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.

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4

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.

Specifications

  • 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:

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4: Front Pocket Detail

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)

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4:  Rear pocket detail

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:

Bottom Pass Thru zipper sliders secured with wire tie - CLICK FOR CLOSE UP

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:

DSC_1664a

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.

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4:  Main pocket hardware & zippers

The briefcase handle features stainless Mil-spec snaps; it’s quite comfortable:

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4: briefcase handle detail

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:

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4:  Claw strap detail

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.

Safari-Beanos PR4:  Triangular stainless V Ring detail

A detail shot; the materials and workmanship on all Red Oxx bags are simply beyond belief – these things will likely outlast you!

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4 hardware detail

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:

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4:  YKK zipper detail

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.)

Bag Comparison:  Red Oxx Air Boss, Safari-Beanos PR4, Bihn Tri-Star

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:

Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4:  packing

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!).

DSC_1686

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.

Wrapping up…

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.


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20 Comments on Bag lust: Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4 review

  1. Harris says:

    After my beloved ORIGINAL Patagonia MLC “died”, I replaced it with a Red Oxx Sky Train and at the same time purchased a Red Oxx PR 5. The quality of the Red Oxx items is second to none, and it is absolutely amazing how much stuff can be crammed into their bags. The design, materials and workmanship offered by Red Oxx is outstanding, and I attribute this to these items being made in Montana. You are right about the longevity of these items. You are not going to wear them out.

    [Reply]

  2. Michael W. says:

    Man your photos rock.

    So you are capable of “bag lust” after all? LOL.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Re-read the review and watched the video.

    Lots of details!

    Missed the reference to “Practical Hacks Global HQ” on my first read…LOL…it’s the sly humor you drop in from time to time that makes this blog one of my daily reads.

    3.5 pounds!I guess the solid construction “costs” some weight. But it would be hard to overload a sub-1,600 cubic inch bag like this anyway, and the pockets are to die for.

    Do you have some actual dimensions for the main compartment and the packing cube you used (a Bihn?)? Why the need to place on end to fit, since height and width both seem to be 9″?

    Do you think this bag would benefit from a home-made, cut from camping sleeping pad, piece of foam dropped into the middle compartment to lend it a little structure?

    How do you plan on accessing the netbook through security? It looks like you have to unbuckle the handle, twist two “buckles”, then pull the zipper tabs on both sides of that panel (you can’t really pull the panel up to open the zippers, due to the self-locking feature of the zippers, can you?).

    Finally, I think you should consider “hijacking” some of the minimalist fabric zipper pulls from your recent Patagonia sample bags and using them to replace both monkey paws and for that matter the metal pulls too, on the bottom only of the “pass through panel.”

    I think I’d worry about shocks to electronics when placed in the outermost zipper panel “slots”. I think I’d be inclined to stick an iPod Touch, for example, in the “socks” end compartment in a neoprene sport eyeglass holder, in between the socks or other soft clothing items.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I get a lot of pleasure from writing a sentence that’s well constructed, or a nice phrase, or even a little joke like the one you mention. Thanks for noticing!

    Agree with both your points about the weight. There is a penalty to be paid for the pockets (extra material, zippers, etc.) but to me they’re well worth it.

    I thought I’d mentioned the dims of the main compartment; if not, sorry about that. It measures ~13″ x 9″ x 9″. The cube I used measures 13″ x 11″ x ~3″ (of course the depth of a cube is imprecise – you can stuff it with as much stuff as you like and it will tolerate). Technically speaking, it shouldn’t fit flat in the bag, but of course both have enough flexibility that you could. I was simply trying to avoid having the netbook’s weight resting on the stuff in the cube, and trying to make it easier to retrieve at the TSA “magnetometer” at the checkpoint. (see below.)

    As for the pad, if I were to go that route, I’d frankly look to something lighter and thinner. Think of the padding that’s used in the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Duffel – doubled over, say. But I wouldn’t use that stuff in this bag – see below.

    TSA and the netbook? Yeah, not super convenient, but tolerable, I would think. I’d start by undoing the quarter turn buckles and unzipping one zipper as I approached the checkpoint. Then, if the netbook were indeed stored vertically, it’d be fairly easy to pull it out of the bag.

    As for the monkey’s fist pulls/metal pulls on the bottom zipper… I’d have to think hard about it, as modding this particular bag strikes me as a singularly unholy act, but… long term I think I might snip off the metal pulls and use a black wire/zip tie to secure/join the two sliders. And Michael, really, do you think I’d put something from Patagonia on a Red Oxx product?? A pox on you!

    The iPod Touch or iPhone? Hmm… I’ll see how I handle this when I travel with the bag. I put mine in the outside pocket, screen pointing inward, and think it’d be ok unless I ran into a wall or kicked it. Even then it’d likely be ok.

    Am I over 2500 characters yet???

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts and questions!

    kc

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    MW: Thanks for the comments about the pictures. I try to improve them a tiny bit with each bag review. As I suppose is obvious, they’re taken outside… which has me wondering about what I’ll do when The Middle of Nowhere becomes The Middle of the Frozen Tundra. I really need to set up a small studio in the basement…

    And as for bag lust, I too am a bagaholic. There are many bags I’d like to try out, including the Black Diamond daypack you’ve mentioned before.

    [Reply]

  3. Berg says:

    Thanks for reviewing this bag! I’d been looking at the Beano 5 for awhile but it’s great to see this one in all it’s tough bag glory.

    [Reply]

  4. David says:

    Nice review. Do you think it would make a good gym bag?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    David: Absolutely. Red Oxx positions it as an overnight or gym bag, and I think it’d work really well as an athletic gear/gym bag.

    [Reply]

  5. Michael W. says:

    Too bad the central compartment won’t take at 15″ PackIt (Eagle Creek).

    [Reply]

  6. Allan says:

    Hi Kevin.

    First time poster and suffering my first real case of bag lust.

    I am only starting to look into bags as I have had an old Samsonite bag, which is a little more business like version of the PR4, that has lasted me forever but which is now starting to look a little tatty around the edges.

    I would like the AirBoss but it is just a tad too big for a couple of our local Oz carriers while I expect will never have an argument attempting to carry-on the PR4. The Samsonite is a fairly stiff bag with a sturdy bottom and plastic lugs on the outside bottom. I take it with this comment: “Given the lack of padding in the bag’s bottom, care should be taken if you’re using it with a netbook” that there is no additional support in the bottom. Is it the case hat there is no difference between the makeup of the sides and the bottom? No additional stiffening/support in the bottom? I get the impression from the video of a bag that is fairly pliable and incapable of supporting itself without having something in it. Is this correct? Appreciate your advice.

    Regards,

    Allan

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Allan,

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, you’re right – there is no padding whatsoever in the PR4 – or in any of the bags in that series. The PR5 is roughly equivalent in size to the Air Boss, FYI.

    Kevin

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    How about the Sunchaser?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    The Sunchaser is the same size as the PR4 with the pockets configured differently, and it is padded.

    Allan Reply:

    Hey Michael, Kevin.

    The Sun Chaser ended up growing on me and I put an order in today – it’s my birthday present! Got over it’s lack of symmetry in favour of its firmer structure. Also, it is a little bigger than the PR4 as the measurements in the overview on the site don’t take into account the side pockets – which add a little over 300 cu.in – the details of which are only revealed when selecting ‘Read more’. Being a bit of a red wine bigot I had to get it in bordeaux. Looking forward to giving it a sound thrashing on future trips. Thanks for the advice.

    Regards,

    Allan

    Allan Reply:

    Thanks Kevin. Still vacillating. If this goes on for much longer I expect I’ll end up with both!

    Thanks for the suggestion Michael W. but I find I just don’t ‘lust’ after the sunchaser – perhaps a bit too casual even in the basic black I prefer.

    Allan

    [Reply]

  7. Richard J Laue says:

    Grey Beanos PR4 on Ebay —
    search for “Red Oxx” and you’ll see this bag.
    (I have no connection with the seller — just posting this in case anyone’s interested).

    Cheers –
    RJLaue

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Here’s a link: PR4

    [Reply]

  8. tfar says:

    Nice bag, indeed. I have recently bought TWO Andiamo Valoroso VD25. They are bigger but normally do go through as carry-on because duffels are such typical carry-on and because they look smaller.

    Here are pictures:
    http://www.altmanluggage.com/andiamo_vd25.php

    And the current best price:
    http://www.luggageguru.com/pro.....Collection

    At the uwantsavings sale I nabbed one for $70 or so. What a steal!

    This is the big thread on Andiamo on FT including short reviews of the models I own:
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum.....deals.html

    Till

    [Reply]

  9. J.S.H. says:

    I was wondering how the Red Oxx Safari-Beanos PR4 compares to the BAD (Best American Duffel) Duffel #1.5 SP. According to the specs, they have very similar capacities. The only main difference I can see is that the Red Oxx has exterior pockets while the BAD Duffel does not. That, and the BAD is $106 cheaper.

    [Reply]

  10. [...] praise PracticalHacks has given us over the years. Thanks again. Be sure to read the entire blog at PracticalHacks.com. ~Cheers, Minister of Information for the Department of Red Oxx Affairs [...]

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