Riutbag on person walking

Hands-on review: RiutBag+

Image credit: Riutbag

People are on the move again, but Covid-19 is still very much with us. Could a purpose-made post-pandemic backpack make the city travelling experience an easier and less anxious experience?

Normality is just around the corner. Restrictions are being lifted and people can once more return to their places of work, socialise and generally just move about. But not everyone feels entirely comfortable with this – surveys indicate between 25 and 35 per cent of people have reservations about returning to their offices and, in particular, getting on congested public transport to get there.

On top of this, there are projections that Covid 19 will be with us for many years, maybe permanently, as it morphs into different variants and retains a presence across the globe. So the routines that have become second nature over the last year - such as social distancing, wearing masks, and using hand sanitisers – may well be with us for the foreseeable future.

This is where the latest Riutbag+ comes in. It is a backpack that has been designed specifically with post-pandemic travel in mind. Its 20-litre capacity and two internal pockets for laptops or tablets make it the right size for the daily commute and at 50x34x14cm it works as a cabin bag if flying.

First of all, what makes the Riutbag+ a Covid-combatting carrier? The key aspect is that it is made of easily cleanable materials. The external tarpaulin, along with the straps and zips, can be easily wipe-cleaned with just soapy water, which apparently offers the best Covid-cleaning performance. There are few crevices and joins to trap bugs.

The inspiration for this came from medics travelling to and from hospitals, who typically resorted to using plastic bags as they could be wiped down in seconds. Pre-pandemic bags made of canvas, for example, effectively needed a full wash on return from work, and a typical canvas bag can take a day to dry.

The internal material is PVC which equally can be easily cleaned.

Image of Riutbag

Image credit: Riutbag

The second major nod to the changed requirements as we emerge from the pandemic are the access provided for life’s new essentials – masks and sanitiser. Clips on the straps can be used to hold a mask with instant availability, which also ensures that the mask is always in the same place every time and avoids anxious moments of not having one to hand when needed. Similarly, there is a hand-sanitiser holder that dangles from one of the straps.

Apart from being flanked by a couple of bottle holders, these are the only items that can be accessed without taking the backpack off. This is a feature of other bags in the Riut range which are effectively designed backwards – zips to the inside pockets all are on the surface that lies against the user’s back. This is a feature that we particularly liked at E&T. Standard backpacks have always been vulnerable to theft in crowded places, so to hide the zips makes perfect sense to us. There are two separate pouches also on the back-facing surface so there is still easy access to items like wallet or phone that need to be located quickly.

Having said that, once inside the bag is nicely divided up with a main compartment, a pouch for a laptop (maximum size 15inch, so even a 16in-diagonal Macbook Pro will comfortably be accommodated), and a separate tablet pocket. There is a further A4-sized document folder.

Annotated image of the RiutBag bag

Image credit: RiutBag

It all makes quite a tidy package – well thought out and constructed. Designer Sarah Giblin was inspired by medics when she created the Riutbag+ but also envisaged that it would have instant appeal to teachers and other key workers who are in contact with a lot of people and have to commute with some of their electronic gadgetry in hand – a quick wipe on arrival at work or home ensuring infections are kept at bay. The RiutBag+ will instantly appeal to such people, not least because it is also light yet feels robust. That appeal may well extend to anyone whose mentality is that of post-lockdown but not yet post-pandemic – and that is a state of mind that could well exist for a long time to come.

Ultimately, beyond its target market, the success of the RiutBag+ will depend on whether people like the look of it. A bag is, after all, the one accessory that virtually everyone uses on a daily basis (in normal circumstances), and having a good-looking bag says as much about the owner as any statement garment. So does the RiutBag+ look good? E&T thinks so – perhaps purposeful and stylish rather than out-and-out fashionable, but that is more in E&T’s comfort zone anyway.

RiutBag+ (Limited edition)


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