Gear Review: Rocket Science Sports Triathlon Backpack

author : DominiqueL
comments : 1

Introduction
Now, I’ll admit that there are some gear items for which I may not be the best reviewer. I will never know anything about macrobiotic foods, sock-free running, or jogbras. But when it comes to gear bags, I’m your guy. Anyone who’s ever had to share a transition area with me knows that I bring WAY too much stuff with me on race day. In addition, my stuff tends to be big and bulky. If I can find a place for my size 13 (Euro 47) shoes in a bag, you’ll definitely be able to find room in it for yours.

Until now, I have shied away from triathlon-specific gear bags. They were just too small for my needs. I would pick them up in the store, put an item or two inside, and quickly see that it would never be able to contain the rest of my stuff. I’ve looked at probably a dozen different options, but I’ve always chosen to just use my old cycling bag. Sure, it’s bright yellow and obnoxious, but it holds all my stuff in all the right places.

So imagine my skepticism the day the Rocket Science Sports Triathlon Backpack showed up on my door. Without anything in it, it’s hardly any bigger than the backpacks we all took to high school. At 21”h x 13.5”w x 5”d, I thought I’d finally get to lambaste an item (until now, my reviews have been largely glowing) and get my embittered reviewer wings. I would later discover that my initial skepticism was severely misplaced.


The Product

Rocket Science Sports
Triathlon Backpack

 

The Maker

Rocket Science Sports (www.rocketsciencesports.com)

The Price

$99.99

The Rating

  (4.75/5)

The Skinny

Highly recommended. An excellent gear bag, whether you’re a minimalist or a packrat.

 

 

I need a bag to hold all this.
Not the dog, but the rest of it.

First Impressions

At first look, the backpack screams quality. It’s made of 1680 Denier nylon, which is so thick it’s almost rigid. You could drag this across a parking lot for days and not wear through it. The ergonomically-designed shoulder straps are thickly padded and over three inches wide. There are chest straps and a hip belt, just in case you’re going to have to hike with it fully loaded. The straps, buckles, reflective piping, and elastic parts are well constructed and sewn with great attention to detail. Near the bottom of the pack, there are three metal grommets that release water and/or keep odors in the pack to a minimum. Even the Rocket Science Sports logo is well designed. It’s stitched onto the front of the pack and they’ve put a piece of nylon on the back of it so you don’t have to see the reverse of the stitching – nice touch.

The pack comes in three color options: all black, dark blue, and baby blue. The dark blue has black and sky blue accents. The baby blue has dark blue and sky blue accents. All three are attractive (the light blue is definitely for the ladies), but I prefer the black one I tested.

Taking A Tour Around the Outside
A quick review of the front pouch gives you an idea that Rocket Science Sports has a sense of humor. On the pouch, it says,
 
Rocket Fuel Only. This packet is designed to hold high octane food to make you race fast. Any junk food placed here might compromise your performance and make you gassy.

That makes me smile every time I see it. Sure, it’s a bit dorky – and maybe a bit crude – but anything that makes you smile on race day can’t be that bad.

 

The pack loaded for a run
with a change of clothes.

The front of that pouch area has an elastic web to hold odd sized items. It’s large and supportive enough to hold a full 32oz Nalgene bottle. Also sewn into this area is a strap for a flashing light (not included).

Unzip that front pouch and it unveils several smaller compartments, with places for keys, loose change, a wallet, and pens. If this was 2003, this would be the compartment that would hold your portable CD player and a week’s worth of CD’s. Now, it holds energy packets and a jillion smaller items.

Moving up the front of the pack, you get to the large outer compartment for holding a helmet. It’s a combination of 600 Denier Ripstop nylon and mesh, with an elastic band to hold things in. There are four compression straps on this part of the pack, which will cinch in your helmet and make the pack as small and secure as it can be.

Move up a bit more and you get to a small zipper, which houses the bright yellow rain cover for the pack – more on that later. Also in this area is a 7” strap with a plastic clasp. The anal guy in me used this clasp to secure the helmet to the pack as a precaution, but you’d probably use it to secure odds and ends to the pack.

At the top of the pack is a large, soft, plastic handle, which is very comfortable. The shoulder straps have an “S” curve to them to lie comfortably on your body. Even when it was fully loaded, these padded straps distributed the load nicely. As a matter of fact, I wish my day-hiking backpack was this nicely designed. The large straps adjust easily and come with a plastic D-ring on each side, which is perfect for attaching things via a carbineer – not that you’ll need to because everything fits inside.

Attached to the strap is a removable cell phone pouch with a Velcro closure. It’s gigantic for today’s diminutive cell  phones, but I found it a perfect place to put my iPod.

The back of the backpack has a mesh padding that keeps you cool. Rather than being a solid mass of padding, it is separated into 8 smaller chambers, which provide air pockets to keep you cooler still. Rocket Science Sports calls it the AirFlightTM system. The shoulder straps and hip belt get the mesh padding treatment as well, but without the separate chambers. Oh yeah, the hip belt also has a window for your name/address so everyone knows this is your gear.

 

The rain fly keeps
your gear dry.

On either side of the pack are mesh water bottle holders. They have an elastic top and will hold anything that will fit in your bike’s bottle cage. Here’s where my first of two complaints about this pack comes in: The holders are perfect for standard 16oz bottles (like the ones Rocket Science Sports sells…review coming later), but they could be an inch or two deeper to better hold 20-24oz bottles. The elastic strap sits below the finger notch that is in most of those bottles. If the strap were deep enough to sit in the notch, the bottle would be crazy secure (a technical term). As it is, there is a tendency for the firm elastic to squeeze the bottle upward. Also, in this area is one of the compression straps. It goes across the top of the mesh so that you have to run the strap over the bottle. I like to have access to my drinks, but couldn’t do that with the straps on. Moving this strap up an inch or so would make it possible to strap the pack and still have access to the water bottles. Then again, if you made the mesh 1-2” deeper and moved the strap up an inch, you’d still have the problem. See, this is why I’m not a designer. All I know is the area is a bit awkward. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s mildly annoying.

When the backpack was fully loaded, I could not get the yellow rain fly over the pack. My helmet and the bulky items I attach to the outside made it impossible. But, if you figure that the rain fly is going to be used when you have most of the stuff out of the pack (i.e., when you’re in the middle of a race), it makes sense that the rain fly fits easily when it is mostly empty. Also, the bright yellow color can help you find your transition spot in a crowded area.

Inside the Pack
 

Plenty of room for clown shoes.

Opening the main compartment is easy thanks to some oversized zippers that are very smooth. The backpack has a clamshell design so it lays flat when opened up. On one side are two smaller mesh areas, one with a running logo, one with a cycling logo. This is, of course, where you put your shoes. At first look, you think that there’s no way that huge shoes will fit inside the rounded compartments, but both easily contain my shoes. In fact, there is enough room in the bike shoe area that I can store my goggles (in the case) in there as well.

On the other side of the clamshell, there is a very large, zippered mesh compartment. Looking through the mesh, you can see that another compartment is behind that one. The mesh compartment is where you’d put things like tools, a change of clothes, race numbers, and the like. At the top of this compartment is a nylon sunglasses pouch, which is lined with fleece (or something like it) to keep your lenses scratch-free.

The large mesh compartment
holds most everything.

The mesh compartment has two zippers – one to open it up and one to release it from the sides of the pack. Opening the side zipper reveals a silver, waterproof liner and a removable wetsuit compartment. The wetsuit compartment is held in by 6 snaps. Again, this compartment looks way too small to hold a full-sized wetsuit, but it holds one easily. The wetsuit compartment has a swimming logo and is waterproof.

If you snap out the wetsuit pouch, you’ll have a waterproof area that will hold a week’s worth of workout gear. By the way, this is where my second complaint shows up. The silver liner to this waterproof area is made out of some kind of plastic (similar to the kind they use on nylon lunch bags and coolers) that is stitched into the liner. After only two or three uses, the liner began to rip out of the stitches. The stitching itself held, but the plastic ripped out like paper ripping out of a three ring binder. I’m not sure if the plastic should be seam taped instead of stitched, but this is an area that should be improved in the next generation of this pack.

The removable wetsuit pouch
keeps the rest of the bag dry.

Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, the Rocket Science Sports Triathlon Backpack swallowed everything I bring with me on race day, with some room left over. I didn’t even have to sit on it to get it closed. I had to be somewhat precise in my loading of the pack, but that actually made setting up my transition area that much easier.

The longer I’ve had this pack, the less I use my other bags. During the week, I used to bring a small day pack to the pool or to my favorite running spots. I now grab this pack instead. The waterproof area is nice for wet towels and swimsuits and there is plenty of room for either workout gear or work clothes. When there isn’t much in the backpack, the compression straps keep everything snug and its size isn’t overwhelming. When the day calls for cycling or a brick, I find that that old cycling bag stays on the shelf. This backpack is just as good at holding what I need it to, but it’s much more comfortable to carry and it takes up less space in the car. I guess I’m saying that this is now my favorite bag.

 

Ready for race day.
It’s all inside!

Aside from the liner issue, this pack looks as good today as the day I got it. For proof of that, just look at the pictures in this review, which were taken when the pack was five months old. That’s a testament to the durability of the 1680 Denier nylon and the other quality components. Because of this durability, the pack is a bit heavy – I was surprised to find the scale saying it was four pounds – but there’s no reason to save weight on a backpack, unless you’re an adventure racer.

At $100, the Rocket Science Sports Triathlon Backpack is not the cheapest gear bag option out there; however, I don’t think you’ll find a bag that’s this well designed at any price. It easily stood up to my packrat tendencies, so I’m sure it will be able to handle whatever you throw at it.
 

 

 

 

Rocket Science Sports
Triathlon Backpack

Category

Score

Notes

Capacity

 

The backpack just keeps swallowing gear. It may look small, but it plays big.

Ease of Use

 

With 23 different compartments, buckles, and straps to hold your gear, you’ll find just the right place to put everything. Several compartments are even labeled to keep you organized.

Durability

 

If the pack were more durable, it would be bulletproof. Stitch points are well secured. Some points off for the poor durability of the waterproof liner, which rips easily.

Cosmo Factor*

 

It’s a good-looking pack. Ergonomic and a few good, simple color options.

Overall

  Because of the ripped liner, it can’t get a perfect score. If RSS finds a way to improve that seam, this just may be the best tri bag ever.

 *based on the fashion magazine, not the sitcom character

 

  

Random Thoughts That My Only Interest Me

  • Rocket Science Sports was founded by an actual rocket scientist. Does it take a rocket scientist to make a gear bag? Probably not, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have one around.

  • You want attention to detail? Look at the strap for the blinking light attachment. Not only is it made out of very rigid nylon, but there’s also a strip of plastic sewn into it to provide a little extra rigidity. Anyone who’s ever used a light clip knows that the heavy ones will sag and twist over if they’re not attached to a sturdy location.

Technical Data
21”h x 13.5”w x 5”d (expands to 12” deep when fully loaded)
About 4 pounds
Smart-Compartment™ Design - allows effective organization and easy visualization of your triathlon gear
Rugged 1680D Nylon & 600D Ripstop - most advanced and durable fabrics so your bag lasts for many seasons
Air-Flight™ Padded Back - designed to allow ventilation, keeps you cool on the bike
Ergonomic Strap Design - comfortable, fitted and supportive
Rain Cover - keep your gear dry when it is raining
Blinking Light Attachment - be safe when you have to cycle to a race at 5am when it’s still dark outside
Helmet Compartment - keep your head safe
Removable Cell Phone Pocket - stay connected
Dual-Sided Mesh Pocket - designed to hold your fluids
Removable Wet-Dry Compartment - keeps the wet stuff wet and the dry stuff dry
Glasses Holder - protects your shades
Inner Organizer Mesh Pocket - for your post-race change of clothes
Reflective Strips - so that people can see you
 



A Note on the Author: Dominic Lazzaretto has completed twelve triathlons (kind of near the front of the age grouper pack) and has competed in dozens of road running races, mountain bike races, and road cycling events. He is one of the official gear reviewers for BeginnerTriathlete.com.

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date: June 6, 2006

Author


DominiqueL