The SMASHii rucksack is a new range of packs with seriously beefed up and integrated security features, available for the security conscious gap year traveller, adventure traveller or backpacker, with the aim of reducing the risk of crime or loss of possessions alongside the traditional role and features of a trusted backpack.
Available in a range of colours with equally unique names, the Snow Camoo (black), Baby Charlie (pink) and Doodlebug (blue) backpacks have bridged the gap between traditional backpacks and more traditional luggage options, and combined the best of both worlds with a vast range of high end practical and security features.
The SMASHii rucksack is a 65 litre backpack with a 15 litre detachable daysack. This size in my opinion is more than adequate for the majority of backpackers to take an entire gap year with, unless you are on a flashpacking odyssey and must take that 15th pair of shoes of course.
This pack is unique in that it is made up of cordura, nylon and kevlar, and weighs 2.93 kgs. The daysack weighs an extra 0.93kg.
It has an adjustable back length of 50 – 60 cms, which is essential to get the right fit for your height. (Any good outdoor shop should be able to measure your back for you or just get a friend with a tape measure. If this range is a little too big for you (if you are of a petite build for example) you may be better off with a slightly smaller pack.
Design wise it is a little different than most traditional backpacks and has a definitive, unique appearance. It is essentially suitcase or holdall type pack with a backpack rig attached, in a way a hybrid of the two types of luggage. Aimed at gap year travellers and backpackers it honestly wouldn’t look out of place in a professional or traditional holiday environment either.
I personally don’t mind this look at all. It will certainly stand out when you are keeping an eye on it in the cargo hold of a night train or the airport luggage carousel, but next to other backpacks on the banana pancake trail it does look a little strange. This will be down to your own personal tastes though, and I personally think features are more important than appearance, which is where the SMASHii pack comes into it’s own.
Fit and comfort.
The comfort features on the SMASHii backpack are more than adequate, but do suffer just a little from the holdall type design.
Many more traditional backpacks with the top loader/segregated design feel like they mould to your spine, provided that you get the right size and fit for your size, height and gender of course, and come with a wider range of features such as air flow back systems and extra padded hip belts and lumbar supports.
The SMASSHii backpack does have some comfort features such as a moderately padded hip belt and lumbar support. These are adequate enough and felt relatively comfortable when lugging a full pack about for an extended period. To be honest – due primarily to the type of pack – it is not the most comfortable on the market but they are far from the worst either. Provided that you are within the height and size range for a 65 litre backpack the back adjust system works really well, which is essential for making it fit right for your individual height and shape and putting the weight on your hips where it should be. This is absolutely essential when you consider that you will probably be carrying and living out of your pack for a year or more.
However, when it comes down to it, it still looks and feels like you are carrying a large flat holdall or a suitcase on your back as opposed to a backpack. Which when it comes down to it that is essentially what you are. It is not uncomfortable by any means but you can tell the difference. If however the benefits of a holdall or suitcase type rucksack appeal to you, then this is a compromise you can probably make. It is just a personal decision you will have to weigh up for yourself.
The SMASHii rucksack comes with a range of features including an integrated waterproof cover that is very quick and easy to get on and pack away again, and attached velcro tabs to roll up and secure excess strapping.
The ruscksack differs from many backpacks in that it opens up entirely – and I mean all the way, the zipper goes almost the entire way around the pack – to expose a deep, vast bucket and a padded lid with various pouches and pockets. In many ways exactly like a traditional suitcase. It operates exactly like one too, right down to the attached straps to secure your stuff.
I have to say this did take a little bit of getting used to after using the more traditional top loader/segmented backpacking systems for many years, (the ones that are entirely top loading or have a top loading system with an accessible middle segment) but in many ways when in a situation where it could be fully opened it was actually really practical. Combined with other systems such as packing cubes or stuff sacks, having easy access to your gear is so much easier when it is all laid out in front of you and I can see why fully opening packs are gaining in popularity.
However, after travelling with this pack for a few days, I did start to miss the external pouches and segments on a traditional pack. If you wanted access to anything quickly and easily, say a book on a train for example, the only way you could do that was to open the entire pack up, as there are no external zipped compartments or side pouches on this rucksack at all. That is not practical on a gap year or snap year. If there is one piece of constructive criticism I could say about this rucksack it is that if the designers had just thought to add a couple of side pouches in place of the suitcase style handle, a pouch on the back just above or below where the daysack would normally sit or even a separate top section, then this pack would have been absolutely perfect.
Anti theft features.
This is what sets the SMASHii backpacks apart from most in the market and the whole concept that it sells itself on, so what were the anti theft features really like?
I loved them, and frankly any small gripe or constructive criticism about extra pockets have been forgiven and redeemed by the safety features on this amazing piece of kit.
As any regular reader of this site will know, I am a huge advocate of gap year safety, and always encourage extra security such as using a pacsafe or a steel cable lock when travelling. This would normally involve carrying your pack itself obviously, plus extra kit which essentially takes up weight and space, and takes time to put on and utilise properly.
The SMASHii rucksack has integrated all the best parts of other security systems into the pack itself and then more. You don’t need to carry extra steel cables, they are built into the pack itself! Using a layered security system, the rucksack employs a variety of technologies and systems that will keep theives from getting into your pack or even making off with it entirely.
First is the heavy duty zip and large zip handles which can be secured by your own padlock. Now this pack doesn’t come with any padlocks but to be honest I would always recommend getting your own TSA approved padlocks anyway. This obviously ensures that no one can open up the pack itself. If you have no padlock, the retractable wire locks can be used for this purpose too.
After that there is the kevlar zip protection system, which is a slash proof cover that goes over the zip and the padlock you attached to it and is tightened and secured by two wires that are then secured to a fixe point on the rucksack itself with another padlock. I have to admit I was sceptical at first as to how secure this would be, but after putting it through rigorous testing I am convinced. This works really well.
Next up is the same kevlar anti slash material across the entire pack which will obviously prevent anyone from bypassing the other security measures and cutting your pack open to get to your stuff.
Finally, the retractable combination wire locks are what really makes these SMASHii packs unique and infinitely practical. These are integrated wire cables that you can pull out to secure the pack to any fixed surface. I have used other cable locks and pacsafes to do the same job since I started backpacking over a decade ago, and I think it is absolutely genius to have it integrated into the pack itself! I can’t believe this hasn’t become commonplace before now! All you have to do is pull out the cable from one of the integrated combination locks on one side of your pack, pull it around something secure, then put the cable into the lock on the other side. Easy! Both sides have separate locks with separate cables for double the protection.
Unfortunately the detachable 15 litre daysac is probably the one thing that lets the pack down. As a separate pack it is very basic. Inside there is room for a laptop and a charger, plus a few documents but very little else. The padding is also minimal so I would personally be wary about actually using it to keep a laptop safe, if that is actually what you want to use it for. The biggest gripe for me however is the design itself. It has a satchel style lid that goes over the drawstring cover but this lid is not wide enough at the base to fully cover the top of the pack, and like most satchel style packs it leaves a gap at the top. Given the main packs excellence in the security department this is a bit of a letdown.
To be perfectly honest there are much better day sacks out there that are more suited to day to day use on your travels, whether you are sightseeing in a city or hiking through a tropical jungle. I would probably ditch this daysack and buy a separate pack for day to day use and as a carry on.
My final opinion is that despite the flaws of the detachable daysack, the main pack is an excellent, sturdy rucksack which will serve a lot of backpackers well on their gap year. The rucksack itself could be improved with a few external side pouches or pockets, but the security features are excellent and this is what puts it above and beyond many other choices for the security conscious backpacker.
This review was possible with a product supplied by SMASHii. The views and opinions expressed are the authors own and are honest and factual without any bias. No incentives are ever accepted in return for positive coverage, and in the instances where assistance has been given by travel industry professionals and services, full editorial integrity is maintained and all reviews will remain honest and forthright.