This is everyone’s favorite kind of post – one where I get to admit I was really wrong and have to eat a little crow. Oh, and there’s some Bobby involved… I still don’t get his appeal but you people seem to like him for some reason. I have to assume it’s because you don’t know him or have to spend time with him on a regular basis. Alas, I digress…
I never really understood the ringside backpack craze. If you’re a catchrider or a trainer, I could see how it would be useful. But the rest of us? I just didn’t see it, and I sure didn’t see it enough to pay $100+ for one (or in the case of this particular one, $89 from Riding Warehouse). Then our team won the Noble Outfitters ringside backpack as part of our prizes from the Adult Team Championship, and I was proven wrong.
My first impression of the backpack was just how much stuff it could hold. When we got back to our hotel room that first night after winning the ATC and started going through our backpacks, it was like a magic hat. It seemed like the more stuff I pulled out, the more I found hidden within. I didn’t even realize we’d won coolers until I got to the big zippered compartment and went “Oh my god, there’s a cooler in here!”. You know you’ve got serious storage capacity when you can have a giant cooler in your backpack and not even know it.
There are lots of different compartments in this bag. The first and most obvious one is the front pocket, designed to hold a helmet. I think Noble Outfitters has a superior design to some other companies here because their helmet compartment also has mesh fabric along the sides. If you don’t want to use it as a helmet compartment, it’s still useful for holding other things. Many of the other brands don’t have any fabric on the sides of the helmet compartment, rendering it useless for pretty much anything besides a helmet (or not very secure if you’re like me and keep your hairnets and gloves in your helmet).
On the sides of the outside of the bag there are two mesh pockets on each side – the front ones are a good size for water (or alcohol, for the eventers in the audience) and the smaller ones are perfect for a whip. There’s even a cool little whip holder thingy further up the side of the pack to keep a whip in place so it doesn’t fall out of it’s pocket. Very smart detail.
Behind the helmet compartment there’s a mid-size zippered pocket. I tend to have a rag and/or extra socks in there (or Pop-Tarts) plus it has a little clip to hold your keys in the pocket.
Then there’s the big zippered compartment. The cooler, folded (or wadded, if you’re me) up inside of it only takes up half of the compartment. I can still fit a change of clothes and shoes in there with the cooler. There are also two smaller zippered mesh pockets inside of that big pocket, a good size for a wallet, phone, checkbook, extra hairnets… things like that.
Behind the big zippered compartment is a thinner padded compartment, perfect for a laptop, e-reader, tablet, or anything that’s a bit more delicate.
Finally there’s a small, fleece lined compartment at the very top of the back part of the backpack, meant for sunglasses or a phone. My phone won’t fit in there in it’s giant brick-sized Otterbox case, so I usually just have chapstick and/or sunglasses in there.
Even though the backpack holds a lot, I don’t find it to be overly large or heavy. The straps are well padded and wide, so it’s comfortable to carry, and everything stays put very well. The construction is very good, with quality materials and nice tight, even stitching. I’ve been carrying the backpack with me a lot, both at shows and for every day. The fact that I can walk out of my house in the morning with everything I need for the work day and riding after work, all in one bag, is pretty great.
There are only 2 things I’d change about the backpack if I could:
1) The color scheme. I don’t really love the black and tan. Navy would be awesome, or minimizing/replacing the tan. Of course, that’s just me being really really superficial, because it really doesn’t matter what color it is and it makes the most sense for something like this to be neutral colored (but still, my life needs more navy and less tan).
2) I’d like for the outside helmet pocket to have buckles (thinking a basic plastic side release buckle?) as well as the adjustable straps. I love being able to make the pocket looser or tighter depending on what I have in it, but it’d be just a little bit more convenient if there was a buckle on that strap as well so that if I tighten the straps to hold something in, I could very quickly and easily unbuckle the strap to get the item out, without having to loosen the strap. Just a minor detail, if I’m being really picky.
Overall I’d give the Noble Outfitters Ringside Backpack 4.5 out of 5 stars. For an item that I never thought I wanted, I use it all the time and really love it. I think a lot of riders, not just catchriders or trainers, would get good use out of an item like this.