The Highs: Over the top Red Oxx materials & build quality; multiple pockets; rugged good looks
The Lows: Still searching… no apostrophe in Beanos? Seriously, the bag’s a gem
The Verdict: A studly “quick trip” or gear bag that also happens to be a solid value
The Safari-Beanos PR4 didn’t get off to a particularly auspicious start when it arrived at Practical Hacks Global Headquarters. I glanced at it for a few moments, noted the now-familiar Red Oxx quality, thought “it’s awfully small,” and put it back in its shipping box where it languished for a couple of weeks.
This past weekend I got it out of the box, began packing it with some clothing, and promptly fell in love with the little beast. Let me skip to the punchline: this is a tough, remarkable, quick trip (1-3 nights) or gear bag.
There are a few bags in my arsenal that I return to time and time again, and the Red Oxx Air Boss is high on that list. I love the thing, but if I’ve got a complaint about the Air Boss, it’d be its spartan, minimalist approach – 3 main compartments and a couple of cavernous zippered pockets. I find myself wishing that the Air Boss could accommodate my little electronics (iPod, point and shoot digital camera, ear buds, etc.) and 3-1-1 liquids bag more conveniently, and I’d really like a secure key retainer or at least a small pocket for my keys as I’m one of those sorts who checks for his car keys a minimum of 37 times a day when traveling.
Despite the fact that the tagline on Red Oxx’s PR4 page is “Graduate to Minimalism,” this bag has a bunch of pockets (7 in all) and is minimalist only in respect to its lack of internal padding. The pockets don’t add a lot of weight, and they’re handy for small items and compressible articles of clothing. More on that later; for now let’s take a look at an overall shot of the PR4 and its specs.
This of course is Red Oxx’s proprietary “Safari” color combo – what else would you want for a bag with “Safari” in its name?!
The PR4 is the smallest in a series of four Safari bags – the PR4, PR5, PR5.5, and PR6. The PR6 is nearly a yard long (31″) and can carry 70 pounds… just to give you an idea of the extent of the product series. As you’ll note below, the PR4 is 19″ long and 9″ wide.
- Fabric: 1000 weight urethane coated, Dupont certified Cordura nylon
- All zippers #10 YKK self locking
- Thread: #92 bonded SolarMax nylon
- All seams double stitched and bound
- 304 welded stainless V ring
- Stainless steel Mil spec snaps with Red Oxx logo
- Zip knots on all zippers
- Heavy duty luggage tag
- Embroidered patch logos
- Double box stitch on carry handles
- Pass Thru panel to use with wheeled luggage; can double as an extra pocket
- Comes with a Red Oxx Claw strap
- Available in 12 colors
- Dimensions: 19″L x 9″W x 9″H
- Weight: 3.35 pounds
- Capacity: 1,539 Cubic Inches
A Photo Tour
Right up front is a 10½” wide, 6″ tall pocket that’s perfect for small items such as your passport, boarding passes, and even your car keys:
On the opposite side is a “Pass-Thru Panel:” open the twin zippers to the appropriate width, and you can use this panel to mount the PR4 to the handle of your wheelie. If you don’t use a wheeled bag, close the bottom zipper and use this as another pocket that’s identical in size to the front pocket. It’d be handy if the lower zipper’s sliders were the (overlapping) locking type so you could secure them with a small lock or a wire tie. Do this with the current zipper, and the zipper pull tabs stick out prominently; as this is the side of the bag which will likely face your side, that’s not great. (See below for a correction on this point. -kc)
An update and correction: you actually can use a wire tie to secure the sliders, and the metal pulls don’t protrude at all. This solution offers the benefit of being completely reversible. See the photo below:
A close-up of one of the end pockets. Each measures 8½”H x 9″W x 3¼”D, perfect for underwear, socks, and lightweight tee shirts. On the front is a zippered pocket that measures 8″ x ~7″ and is fine for an iPod, ear buds, chap stick, and the like:
A view of the panel which serves as the opening to the main compartment. Twin zippers and quarter turn stainless steel latches secure everything inside. Also of note is the triangular stainless V ring; your ID/luggage tag can be attached to the lower section, so your shoulder strap’s snap hook won’t rub against its cord. One other important note: unlike the Air Boss and some other Red Oxx bags, the PR4 does not feature any padding; if you were thinking that this might make a great camera bag, look elsewhere. Red Oxx’s Sun Chaser is a better option. This aspect of the PR4 was probably part of my initial reaction to the bag – when empty, it tends to collapse on itself a bit.
The briefcase handle features stainless Mil-spec snaps; it’s quite comfortable:
The super-tough version of the Quake Industries Claw strap included with the PR4 is a great strap for this bag, as loads shouldn’t get much above 13 pounds or so:
A close-up of the top panel closures and V ring; everything on the bag has a satisfying heft. This end of the bag features a couple of extra D rings – you can see one of the left, below. These enable users to lock the main compartment: just use a small lock between the slider’s metal pull and the D ring.
A detail shot; the materials and workmanship on all Red Oxx bags are simply beyond belief – these things will likely outlast you!
From a security standpoint, it’s worth noting that the YKK chain type zippers used on the PR4 and other Red Oxx bags are completely resistant to spreading open as the result of the bag being over-packed, and are totally resistant to pilferage, should you lock the slider’s hasps together. The distinctive “Monkey’s Fist” pulls utilized by Red Oxx are also prominent in this shot:
How large is the Safari Beanos PR4?
Here the PR4 is flanked by the Air Boss (L) and Bihn Tri-Star. The Air Boss’s capacity is 2184 cubic inches; at 1539 cubic inches, the PR4 has approximately 70% the capacity of its stablemate. (The Safari-Beanos PR5 is more directly comparable to the Air Boss: it’s right at maximum allowable carry-on dimensions, and its capacity is 2400 cubic inches.)
As I’ve previously mentioned, if you’re doing business casual or casual travel, this bag could easily handle 2-3 night trips; if you’re an ultralight packer, you certainly could go longer – much longer – with the PR4. I took a very quick pass at packing a few items in the PR4, and did a quick video overview; it follows.
A quick video tour…
One thing I forgot to mention: I’d placed a rolled up pair of nylon shorts in one of the end pockets, along with my “dry” toiletries (razor, deodorant, etc.) (The lighting is horrible in the room I’m using for videos – all the colors are washed out. I’ll work on this!)
I’d obviously taken a casual (read: careless) approach to putting a few items of clothing into the PR4 for this video; I decided to revisit packing the bag, taking a bit more care as I did so. It turns out that a medium packing cube, placed on end, fits the PR4 very well:
Above: from top to bottom – medium packing cube, Asus netbook in neoprene sleeve, rolled-up sweatshirt; a lot of room is left over. Note, of course, that full size laptops will not fit in this bag. Given the lack of padding in the bag’s bottom, care should be taken if you’re using it with a netbook (read: don’t drop it on a hard floor from a height of two feet!).
Here I’ve added a 6″ x 9″-format paperback; there’s still space in the lower right for underwear, socks, and perhaps a lightweight (polyester or polypropylene) tee shirt or two. By the way: file folders, placed in the PR4 vertically, fit perfectly.
I’ll be doing a quick overnight trip to Cincinnati in another couple of weeks, and can’t wait to use this bag for that trip. As most of my travel is business casual, all I need to do is pack an extra shirt or two, perhaps a spare pair of slacks, underwear, etc. and I’m basically set. With the PR4, I’ll still have room for my iPod Touch, my netbook, and a couple of folders and a notepad, a book, and will likely have room left over.
How to sum up the Safari-Beanos PR4? Perhaps one of Red Oxx’s customers said it best in a user review:
I had my first opportunity to travel with my Safari Beanos Bags — from Richmond out to Colorado, around Colorado and then back home. They endured the indifference and abuse of luggage handlers, cab drivers and the like without a whimper or scar. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the thought and design, not to mention quality and craftwork that went into their making.
Let’s face it: we live in a disposable society. We have disposable cameras, disposable diapers, disposable dishes, the laptop you buy today will be essentially obsolete in half a dozen years, and if a tube-type TV stops working, we throw it out. In that context, the PR4 is a breath of fresh air. The thing oozes quality, is built like a brick house, and its safari-inspired style is timeless. What’s that worth to you?
The PR4, like all Red Oxx products, is made in Montana and is backed by a lifetime warranty. At $175, it’s a solid value. Also, consider what it’s not: it’s not made offshore; it’s not made from recycled soda bottles; it’s not overpriced.
See the PR4 at the Red Oxx site: Safari-Beanos PR4
Oh yeah: what or who is Beano? Beano is apparently a neighbor of one of the principals of Red Oxx, and is a guy who likes pockets on his bags. If true, the series of bags ought to be named Safari-Beano‘s; in any event, thanks Beano!
If you’ve used Red Oxx bags or would otherwise like to add to the discussion, please do so by commenting!
The Fine Print: I have no connection with Red Oxx; I was provided a sample PR4 to assist in the writing of this post.