Lizard Skins introduced a new backpack in September of 2017 – the Cache Lifestyle Backpack. This bag combines all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern commuter or all-around backpack into a remarkably usable product. If you are looking for a new backpack for daily use, this is well worth considering.
We like to use the Ortlieb Velocity as our standard benchmark for waterproof commuter and day bags. At $109.99 the Cache Lifestyle Backpack is right at our benchmark price point, but offers a lot more functionality.
One of the first features I noticed was the ample webbing on the face of the pack. This provides a convenient anchor point for anything you might imagine hanging off your back on a carabiner. It provides a great spot – in addition to the smaller band at the bottom – to clip on a tail light. Also, happily, it seems to just fit a Kryptonite lock, securely holding it in place without annoying swinging about as you pedal.
The Cache Lifestyle Backpack also beats the Velocity on interior functionality. A padded interior pocket provides the perfect spot for you laptop or tablet. An exterior side zipper allows easy access to this space, in addition to access from the top.
The laptop sleeve is located up against the wearer’s back. This is always a compromise that frankly I’ve never decided which way I want to go. Placing the laptop sleeve against the rider’s back allows for rounding and bulging of the rear of the bag. This facilitates cramming more stuff in than you could if the laptop sleeve was on the rear of the pack. However, this also means that all the weight in the bag rests on the laptop or tablet when you are in a road-bike like position. This can be problematic for tablets especially. Finally, this can also mean a lot of tension on the laptop or tablet if you are someone that likes the shoulder straps to be firm and your pack snug against your back.
However, the only backpack I’ve ever ridden that put the laptop on the back side of the pack was purpose built for camera equipment. You just have to be cautious not to combine a laptop with a particularly heavy load.
In addition to the padded laptop sleeve, there are stretchable neoprene side pockets on both sides, and a full width pocket on the bottom rear including pen holders and smaller pockets. However, I found this particular pocket resulted in broken pencils and bent pens if I put any real weight in the pack.
Straps and Comfort
The shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. I initially noticed the lack of waist strap. This would normally be a big mark in the negative column for me. However, the shape and padding of the straps made it so I didn’t miss the waist strap at all, even with a reasonably heavy load in the pack. The sternum / chest strap does the job of keeping the shoulder straps in place should you need that. In addition, the shoulder straps have the usual compliment of hooks and slots to clip / hang / carabiner to your heart’s content.
Comfort is very much a personal thing. But for me, I found this pack slightly more comfortable than the Ortileb I’m comparing it to.
Latches and Zippers
Both the sternum strap and roll top closure strap on the Cache Lifestyle Backpack are magnetic. For the sternum strap, the magnet works to snap the two halves together, with latch points doing the actual load bearing. The roll top has an angled sliding mechanism that also uses a magnet to help snap it closed. This mechanism was initially confusing, but it became second nature after just a couple of uses.
All the zippers are easy to use and felt sturdy. But, easy to use has its downsides…
This pack is a bit unique in that it has both a roll top AND zippered top. Roll tops are obviously superior for water resistance. The addition of the zipper, however, actually adds to the functionality of the bag. It allows you to overstuff the bag past the point of being able to roll the top down in fair weather conditions. But, you can still zip the top and keep your goods in the bag when you are down in the drops. I’ve actually had things fall out while trying to do the same thing with the Ortlieb bags.
This bag has a handicap in the water resistance category due to the zippers. Zippers ride a balance between being incredibly water resistant, but hard to use, or easy and leaky. This is just the nature of zippers. The Ortlieb addressed this problem by avoiding zippers entirely. Which also means there are no pockets.
In our very scientific “squirt the hell out of it with a garden hose” test, there was water seepage through the zipper in a couple of places. It was not a lot, but enough that there was potential damage to electronics. Keep in mind however, this test represents the worst case scenario. Based on this, and the real-world usage, I would feel comfortable hauling my computer in this bag in normal rain. However, for a multi-day, all weather excursion I’d probably lean towards the Ortlieb.
I really like this bag. I find it to be extremely comfortable and functional. It performs beautiful for both daily commuting, or weekend picnic rides with the family. I haven’t had enough time with it to really address durability issues, but I’ll update this article after a few more months with the bag.