The story of Evergoods is well documented: its founders are alumni of Goruck and Patagonia. Based out of Bozeman, Montana, they have been making ‘crossover gear’ that bridges the venn diagram between stylish urban accessories and technical outdoor equipment since 2017. Their products are nominally split between ‘civic’ and ‘mountain’ lines, each denoting a degree of emphasis but, by their intent, not impeding applications outside of the environment on the label.
In 2019, Evergoods introduced their Civic-Half Zip design, first a 22L backpack and then, a year later, a taller 26L version. The CHZ is a simple daypack – a fact that should not be taken as a weakness, when its range of uses are taken into consideration. Packs in this volume range can be called on for a full day in work, the mountains or out with family, all the way to a week on the road for the smart traveller.
Primary Material: 500d High Tenacity Nylon 6,6 (Shell), 420d HT nylon (lining).
Quality & Comfort
All across Evergoods’ product line, their designs hold a distinctive profile. The bags are patterned and reinforced in places to maintain their shape, whether they’re half-empty or packed to the gills. Each panel tapers and fits elegantly to make a very nice looking backpack. The CHZ is more curvaceous than other packs in Evergoods’ Civic line, and the body is covered in small touches that speak to a really finely-detailed level of thought. The external stretch pockets for example have no internal seam to prevent bottles or other gear from snagging. They lay flat when empty but will easily hold a 1L Nalgene when needed; this is, as I’ve said before, how all bottle pockets should be.
The 500d Nylon is frankly gorgeous, both in the hand and to look at. It’s durable and, thanks to the DWR coating, reassuringly water resistant. Overall, the CHZ26 has been built to incredibly tight tolerances, and it shows.
As with the body of the pack, Evergoods’ straps are structured in a way that keeps a constant shape. Unlike flexible, adjustable harnesses, the straps are pre-curved and wrap across the wearer’s shoulders with a bare minimum of fuss – the straps tighten under the arms and the only buckle for the wearer to play with is on the sternum strap, though that’s fully removable for true minimalists.
The flip-side, of course, is that these packs either fit you or they don’t. Coupled with the curved HDPE framesheet, the CHZ26 rides solidly and fits very quickly, but I don’t find it the most comfortable backpack in my collection. It floats around a little, and (despite the 26 being the taller of the two CHZ models), sits rather high on my back. I won’t complain too loud, but I definitely have others I prefer in this regard.
Organisation & Access
The main access to the Civic Half-Zip is, appropriately, through a YKK #10 zipper which curves around the top half of the pack. As I mentioned, Evergoods have put a lot of thought into the shape and structure of the CHZ26, and so the zip opening has been smooth and easy every time I’ve used it. Where other brands might resort to counterpulls or simply expect the user to grab the fabric for tension, I’m impressed at the work Evergoods have put in to make their bag function this well.
I found the half-zip totally usable at work, giving great access when I was opening it up next to my desk, but never more so than it would have been with a fully-opening zip front – in fact maybe less so, as I found when trying to dig my lunch out of my pack while it’s hanging in my locker. I did find, when travelling, the narrower opening to be a slight obstruction for bulky gear – it was definitely harder to load in my packing cube full of clothing than it would have been in, say, Evergoods own CPL24.
Immediately behind the main zip, Evergoods have inserted a quick access pocket, with an equally smooth opening. This pocket is well sized for a fistful of small items; it has a key leash, and is wide enough for a set of sunglasses in a padded case. The position means it fills volume that is otherwise generally wasted inside the backpack. The inner wall has a few rows of webbing for clipping loose items, but I didn’t see much use from these in testing.
One criticism I’ve seen levelled at the smaller 22L CHZ is that this upper pocket would interfere with access to the laptop sleeve in the backpack’s main compartment. I’m pleased to say that, in testing, I didn’t run into that problem with the CHZ26. My 15.6” laptop fit comfortably into the padded, stretchy sleeve and felt very snug, but still easy to draw. The sleeve doubles for a hydration bladder, with hose ports sitting on top of the straps. This feature appears on all of Evergoods’ backpacks to date. I’ve always thought it was an elegant design and add functionality with basically no penalty to the user, so I’m glad to see it continue with the CHZ26.
Two additional pockets are built into the front panel. These pockets are both well designed and hold plenty of small gear, from pens and wallets to headlamps and a titanium spoon. The top one is built forward, making use of the CHZ26’s structure for its volume, another Evergoods staple. Below that is a small, shallow mesh pocket – one of the few features of the CHZ26 that does not appear on the 22L version. This pocket has the zip oriented ‘upside down,’ to be used when the front panel is totally open, which I think is a great touch.
- The CHZ26 is a very cool looking backpack, with a great profile and pattern.
- With versatility at the heart of their approach, I find the pockets Evergoods design very functional for all kinds of uses.
- I’m not a huge fan of Evergoods’ harness. I’m sure that some folks love it, but I have others that fit better.
- Compared with clamshell or top-loading designs, the half-zip opening feels like the worst of both worlds.
To say the founders of Evergoods are attentive to detail would be a gross underestimation – they are obsessed with fine-tuning their products and, as a result, their bags are among the best on the market. So much of the CHZ26 would be easy to dismiss as basic and mundane, which makes all the refinements of common backpack features all the more remarkable.
The fact remains, then, that sometimes good things just don’t work out. The crossover, mid-size daypack is a crowded field, with lots of competition. I remain objectively impressed by the Evergoods CHZ26, but unexcited by it in a way that other offerings spark for me. Sometimes that’s enough and, well, sometimes we need Perfect.
Disclaimer: The CHZ26 was provided by Carrylab for use in this review. The content of the review was not shared with Carrylab or Evergoods prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never altered to keep a brand happy.