Looking to get your sexy back? Get Joey. Seriously, that slouch when carrying a heavy backpack is not a flattering look. The Joey is designed with ergonomics in mind – your back in particular. Whilst most backpacks are designed with either ‘stylishness’ or ‘functionality’ as the top priority, Koala Gear definitely got it right when they designed this backpack with ‘health’ in mind.
Don’t get us wrong, we love ourselves bags that can increase our swag-factor or bags with specific compartments for pens, notebooks – given our OCD for keeping gadgets organised. Despite its simplicity, the Joey places #1 when you are looking at even a bag that provides proper weight distribution and comfort.
The Joey is Koala Gear’s first product. It was one of the first few backpacks to be launched on Kickstarter back in August 2016, and they successfully raised an impressive US$233,656 with 1345 backers! Since then, Koala Gear has been coming out with new products such as the Lio backpack which was launched on Kickstarter earlier this year. Check out our review for the Lio here.
Joey’s key selling point is definitely its ergonomics. There are two main contact points with your body – your shoulders and hips – which are both amply padded. The padding at the shoulder straps and hip are about 1.5cm thick, which gives it that nice and squishy feeling that makes carrying heavy items surprisingly enjoyable.
We love how there is a nice curvature on the hip padding, similar to two protruding wings, that hugs your hips nice and comfortably. Also, we are impressed by the generous amount of padding which not just covers the full length of both shoulder straps, but also reaches down to the portion of the back piece which supports your upper back. The rigid curved backing creates a space between your back and the bag, which is a relief for those with scoliosis or a bad back.
There are four additional straps – waist, chest, and both shoulders – that securely and snuggly pulls the bag closer to your body which distributes the weight more evenly throughout your body. Because it is so evenly distributed, we are not exactly sure how to articulate where that extra weight disappeared to when we used the straps
We do have to point out that it took a bit of time to get used to bearing most of the burden on our hips, considering that we hardly ever take note of our hips beyond doing the NaeNae or Gangnam Style. Also, it takes some time to find the perfect adjustment of the straps such that the height of the Joey suits you. Nonetheless, once you get it, you’ll be able to feel the difference!
The Joey is pretty tall, and the main compartment runs pretty deep! It has a volume of 25 litres and has an extendable roll-up top of you need an extra whopping 15 litres. We were able to comfortably pack in the 15.6-inch Zephyrus ROG laptop and charger, Razer Cynosa Pro keyboard and Razer DeathAdder 2000 mouse, Moleskine notebook and pencil case, water bottle, umbrella and wallet.
Did we overpack? Maybe, but we surely did not feel guilty about it since it was much of a burden to our back. Despite its capacity, we would still prefer to use it as a heavy-duty EDC instead of a bag for backpacking. Gauging by our hygiene standards – a fresh set of clothes a day, toiletries and basic gadgets – it is probably not enough if you’re hoping to pack for a week-long trip.
Plenty, although it’s one of those things where you either hate or love it. For example, we counted a total of 6 quick-access pockets that are accessible from the outside, and there’s kinda still one more at the base for storing the detachable rain cover. If you have a goldfish memory like the majority of our writers, it is easy to forget which of the 6 pockets you had stashed your train card and house keys. We feel that this should be reduced to just one or two central quick-access dump-pouches because of the constant fumbling around.
If you’re all about quick access and are good at compartmentalising, having separate pouches for your earphones, keys and electronics might be useful to keep them from entangling into a Gordian knot or a turning into a mess of scratches and dents – so that’s a plus.
Touch and Feel
Our writers got to test out the Black Microfiber version of the Joey and it was really interesting since it is not a material that you come across often on bags. It’s thick, durable and water-repellent. There’s also a slightly rough and ruggedised feel to it which gave us the impression that this would be the perfect material for making a high-tech groundsheet for camping in the future. Although Joey is water repellent, the two pockets on the front and the paddings are not; the Joey comes with a stow-away detachable raincoat at the bottom compartment if you intend to trudge through a tropical thunderstorm.
Trade-off #1: Joey is considerably heavy (1.2kg) even without filling it up with your gadgets. It’s not surprising considering the sturdy build on the backing and thickness of the fabrics and paddings used. Our female writers said they would rest the Joey on the floor if they had to stand on the train, whilst the guys said they would not mind carrying it. We would recommend that you head to your nearest shop to test it out if you foresee this to be an issue for you.
Trade-off #2: Joey’s rigidness and size is a win for ergonomics and capacity, but put these two properties together, you kinda get a bulky shell that might not give you the best experience if you have the habit of swivelling your bag to the front of your body to access the main compartment. The most comfortable way to access the Joey’s main compartment is simply to rest it on a surface. Also, because of the rigid shape of the wings at the hips, you should always be carrying the bag with both straps on both shoulders. This might come as bad news to those who like to carry their bag on just one shoulder but hey, health comes first right?
Pricing and availability
During their Kickstarter campaign in 2016, Joey had a promotional price of US$100 for early backers. Currently, Joey is retailing at USD 219 (SGD 300) on their website www.koala-gear.com. If you are not ready to fork out that amount of cash for a backpack, we recommend that you wait a little while for the Jay backpack (https://jay.koala-gear.com/) that Koala Gear will be launching on Kickstarter in December. If you pre-order it, you can get it at the promotional price of USD 99 (SGD 136).
If you are on the fence and need that extra push to justify purchasing the Joey:
- Looking to get your sexy back? Get Joey.
- Want a tall, dark, and handsome backpack? Get Joey.
- You probably already have a few stylish looking backpacks in your collection, but do you have one designed with ergonomics as the top priority? No? Get Joey.