Alchemy Equipment is a New Zealand based company, producing a range of goods including men and women’s clothing, as well as bags and luggage. Their philosophy of ‘performance driven style’ results in designs that use technical fabrics often found in high-end outdoors apparel, but look at home in the city centre, working for everyday use.

I have been trying for a long time to get my hands on this bag.  I can’t say I’m a shoulder bag fanatic, but I do own a couple and find them very suitable for work carry, which was my intent with the AEL026.  Even though Alchemy do ship to the United States, the cost of shipping had put me off on pulling the trigger and picking one up. I was recently able to find one second hand and decided to give it a go.

Tech Specs

ImperialMetric
Height13.4 in34cm
Width16.9 in43cm
Depth8.2 in21cm
Weight1.9 lbs0.9 kg
Capacity915 cu. in15L

Primary Materials: Waxed 600d Pack Fabric (100% Polyester), 3x PU Coated 900d Nylon.
Measurements provided by Alchemy Equipment

Quality and Comfort

I have mixed feelings about the quality of this bag.  I definitely think it’s well made and should hold up to use (and some abuse).  On the other hand, I don’t like how it feels. The materials Alchemy Equipment chose give off a “cheap” feel, though I don’t for a second suspect that they actually were.  This is especially noticeable in the lining and the base of the bag. The lining feels thin and has a crinkly texture and sound to it, and likewise with the base. The shell fabric reminds me more of denim than other waxed canvases I’ve used; compared with Filson’s waxed tin cloth or Trakke’s dry waxed canvas, it’s hard to tell the wax is present here at all.

In terms of comfort, however, the bag is great..  The non-removable shoulder pad is wide and adequately padded.  It’s also quite slide resistant, meaning it holds in place on the strap, made from a webbing material.  This keeps me from having to make constant adjustments to keep the pad on my shoulder, which I really appreciate.  The pad’s length helps further by increasing the area in contact with the shoulder, rather than the thin webbing strap. There is a detachable stabilizer strap, but I find carrying the AEL026 ‘messenger style’ (across my back) cumbersome due to its depth.  I also found the application a bit difficult due to the need to slip it onto one of the 8 lash points. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Unfortunately the strap is also non-removable, so there’s no real ability to carry the bag briefcase style without the strap getting in the way.  And, if the strap is damaged, there is no way to replace it. Looking at Alchemy Equipment’s website, they appear to have dropped this strap from the AEL026, so hopefully the awkwardness can be avoided in future

Organization

The AEL026 offers strong organization.  It has seven pockets in total. One laptop compartment which can fit up to a 15” laptop that sits at the back of the bag.  It also has a tablet sleeve, although it seems to be vertical rather than horizontal – this is an interesting design choice, as my iPad 12.9” fits vertically in the sleeve but is too tall to close the compartment.  A future iteration would do well to put this sleeve horizontally, since tablet sizes are increasing rather than decreasing. The main compartment is nice and spacious and has an internal divider. On the front side of the compartment is an attached key ring.  This isn’t my first time seeing a key ring in the main compartment, but I don’t consider this the best location for keys. The divider helps in keeping keys from interfering or hurting any main compartment contents, but still would prefer the key ring in a smaller pocket elsewhere on the bag, like the two up front. These two small pockets are great for keeping odd daily items contained. I found I could hold a couple of pouches, sunglasses, small headphones, or anything in the same size category. 

 On one end of the AEL026 is a water bottle pocket, that zips up and tucks away when not in use.  I’m a big fan of this as it maintains the bag’s clean look when not needed. I was able to fit my 18oz Hydro Flask with a nice snug fit and the height didn’t interfere with the straps.  The other end is a small, vertically zipped pocket perfect for, I daresay, my heroclip and a thin wallet I use to store my work badges. My favorite is the top pocket which runs the length of the bag, between the main space and the two on the front.  I initially used this for my Hydro Flask but moved that to its dedicated pocket when the weather one morning got a bit chilly. I packed my scarf and a pair of gloves into this pocket which made it nice and easy to retrieve when needed, and to put away when not.

One last thing about the bag.  I travel a lot for work and usually have to bring a roller bag.  Not being able to slip it over the roller bag handle is a big miss for me.  It’s not a deal breaker as most of the time I don’t use that function while navigating through an airport, but it’s a good spot to rest your bag rather than put it on the floor.  It’s also great while boarding. However, that’s just me nitpicking and this bag is too good to sweat the small stuff.

What’s Perfect

  • Organization.  If you can’t find a place for your items, then you have too many items.
  • Comfortable.  Even though it’s only carried on one shoulder, the AEL026 is comfortable to carry due to the shoulder pads length and padding
  • Looks.  I think it looks fantastic.

What’s Not

  • Feeling of the Materials.  This is definitely a personal opinion but requires mentioning.
  • Tablet sleeve.  Would be better if it was horizontal
  • Non-removable shoulder strap
  • Zipper pulls.  They can be noisy.

Wrap Up

I’m glad I was finally able to get a hold of the AEL026 as I really enjoy using it. It has the look I like for work carry, in a happy medium between  formal and casual. I do have concerns over its durability, but since its primary use is for work and there is no risk of it being thrown down a mountain, it’s a small concern.  At 15L it’s neither small nor overly big, hitting another sweet spot. It can carry all my work items and then some when the need arises. This bag will take a permanent spot in my collection and will be in the rotation of my work bags.  If you come across Alchemy Equipment bags or are on the fence in placing an order, my advice is to give them a try. 

Disclaimer: the AEL026 was purchased privately and used subsequently for this review. The content of the review was not shared with Alchemy Equipment prior to publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never edited to keep brands happy.