Back in 2013, I went to England for the first time with ETRE-FORT athlete Joel Eggimann (R.I.P. Vauxhall, Tootsies rooftop, and parkour video titles that weren’t clickbait). We spent a few days in London with Flynn Disney, then made our way down to Brighton for some much-needed Callum time. It wasn’t long before we were up on the rooftops. In my head, I’d planned out everything I’d need for my first real international parkour trip – two pairs of shoes, some fresh undies, my camera, and of course a USB drive with a bunch of old, underground training videos. I didn’t think about the bag all that stuff was packed in. At least, I didn’t until it started swinging around wildly on my back while balancing across a tile roof seven stories off the ground.
My old bag
My old bag barely made it through my first real night mission. It was so loose and sketchy on my back that I ended up literally throwing it over roof gaps to Joel and Callum. I made it through the night with my stuff in tact, but it was a pretty close thing. The next day, I picked up a sleek little trail running daypack for future missions. It was a great purchase – I actually still use it from time to time – but barely fit my phone, wallet, and a water bottle. On subsequent rambles through Europe (and America, Canada, and Africa) I made sure to always bring two backpacks; one for travel and a smaller one I’d stuff inside the big one for training.
ETRE-FORT Backpack – The Tracers Travel Bag
Once ETRE-FORT sent me their new backpack, I realized my double bag days were done. It’s advertised as a travel bag and that’s exactly what it is. It’s become the perfect companion during my days as a parkour vagabond, whether I’m cruising down the highway in my van, running through the airport to catch my next flight, or out exploring the local architecture. So here are my personal pros and cons when it comes to the Tracers Travel Bag:
Pros of the travel bag:
As far as parkour bags go it’s definitely on the large side, but I’d say it’s perfect for 1-5 days out and about. On 10 hour coaching days in NYC, I’d consistently have my first-aid kit, water bottle, lunch/dinner tupperware, change of clothes, and handful of books (I can’t go anywhere without a book to read) inside with room to spare. Since then, I’ve taken it all over Colorado and used it for longer trips to Montana and Boston. It’ll hold about three days’ worth of fresh clothes – more than enough for a week of training by parkour standards of cleanliness – with plenty of spare compartment space for your laptop/camera and various chargers. It also has enough play in the straps to wear when you’re going out to train. It isn’t meant to be a tiny, body-hugging training pack and doesn’t feel like one…but I also don’t have to throw it across rooftops to get where I need to go. If you tighten the straps well, it moves just fine with you whether it’s packed to the gills or only holding a handful of valuables.
I’m not one for style. If you’ve seen me hanging around jams in funky graphic tees you know what I’m talking about. But it’s definitely nice to have a bag that feels sleek and professional when you need one. The subtle logo is a refreshing change of pace, and the ability to hide the backpack straps and flip it into a briefcase can take the Travel Bag from “parkour bum” to “business casual” in a few seconds. More importantly, I’ve had several of my more fashionable friends compliment me on the bag. And I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before on anything I’ve owned.
What really sold me on the Travel Bag were all of the cool little features. You can tell that the ETRE-FORT team put a lot of time and thought into designing a bag specifically for parkour athletes on-the-go and it shows. The most convenient feature is probably the side zipper. While the main compartment can be kind of a pain to open from the front (and I’ll go over that in a little more detail later), you can get quick access to your stuff through the side zipper. With a little effort, you can even do it without taking the bag off your back. This has been a godsend while traveling, especially at the airport or on public transportation where you sometimes don’t have room to put your bag down and open it up. On the outside of the bag, the straps are set to hold sleeping bags/pillows/hammock cases as well…so anything you can’t fit inside can easily get strapped up. Plus, the straps are easy to take off and on, so you’re not forced to have dangly tentacles hanging from your bag 24/7 if you don’t want ‘em (no judgement here). The organization features in the top compartment have also been fantastic. ETRE-FORT knows how crappy most of us are at keeping our things in smart places, so they hooked it up with tons of little zipper compartments for chargers, small electronics, notebooks, passports, and even cozy pen loops. Generally, pulling things out of my backpack feels a bit like bobbing for apples or reaching under a couch for something you dropped down there a few days ago. With the Travel Bag, I’ll pull up to a coffee shop and feel super legit snagging my laptop, notebook, and pen from their snug personal spaces. And for even more “young professional” adulting points, tuck the backpack straps away and walk in with your bag briefcase-style.
Cons of the travel bag:
I’m a Nitpicky Bastard: Well, I was trying to think of a few overarching critiques and genuinely couldn’t come up with any. So instead, here are a few minor complaints…
First off, the zippers have a lining that helps keep the bag water resistant. Sadly, they also make it hard to see where the actual zipper is hiding sometimes. And since the bag opens similar to a suitcase it can be a little annoying to go hunting around the lining until you finally find them. In general, having to lay the bag down and open it up like a suitcase can be a little annoying. Thankfully, the side pocket works perfectly for quick access so it’s almost a moot point.
A related complaint is the shape of the bag. They went for a pretty straightforward rectangle when it came to the design. While this helps with the aesthetic and lets you maximize the amount of stuff you can cram in there (sweet!) it also lets stuff in the main compartment move around if you don’t pack it well (not as sweet). This isn’t really an issue if you’re using the bag for a trip, but if you’re just going out for a few hours and packing it a quarter of the way it can feel a little weird. But again, with so many specialized little areas it’s pretty easy to repack tighter by moving things from the spacious main compartment to one of the smaller ones.
If you’re looking for a minimalist bag to hug you like a needy ex while you’re trying to train, this isn’t it. If you need a bag for work, school, travel, or day-to-day life then ETRE-FORT has you covered.
What ETRE-FORT have done with the Tracers Travel Bag is create a sleek, durable bag you can wear whether you’re living life as Clark Kent or Superman. They’ve also done it, as usual, without compromising on their values. Personally, as impressed as I was with the bag I was even more impressed with the sticker that came with it – 1% For the Planet. It proves that Etre-Fort is living their values by donating 1% of gross annual profits to environmental non-profits. They’ve compounded this with their recent “TRACEability Line.” Right now, it’s just a sweatshirt…but I hope they add to it create more high quality products that are carbon neutral, fair trade, and transparent. So bravo Etre-Fort for living up to your name. Keep doing your thing and showing us what a company run by traceurs, for traceurs can do!