Skingrowsback is an Australian-based company that was started by a couple in 2006. Jamie and Catt were working as bike messengers at the time and were using old tubes to create purses for their friends. Soon, they were making lock loops, top tube pads, phone pouches and hip packs before they unveiled their first messenger bag in 2008.
The number of products in skingrowsback’s catalogue has grown since, yet the company continues to undertake all of its own manufacturing with production facilities located in Ulladulla on the south coast of New South Wales. Jamie has a demanding eye for detail and high expectations for the utility, robustness and presentation of every product.
The PAK30 is the centrepiece of the company’s bag collection. Measuring 50 x 30 x 20cm, the PAK30 offers 30L of storage. The main compartment is zippered on three sides for easy packing. On the inside, there are a few flat pockets and a sleeve for a bidon, and on the outside, there are four compression straps for locking the contents of the pack in place.
There are also a few more pockets on the outside of the PAK30: at the front, there is a large document pocket and another smaller flat pocket under the padding at the rear; a third zippered compartment can be found at the top of the pack that is ideal for storing sunglasses.
Heavyweight waterproof nylon is used for the exterior of the bag while the interior is lined with a lightweight nylon. The back and straps of the PAK30 are padded and lined with mesh and there is a magnetic sternum strap.
The storage capabilities of the PAK30 can be extended in three ways. First, there are six MOLLE straps on the front of the pack that can be used to attach a variety of accessories; second, a helmet scoop can be fitted to the compression straps; and third, the shoulder straps are equipped with straps and loops for attaching items such as a bottle caddy.
Skingrowsback has also created a range of packing cells for the PAK30. These cells come in a three sizes (Mini, Mid, and XL) along with a shoe bag that can be used in various combinations for compartmentalising the contents of the PAK30. In this way sweaty riding gear can be stored next to dry clothes and wet shoes when daytripping or travelling to a race.
There are 20 different colour combinations for the PAK30 comprising 12 solid colours and eight prints. There is also a custom option that allows buyers to select their own combination of exterior nylon, webbing, and zipper pulls at no extra charge. As for the packing cells, they are manufactured on demand from the same range of colours and prints as the PAK30.
The PAK30 is an impressive backpack, especially when combined with the packing cells. Having used a variety of backpacks over the years, the lack of compartments has always frustrated me. Any kind of layering of clothing and items is inevitably corrupted as the pack is moved around resulting in a game of lucky dip when trying to retrieve something.
Separating riding kit from shoes, clothing and toiletries is one obvious way to use the cells. I can also see it working well for parents taking babies/toddlers/kids on a day-tripping ride. Yes, the packing cells add to the expense of the PAK30 but they definitely improve the utility of the pack (and since they’re designed to fit the PAK30, there’s no need to be tetris-master to pack the bag with them).
The PAK30 and packing cells are carefully constructed from sturdy waterproof materials. Jamie’s attention to detail can be seen in every part of the PAK30 and the result is a backpack that is not only easy to wear but promises to be hard-wearing. In this regard, the sternum strap deserves a special mention: the magnetic mechanism was easy to engage and it locks into place very effectively, yet it slides apart without much effort too.
Another strong feature of the PAK30 is the way the carrying capacity can be increased using the MOLLE straps and various accessories from skingrowsback. None of these options are a necessity, yet they allow the individual to customise the pack to suit their needs. At the same time, buyers get a choice of some novel camouflage patterns and striking colour combinations — with the freedom to choose their own — so it’s hard to identify any shortcomings for this product.
Price: PAK30, AUD$250 (~US$180); Mini packing cell, AUD$25 (~US$18); Mid packing cell, AUD$34 (~US$24); XL packing cell, $AUD44 (~US$32); full set packing cells, AUD$90 (~US$65); shoe cell, AUD$40 (~US$29).