The Highs: Good looks, handsome colors, Patagonia brand & green philosophy

The Lows: Tiny zipper pulls, quirky design features, DNA of Patagonia pricing team all over this thing

The Verdict: A nice daypack with a price tag that’s not for the faint of heart

I recently had a chance to check out Patagonia’s Crosstown daypack.  Patagonia positions this as a “full featured” daypack for daily use, hiking, school, or vagabonding.   Available in a couple of distinctive colors plus black, the bag continues both Patagonia’s admirable use of recycled materials and quirky, bewildering approach to product design.

Patagonia Crosstown daypack beauty shot

Before we dig in, let’s check out the Crosstown’s specs:

Specifications

Here are the specs, straight from the Patagonia website:

  • Large, zippered main compartment has fully padded, suspended, self-adjusting laptop sleeve and separate internal mesh organizer sleeve
  • Second zippered compartment has office organizer pockets
  • Front catch-all sleeve provides easy access to documents, tickets and other important materials
  • Side organizer pocket with detachable keychain
  • Stretch-woven water bottle pocket
  • Fleece-lined top pocket for sunglasses or electronics
  • 3-D spacer-mesh straps and back pad wick moisture, dry quickly and allow air circulation; shoulder straps have slots for clip-on attachments; adjustable sternum strap with built-in safety whistle; waistbelt; web carrying handle
  • Body: 150-denier 100% all-recycled polyester double weave. Lining: 200-denier polyester. Both have a polyurethane coating and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.  Shoulder straps: polyester 3-D spacer-mesh
  • 768 g (1 lb 11 oz)
  • 20″ x 11.5″ x 6″
  • Computer sleeve 15.5″ x 11.5″ x 1.5″
  • Made in Vietnam

A quick photo tour…

Immediately apparent on the front of the bag is a fairly large open pocket; Patagonia calls it a “catch all sleeve” and suggests it’s for boarding passes and similar items.  As it’s wide open (no zipper, no Velcro closure), I’d be hesitant to put anything of much value in it.  One thing you can’t see in my photo below is a pair of compression straps that Patagonia put on this surface:

Patagonia Crosstown Daypack

Here’s a beauty shot from the Patagonia site; note the compression straps. What’s odd about this is that the convention for daypacks is for such compression straps to be located on the sides of the bag in order to compress the contents when the bag’s less than full.  It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something here, but I can’t discern any meaningful function that these straps serve.  In the photos I took for this post, you’ll notice that they’re tucked away.

Patagonia Crosstown daypack

One of the central features of the bag is a suspended, padded laptop sleeve.  It’s bottom is located a full 2 – 3″ above the bottom of the daypack, hence the “suspended” point.  My ancient Dell Latitude laptop is shown in the sleeve here; it’s at the absolute maximum size that this sleeve will accommodate.  For the record, this laptop measures 13″ x 10.5″ x 1-3/4″.  In actual practice I found the side to side dimension (10.5″ for the Latitude) to be quite tight (this old laptop is thicker (@1-3/4″) than contemporary models, and that was without a doubt part of the problem).

Crosstown suspended laptop sleeve

Looking down into this main compartment; there’s plenty of room left over for clothing, books, folders, or whatever floats your boat. I crammed a bundle containing three oxford shirts, a pair of chinos, and a couple of golf polos in the pocket (while my Dell was in the sleeve), and it fit ok; this is not a bag you’d use bundle packing for – I just happened to have this bundle on hand.  There’s an elastic-topped pocket on the opposing side for pamphlets or loose papers (bottom below).  Try as I may, I could not find the “internal mesh organizer sleeve” that Patagonia calls out in their specs:

Patagonia Crosstown Daypack main compartment

The secondary compartment, located in front of the main compartment.  There are a couple of handy storage pockets with elastic tops, and a couple of horizontal pen slots on top:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack 2nd compartment

Reaching into the “catch all sleeve”:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack front pocket/sleeve

On the right hand side there’s a zippered compartment with a mesh gusset and a key retainer:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack right bottom compartment

On the opposite side, a mesh bottle pocket.  It’s ~7″ deep, rendering it best suited for smaller bottles:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack bottle pocket\

The grab handle at top is a simple web strap, ok for grabbing the bag from an overhead, but you wouldn’t want to carry this pack by this handle for long.  The valuables/MP3 player pocket is lined with soft material.  Oddly enough, there’s no port for your earbud or headphone cord:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack valuables pocket

The backpack straps are comfortable and feature a nice sternum strap; the “built in” safety whistle didn’t work on the sample I tested.  Note that a simple waistbelt is also included.  Though bare bones, it’s fine for quick jaunts around town:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack backpack straps

As we saw with the new MLC, the sternum strap uses a clever slider for adjustment:

Patagonia Crosstown daypack sternum strap slider - detail

Our old friends, the Patagonia zipper tab pulls.  Hmm…   how to best describe them?  I’ll opt for “understated”, and let it go at that.  Note the nonsensical compression strap, tucked away in its little pocket.   A nice feature:  splashproof zippers, and it should be noted that these are genuine YKK zippers, although the Patagonia site makes no mention of them.

Patagonia Crosstown daypack zipper & compression strap detail

How big is this bag?

To put things in perspective, here’s the Crosstown alongside the excellent Tom Bihn Tri-Star.  Before anyone complains, I recognize that these are much different bags, but this comparison ought to help many of my readers appreciate the size of the Crosstown.

Patagonia Crosstown daypack & Tom Bihn Tri-Star

Is it really $100??

Sadly enough, yes.  I’m willing to accept that a premium’s involved with the recycled materials that Patagonia is using in this – and other – bags, but if you compare the features and build quality of this bag to other, readily available daypacks, the Crosstown doesn’t make it past midtown.  Want an example?

Consider the High Sierra Access daypack.  It’s built tougher, has more features, is just as good looking, and can be had for half the price:

High Sierra Access daypack

Oh – it’s larger, as well, measuring 20″ x 15″ x 9.5″.  I won’t list the full specs for this bag; a list of the features it has that the Crosstown lacks should suffice:

  • Top MP3 pocket has a port for earbuds or headphones
  • Compression straps on the sides of the bag  so you can compress it, if not fully loaded
  • Cell phone pouch on one of the backpack straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Full, padded waistbelt
  • Made with 1000 denier material
  • Stowaway rain hood (!)
  • Zippered side water bottle pocket
  • Nice, long pulls on zipper tabs
  • Thumb pull rings on the backpack straps
  • Daisy chain (for caribiners) on back; includes “monster hook”
  • Separate access to laptop sleeve for easier removal

Here’s a shot of the backpack side of the bag:

High Sierra Access daypack - backpack side

True, no Patagonia logo.  But this daypack sells for $47.95 at Amazon (in blue and black) as of this writing.  (Note:  the Access is $49.99 at Campmor.)   The Crosstown is a perfectly ok daypack, and it’d be worth consideration if it sold for $50 to $60.  Patagonia’s product managers need to take a hard look at the marketplace and how their products stack up against the competition; they’re not doing the brand any favors with this product.

A sanity check: there are only four user reviews of the Crosstown at the Patagonia site; they average out to 3 stars out of 5. By contrast, there are 31 reviews of the High Sierra Access daypack at Amazon; they average to 4½ stars out of 5.

See the Patagonia Crosstown at the Patagonia site:  Crosstown

Finally, if the Access is a bit too large for your needs, check out the High Sierra Loop daypack; it’s about 15% smaller.

Please comment if you’ve had experience with either of these bags, or similar daypacks!

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to Patagonia, Campmor, or High Sierra; this post does contain an Amazon affiliate link (Access daypack)

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21 Comments on Quick Review: Patagonia Crosstown daypack

  1. Michael W. says:

    There’s a reason a lot of people call them “Patagucci.”

    OUTSTANDING pictures as always. I predict over the next 10 years websites involved in online retailing will move in the direction of more complete, detailed pictures like yours. I can’t tell sh*t about this bag on the Patagonia website, nor on ebags nor on bagsbuy. But your pictures actually lay out the bag well.

    I think the straps on the front are for lashing a jacket on. (Like a rain jacket, if you use this to bike to work.) Not for compression.

    The mesh “water bottle pouch” is anything but a water bottle pouch – but useful for lip balm, maybe some quarters for a parking meter, small stuff not too critical if it slips away (i.e., NEVER your car keys!). Patagonia has a lot of lightweight, shallow mesh panels on its other bags like the one you showed here. If they are indeed intended for a Gatorade, they are a disaster.

    The top pouch probably started life as a sunglass pouch – that’s what I have on another Paty bag – and only the ad copy got updated to take into consideration the iPod age. Hence, I suspect, no earphone hole.

    They say every picture tells a story – the High Sierra bag is clearly very functional, but not nearly as good looking at the Patagucci. In a world with a ton of bags, I think the Patagonia probably has a niche.

    But drop that price to $80 fast!

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    BTW: you are of course right with regard to the straps on the front. I should have figured this out.

    [Reply]

  2. Berg says:

    Good review. I agree with Michael that it’s mystifying why manufacturer’s don’t have in-depth pictures like this to go with their products on their websites (aside from Bihn and RedOxx, that I can think of). I think your OPEC review featured one of the first times the inside of that bag has been show on the internet!

    Sadly, the price doesn’t surprise me. Look at how much the Bihn backpacks cost. Maybe Patagonia is figuring to tap into that almost-over-designed-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness market…

    Anyway, I think those straps on the outside could either be for a jacket, like Michael suggested, or perhaps even a skateboard, longboard, or snowboard, but probably the former, as the straps don’t look all that substantial. But a lot of packs I see these days, especially by Dakine, are designed to carry a board and have that sort of strap design on the front. It’s kinda neat how they stow away, at least, if you have no use for them. If they are designed for clothing, maybe they’re trying to move away from bungee systems.

    Some straps on the side would be useful, I agree, especially on a pack that size. I have a wonderful North Face Isabella daypack, that while not nearly as large as the Patagonia, is practically flawless in its design and thoughtfulness, including two side straps to make the bag as low profile as possible.

    [Reply]

  3. Michael W. says:

    Ok let me be frank.

    For a bag-aholic, which I MAY be (has not been confirmed yet), the Patagonia incites a certain degree of bag-lust.

    The High Sierra, absolutely none.

    **************************

    That having been said, couple a questions:

    1. Does the laptop slot look like it might be good for anything else, if you aren’t carrying a laptop – a folded lined windshirt (Marmot Windshirt), a Kindle? an old fashioned portable DVD player? If it really isn’t good for any secondary purpose, will it at least scrunch up out of the way to save space? One of my big concerns about most Patagonia bags is how bulky they are, even when empty.

    (BTW if I were to buy one of the newly release “white” Macbooks – now essentially a base model iMac-to-go – the laptop slot, slung as it is, actually looks very appealing.)

    2. How does an 18″ Pack It fit? (Used to limit wrinkles on dress shirts and pants – you noted, in passing, that this isn’t a good pack for a bundle, but didn’t explain why. Why?) The more I think about the Pack It, the more I like the concept – it’s a “girdle” for your clothing bundle, just cinch the clothes snug between the two panels and they WON’T sag and wrinkle, unlike an ordinary packing cube or typical bundle wrap.

    **********************

    I HATE waist belts. Unbuckled, they tend to snag on seat arm rests. Buckled, they snag on every thing else. Buckled and cinched down, you look like you are trailing a couple of anti-static tails. A sternum strap is a much better solution – undone, it’s out of the way, buckled, it keeps the shoulder straps from slipping off. I usually scissor the waist belts off my packs and singe the ends with a BIC lighter.

    ************************

    Didn’t Berg promise some pictures of her packing options for the Essentials Carryon? Where’s Till? :-)

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    MW:
    1. You ARE a bagaholic.
    2. You could put something in the laptop slot, as you describe. It does sorta kinda compress out of the way if not, but keep in mind it IS padded, so it’s not as though it disappears completely.
    3. The EC Pack-It 18 will not fit; perhaps one of the smaller folders would fit.
    4. If I owned this daypack, I’d take a razor blade to the waistbelt within minutes…
    5. Berg?
    6. Till may be traveling, not sure…

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Oh – one other thing. The Crosstown holds virtually no appeal to me. The HS Access is VERY similar to the daypack I wrote about in the first post I did on minimalist travel on PH. Its functionality trumps the style of the Patagonia in my book. And I suspect in person it’s not unattractive. I’ve requested a sample from HS — we’ll see. As they say, different strokes, etc….

    [Reply]

  4. Berg says:

    Yes! I shall provide pictures and/or video of packing the OPEC. Have to run a few errands first, and in L.A., that could take hours. ;)

    I’ll try a few different configurations with my various packing aids, unless there are specific requests…

    [Reply]

  5. Bill says:

    Kevin,

    I would love to hear your opinions (either here, or as a separate entry) on a back-pack/carry-on for large laptops (my T60P is 13″ x 12″ x 1.5″). Needs to comply with airline under-seat dimension rules.

    I have an old version of the Eagle Creek Tarmac that has been faithful for at least 10 years (the strap clips are starting to wear through the bag d-rings), but the single shoulder strap is starting to take a toll on my back.

    I tried a Northface Heckler, but in a padded sleeve the T60P would not fit in the designated slot.

    Bill

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill –

    I’ll be taking a look at a couple of High Sierra daypacks in another few days. The Monsoon looks like a really neat bag – but its laptop compartment/sleeve accommodates a laptop up to 16″ x 11″ x 1.625″… so it looks like it’d be tight on one dimension. You never know,- I’m sure my old Dell wasn’t supposed to fit in the Crosstown, but it did, albeit tightly. Once my Monsoon sample arrives, I’ll let you know.

    Other options? Check out Tom Bihn’s “Brain Bag” or the Timbuk2 H.A.L. Backpack. I’m certain the Brain Bag is large enough for your needs, and the H.A.L. comes awfully close to accommodating your laptop.

    If you can wait a few days, I’ll have a Monsoon on hand and can let you know…

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Bill –

    Neither the High Sierra Monsoon or Access will accommodate your laptop. With the Access however, it’s very close. I cut a piece of camping mat foam to 12″ x 1.5″ to simulate the cross section of your machine. It fit, – but of course this is foam, and it “gives” a bit. The hang tag on the Access says it accommodates laptops up to 15.5″ x 10.75″ x 1.8″.

    You’re probably better off looking at the bags I mention above.

    Best of luck!

    [Reply]

  6. jack says:

    I have to concur with your reviews, save for a few things; I own this pack (2009 version).

    As a bag with zippers, it works. Of course this is the minimal level of functionality beyond a paper bag.

    -The pocket organizers, when loaded, make the outer flap top-heavy. I suppose it’s for easy reach, but in fact horizontal pen grabs are difficult enough. Major fail.

    -I’ve tested the whistle. It works. Good.

    -The outer pocket can fit a rolled up rain shell. Meh.

    -The straps are used for snowboards, skateboards, or a tripod. Works well in that regard. However, I had the option of testing the water-fastness, and the inner liner of the sunglass pocket on top bleeds the dye. Meh.

    -The side pockets are both too small for any real use. Meh.

    -The bottom is padded. Good.

    -The High Sierra may be a better deal, but it’s an aesthetic failure. Win for Patagonia.

    Sadly, they are mistakenly perpetuating the false notion that you can’t have visual design without sacrificing functionality. This is an unfortunate myth that they are perpetuating (that good visual design is mutually exclusive from good functional design). Major fail! Their jackets however, are pretty unbeatable, and on the flipside, The North Face has done a great job on their packs, both aesthetically and functionally.

    [Reply]

  7. Meghan says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for this review! I had been considering this as Christmas gift for my boyfriend, but after visiting the the bag in person, I was not so sure. Then you confirmed my suspicions. Do you have any thoughts on the Patagonia Lightwire? I’m only considering Patagonia (usually a bit to expensive for my budget) because of the plain appearance of these packs. My boyfriend detests my North Face Recon with all its straps and pouches. But right now, he carries heavy text books in a 10-year-old canvas backpack. Can you suggest anything suitable for a laptop and a couple large books that is also simplistic in design?

    Thank you!

    Best,

    Meghan

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Meghan,

    Thanks for visiting the blog and for commenting. I would suggest you take a look at the Tom Bihn “Brain Bag” – http://is.gd/5frCK. As for the Lightwire, I’ve had no experience with it, but I believe one of our regular readers and contributors has; perhaps he can comment.

    I also think the Bihn Synapse is a great looking, smaller backpack with a clean design your boyfriend would probably like, but don’t believe it can accommodate a full sized laptop. Here’s a link: http://is.gd/5frNT

    Thanks again – and best of luck!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

    Meghan Reply:

    Thank you for the very prompt reply and introduction to Tom Bihn! I’m not familiar with the brand, but the Brain Bag seems fits the bill. Aesthetically, I prefer the Synapse, but, as you pointed out, the BB offers the space I need.

    If the regular reader/contributor who has experience with the Patagonia Lightwire is out there, I’m happy to hear your opinion.

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

  8. Michael W. says:

    Meghan,

    The Lightwire and Crosstown are very similar in appearance and layout, differing principally in size. Most Patagonia packs and bags definitely look similar, for that matter, they have signature design cues; so if you like the features/look/feel of one, you’ll like the others. And the converse is true.

    Have you taken a look at an of the Timbuk2 messenger bags & modified backpacks?

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Also for an inexpensive, simple, classic pack, take a look at the Rick Steves Appenzell, reviewed on this blog, and at the RedOxx C-Ruck and mini at the RedOxx site. Steves has a sale going on now, btw.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Found this today. If he is hauling around a canvas bag this might be appealing:

    http://www.chromebagsstore.com.....parta.html

    [Reply]

  9. Michael W. says:

    Well I had to buy a replacement notebook computer for my stepdaughter, when her bad habit of leaving her former Dell laptop on the floor led to screen destruction when someone stepped on it when closed…. Whoever stepped on it won’t fess up, but at least I know it wasn’t me.

    Anyway notebook prices have come down, quality is up, $374 for an Acer 15.6″ dual core Athlon X-2.

    This is configured in “new style” 16:9 screen size, which means that it isn’t as deep (belly to back) as earlier laptops in this size, but it IS way wider (left to right).

    So it won’t fit in my Patagonia Lightwire Brief.

    But it fits GREAT in the Crosstown. The Crosstown is perfect!

    And the new notebook, all 5 pounds of it, doesn’t feel heavy in the Crosstown. Weight is close to the back panel so it doesn’t pull the pack away from you.

    I KNEW there was a reason why I liked the Crosstown. It’s not so thick you whack people with it, yet it’s tall enough to handle an extremely wide laptop like this.

    PS the new generation notebooks, even in this screen size, aren’t as thick as the old Dells.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael – that’s a crazy price on the Acer – was that at Costco?

    [Reply]

  10. Michael W. says:

    Fry’s Electronics out here. Their normal price is $479. For $479 from Costco you get a more powerful version with Intel Core Duo processor. The one I got From Fry’s is adequate for video surfing.

    [Reply]

  11. Michael W. says:

    I am finally getting around to another overseas trip and will probably try the Crosstown this time as my “carryon luggage.”

    Since a checked bag is part of my routine, I don’t need to carry a lot of clothing on-board and what I carry can be light for emergency use instead of regular clothing (think: nylon travel pants, not heavy denim jeans – I’ll wear the jeans and pack the travel pants).

    So here is my proposed travel checklist built around the Crosstown, for a 20 hour cross-Pacific flight:

    1. Crosstown “luggage”:

    – iPod Touch in top soft-line “sunglass” slot (easy access pre-departure).

    – Netbook in suspended laptop panel in main compartment.

    – “Emergency” clothes (shirt, pants, uw) in EC Pack-It 15″ stowed against the laptop panel.

    – Chargers stowed in the main compartment bottom.

    – Non-3-1-1 toiletries then 3-1-1 Ziploc on top for easy removal through security.

    – US cellphone and keys in outside zip slot.

    – Paty R1 full zip thin fleece folded into “office slot” for easy access in case flight is cold.

    2. Paty MiniMass “personal item”:

    – Neck pillow.

    – Watchcap for warmth and rolls down over my eyes for sleeping.

    – Eye glasses for use after I remove contacts.

    – Energy bars & water bottle.

    – Travel toothbrush & floss for inflight use.

    The MiniMass stows under seat or feet during flight.

    This scenario will work with many other products, but I like the Crosstown for two reasons – it has a great laptop slot with the suspension really protecting the netbook even if I forget and set the bag down hard, and the Crosstown spreads its available volume out vertically instead of being a short but thick pack. Means less bumping people when I turn around.

    I like the MiniMass because it is much lighter than other options (except the Bihn CoPilot in Dyneema) of similar size. Also, no Velcro to snag on clothing (and everything else).

    BTW on my last trip there were at least 10 or 15 orange wheelies coming off the luggage carousel, so apparently I wasn’t the first to think of using orange for a wheelie instead of black.

    I highly recommend the Marmot Catalyst as a travel jacket. Full zip handwarmer pockets, zippered vest pockets, thin wind and rain resistant nylon shell over an admirably thin (shirt thickness) “base layer”-style lining material. Warm enough for cold flights, almost warm enough for cold departure scenarios without being too hot for warm arrival airports. An updated version of their classic “Windshirt.”

    [Reply]

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