While not explicitly marketed as such, I had this backpack marked as a do-it-all commuter backpack. By that I mean protected compartments for all your electronic devices, enough room to fit a clean set of clothes, shoes and lunch, durable construction, some rain protection, as well as comfort and stability. So everything really. Materials The Crossover is made from good quality materials. Giving the impression that it may just outlast the wearer. The outer layer is water resistant nylon. The plastic clips are far from flimsy while the pockets, made from the same tough fabric as the rest of the backpack, are firmly attached. On top of this, Thule back their workmanship with a 25 year warranty. Compartments The Crossover has 4 zipped compartments, each aiming to cater for a specific purpose.
The rear compartment houses your laptop (up to 15" size) and tablet or ereader in padded sleeves. The padding is adequate and the sleeves hug the devices well. I was more than happy to toss this backpack over my shoulder without concern. There is also an unpadded sleeve where you can squeeze in some flat items, like note pads or books.
The largest compartment in the centre of the backpack is deceptively roomy. Here I comfortably stowed my work clothes, including shoes, soap and lunch box, and just about anything else I needed for the day. Basically, the type of compartment every working commuter needs to keep themselves fresh in the office. There are also two netted pockets which are handy for holding charging adaptors.
The front most compartment is where the OCD organiser will rejoice. There are numerous sleeves and pockets to snugly fit and organise smaller items. The SafeZone is the most compact compartment. The Safezone features a removeable crush-proof shell to protect fragile items such as electronic devices and sunglasses. I used this compartment to protect my sunglasses and cell phone during the test with complete confidence.
Pockets There are three convenient shove-it pockets on the outside of the backpack. The central and largest pocket, which features a compression strap, was useful for quick storage and access. You simply shove things in there and tighten the strap and off you go. I used this pocket for everything, from stuffing in dirty riding gear to storing my cellphone and wallet. The outer two pockets are are useful for quick access. They work well with water bottles and tools but the smaller size and lack of compression strap or zip put me off using them for valuable items which, I felt, could potentially drop out. Handles There there are handles on the top and bottom of the backpack. While this might not sound too exciting, I found it to be invaluable when moving the backpack short distances. So much so that I will never get another backpack without similar handles. The handles were also useful to attach my helmet when the backpack was already full. Like the rest of the backpack, the material used to make these straps gave the impression of quality. Video demonstration For a better understanding of the layout and construction of the Crossover, watch the video below by Thule. Unfortunately we had no say on the soundtrack.
Colours The Thule Crossover is available in two colour options: black or cobalt. The cobalt is a striking colour and probably not to everyone's tastes, especially if going for a professional look. I decided on the cobalt option in the hope that it would catch the attention of motorists better than a black backpack. The clips and zip linings all come in a matching colours while the zip handles are plasma green for easy identification. Comfort The build quality, design and storage of the Thule Crossover is excellent but how does it feel when worn?
The shoulder straps are made from a firm but flexible foam and are covered in a rugged netting. Trying the backpack on for the first time, I was concerned that the straps were too rigid but after a few weeks of use the straps bedded in and became supple. Even with a full backpack, I felt no strain on my shoulders or back. The padding features a ridge down the middle to assist with cooling. This padding extends into the backpack to form part of the laptop sleeve protection. This means that you can feel the flat rigidity of the laptop through the padding but it was only a brief concern as it didn't seem to impact on comfort or stability of the backpack.
A very important feature, for anyone wanting to use the Thule Crossover on a bicycle, is the chest strap. The chest strap goes a long way in reducing lateral movement of the backpack while riding. With the strap, I felt comfortable making sharp turns and looking over my shoulder. To ensure a good fit, the strap is adjustable in length and vertically using a rail system. Overall, using the Thule Crossover was a comfortable experience on and off the bike. Flaws Firstly, the SafeZone is not supported, so when the middle compartment is open it tends to fold into the backpack making it tricky to access this compartment. If you aren’t using the SafeZone, you can remedy this problem by removing the protective shell. The aluminium clip used for the compression strap of the stash pocket unclipped itself without warning a number of times. While the pocket remained relatively taut it is something worth keeping an eye on. Confusing compartments, sleeves and pockets. This is more of a indication of my own disorganisation but I struggled to find my stuff in the backpack. Either unzipping the wrong compartment or simply missing a sleeve or pocket. However, after a few weeks, I managed to get my head around it and started finding regular homes for my possessions. Pricing and Availability The recommend retail price for the Crossover is R1,899, making the purchasing of this backpack somewhat of an investment. If you're likely to use the backpack daily and want something that will last, you'll probably get your money's worth with the Crossover. Stockists of Thule bags can be found through the Thule dealer locator here. In the end The seemingly endless compartments, sleeves and pockets work very well once you get your head around their arrangement and designed purposes. In addition, the Crossover is comfortable to wear on and off a bicycle. I found the Thule Crossover to be a superb backpack that covers all your needs for daily commuting and other adventures.