Troubadour Explorer Apex: Review
In medieval times, a troubadour was a travelling musician, or performer, who would make themselves at home in rural villages or grand palaces, presenting themselves as artists and masters of their craft. Flash-forward five hundred years, Troubadour is a UK based bag company, gaining attention for producing luxurious soft goods which aim to work for business carry and rugged travel alike. Troubadour’s Aero backpack was featured in Rolling Stone’s list of ‘Best Backpacks for musicians’ which seems fitting with the meaning of the company name.
Troubadour’s Apex backpack was my first offering from the company, but it seems like a good place to start, as the versatile design is intended to go from ‘work to weekend’ seamlessly.
|Weight||2.2 lbs||1.0 kg|
|Capacity||1525 cu. in.||25L|
Primary Materials: Recycled polyester, vegan leather (trim)
Quality and Comfort
My first thought when I opened the box for my Apex was “This thing looks to fancy for me.” It is built with premium materials, and it looks it. Surprisingly, I noticed hints of a leather smell which, as the bag is made with vegan leather, I didn’t think it would have.
To the hand the bag feels of good calibre; the Apex is made of recycled materials which are smooth to the touch and fairly water resistant. The nylon used in each Apex bag is made out 44 recycled bottles (that’s less trash floating around the world in our oceans!) It felt too nice for the jeans and t-shirt kind of guy that I am; I wore some nicer button-downs when testing the bag to feel like I was doing it justice…
The very first time I used the Apex, there was a torrential downpour. I had to dash to the car, and of course I was forced to park far from the employee entrance when I arrived at work. After two dashes in the rain I was soaked but everything inside my pack was dry. Both the outer materials and water tapped zippers did their job and kept the water out.
The straps on the pack are comfortable. They are designed in an ergonomic S shape and are padded with memory foam. Fall here in Northeast PA is unreliable. It can snow one minute, or be 90°F the next so I’ve worn everything from a t-shirt, to a TNF Triclimate jacket. In every instance the bag felt good and carried well for me with only little strap adjustment
Built-in strap keepers use a rectangular loop ring with an opening to slide around the strap. They slide freely to adjust when needed, but I have only had them pop off once or twice.
Organization and Access
The Apex is a half zip design with two external water bottle pockets. These pockets add to the sculptural and clean appearance of the front of the pack. The design allows the bag to peel open for better internal access. Internally, the bag has a fair amount of organization in the main compartment, which is always a positive.
The main zipper compartment spans the width of the bag, although could benefit from a couple more inches of depth. I regularly carry an A4 paper pad and my Acer 10″ tablet. Neither fits fully into the pocket, but they both sit down deep enough that they will not fall out.
There is an additional mesh pocket inside the front of the bag that extends slightly below the point at which the bag folds when the main zip opens. It has adequate access and I’ve been using this for items I need daily, but don’t need to grab super quicklike my day planner. The mesh used has no stretch, so it works best for slim items.
The position of this pocket, however, prevents the bag from folding properly if the space is full with larger objects. I’d love to see Troubadour shorten the length of this pocket to the end of the fold point, perhaps on a future version of their Apex backpack.
At the back side of the Apex’s main compartment are two liner pockets that I found to be versatile for everyday items such as smaller pouches, first aid kit, spare masks etc. I’ve rotated several things through here and I found the pockets to be both a great size and very useful.
Lastly there is a cell phone pocket that easily fits an iPhone X with a silicone case, and a pen pocket. Troubadour have used a stretchy fabric that I am unable to identify, but has a high-friction tactile quality which holds a phone securely in place. I honestly didn’t use the pen sleeve as I keep my pen/sharpie in the outside quick access pocket
I found the top outside pocket to be my most used pocket on the Apex (and to be honest just about every pack I use). It is roughly two-thirds the width of the front of the bag and about 7″ deep. It is lined with a soft material, which if in a rush could be safe for loose glasses, although I would still recommend a case as the pocket contains a key leash
Flipping the bag around, Troubadour’s Apex has an external laptop compartment, with both a lined and padded laptop sleeve as well as a tablet/document sleeve. This space is floating, so has some extra protection from hard surfaces which may harm a computer. My 2016 15″ MBP fits in here well. As stated above, I didn’t use this for my tablet, but it equally fits a document folder.
Both the main compartment and the front pocket feature water guard zippers. However the rear laptop pocket features a regular zipper with a rain flap. Despite the bag keeping everything dry in a downpour, I regard the fact that the zippers are not the same as a negative of the bag. The rear pocket is where the most valuable and technical equipment I carry is stored, and it was disconcerting that it has the least weather protection. For a $245 USD price tag, it is a small ask for some additional waterproofing, especially where valuable electronics are concerned.
Lastly, my initial impression was that the side pockets may not hold bottles securely. However I discovered that they are pleated on the back side and have elastic to pull them inwards towards the bag. I’ve used a few different water bottles, and none of them fell out.
- It’s made from recycled materials, so the environment wins.
- It has a premium look and feel and makes a great office EDC.
- The Apex has a good amount of built in organization.
- Built in organization can be difficult to access when the bag is fully packed out.
- Feels a little small for being a 25L pack.
- Looks a little too “premium” if you’re a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.
I wouldn’t say I dress like a slob, but the Troubadour Apex made me want to dress a little nicer… It wore well and felt good with several different jacket combos on. The price point is about average for the packs we consider on this blog, but it looks and feels a little more “premium” than a bag I would normally buy for myself.