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Chrome have a reputation for making good-quality, spartan messenger-style bags, so I was looking forward to trying their Yalta rucksack. There's a lot to like about the Yalta but sadly it didn't suit me at all.
Having tried a range of Chrome bags now, it may be that they work fine for other people but just don't suit me – as someone who's skinny and relatively slim-chested, it seems that only the smaller bags in the Chrome range fit OK. The Yalta's straps were very comfy, but I had to wear the bag high on my back for it to sit securely, with no potential to sway. This meant it hit the back of my neck when I was on the bike, which was annoying. It was consequently quite awkward looking over my shoulder for traffic behind me, and, worse, the bag obscured my line of sight when I did manage to turn my head – a no-no for a commuting bag.
My other main gripe with the Yalta is the narrowness of the roll top. Roll tops must necessarily be long, so there's enough fabric to, erm, roll to keep it truly watertight. The metal catch securing the roll is neat, but the roll top itself doesn't leave much space either to put things into the bag - making it awkward with loose-leafed papers and books, or fitting in and arranging bulky items - or to see what is hiding in the deep recesses. A bag this big (and it will fit everything you'd want to commute with, or a weekend's worth of spare pants and general bits and pieces) deserves a larger opening.
The front pocket, meanwhile, is small, but big enough for keys, phone and a wallet, and accessed through a super-tough zip. And the bag's second main compartment, I almost missed – it's hidden behind a recessed zip along the bag's right-hand side, meaning you can swing the rucksack off your left shoulder and access it reasonably easy. This second compartment is large enough for more books and papers, or dirty bibshorts, and essentially opens up the space in-between the main pocket's truck tarp liner and the outer layer of waterproof fabric. Chrome's idea, you see, which it carries across its bag range, is to have a completely free-floating inner bag made of tarpaulin-strength nylon within the outer shell. Not only does this make the bag's as tough as old boots, it also means the main pocket is very, very waterproof. Seriously, you could be out catching king crab on a trawler in the middle of a winter storm on the Baring Sea, and your diary and work shirt would stay dry. This makes the decision to put the laptop sleeve within the second (ie: non-double-lined) compartment slightly puzzling: surely, you'd want your laptop to stay driest? To which I can only answer that the bag inspires confidence - I wouldn't have any worries about a laptop within, even in a heavy downpour.
Chrome were making 'serious' messenger bags before the explosion in mainstream interest in couriers and the like, so I reckon the company knows its onions, and its construction methods have been road-tested through the foulest north American winters. It's a shame, then, that this bag didn't work for me. Perhaps it will for you. If you're looking for a super-tough, no-frills rucksack, I'd say it's worth a test to see if it fits.
This one wasn't for me. It's very well made, and Chrome are hugely experienced, so it must work for some people. I'd recommend trying it on and having a good root around in it: if it fits you and suits your purposes, you'll have a waterproof workhorse of a bag.
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Make and model: Chrome Yalta rucksack
Size tested: black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"Use: The do everything bag in your quiver. On Monday the Yalta carries everything you need for the daily grind, including your precious laptop. On Friday, pack it full with toiletries, a change of clothes or two, and you're set to get the hell out of Dodge. Separate zippered back section magically transforms from laptop storage to dirty underwear quarantine. Monday: Repeat.
Rideability (out of 3): ***
Laptop Compatibility: Up to 15'.
Organization: Main bucket compartment for all the big stuff. External front pocket for wallet, keys, phone, and other essentials. Full-length back zippered pocket section with built-in laptop sleeve and extra room for whatever else you want to hide and protect.
Typical Haul: Up to 15' laptop, changes of clothes, lunch, two books, water bottle. Great for trips to the grocery store and spontaneous freight hopping missions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Quoted spec is as follows...
Fabric: 1,000 denier Tarpaulin outer shell, 18 oz. truck tarp liner
Flat Dimensions: 14' wide, 21' high, 6' deep
- Weatherproof 1,000 denier Tarpaulin outer shells for maximum water resistance
Stainless steel hook rolltop closure
- Floating bucket liner for added wetness protection
- Laptop compartment, fits up to 15'
- Front zippered pockets for extra organization
- Ergonomic EVA foam back panel with air mesh shoulder straps
- Industrial metal cam lock under arm compression buckles
- Cross-chest load stabilizer
Excellently made and extremely robust.
For all the reasons above, I didn't get on with this.
Hasn't worn at all in the month's commuting it's done, and looks like it would go forever.
Manufacturer claims 3.5lbs (about 1.5kg). Can't really complain because of the construction quality.
Straps were comfy, if a little sweaty, and it took the weight well, but it didn't sit right on my back.
It's not cheap, but will last forever.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Not a comfy or practical bag for me.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The construction. The roll top and the neat fastening, and the hidden second pocket.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The narrow opening to the main compartment; the way it hit the back of my neck when I was leaning over the handlebars, and how it obscured my over-the-shoulder vision.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd recommend the manufacturer, but couldn't recommend this bag from my experience of it.
Age: 31 Height: 1.78m Weight: 65kg
I usually ride: Cinelli Strato road or fixed commuter hack. My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,