In March 2016, I was sitting in a hotel room in Thailand when I came across the following crowdfunding video:
Here are two important things I learned from watching it:
Remo had a nice time developing the Slicks backpack (skip to 1:46)
This bag will solve all my problems. In travel, and maybe even life in general.
Plenty of positive reviews came out after the bag was released but most of those people got it for free. I lusted after it, bought it with my hard-earned cash, then took it around the world for over a year.
After about sixteen months of use, here are my full unbiased thoughts on the Slicks Travel System. If you’re a bag geek like me, this is the Slicks review that you’ve been waiting for.
Slicks Travel System features:
The bag itself is 30L, measures 52 x 32 x 20cm and weighs 1.390kg (before the accessories).
As single-bag travel bags go, that's not that big, but it is quite heavy.
There’s a separate laptop compartment, a shoe compartment, plus numerous interior pockets. The main compartment opens clamshell style for easy packing and there’s a section that opens like a duffel for things you want to chuck in and grab easily. The bag also has a hip belt and comfortable straps, which all tuck away so it can be carried as a large briefcase or stowed securely. Then there’s a high visibility rain cover to keep things dry.
Basically, it has all the pocketz you need.
You can buy just the pack, or one of three configurations: SUIT, TRIP and BIZ.
SUIT comes with a suit-cover accessory for carrying a full suit wrinkle-free, TRIP includes a 12L mobile wardrobe packing cube (with a shirt protector/folder, a laundry bag and a toiletry bag), and BIZ includes the lot.
This diagram explains pretty much everything:
I bought the BIZ setup.
The Swiss army knife of bags
I love the design of the pack itself and it feels very well built. Well over a year since I bought it, nothing has fallen off or broken. That's good.
On the inside, the mesh pocket grips any loose, flat items (such as a lightweight jacket) and the electronics pocket and document sleeve are both accessible when you hold the bag upright and access it from the top. This means you can securely pack your travel papers and important items inside but still reach in to grab them easily at the airport without opening the whole thing up. This is in itself a pretty clever feature.
Then there’s the duffle compartment on the outside. This took a bit of flak in most of the online reviews but it’s perfect for last minute items: chuck in your travel adaptor, a few souvenirs, or take out your bag of liquids as you go through security. Then, the discrete small exterior pocket is just the right size for a passport and boarding pass, and is ideally positioned when you’re carrying the bag by the side handle.
Honestly, if you like organisation, I feel it would be difficult to beat the basic layout of this bag.
Then there’s the accessories:
I haven’t tested this much but if you want to transition from work into a weekend trip and pack your suit without it wrinkling, it works about as well as can be expected. I mean, you’re putting a suit into a backpack, it’s not the most elegant solution, but I can’t say it doesn’t work.
This included 12L packing cube fits perfectly and works very well if you’re living out of the bag as you travel, rather than unpacking at your destination, as everything has its own separate area. The shirt protector will keep your shirts presentable, the toiletry bag is surprisingly well designed for something that really just carries shower gel and a toothbrush, and the laundry bag will successfully keep your filthy socks at bay.
On the Tripcover, there are two compartments on the front (each with its own zippered interior pocket) and one long pocket on the back for the shirt protector (which even has a place to tuck your tie).
In many ways this really is the Swiss army knife of bags - it was designed in Switzerland and has a tool for almost every possible scenario.
Unfortunately, this is sort of the problem…
A place for everything, and everything in its place
Nothing is perfect and the Slicks does have its issues. With such a myriad of pockets and a place for everything, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there would also be space for everything. That’s not the case.
Due to the number of sections crammed into the bag, each part you pack will slightly encroach on another. For example, both the interior pocket for electronics and the shoe compartment take space away from the duffle compartment. It’ll look cavernous when the bag is empty, but once you’ve filled up everything else you’d be lucky to get a pair of socks in there.
Likewise, if you’re using the shirt protector, good luck getting any more than a change or two of clothes into the trip cover. When fully packing the Slicks you might find you can only fit a few things in each compartment, meaning the interior organization of the bag takes up almost as much space as the items you’re packing.
That can’t be right!?
You can please some of the people all of the time…
The problem is that the Slicks Travel System tries to be all things to all people. Here’s the quote from their Kickstarter:
"A modular backpack that keeps you organized and ready for every travel scenario. Roll stylishly between work, play & life on the move."
One backpack, limitless possibilities?
Sadly not. In my opinion, it is perfectly designed for one scenario: 3 to 5 day leisure and business trips. Not backpacking. Not extended travel. Maybe cycling to work. Maybe.
Pretty much immediately after it arrived in the post, I took it to Germany for a few days and it performed admirably. I actually saw someone else with one at Heidelberg airport and tried to catch his eye so we could pat each other on the back for being cooler and more organised than everybody else.
I can imagine the Slicks doing just as well for an overnight business trip. You'd fit in your suit, gym stuff and a change of clothes. That's all you'd need and you'd know exactly where everything was.
However, when I took the bag to Taiwan and South Korea for a fortnight, I struggled to get everything I needed inside. That was a week's worth of clothes, an extra pair of shoes, plus electronics. It was all fine until I tried to squeeze the DSLR in there.
I know, I should have packed less, right? All you really need for endless adventuring is a few high quality travel clothes (merino wool etc) but if you can travel like that, you don't need a bag this big. If you only have 6 items, then you don’t need 12 pockets. The interior organisation of the Slicks is only useful if you have enough things to to organise. And if you do, then it won’t bloody fit anyway!
OK, that's being a little harsh. It's impossible to make the perfect bag for every scenario, and the Slicks gets about as close as possible. But adjust your expectations of what will fit inside compared to other 30L bags like this.
I love the basic design of the Slicks and just like I got a little buzz from the initial video, I still like packing things away in all the pockets, feeling like I don’t just have a bag on my back, but a specialised tool kit that has me prepared to take on the world. The result is fine for a weekend away but it’s not the best option for indefinite travel.
In my opinion, the bag was perfectly designed and then over-designed. A Swiss army knife is useful for almost every scenario - except travel, because amusingly, you can’t actually take it on the plane. I feel the makers of Slicks had a slight oversight in designing this bag to be as versatile as possible, whilst forgetting one of the most important parts by adding too much organisation.
Nonetheless, I used this bag for numerous trips over the course of more than a year and it held up very well. It wasn't great for the long trips, but it was perfect for the shorter ones.
And I can definitely confirm that I had a nice time using it.
Short lesiure trips: 9/10
Business trips: 9/10
Longer leisure trips or indefinite travel: 6/10
You can buy the Slicks Travel System here. Don't worry, that's not an affiliate link. I need to work on that...
All photos courtesy of the Slicks Indiegogo campaign. That's definitely not me in the cover photo.