Since arriving on scene, Remote Equipment have grown a cult following in the carry enthusiast community. Their first release, the Alpha 31, has attracted some serious attention on the used market and shows, along with 2019’s Bravo 18, a commitment to top-quality materials and a refined consideration of real-world use.
The Charlie 25, launching now on Kickstarter, continues their project of versatile performance. The backpack takes inspiration from technical mountaineering rucksacks, but draws in features to make the bag work for everyday use, commuting around town or travelling light.
Specifications provided by Remote Equipment
Primary materials: VX21 (exterior), VX07 (lining)
Quality and Comfort
The technical credentials of the Charlie are written on its exterior. Followers of Remote Equipment’s work will not be surprised to see Dimension Polyant’s X-Pac fabric, with its cross-hatching recognisably futuristic – though the switch away from the heavy X50 used on the Alpha and Bravo bags is notable. The VX21 matches what I like about x-pac: it’s structured and tough but lightweight, reassuringly water resistant and oh-so satisfying to the touch. Remote Eq have used a slightly tougher VX42 for the pack’s base, but the savings in weight seem to have swayed the designers away from the coarse cordura laminate they used before.
Another difference from previous runs is that the Charlie will be made in Vietnam, rather than in US factories. Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing: the best soft-goods manufacturing in the world is done in Vietnam, and many of our community favourites are put together there. This decision may have been based partially around cost-saving but, turning the pack over in my hand, I can’t find any sign of quality being compromised. All the zips are YKK, the externals being Aquaguard types. The plastic components are made by ITW, Duraflex or Nifco, selected from each manufacturer based on who makes the best for each part, rather than settling on just one.
I’ve praised Remote Eq’s strap design for achieving a solid level of comfort without overcomplicating their design, making their Alpha pack easy to fit and intuitive to use, and I’m pleased to say that Charlie’s straps follow a similar pattern. Remote Eq have gone with a dual-density foam, creating a little extra rigidity in the upper shoulder portion of the straps, and included load-lifters from the outset this time. Suffice to say, I love these straps.
Adding to the comfort, the back panel is well padded in three segments and supported by a HDPE framesheet. The padding creates a curvature which directs weight onto the wearer’s back and even allows a modicum of airflow at the centre, though this won’t hold off moisture after walking 5 miles on a hot day. Sweat aside, hiking with the Charlie 25 is great, and the bag rides comfortably in motion. The included belt doesn’t do much to bear weight, but helps with stability when scrambling or cycling. I was glad to have it for mountain days, but equally glad to pull it off for walking around town.
Treating the Charlie 25 as an outdoors-oriented pack seems like an obvious move, looking at the removable, floating lid, with draw-cord opening beneath. My bag was a little stiff in use; Remote Equipment told me that the sample I was sent had a small error – the cord was running through a 6mm grommet rather than an 8mm, and this would be fixed on the production model, which will help bring the bag closer to the super-smooth drawstring on the Bravo.
The top-load is the primary access into the main compartment, boosting the bag’s stability and security when moving around in adverse weather or terrain. The collar is a flexible 210d Spectra ripstop, and is tall enough that bulky gear like rope or helmets can be stacked upwards (Remote Eq. claim the bag will hold up to 30L when really stuffed) and compressed safely using the floating lid and a removable top-compression strap, and it’s easy to use, but slower than a simple zip access, which I think will limit some folks in their day-to-day use.
Unlike most technical alpine rucksacks however, the Charlie 25 is not bare inside. A central water-resistant zip allows the pack to open entirely. It’s not quite as effective as Mystery Ranch’s famous trizip system – the zip runs up into the collar which means the buckles and drawstring need to be open before the zip will – but it’s still helpful for grabbing my hoodie out of the bottom of the bag rather than rooting around in a barrel of gear.
Internally, there are two stretch-fabric sleeves. My 15” laptop fit fine into one, though it struggled when I tried to add a padded case. A hydration bladder would be right at home here, below a hanging loop and ports. High up the sides are two small mesh pockets which were great for small pouches or snacks and, behind those, are Velcro strips holding closed the Charlie 25’s ‘triple cavity’ sleeves.
The cavities basically allow the internal compartment to transform from an open cavern to three distinct sections, which share the space. When hiking, that meant I could pack my emergency shelter, rain gear and food so they were completely separate, but all visible from the top opening. There is a risk that putting heavy gear into a side cavity will hold it away from the wearer’s body, upsetting the load-balance. That fact combined with the slower access of the top-load meant I had to think pretty hard about how I filled the bag, and I found in testing I was leaving these sleeves empty about as much as I used them. I was also glad to find that the cavities were a perfect fit for the Org Kit pouches Remote Equipment included for my review.
The Org Kits will be listed as an optional extra for Charlie’s Kickstarter, and I feel like I could write a separate article entirely about them. Folks who already have their pouch setup perfected might not need to invest, but I found they worked well for chargers and electronics, first aid, travel dopp kits or basic everyday gear organisers. The can be pulled from the cavity sleeves really quickly, or packed loose, or carried standalone. They’re big enough to hold a full-sized Jetboil stove with a 230g fuel canister, and light mesh padding will mean that keys in an inner pocket aren’t a threat to my phone in the external slip. I like them a lot.
The Org Kits can also be mounted outside the bag using the side compression straps. This sacrifices one of the Charlie 25’s bottle pockets, but it’s really the only way to achieve a quick-access solution with this pack. Without that the bag has only one externally accessible pocket, built into the lid – but to get at that requires taking the bag off altogether and rummaging around. It’s pretty big and has a key-leash
Another mesh pocket sits neatly on the lid’s underside, making it fairly secure and quicker than opening the whole bag up, but only marginally. I’ve used this for snacks, a headlamp or my mini tripod, being gear I have to think about rather than needing at a moment’s notice. Finally, the bottle pockets themselves, which are simply excellent. Stretchy and gusseted to lay flat when empty, I really like the way Remote Equipment make their bottle pockets. Again, the inner ‘cavity’ sleeves might press against these pockets when full, further demonstrating the need to fill the pack considerately.
- The suspension is dialled to ride beautifully, being comfortable, stable and unobstructive.
- Versatile organisation gives the user a lot of options in how they use the bag.
- Materials and components are among the best on the market, and work fluidly together.
- Lack of quick access to main compartment will limit everyday usefulness
- Side cavities can unbalance load if filled with heavy gear.
Remote Equipment’s design philosophy comes through as fiercely with the Charlie 25 as it did with their previous two bags, blending aesthetic and functional notes in the same chord. If I’m being honest, my first impression of the bag was mixed – there’s a lot going on, and it took a little working out. During testing, I got a message from another reviewer, asking “hey, how do you use this?”
However, the more time I spend with the Charlie, the more I appreciate the work that’s gone into it. Remote Equipment have a habit of producing packs that are just brilliant in real life. Every feature adds value; anything unneeded can be ignored or even removed without stress.
The ‘crossover’ between technical outdoors performance and everyday utility is a hard line to walk. The Charlie 25 is that rare thing: a mountain-capable backpack that works in town, without compromising performance or organisation.
The Charlie 25 backpack is available to back on Kickstarter now.
Disclaimer: The Charlie 25 was provided by Remote Equipment for use in this review. The Perfect Pack does not use paid affiliate links, but may track referrals for data purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Remote Equipment prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.