I’ve been rolling around town with the ILE (Inside Line Equipment) Default Mini Backpack for the past month. It’s been on my back through daily commute, short hikes, 4 days at Interbike and on the sidelines of my neighbors softball games as a cooler. ILE is a small company in Berkeley, California, crafting handmade, tough and reliable bags based around cycling. After learning more about their construction, waterproofness and seeing they are Made in USA, I grabbed one of their Default Mini Backpack’s to see if it worked as well as it looks.
Out of the gate, the overall design of the bag is pleasing. It’s simple, well thought out, slim against your back, unobtrusive to movement and doesn’t weigh a ton considering its strong 1000D Cordura outer materials. Both sides of the backpack have nice water bottle pockets and cinch straps to keep the bag tight against your body.
I asked my friend Troy to model the backpack for me. I wanted to show it on someone with a smaller frame than myself. Troy is around 5’8″ and I would say 155-165lbs. As this is ILE’s “mini” pack, Troy’s frame better illustrates that although its smaller than their larger Default backpack, it still fills your entire back. It may be mini to the other models in their lineup but I would still classify it as standard backpack sized.
The oversized padded straps have been extremely comfortable. However, I found them slipping off my shoulders on several occasions when not wearing the sternum strap. Your mileage may vary as this issue completely depends on your build. Strapped up, I could wear this backpack all day long without tired shoulders. As a nice touch, the sternum strap is removable.
The big ticket item on the Default Mini Backpack is the wide-mouth main compartment. It’s completely waterproof, has nice snaps on either side to keep the roll-top low and out of the way, and because the seams/liners are RF Welded, it doesn’t leak if you want to fill it up with ice, water, or 3 gallons of Clam Chowder. Although there is no real padding, I carried my 15″ MacBook Pro inside the main compartment to Las Vegas with no troubles. Inside a padded sleeve of course.
If you want to stick to traditional items, I was able to stuff a pair of jeans, shorts, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of socks and a jacket inside. All of this while not changing the overall shape of the bag. I could have easily stuffed much more but I didn’t want a giant marshmallow on my back.
What is RF Welding? – RF welding provides a consistent air tight seal unlike sewing. When sewn seams are stressed, the thread takes the pressure and could break. RF welds evenly distribute stresses throughout the material providing a much stronger seam while preventing any air, moisture, or debris getting in.
Flipping open the front flap reveals an almost hidden pocket large enough to carry an iPad. This pocket is also waterproof and zips shut with a nice YKK water-resistant, urethane coated zipper. I love hidden pockets.
There are 3 main sections to store items under the velcro front flap. The largest can hold magazines, notebooks, and I hear even an MacBook Air fits. The two deep front pockets can hold pens, cables/cords, business cards and other small items.
If you have large hands, the front pockets may be a little tough to work with. I had trouble reaching some smaller items I dropped in. Sort of like getting that last Pringle at the bottom of the can. Troy didn’t have any issues and I certainly didn’t want to tip the bag upside down.
The inside front left pocket has a nice slip for business cards and 3 pens slips on the right. I would have liked to see the pen pockets a little deeper. Both of these pens are shorter than some of my others and they just engaged the clip.
What I started calling the ‘grab-n-go’ pocket across the bottom front, is a great spot for your smartphone, cash, change or anything you need to access quickly. It carries that great waterproof vinyl liner and YKK zipper. The bottom of the backpack adds an extra layer of Cordura 1000D for extra ground protection.
When it comes to padding, ILE didn’t skimp. Next to the main compartment, the comfort of this backpack took second place. The padding on the straps and back is thick and feels great. I also didn’t notice any significant sweat build up after long days.
Even though it may go against the concept of the Default Mini, I would have liked to see some sort of base incorporated into the side pocket design. Either that, or some extra material to fully utilize the depth of the pocket. Checkout how much more of my Triple Aught Design Kleen Kanteen could fit into the pocket with a larger base.
As I mentioned, the pack has also become my quick carry cooler for races and games. I can get two 8 pound bags of ice inside with a 12-pack of cans. Works great! A couple things you need to remember if you go this route though. The backpack will weigh a lot so consider using the grab handle on top to carry it, saving the stress from the shoulder straps. Also, don’t tip the bag upside down as there is no sealed zipper to the main compartment. You will have water everywhere. If you plan on making this a cycling cooler, keep in mind I am sharing what I found to be the bags maximum load, a few cans/bottles and a small bag of ice will be easy enough to ride with.
Overall, the backpack has been a great addition to my never-ending lineup of bags. I think I have a problem. It would make for a great commuting backpack, solid choice for school kids (its tough enough your kid shouldn’t kill it after one semester), would probably be great for fishing trips (slide some collapsible poles in the side pockets), and still small enough to be used as carry-on for traveling.
The ILE Default Mini Backpack comes in 14 different colors for $220. They are handmade in California and carry a Lifetime Warranty on craftsmanship and materials. Grab one from ILE today.
This strong, handmade in California backpack is great for commuting and outdoor travel. The waterproof qualities, Cordura 1000D materials and YKK zippers will take years of abuse.