If you spend a lot of time mobile with tech you always have the objective of carrying as little with you as possible – but it very rarely works. A laptop, a tablet, spare batteries, a million and one cables… Add in things for an overnight trip or the gym and pretty soon that’s a lot of stuff.
It’s this market the Thule 32l Crossover tries to fill, describing itself as being “for gear-heads who need dedicated electronics protection plus plenty of bulk storage and organization pockets for whatever the day might bring during the week or weekend”. A bold boast but is it one that can be backed up?
The Crossover has a number of pockets and sections. Working from the largest section closest to the back there is the laptop compartment:
This has a large padded on all sides section slightly raised from the bottom of the bag. It takes up to a 15″ laptop with external dimensions up to 28cm by 38cm although I just managed to squeeze a 17″ gaming laptop in. On the front of this laptop section is a tablet pouch. This padded pouch is 29cm deep and 21.5cm wide and fits a full size iPad. On the opposite side of the compartment is a unpadded pouch 30cm wide and 34cm deep. This is perfect for paperwork and I’ve successfully used it to hold my A4 folio. The entire compartment zips down to about halfway down the bag and has some space in between the two sides where you could fit a little more paperwork – but if you already had a laptop, tablet and folio in there already not a lot of extra room.
Moving forward from the laptop compartment you come to the main section of the bag. This huge pocket is mainly one large empty space. The exceptions are two mesh pockets at the top which I found perfect for my myfi and digital camera. These mesh pockets are 12cm deep and have openings 12cm wide (although they are a little wider inside). The main compartment is where you keep all the extra non-tech things. I’ve successfully used it for lunch, a change of clothing including shoes or textbooks. It is just large enough to let you use the Crossover as an overnight bag or as a daily gym bag as well as your tech bag.
Moving forward again you get to two compartments, one at the top and one at the bottom.
The top compartment is something a little different. Its cover is hard and inside is a hard (but removable shell) lined with soft padding. This compartment is meant for sunglasses but I found that its location and size worked very well for emergency medication – inhaler and epipen. The zip for this hard pocket is also designed to be hooked closed with an elastic holder making it hard to open accidentally or pickpocketed too discreetly.
Underneath this hard compartment is the final large section of the bag. This section has a number of internal pockets including mesh pockets, pen pockets, clear plastic pockets and large open pockets. I found this most useful for cables, chargers, a notebook and the like and it easily fitted the power brick of my laptop.
Finally the Crossover has three outside pockets. One on each side is designed for water bottles and can handle up to the large wide 1l nalgene bottles. There is no over the top strapping but the depth of the pockets and the fact they are slightly tapered and elasticized makes it unlikely that your bottles will fall out. At the front is another large pocket with an open top, a drain grommet at the bottom and compression strap. This is designed for extra clothing like coats or a hoodie. It’s a bit small for full size coats but as an extra place to put a sweater works well.
The Crossover also has something I’ve never seen before – two handles. On conventional one at the top and one at the bottom. This sounds odd but when you come to try to use them actually works really well, particularly for boosting the bag into luggage compartments or putting it down carefully onto tables or flat surfaces. I was also able to use the bottom handle to clip a carabiner onto and hang a jacket off.
The main carrying straps and back are well made, well padded and otherwise fairly conventional. There is a chest strap but no waist strap which most people will probably appreciate. It should be noted that this is quite a long tall bag and hence the back is longer than you would expect. I at 6″ had no problems with it and Lily at 5″6 found it comfortable but if you are significantly shorter – perhaps under 5″ it might be an issue.
Build quality throughout is excellent – to the point where Thule offer a 25 year warranty for anything caused by manufacturing defects or issues. Everything has a breaking point but the Crossover feels far more solid than most.
Size External: 18.5″ x 12.4″ x 12.2″ inches
Capacity: 1950 cubic inches or 32 litres
Weight: 2.2lb or 1kg (empty)
Colour: Black with white and blue accents
Material : Dobby Nylon
Warranty : 25 years
Laptop pocket dimensions : 10.5″ x 15.2″ 1.2″
There is no built-in audio component of the Thule 32L backpack.
Once fully packed it is silent in use with no straps creaking. The zips make a normal crisp zppp noise as they are operated. There is no velcro anywhere on the bag.
Touch and texture
The Crossover is made from “Dobby Nylon”. A dobby material is one in which the warp threads are raised or lowered – in other words a pattern is part of the fabric. In the Crossover’s case this is a cross hex which runs throughout the bag, in some places with white dots to mark the center of the hexes. This pattern gives the Crossover a textured, regular, hard and grippy surface. The exception is the padded back and the inside of the straps which are foam padded and feel significantly softer.
A very small percentage of the population are allergic to nylon and if you are this bag will not be suitable for you.
The zips are all large and have big obvious and easy to grasp blue plastic tabs. These make it obvious where the zips are and feel good to hold and pull. They could easily be made even larger by threading paracord or a small carabiner through.
Adjusting the fit and length of the straps is straightforward and conventional – pull on the strap to tighten, lift the buckle slightly to loosen. I did have some initial difficulty as the strap was rather stiff but this eased up and the addition of a loop on the end of the strap both makes it impossible for it to completely unstrap and gives something to pull on.
Ease of Use
Getting the Crossover on and off is actually more difficult than you would expect. The straps are quite solid which makes maneuvering them in and out to get in to the bag a bit of a wriggle. They have softened up considerably in a months usage and I’ve gotten better at getting it on and off. It does however remain a large and potentially heavy backpack which makes it harder to get on and off.
The Crossover comes with a small tag booklet which shows each pocket and what is recommended to fit in there. It also give internal dimensions of all the pockets which is a very useful touch. Any new bag is going to take some time and adjustment to get all your things in just so but I’ve had less of this than with most bags with the Crossover. The laptop, tablet and paperwork sections are obvious in their use. The water bottle pockets are well designed and the uncrushable pocket was obvious how to use. The small front organisation pocket did need several re-organisations to get things in just so but the variety of internal sections that necessitated this is are plus in the long run even if it does need more thought in the short-term.
The Crossover is somewhat waterproof but this waterproofing comes from the weave of the nylon rather than chemical waterproofing. The only potential allergen is the nylon itself.
Externally the fabric is quite rough which may represent a problem to those with very sensitive skin but it is double lined and the internal lining is smooth and soft throughout.
Thule claims the 32l Crossover is “for gear-heads who need dedicated electronics protection plus plenty of bulk storage and organization pockets for whatever the day might bring during the week or weekend”.
Looking at that piece by piece I would agree. It provides good protection for a laptop and tablet as well as space for all the cables, chargers and bits you end up carrying around. It also has plenty of space left over – only just enough for an overnight bag but it is enough. As a day bag for someone who commutes or works in different places as a mobile office the Crossover is near perfect. Tough, comfortable and well padded.
The Crossover’s only disadvantage is also its benefit – its size. It is a big tall bag and that means when full it’s also a heavy bag. Thule does make smaller alternatives in the same family which may be worth considering if the 32 litre capacity is too big. If you can handle the size and weight and need a good strong bag for your mobile office this might well be it. Highly recommended.
The Thule 32l Crossover was released in July 2014. The review is based on a sample kindly provided by Thule.