It’s been nearly two months since I published my review of the Pacsafe Metrosafe 350;  I’ve used it every day since as a daily bag, and have also traveled with it a couple of times, so I thought it’d be worth taking a quick look at the bag as well as report on how it’s performed and held up.

First, for the uninitiated, what is the Metrosafe 350?  It’s a smallish backpack with two main compartments (one of which sports a padded laptop sleeve), a small zippered compartment for odds and ends, and a couple of expandable side pockets for water bottles and the like.   As with all Pacsafe products, the Metrosafe 350 features several noteworthy security features:  tamperproof zippers, slashproof walls and backpack straps, and one backpack strap which can be anchored to a seat leg or similar object.

So: how’s it held up?  Any new insights?  Let’s take a look…

A couple of basics

A factor which several readers questioned me about is the bag’s weight.  Older Pacsafe products have a reputation for being heavyweights, but that’s hardly the case with the Metrosafe 35o.  It weighs a mere 1½ lbs., and can be tossed over a shoulder with ease.

The other thing that’s worth noting is that the security features don’t get in your way or impact your use of the bag in any sense.  They’re totally unobtrusive, but available when you need them.

One tiny mod

I have no idea what Pacsafe’s intent is with the little high visibility yellow and black rubber sleeves which identify the tamperproof zippers and the “snatchproof” shoulder strap (left), but I took them off after my initial review.  Why call attention to security features?

Perhaps new users need a little assistance in locating these features, but after that, these serve no purpose other than to draw attention to something that ought to be as discreet and covert as possible.  So, they’re history.

Surprising capacity

As mentioned in the original review, the Metrosafe 350 can hold a lot despite its relatively diminutive size (32 x 42 x 13cm / 12.6 x 16.5 x 5.1″).  I typically have a ~2″ thick stack of folders and magazines in the main compartment, plus my T42 ThinkPad on occasion; there’s room left over.  One practice I adopted early on:  the ThinkPad is a tight fit in the laptop sleeve (best suited to a netbook, Kindle, or iPad), so I now simply put it in the main compartment, not bothering with the sleeve:

The bottom of the bag is padded, and it’s much easier to simply put the T42 into the main compartment.  This particular ThinkPad model measures 12¼” x 10″ x ¾”, by the way.

Perhaps eagle eyed readers have spotted the Red Oxx luggage tag at the bottom right and are wondering what it’s doing on a Pacsafe product.  There’s nothing odd going on here:  I simply took it off my Red Oxx Metro, as it holds my ID badge/electronic pass – which, despite the entreaties of our HR department, I refuse to wear.  Hanging off the right side of the bag, it’s handy for swiping the pad for the electronic door locks on our building.

Although you can’t see it in the photo above, I also had my iGo charger in the bag, as I’ve been using it while traveling and occasionally use it at work to recharge my iPod Touch & BlackBerry.

Below, the 2nd compartment.  On the left rear, loyalty/frequent flyer cards; to their right, a highlighter and my Canon S90 in one of two small padded compartments; its mate is next, with a few pens and a small magnifier.  Beyond these items, a few data CD’s, my iPod and Ultimate Buds, and (barely visible) a Field Notes notebook.   Peeking out of the expandable bottle pocket on the right is an eyeglass case.

The zippered pocket on the bag’s front (not shown here; see original review) has a small bottle with some aspirin, some antiseptic wipes, and a couple of bottles of eyedrops.

Packed with these items, the bag weighs 12 pounds.  The T42 is a relative heavyweight, of course.  All in all, I wouldn’t want to carry much more in this bag, although it shows absolutely no signs of wear, with all the stitching and hardware in excellent condition.

Wrapping up

Using the MS 350 for a couple of months as a daily bag has reaffirmed my initial reaction to the bag:  it’s surprisingly commodius, well made, and has understated good looks.  I like it quite a bit.

I’ve used in on a couple of trips as for carrying my onboard “stuff,” and it’s worked just fine for that purpose.  My only reservation about the bag is that the top loop handle is a bit of a perfunctory affair:  you would not want to carry 10-12 pounds in this bag while using that handle.  It’s best for occasional use, and nothing more.  But this is a minor detail; the bag is otherwise very well thought out and well made.

At $79.99, the Metrosafe is a very solid value, particularly when you consider the built in security features.  Is this a permanent replacement for my Metro as a daily bag?  Probably not, but at present I’m not yet inclined to switch back – this bag is that good.

You can see the Metrosafe 350 at the Pacsafe site:  Pacsafe Metrosafe 350.

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9 Comments on Long term test: Pacsafe Metrosafe 350

  1. Michael W. says:

    Thanks for the follow-up. Commercial reviewers seldom have time to do this (with perhaps the exception of “long term” auto tests) and even bloggers seldom follow-up. Just another reason why your blog is so interesting.

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  2. John says:

    Great Review – I haven’t been able to find such in-depth information anywhere else, and can’t find any local retailers that carry the bag for me to check out.

    Two quick questions about the bag
    * How much of the backback is covered with the exoMesh material? I know some of the PacSafe backpacks only guard the bottom of the bag, which doesn’t help if the bag’s up on a bus rack.
    * How easy is it to secure contents in the MS350 (with luggage locks, etc)? Sometimes I need to leave the bag at a hotel during the day. I’m debating getting either this backback or the TravelSafe 12L (also from PacSafe)

    Thanks for all the time you put into your site.

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    Kevin Reply:

    John,

    Thanks for your kind words; I appreciate it. As for your questions:

    * The back of the smaller compartment, and the bottom of the backpack, are protected by the exoMesh.

    * The main compartment has lockable (interlocking) zipper tabs and can be easily secured with a small lock; the smaller compartment’s zipper pulls can also be secured with a small lock. Also, you could lock the entire bag to a bed frame or something similar with a cable lock.

    There’s one thing about the bag that bugs me, and I’ll cover it in a “long term test” type post, but here’s a preview: if you throw the bag over one shoulder (assuming you’re a righty), the strap you’ll be using is the lockable strap. I’ve found that the steel cable-reinforced strap tends to twist inside the shoulder pad when you walk and move about, and this can become uncomfortable. I think I know how it can be fixed, but need to visit a shoe repair shop to test my fix. If you use both shoulder straps, this isn’t an issue. If the load you’re carrying is light, it doesn’t matter much. But if you’re carrying 5-6 lbs. of stuff (think a netbook and other gadgets, papers, etc.), it’s a PITA. Look for this post in the future.

    Thanks again!

    Kevin

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  3. Michael W. says:

    I may have to revert to this pack on my next flight to SE Asia. In May, I was threatened with a $150 “two carryon bag fee” by the China Airlines ticket counter agent at SFO – I had a RedOxx KatPack on my back, and an Eagle Creek _small_ No Matter What duffel – the kind that fits over the handle of rolling luggage. They insisted on weighing both bags – the Kat Pack was 15 lbs, their published limit, the hand duffel was 10 pounds. Fortunately they did not impose the fee at the ticket counter, but stapled an excess cabin baggage fee notice to my boarding pass for final determination at the gate. At the gate, the personnel were re-weighing carryon bags (since the latest thing is hiding stuff around the corner with a friend, then repacking it) but the gate personnel only weighed the duffel and passed on the Kat Pack as a personal item.

    I am flying Cathay Pacific next time (big surprise) and went on line to find out what their limits were – they actually sneakily changed it from one carryon “plus a personal item like purse or small pack” to “single bag”, 15 lbs. I don’t know if they will really put the kibosh on a traditional personal item like a daypack – in addition to a traditional carryon luggage piece like a 21″ wheelie – but the 15 pounds limit is a killer, combined with the “single bag” no personal item technical shift. Imagine a 9 pound wheelie in which you have to stuff your 5 pound daypack – that leaves exactly 1 pound for your actual wheelie luggage!

    Pretty much makes my favorite bag, the RedOxx Gator, a non-starter since it weighs almost 3 lbs empty. Pretty much makes bags like the Lightweight Travel series from Patagonia (from 9-12 ounces for each item ranging from tote to backpack to duffel to messenger bag), and Tom Bihn’s Dyneema Co Pilot, sub 12 oz, not only appealing, but a must.

    Except for one thing, the need to pad my iPad from harm caused by me, or by careless fellow passengers shoving things around in the overhead bin.

    Hence reverting to this MetroSafe 350 – it is padded, I put a hard plastic stiffener behind my iPad in its slipcase just in front of the rear panel to reduce flex risk. When packed with most of my emergency layover / lost luggage items, it comes in at 8-10 pounds. That leaves 5-7 pounds for my seat-side bag, which in this case is downsized to a Patagonia MiniMass, which is rated at 600 c.i. but holds a lot less than the Gator, rated at 600 c.i. as well (Montana c.i., like all things Western, must be bigger than coastal c.i.).

    You see, I’d like to try to pass muster at the ticket counter with these two small bags (the MetroSafe 350 is SO SLIM unlike the “fat” Kat Pack)) rather than stuff them both in an ultralight duffel. But I will have my ultralight duffel (Sea to Summit, 3 oz) stuffed in the MetroSafe in case I have to “beat the system” by saying “fine, you don’t like my two small bags, I’ll just stuff them in another – happy now?”

    I know its probably good for me for my cabin luggage to be on a diet, as I’ve downsized I notice that my stress level (searching for bin space, trying to disembark a full flight) goes down. But I pretty much hate it that some airlines and counter and gate personnel are turning into really aggressive Baggage Police – as if TSA wasn’t enough of a hassle.

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  4. Jonas Rye Nielsen says:

    I have used this bag for 2 years and the zipper on the small front compartment is now broken which makes the useless. So please notice that the small zipper is used a lot which makes it break other than that it is a great bag. So now I thinking of buying it again or upgrade to PacSafe Venturesafe 15L Gii what do you think?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Jonas, Any chance a shoe repair service could replace that zipper? You may want to check before buying a replacement bag.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    Jonas, the zippers for the main and secondary compartments are both two-way – can’t you just use the remaining pull to “relocate” the zipper slider to the far end, and then open and close with the remaining single zipper pull? Effectively converting a two-way zipper into a one-way. Of course you will lose the security latch feature unless the bottom-most zipper slide (when viewed in the “security clip” location) is the one missing the toggle.

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  5. Michael W. says:

    Update from my June 4, 2013, blathering.

    There is a nicer looking replacement model, the LS350 Metrosafe LS350 Anti-Theft 15L Backpack. So far as I can tell, identical volume, identical main and secondary compartments, but slightly different interior materials, a new zipper slot in the large main compartment, and slightly different pockets in the secondary compartment. A nicer hand grip strap.

    In terms of my personal use on overseas trips, I have been trying to use cross-body carry messenger bags more than daypacks. Cutting and running (or cutting and pilfering on a train etc.) are less of an issue for me than motorcycle grabs, where a single shoulder day pack is grabbed and dragged away from us with a sudden jerk by the passing motorcyclist (or his accomplice on pillion).

    Also, a messenger carry bag can be rotated front body on a subway, and contents can be accessed anytime with both hands without setting on the ground.

    In terms of overall “travel worthiness” though, the LS350 remains tops in my book. The slightly different, more conventionally “daypack” appearance (in terms of less slick materials) and better hand strap make this a bargain – even at the increased $99.95 price tag (couldn’t find online discounts either).

    BTW the security clips are even harder to open now, already a problem with the old bag – imagine fumbling for bag contents while trying to pay at a hawker stand.

    What I HAVE used several overseas trips is the Pacsafe Venture Safe 25L. Not because it is bigger than my similar packs from Patagonia etc., but because it is the same weight but includes those nice security features that are annoying for a daypack on the street. Since there is no “weight penalty” using the Pacsafe vs. a Paty, and since the Pacsafe is made of more rugged nylon (not polyester) I select it, first, as a pack, and second, for overhead bin security from pilferage while I sleep.

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  6. Phil D says:

    Nice review, very thorough. Accordingly I have just ordered a Metrosafe LS350 here in Australia. It looks to be a perfect size for my MacBook Pro and bits and pieces, as well as the Micro 4/3 camera (a Lumix GX7) and lenses I travel with. As well as being a well-made and secure bag for travelling it looks just fine for my day-to-day use too. Many thanks Kevin.

    [Reply]

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