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The Siletz system starts with a waterproof 35-liter rolltop backpack. From there, you can add the Laptop Sleeve, the Travel/Photo Insert, and a Night Bag to create the Work & Travel system. The Outdoor System is compromised of a Gear Pouch, Shoulder Pouch, Cooler Insert, and 25-liter Wet/Dry Insert. The complete system with all the accessories is priced at an eye-watering $395 for Kickstarter backers, while the core kit containing just the backpack and laptop sleeve is $165 with early-adopter pricing.
Modular backpacks like the Siletz come with a do-it-all promise that’s rarely ever kept. That’s because a bag that looks and performs great on a kite-surfing holiday won’t usually suffice for an office commute or trips to the gym. But with a suggested list price of $543 for the complete system, the Siletz can’t afford to compromise.
I’ve been testing the Siletz backpack from Portland, Oregon-based Tillak for several weeks. It looks great, in my opinion, especially for a so-called dry bag. Not everyone will be enamored by the slick, rubbery aesthetic of the chosen materials. Nevertheless, I’ve received compliments from both office-bound creatives and outdoor adventurers while carrying it. It’s a look that definitely makes a sporty yet sophisticated statement about its wearer.
The backpack is waterproof and airtight, which gives the bag a rigid shape even when using just a fraction of the bag’s massive 35-liter capacity. It’s a trick that gives the all-purpose bag a cosmopolitan look that’s suitable for urban commutes into the office, be it on a bus, bicycle, or Stand Up Paddleboard, come rain or shine.
The bag is designed to expand upward, not outward, meaning it can be quite tall (30 inches / 75 cm) when completely unfurled — a warning for those of shorter stature. I mostly used it with the top rolled completely down, taking advantage of the full 35-liter capacity only when shopping at the supermarket or taking a weekend trip abroad. The bag sat comfortably on my shoulders when fully loaded, mostly empty, or any capacity in between.
The Siletz only has one unlined outer pocket that’s weatherproof (not waterproof) with a taped zipper that’s vertically oriented. If you forget to close it, as I did occasionally, you run the risk of gravity pushing things out. The backpack also has two deep water bottle pockets with retention straps to keep your umbrella or travel mug secure. Inside, you’ll find a single pair of Mod-U-Lox attachment points for slide-in and slide-out attachments of either the Laptop Sleeve or Night Bag/Gear Pouch accessories.
The cavernous main pocket can be accessed through the roll top, or via a TIZIP zipper, which is the same ultra-waterproof zipper you’ll find on diving suits. Neither means of access is very convenient: the roll top requires two hands to manipulate the latch and then unroll all the material, while access via the TIZIP requires one hand to grasp the bag firmly while the other yanks the TIZIP open. The TIZIP also requires regular lubrication (that ships with the bag).
Since Tillak sent me the complete system to review, I think it’s best to break down my experience into three usage scenarios: as an outdoor bag for water sports enthusiasts, an everyday bag for urban commuters, and a weekend travel bag.