Ribbed, knit-woven shoulder straps and a ‘sculpted’ foam back panel provide more backpacking-style comfort than Chrome’s typical urban-rugged packs. That’s the claim with its new Avail pack.
Chrome Industries just dropped a brand new commuter pack at the outdoor industry’s bi-annual trade show, Outdoor Retailer.
The 19-L Avail departs from the brand’s well-known seatbelt strap, tarp-lined messenger bags, and minimal aesthetic urban carriers. Instead, Chrome makes a big claim: It calls the Avail “the most comfortable backpack you will ever wear.”
Not to toot its own horn or anything.
The brand sent us a pack this week. While we aren’t ready to call it the most comfortable we’ve ever tried, it looks and feels softer and less austere than other Chrome packs we’ve used.
Chrome Industries Avail Backpack
- Capacity: 19 L
- Colors: Black, gray, or white
- Weight: 2.2 lbs.
- Construction: 1,050d nylon body, EVA foam back panel, 150d elastic knit harness
- Waterproof: No, but weather resistant
- Storage: Single main compartment with internal zip pocket, one external zip stash pocket
- Laptop sleeve: 13-inch (fits 15-inch)
- Water bottle pocket: 1
- Light mount: Yes
- Reflective elements: Zipper pulls, side straps
- Price: $200
Chrome Industries Avail Backpack
“I didn’t want to make a backpack just for bikers,” said Mike Valvano, who worked on the design of the pack. “We built this for people who bike, scooter, skateboard, and walk.”
So while we haven’t had the chance to take the Avail on many rides around town, we have worn it around the city and used some of its storage features.
On its surface, the Avail looks cleaner than the Chrome bags we’re used to. The face of the pack is a smooth, coated surface — available in black, white, or gray. The rest of the pack’s body is black.
Besides the main zippered compartment, there is a single zippered stash pocket on the top of the bag. This proves perfect for everyday valuables like a wallet or phone. The YKK zippers have flexible, plastic pulls but are not waterproof. Like many of Chrome’s other bags, the Avail uses 1,050-denier nylon, making it weather resistant but not waterproof.
The pack’s interior looks durable and well-built, which we expect from Chrome. The Avail also carries Chrome’s lifetime warranty. The main compartment holds 19 L, decent for commuters but not large by any means. We were able to pack a puffy and change of clothes with just a little room to spare.
Chrome advertises the padded laptop sleeve will hold a 13-inch computer, but we were able to fit a 15-inch MacBook Pro easily. Besides the sleeve, the Avail has five organization options: two pen compartments, two medium-sized pockets, and a larger zippered pocket. This last pocket sports a built-in key clip and could hold sunglasses, earbuds, and other knick-knacks.
Finally, the Avail has a single side bottle pocket that’s about two-thirds stretchable mesh. It proved capable of accommodating a standard Nalgene snugly.
Chrome Avail Backpack Comfort
By Chrome’s own words, the main selling point for the Avail is its comfort on the body. To achieve this, Chrome created “knit-woven shoulder straps wrapped around closed-cell foam.” In plain terms, the straps are thick, soft, and have ribbed channels that help keep the pack stable. And the straps are pre-formed to help match the body’s natural contours.
Meanwhile, the back panel uses textured EVA foam covered with mesh to help improve airflow. While we still have to try the pack during rigorous riding, against the back it feels noticeably softer and fits better than typical commuter packs. The back panel also slopes upward at its base to press into the lower back and help keep the bag from sliding during activity.
And though the straps and panel mark the most obvious additions for comfort’s sake, it’s what the pack doesn’t have that’s meant to improve its wearability. You won’t find any compression straps or a waist belt.
I asked Valvano about this, and his reasoning went back to Avail’s multipurpose design.
“We looked at waist straps, and they can be great,” he said. “But again, if you’re on the subway with this or walking downtown, it’s just dangling there. We wanted to keep this pack clean and free of anything unnecessary.”
And to help stabilize the load, Chrome gave it a sloping profile designed to keep as close to the body as possible without adding any extra straps.
What We Like Most / What We’d Like Better
The most comfortable backpack ever? Probably not. But the most comfortable Chrome bag ever? Maybe. The Avail has less grunge and more modern features to accommodate casual urban commuters.
With plenty of organization, a fair amount of style, and comfortable carriage, the Avail seems like a good fit for regular campus commuters and 9-to-5 folks alike — regardless of how they’re getting around town. It won’t beat out the brand’s tarp-lined messenger bags on sheer bombproof function, but it looks to have the chops necessary to meet the daily grind for most.
That said, we have a few wish-list items for this pack. For starters, the jury is still out on the lack of a waist belt. Not everyone loves it, but a waist belt is great to keep a pack situated during physical activity. To address this, Chrome gave the Avail a sloping back panel aimed at keeping it in place. We still need to take time to see how this feels and whether the sliding sternum strap will provide enough stability.
And the lack of straps does give the pack a clean look, but maybe too much so. While the Avail looks sleek AF, a typical city commute will dirty this bag quickly. In a day of use, my white pack has plenty of smudges from normal treks around town. Still, many may wear that like a badge of honor — us included.
Lastly, while Chrome added reflective cuts on the zipper pulls and one of the side straps, we’d like to see a more rear-facing reflective accent to catch motorists’ attention as they approach from behind. To address this, Chrome added a light mount that we recommend using.
All in all, the $200 Avail is one of the most comfortable Chrome bags — out of the box — that we’ve tried. We look forward to putting it through the wringer on our daily commutes to see how it holds up to regular, relentless use.