With 2021 pushing onwards, and the world barely recovering from a year of pandemic chaos, the future has never been harder to gauge. It takes a special kind of boldness to launch a new travel brand in the midst of all this uncertainty and restriction, but that’s exactly what Reika have done. Founder and designer Sam Whetton is looking forward: Reika’s debut model doesn’t just hope for the return of international travel, but shines a light on the future of manufacturing, using Bluesign approved fabrics, nylon made from post-consumer fishing nets, and fair-wear foundation manufacturing partners.
Designed in the UK, the Reika Travel Pack fits squarely into the one-bag genre with professional aesthetics, and a feature-set to haul clothing and technology wherever it’s needed. Despite arriving with me during a period of restrictions, I was able to get a few nights away as soon as I received my sample, as well as loading the bag up for a week-long road trip later in testing. The bag is funding on Kickstarter right now, and will continue through into November ’21.
Primary Material: DI-TEX® Recovered Ocean-Waste Recycled 840d Nylon
Quality & Comfort
Travel bags in this style face a difficult question of priorities, since they need to be durable enough for rough handling in a range of conditions, but look smart in a professional, urban setting, all without slowing their users down in movement. Add to this Reika’s focus on circular, sustainable materials, and the challenges only intensify. The result is a clean, stiff exterior fabric with a slightly glossy finish. Hypalon details and subtle but effective zipper pulls (reminiscent of Aer’s) add to the sense of quality; I don’t feel like Reika have compromised or dropped any points for the sake of reducing costs or saving time here. External-facing zippers are all water resistant YKKs with locking sliders; Reika have also said they will offer a rain-cover at time of release, though I didn’t receive one to test.
The 840d material is not unlike a heavy ballistic nylon to look at. Behind the face fabric, Reika have inserted a dense foam reinforcement, creating a semi-rigid shell. The pack keeps its shape even when not stuffed and I think this benefits the look but also the ride of the pack. That said, the ninja-turtle factor is high, here. The Travel Pack sits prominently off the wearer’s body, with no means to compress the load at all. The dimensions fit squarely within common carryon regulations, but folks who prefer a low-profile solution even in their travel bags may need to look elsewhere. Attempting to use the pack outside of Travel situations, carrying my daily gear to work for example, didn’t go well, and I found the volume really hard to use effectively.
I should say that, despite the depth, I never found the Travel Pack to be uncomfortable in movement. The straps are well shaped, and backed with a similar kind of elastic material to the Remote Equipment Alpha 31, which I love. They do a good job of directing weight on the wearer’s body, and feature load-lifters behind the wearer’s head and a magnetic sternum strap across the chest.
What’s more, the straps are designed to be concealed within the back panel when not in use, reducing the risk of snagging in a luggage area and contributing to the sleek appearance of the bag, when that matters. Hypalon grab handles on the top, base and sides keep the Travel Pack mobile when the straps are stowed away.
Reika also included a removable belt for me to test and while the belt was well padded (and similarly stretch-lined), I honestly didn’t feel I needed it in my testing. Folks who are lugging heavy camera gear to a remote shoot or trying to sneak a quick dayhike into their city-hopping tour will feel the benefit, but it may not be necessary.
Organisation & Access
Given the shape and style of Reika’s Travel Pack, nobody will be surprised to see the suitcase-like clamshell opening employed here. The zipper wraps past three sides of the pack, allowing for full access to the main compartment. I would say that the structured body of the Travel pack lends itself well to this kind of opening, but in truth it’s a double edged sword. The shape is easy to load and provides great access from a hotel bedroom, but the rigid panels and heavy seams between panels of fabric prevent the main zipper from running smoothly. The resulting stiffness is genuinely annoying at times – I wonder whether a larger zipper tooth would resolve the issue (my bag uses YKK #8 here), or if this is something users will have to learn to accept.
The body-side of this area is capacious and has internal straps that close with a Fidlock magnet, to keep clothing in place. This is nice to have with a pack that will be loaded flat then lifted vertically for transport. I also found they worked well with packing cubes and dopp pouches. Opposite this area are two stretchy mesh pockets, built into a soft ‘wall’ that will itself zip away. Having a division through the middle of this pack worked well in testing to separate clean and dirty clothing, or keeping semi-private items out of sight.
The internal pockets are well sized for small items like chargers or travel toiletries, and I was even able to get a paperback novel to sit nicely inside. I really like the pulls Reika have put on their interior zippers. They are incredibly functional and, although not as smart-looking, I wish they’d used them all over the pack. The main compartment has one other feature – a side ‘hatch’ zip opening, with small mesh pocketing built into the zip panel. I believe this is designed to interface with Reika’s camera cube, though I didn’t receive one for testing and can’t comment.
External pocketing on the Travel Pack is fairly extensive, although the clean exterior means each small pocket borrows volume from the main compartment, which will bother anyone hoping to maximise the 35 litre volume. The face of the pack has a shallow pocket with a few slots for pens or other small items, though I barely used this and found it slightly difficult to access. Much more useful is the quick access pocket at the front-top of the pack. This pocket itself is divided with a fleece-lined slip that closes with a magnet when not in use. The intent of the scratchproof fleece is somewhat offset by the key leash that Reika have included here, but it remains well sized and positioned.
A dedicated shoe pocket at the front-base is lined to keep footwear separate from other contents, that protrudes in behind the mesh divider section of the Travel Pack’s ‘lid.’ I had no problem fitting size 46 running shoes in here, and found it generally convenient.
Opposite the camera-access hatch Reika have added a seam-sealed bottle pocket, which will take a 1L Nalgene with a little work or a taller bottle (such as a Kleen Canteen) with no problems. Bottle pockets are often an impractically positioned afterthought on travel packs so I was glad to see this done well.
The laptop compartment, closest to the wearer’s back, is well padded, suspended from the base and sides of the pack, and lined again with soft fleece. This area swallowed my 15.6” Laptop and felt safe and sturdy in use.
Lastly, on the back panel, Reika have included a luggage passthrough for folks who aren’t quite following the one-bag doctrine, within which they’ve hidden a passport-sized zip pocket.
- Material choices seem to be durable and of good quality.
- Structure and suspension mean comfortable carry.
- Organisation has lots of practical options.
- Main zip access sticks in use occasionally.
- Pockets compete for space with main compartment.
- Structure limits versatility and range of use.
- Stylistically similar to other options on the market.
The ‘black-cube’ type of travel pack is no small pool, though subtle details mark out each offering. Comparisons with the Evergoods CTB40 or AER Travel Pack 2 are generally positive. I haven’t personally handled every model in this style but I’ve spent enough time in airports to see why a clean exterior and smart internal features are the way to go.
From the recycled plastic used in the nylon to the plant-based, biodegradable packaging the Travel Pack arrived in, Reika have foregrounded the circular, more sustainable choices they’ve made in development. Between this, the Osprey Archeon 24 I tested through spring, and the Challenge Ecopak fabric The Perfect Pack used on our recent collaboration with Greenroom 136, I’ve seen some amazing breadth achieved through recycled fabrics lately. I really hope this is a trend that will continue.
The Reika Travel Pack is funding on Kickstarter here
Disclaimer: The Travel Pack was supplied by Reika for use in this review. The content of the review was not shared with Reika prior to publication. Our reviews are impartial and never modified to keep a brand happy.