Howies are outdoor specialists, making kit for people engaging in a range of activities, but their Little Haven backpack (£39) has been created with cyclists at front of mind.
With around 10 litres worth of carrying capacity, it has a removable road sign rain cover packed into a zipped compartment at the bottom of the pack, and an assortment of separate compartments so you can keep gear within easy reach. There are elasticated water bottle holders, plus plenty of features to aid ventilation. There’s even loops to hang your helmet on between rides.
Initially, I was a little concerned that the backpack wasn’t going to meet my capacity needs. However, looks can be deceiving. Despite appearing pint sized, I was able to easily slide in my fairly brick-like laptop, charger, journo-sized-camera (meaning big enough to take ok pics, nothing like a pro photographer beast), dictophone, notebook, phone, book etc. All of that fitted in the primary compartment, with the laptop at the back and held away from my body by the handy padded back stands which both provide support and aid ventilation.
The supportive padding felt comfortable, and raised sections sat against my skin, holding the majority of the material away from my body, keeping me cool even when I forgot to turn my laptop off before packing away. Of course, pretty much any backpack will create sweat patches in the heat of the true summer sun, but this one did a good job at keeping the worst at bay.
There’s another internal compartment within the backpack, which can be used to store a hydration bladder, as well as a long zipped pocket at the front and a smaller one towards the bottom. On urban days, the top pocket is ideal for items frequently reached for: phone, wallet, book (it’s quite a large pocket and coincidentally I’m reading David Millar’s 'The Racer', which is quite slim), whilst the bottom compartment is great for small items easily lost in the black hole that is the primary pocket: keys. When taking the backpack on more intrepid adventures, the long zipped pocket is ideal for tools and food, whilst the bottom can keep phone and keys safe.
If not using a bladder, the internal pocket is a great place to keep a map flat and neat. With two elasticated bottle holders, one each side, urban commuters are likely to have their hydration needs well served this way. I was impressed that bottles stayed happily stowed thanks to the secure pockets – though I didn’t test this over off-road terrain where bumps and uneven surfaces are more likely to fling the bottle out.
Sticking to the pocket theme, below the bag, tucked away beneath a zip is a blue ‘Pass on the Right’ road sign (for UK left lane road users…). This is waterproof and makes for a thoughtful added feature. In terms of additional reflective details, there are some extra shiny silver details around the straps and piping, and a light hanger tab. However, clearly you’ll be most visible if you opt to use the road sign cover.
All of these features make for a very cycling centric backpack and one that has a thoughtfully placed area for pretty much everything you might want to carry. My favourite feature, however, has to be the mesh straps. Made from a rubbery, plastic type material, these aim to reduce some of the sweat patch creation potential of more traditional styles. I found these comfortable, even against bare skin when wearing summer vest tops and it looks pretty nifty, too. This style does mean there's no padding, which a mountain biker might like - but the chest straps do hold the bag in place so there's not too much movement which could cause chafing.
In terms of holding the pack in place, the shoulder straps are easily adjustable – and there is a chest strap, though no waist strap, perhaps because this is a smaller capacity backpack so not likely to require extra support. The chest straps sit above the boobs, and though they can slide up and down along the piping, they can’t be moved ‘underboob’ as some more female specific backpacks might allow for. All excess straps can be tucked away within retainers to keep it all neat, though I’m usually not neat enough to make use of them.
I was really impressed with the attention to detail Howies have executed in the creation of this backpack. Clearly designed by a team who understands the needs of cyclists, there aren’t many faults I could find with it. Waist straps for added support might be nice, but I’m the first to admit more often than not when given these, I fail to use them and mostly find the frequency with which they get stuck in the wheels of my desk chair really annoying.
Finally, at £39, I reckon Howies have packed in some considered features for a reasonable investment. This bag will serve a commuter well, but it’s got everything you’d need on a more intrepid adventure, too.
Interested? See it here.