Made in the USA, and used by bike messengers and commuters around the planet, the Warsaw Backpack from Chrome is an iconic piece of gear.
Built to last with industrial-strength materials, the pack has an iconic price tag, too. But more on that below…. First, some accolades:
I’ve been testing the Warsaw for five months, riding almost daily with the pack and toting loads ranging from a laptop and lunch for work to massive hauls from the grocery store.
The pack is bomber all around, starting with its heavy-duty materials and stitching made to support 50+ pounds. (We don’t recommend that much weight on a bike, but it can be done!)
The Warsaw’s exterior is a handsome gray CORDURA nylon. Under the face fabric Chrome adds a waterproof tarpaulin liner that rain or road spray cannot penetrate.
There is no frame, so heavy loads can be hard. But the pack’s padded shoulder harness, metal-cam strap adjusters, and foam back-panel let you haul serious weight when needed.
My rides are far lighter. Ten to 15 pounds is about the max for a common day, and the Warsaw holds that weight with ease.
Its capacity is huge. The bag gives about 55 liters of storage space — that’s equivalent to an internal-frame backpacking backpack.
A single buckle closes the main lid flap. Inside, pockets and organizer slots abound. I keep my keys and phone in an open outside pocket, which sits near my hip for quick access. Chrome built it as an easy-grab place for a small U-lock or other items.
A caveat on that hip pocket: This may sound like a minor quibble, but inside that exterior pocket is a grommeted drain hole. More than once, I have reached quickly inside with a hand to grab my keys and have snagged a fingernail on the grommet edge — it’s not a sharp edge, but my nail gets caught on the grommet’s thin metal ring, which is slightly bumped out and not flush with the fabric. Strange, perhaps, but it can smart when unexpected, so look out.
Another caveat: Like other oversize bike packs, the Warsaw can block your vision when riding. It sits large across your back at 21 inches wide, and its top corners can interrupt your sight line when turning to look back on a busy city street — you see the pack corners and may think for a half-second that it’s a car.
I’ve had other wide packs with this same issue. To be clear, the packs do not block your vision, but they are tall on the back and wide so you can catch a glimpse of the pack when craning your neck to check for cars while merging onto a street. It’s an annoyance for the first couple times you ride with the pack, and then you get used to it. I don’t really notice anymore with the Warsaw.
Beyond those idiosyncrasies, the Chrome pack has been near-perfect for me. I like its build and simple single-flap closure. I can haul everything I need and much more on most days — the pack is both large inside and supportive. It looks low-profile when not stuffed with gear or groceries, lying pretty much flat on your back as the fabric shape folds and cinches in with the main buckle.
My only major complaint on this backpack is its cost. Remember that teaser on the “iconic” price tag, will how does $280 strike? Yep, that is a lot of cold cash for a backpack.
Chrome justifies the cost with a lifetime guarantee. You also get a markup with the “made in the USA” status. Chrome builds its bags in Chico, California.
Also, durability is a hallmark of the pack. The Warsaw, I can tell, will last for many years, if not decades. Its tough, thick fabric, strong stitching, and metal strap buckles are unlike anything I’ve seen in the bike-pack category.
You can spend $100 less from other brands and find a great pack for riding. But if you want the best — waterproof, comfortable, functional, durable, and good looking — the Warsaw is the complete package.
—Stephen Regenold is the founder of GearJunkie. He interviewed the president of Chrome last month in the article “8 Questions: Steve McCallion, President of Chrome Industries.”