Chrome Industries Summoner 2.0 Travel Backpack Review
Overall Rating: 8.1
|The bag looks good, 95% like the look according to our Instagram poll. It's a convenient size and weight. There are nice accents and additions like the compression straps, padded shoulder straps and breathable back panel.|
|The usability and functional design of this bag are excellent. There are examples of thoughtful design all throughout the bag including plenty of pockets, easy access and great protection. The clamshell opening is a great packing feature, but the compartments are awkwardly separated. The external center zipper gives you the opportunity to pack the bag as a duffel but this is not necessary when you open the bag as a clamshell. Accessibility to the laptop and organization compartment can be impeded through the top zipper when the bag is fully packed.|
|This bag is going to last you a very long time. The materials and construction are very durable. The interior feel is great and the exterior is pretty weatherproof and does not collect any dust, dirt or scratches. This can easily be your travel partner for a lifetime.|
Pros & Cons
|The size and comfort are excellent for short to medium-length trips for light packers.||Access to the main top zipper compartment can be impeded when packed.|
|The bag is light, weatherproof and durable. It seems to take a beating and show no signs of wear and tear.||You’ll find yourself having to consistently use the full clamshell opening to find items which can be inconvenient.|
|Plenty of pockets and compartments to keep things secure, separated and organized.||There are occassionally strap management issues when the bag is partially packed.|
Who This Backpack Is Ideal For
This Chrome Summoner 2.0 is certainly at it’s best when on short trips or as a secondary bag where you can fill the top/exterior compartment with packing cubes or clothes, but keep the interior compartment dedicated to your electronics, laptop, etc. that you want quick access to. The bag is a spacious 30L and can fit all the essentials for a week long trip, but you will lose the convenience of the organization and separate compartment design. If you’re a seasoned traveler, that travels light, this bag is an awesome size for a week-long stay. Allowing you to skip the luggage or bag check and keep everything comfortably on your back.
This is a travel backpack so it's not intended for everyday use. Although the materials and construction could hold up to daily use, the design is made for travel. The clamshell opening is excellent for packing and a life lived out of a suitcase, but is a bit inconvenient if you’re trying to grab items while on the move. When the bag is not fully packed and is compressed there is also a bit of a strap management issue. This is also probably not the right bag for a long-term (multi-month) backpacking trip. The bag feels larger than the 30L listed capacity, but not large enough for several weeks of gear, clothes and more to fit solely in this pack.
Full Review of Chrome Summoner 2.0
Inspired by the energy of the city and dedicated to building durable and useful gear for their customers, Chrome Industries is known for their high quality design and durable construction bags. The Summoner 2.0 is no exception to that rule and fits in nicely to their Modal Collection of multiple use backpacks and bags. Just like the Vega 3 in 1, and Macheto 2 in 1, the Summoner is comfortable carrying your gear.
The Summoner is an extremely light 2.9lbs unpacked and has external dimensions of 19.5” x 13” X 8.5”. Inside, the Summoner supports 30L of packing capacity. A full clamshell opening makes the Summoner easy to pack like a suitcase and keep your gear organized and secure.
A front top to bottom center zipper also allows for the bag to be packed as a duffel bag and provides access to the exterior compartment without opening the full clamshell.
The Summoner is most at home as a traditional travel backpack but can additionally be carried by the grab handles. Worn as a standard backpack the Summoner has excellent weight management and breathability making the pack extremely comfortable to tow. Thanks to the 3 large grab handles, the Summoner is also easy to pick up and go, and the design makes doing so fairly smooth and pain free. The backpack straps do not stow away though when the bag is being carried as a brief and can cause some awkward strap management.
In either form, the Summoner holds its shape well and will keep your gear secure and organized. The front sternum strap keeps the straps locked in and the weight distribution in this bag is pretty excellent.
The Summoner is certainly a “hero in a half shell” as described by Chrome. The profile of the bag is not extremely long but expands out away from the carrier to accommodate for a full pack. On a larger person this backpack is very reasonably sized. The total height of the bag is not too long, keeping the backpack off your hips and even when fully expanded the center of gravity and profile are reasonable. People with slighter builds may find the profile of the bag a bit bulky when fully expanded.
The Summoner boasts three external pockets for quick access storage. On the front of the bag, there is a zippered pocket that is the perfect size for a phone and/or keys. The top drop pocket utilizes a padded interior material and is the ideal size for a pair of sunglasses. Finally, the zippered pocket at the top of the back panel is a secure pocket tucked against your body for passports, boarding passes, a sleek money clip or whatever else you might want to keep extra secure.
Besides the quick access pockets, there are three zippers providing access to the interior compartments. Zippered panels inside the bag separate the two main compartments for the full clamshell design. A full length top to bottom zipper on the front of the bag provides access to the exterior compartment, while a top zipper provides access to the interior compartment. The final zipper runs out the outside perimeter of the bag and allows for the full clamshell opening of the bag.
Despite the effort made here to create easy access to the main compartments, the usability of the top to bottom front zipper for the external compartment and top zipper for the internal compartment falls a bit flat. When wearing the bag as a backpack, the front zipper makes it impossible to reach items in the bottom of the exterior compartment without fully opening the zipper and taking everything out.
Similarly, access through the top zipper to the internal compartment is compromised when the bag is fully packed as any items packed in the main external compartment or not in the organization panel of the internal compartment make it difficult to find and grab items that you need. This forces you to use the full clamshell opening 90% of the time to retrieve items from the pack and renders the other access zippers mostly useless.
The Summoner, true to its Chrome Industries roots, is certainly at home in the city. The material and look has an urban feel, while the lack of external pockets for things like water and snacks prevents this backpack from being a great trailblazer choice. In the city though, this bag is organized, sleek and stylish.
At this time, the Summoner is only available in Black.
The Summoner 2.0 is made from ultra durable 500D weatherproof tarp with a ripstop liner. The tarp exterior has a very reflective look and is very high gloss black to the eye. Unlike the discontinued Summoner 1.0, the 2.0 does not have the textured twill pattern exterior and is instead a consistent full black color everywhere including logos and badging.
The look is great, but the durability is where this bag shines. The material is extremely scratch resistant and does not attract any dust, dirt or grime. Spilt drinks easily wipe away and anything you pick up during your journeys (think dried mud) can easily be wiped away with a wet paper towel.
The nonporous exterior is nicely complemented on the straps and back panel with breathable mesh. The molded back panel also keeps the backpack mostly off your back promoting air flow and breathability. The Summoner also boasts some beefy hardware including large hard plastic buckles for the shoulder straps and external compression straps that allow you to compress the packed bag at the four corners. A smaller hard plastic sternum strap buckle and metal adjustment buckles allow you to adjust for the optimal carrying position. Good sized metal zippers (easy for grabbing) and a pair of metal D-rings to clip on a carabiner or water bottle on the shoulder straps round out the durable hardware on the exterior of the bag.
There are a handful of other external features on the Summoner worth mentioning. Of note, there are 4 compression straps (one at each corner) on the outside of the bag. These are a very nice feature to control the profile of the bag and help compress it back down when fully packed.
Strap management leaves a bit to be desired here. These straps use a quick clip-on system that attaches the excess dangling strap back to the compression loop. Unfortunately, when compressed there is a lot more strap on the excess end causing loops that are a bit awkwardly looking and are easy to snag on your surroundings. This 4 point system does impede the ability to open the bag into its full clamshell opening quickly and easily as you will need to unclip at least 2 of the strap to open the bag fully. This 4 point system however, seems to work a lot better than the two strap system seen on other bags at compressing the bag and keeping everything in place.
The Summoner also lacks any large pockets or slots for a water bottle. If your bottle has a carabiner (like the Vapur collapsible water bottles that we’ve been testing) then the D-rings on the shoulder straps will be a perfect alternative. If not, you’ll be packing your bottle into one of the two main compartments.
Lasty, the harness system on the Summoner is excellent. The padded foam shoulder straps on the Summoner 2.0 connect straight to the back panel of the bag and are easily adjustable, but do not slip. A standard sternum strap provides extra support and security while adding to the excellent weight distribution for this bag.
Inside the Summoner, you will find plenty of room for quick one week trips. The 30 liters of packing capacity are split into two main compartments by zippered panels.
The exterior compartment is an empty bucket style compartment perfect for all of your packing cubes and/or clothes. We’ve found it most natural to pack this compartment when the bag is fully clam shell opened but the front top to bottom zipper allows for you to pack or access this compartment while the bag is not fully opened. A zippered panel closes this compartment and has a pair of zippered pockets itself for additional organization and storage.
In the internal compartment, you will find an excellent organizational panel including a floating and padded sleeve for laptops up to 15”. The floating compartment protects your laptop from any unexpected drops or falls and a velcro strap keeps it in place. On top of the laptop sleeve the Summoner sports an additional 4 pockets perfect for tablets or other small devices, a power bank or small digital camera, pens and stylus.
There is also an additional floating stash pocket on the side of the bag which is a great spot for extra cash, coins or valuables. Access to this pocket can be cumbersome though so we don’t advise keeping items here that you need quick access to during the day.
Beyond the organizational panel there is excess room in this compartment to pack additional items like packing cubes, a toiletry bag, a light jacket or an umbrella. This is where the Summoner really loses some points on access though as any additional items packed in this compartment make it more difficult to access your important items from the organizational panel through the top pocket. Essentially forcing you to use the full clamshell opening every time you need something from the bag. A mesh zippered divider panel closes up this compartment.
Overall the inside of this bag is excellently organized and provides lots of room with zippered pockets, panels and stash pockets. The interior material is light, but durable and the texture is very nice to the touch. The one missing feature is pass through slots for headphone or charging cords. This seems like a slight oversight.
Testing & Ownership
We’ve been testing the Summoner 2.0 for a few weeks now and are very happy with the bag overall. As a replacement to a suitcase or full size travel backpack, the Summoner 2.0 is perfect for 3-7 day trips for light packers. The bag provides plenty of organized and secure space to pack and get to your destination.
Once there though, the Summoner is not built to be your daily driver. This bag is best when utilizing the full clamshell opening and access to the two main compartments through either of the other two zippers is clumsy at best. Unfortunately, utilizing the full clamshell opening is not always convenient and is made even more difficult by the 4 compression buckles that are on each corner of the bag. The Summoner is at its best when combined with a packable daypack to use day to day at your destination.
In combination with packing cubes, the access difficulties can be minimized. If traveling without cubes, access to the interior compartment in particular might be more of a pain.
The quick access pockets of the Summoner have been particularly useful grabbing quick cash, stashing a phone or protecting a pair of sunglasses during the rain. As digital nomads, the organizational panel and laptop protection in this pack are extremely appealing.
From a durability perspective the Summoner is excellent and Chrome backs this up with a lifetime warranty guarantee against any manufacturing or material defects. We’re extremely impressed with the scratch resistant and weatherproof coating of the 500D tarp exterior. And as mentioned above, almost any dirt, dust or grime can be easily wiped away with a wet towel or napkin.
Finally, the bag looks great and certainly has that distinct urban grit look that is classic for Chrome.
Getting from A to B, the Chrome Summoner is an excellent bag and is fairly priced as it should last a lifetime of adventures. If you like the look and feel of the Summoner, but are planning for a longer trip we suggest trying out the Chrome Macheto 2 in 1 Travel Backpack. If you’re looking for an alternative better suited to a rugged adventure we recommend the Chrome 28L Urban Ex Waterproof Backpack.
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