
The 174Hudson has hip and stylish good looks. It’s durable, has good organization and is somewhat roomy. It’s also at an attractive price point for the budget-conscious bike commuter. But if you’re the kind of bike commuter who needs to make fast transitions between bike and bus, you’re going to have to spend some time practicing that fast transition.