Do you know that moment when you are thinking, god, my backpack is completely covered in mud and there is THOUSANDS of dollars of gear inside but we are going to hose it off with a blast of water like nobody's business?
I do not. I am not that brave. But one of our reviewers, professional photographer Cam Camarena, was certainly brave enough to put enough trust in the Patagonia Stormfront to do exactly that. He also didn't kill me for ruining all of his gear, so let's take the fact we're getting around to reviewing this as a good sign.
The Patagonia Stormfront 30L's purpose doesn't revolve around dominating the boardroom; it's about dominating Mother Nature. Patagonia's Stormfront pack is unique in the fact that it claims to be 100% waterproof, with the highest level of protection possible. At $299, there are definitely cheaper bags on the market, but for heavy-grade adventure stuff, most people will be thankful for the protection at the end of the day.
This bag definitely serves a very, very specific market, so if you're just cavorting around Europe, there are better options available,. For travelers who prefer less extreme activities, there are many other bags that fit the bill and get the job done just fine.
But if you're gonna go off-roading for nine days on a motorbike through northern Vietnam—which we did, and what we put this bag through quite possibly legitimately qualifies as abuse—this bag is a much better fit. That or climbing Mount Everest.
Sizing up the bag and bag construction
The Patagonia Stormfront 30L is a good-sized bag for a decently substantial trip. In this case, we took for a decent two weeks around Southeast Asia including a nine-day motorcycle ride around the countryside
For the most part, we are fans of the 30L sizeTK. It measures 20 inches x 12 inches x 9 inches (50.8 cm x 30.4 cm x 22.8 cm).
It is also super light, weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces (822 grams), and strikes a great compromise between durability and portability. Anything that weighs under 2 pounds is amazing in my book. Because we all know every time another pound is added to a bag or a suitcase, a kitten dies. That's a truth, not an alternative fact.
Its base materials consist of 800-denier nylon with a single-side thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) coating to prevent prevent oil, grease and normal, abrasive wear and tear. It is also finished with a durable water repellent finish. Its got a great feel and inspires a lot of confidence that it can hold up to a lot of abuse—and indeed, it can.
Part of its great waterproofness lies in its high-grade gas-, pressure- and watertight Tizip zippers, which are not just used in rugged, functional backpacks, but diving suits, chemical protection and gas protection suits, among other things. Lubricant is also provided for the zippers (it is suggested they get a good rub every couple of months); this is serious stuff.
(Zippers are the one thing we tend to pay attention to a lot when it comes to bags—and most people rarely check—because they literally make or break a bag if they're not up to snuff and snag.)
Organization, structure, and how it plays out
It is when it it comes to the organization and structure of the Patagonia Stormfront, there's not a ton of things to write home about. In general, there is one small front pocket and the rest of the bag opens up to one giant, main compartment. The main compartment has a smaller pocket alongside the back to store and secure more important belongings.
On the exterior of the bag, there are loops on either side to secure items that may need to be accessed more often (one loop on the left side, two perforated loops used for rods on the right side). These can be used for a multitude of items.
(Camarena noted that he used the left loop to attach keys, the right loops for a water bottle and beach mat. Another reviewer has noted he was able to add “a few kilos” through that. In metric speak, a kilo is about 2.2 pounds, so that's a couple of decent extra pounds.)
Often weight tends to have an inverse relationship with a bag's structure: Organization come at a price. Partially, in fault, because the bag is so light, weighing in under 2 pounds, there is not a ton of structure beyond the padded shoulder harness, back straps and removable waist belt.
The padding and mesh are all materials conducive to breathing well, and there wasn't a ton of (if any) back sweat to report back on.
In fact, its main weakness does lie in its lack of organization (some people could see this flexibility as a pro), and it is further compounded by the fact that there are no adjustable compression straps on the side, which would pull the pack in and help hold the contents in place if it's not especially full.
In general, Camarena noted that he wished the bag had a little bit more interior organization, noting he eventually removed his laptop from the Stormfront to prevent it from sliding around. Things do get kinda crazy in there.
Hauling it around on the back of a motorcycle
Though it was taken for quite a ride throughout Southeast Asia, the main test of the Patagonia Stormfront came during a eight-day motorcycle ride.
Here's what we shoved comfortably in the bag:
- Four day's worth of clothes
- Toiletry/DOPP bag
- Sony RX 100
- 15-inch laptop
- GoPro and accessories
- Water bottle
- Beach mat
- Flip flops
- Passport, wallet, keys
Basically, it suffered through approximately 11,121 miles (17,899 km)1 over almost a full month period from Dec. 29 to Jan. 30. this past winter. And it got the full treatment through rivers, lakes, and muddy rice paddies.
Said if he'd take the bag again? Camarena answers it this way: "It sure is a hell of a lot cheaper to buy a $300 bag than replace $1500 of new gear, that's for sure."
- Route is as follows: Los Angeles, Calif. --> Hanoi, Vietnam --> motorcycle trip around northern Vietnam --> Siem Riep, Cambodia --> Phuket, Thailand --> Hanoi, Vietnam --> Los, Angeles, Calif. ↩