Is it a backpack? Is it a pannier bag? It’s both!
The Morph is one half of Alturas new Versas range, a selection of bags that have been designed for commuters from the ground up. Consisting of the Meta messenger bag and the Morph backpack (see what they did there?) they’ve got a superman-like feature in common. They transform.
In the case of the Morph, the transformation is from backpack to pannier bag.
This type of thing has been tried before, but it feels like Altura have nailed it. I was a bit skeptical as to how much faff transforming the bag would be, and how effective it would be either as a pannier bag or backpack, which is usually where the compromise with this concept happens. I was surprised.
The pannier catches are located on one side of the bag, and the backpack straps on the other. A cover fixed at the base of the bag flaps over to conceal whichever isn’t being used, and fixes securely in place with a couple of clips.
Converting the bag was quick and pretty easy, though I did find that if my bag was particularly full or heavy it was a little trickier.
As a pannier bag, it locks securely into place. Despite a concerted attempt to shake the bag loose by riding through nearly every pothole on my ride home, the bag stubbornly refused to even swing or judder.
It clipped on so securely, in fact, that it getting it off at home was quite hard. The clips are stiff, and I couldn’t quite get the leverage by pulling the bag straight up. After some experimentation, I found lifting the side of the bag until it was parallel with the ground then sliding it off seemed to work best.
The Morph is designed to be used on either the left or right hand side, so there are places to attach lights on both sides of the bag and cover to allow for this.
As a rucksack, it’s pretty comfortable. I wouldn’t go running in it, but the padded straps and back provide good cushioning, particularly if you have it heavily laden. A strap keeps it secure across your front at the middle, and I found it comfortable for train journeys and the odd Boris Bike jaunt. There’s also a big, comfy, padded handle at the top.
The Altura Morph bag is mostly constructed from a tough-looking plastic coated material, which gives it a slightly shiny finish. Although this fabric looks like it might be waterproof, the bag isn’t listed as such and the zips certainly aren’t. Handily, it comes with a waterproof hi-viz yellow elasticated cover which is easily popped over the bag when it’s in either rucksack or pannier mode.
Its looks are pretty utilitarian, but for regular commuters the tough wipe-clean finish is going to cope well with repeated exposure to road grime, knocks and bumps.
Capacity wise, the bag has three main compartments. A large rear one that has a padded laptop pocket, a front one with mesh and zip compartments for pens, tools, and various other things, and a fabric lined top pocket with a zip fastening.
One of my favorite features was this exceptionally handy top pocket; perfect for putting in anything I needed quick access to, like my keys.
The laptop pocket took a 13inch computer no problem, and the fact it’s suspended means if you do drop or deposit your bag heavily on the ground, something I have a tendency to do, it’s not the bottom of your laptop that’s taking the battering.
The volume was fine for day to day use; I managed to fit in some clothes, my laptop, my lunch, and a few other bits and pieces, but I think anything other than small shoes would have been a squeeze.
One downside to this bag is the dance of the straps and clips. There are quite a few, and they have to be tucked away or clipped into the right place to make sure they don’t get in the way. They’re colour coded which does help.
In particular, you can’t quite open the bag fully when the straps are done up, as they get in the way of the zips. It’s not a huge flaw, but it’s a bit annoying when you’ve clipped everything up only to find you need to take something out of your bag and have to undo several clips again.
If you commute lots by bike, and particularly if you combine cycling with another form of transport on your commute, then this bag could be the answer to your luggage carrying prayers. It converts easily between backpack and pannier bag, and does actually work well as both. There’s room for lots of stuff, like laptops and changes of clothes. It’s not going to win many prizes for street style, but it should survive a battering.
– Good capacity
– Works well as a pannier and rucksack
– Well thought through details for commuters
– Hi-viz yellow cover
– Utilitarian looks
– Not waterproof without the cover
Colour: Any colour so long as it’s black
More info: Altura
What Altura say about the Morph Backpack Pannier:
With hardwearing fabrics, tried and tested Rixen Kaul components and commuter focussed features: they look inconspicuous yet stylish off the bike but quickly convert to panniers.