Last August, we gave you a first look at the Bolstr Small Carry Bag, which made its debut on Kickstarter. Jay Yoo, the BOLSTR’s creator and founder of Koyono.com, recently sent us the Stealth model for review.
The Bolstr is what I would classify as a small “Go Bag”. Something that you can grab in a hurry that would have all your every day carry essentials. The bag is made from 1050D Polyurethane coated Ballistic nylon. As I mentioned in an earlier post on the differences between the various nylon fabrics, I love the texture of 1050D Ballistic. It’s also highly tear and abrasion resistant. All of the Bolstr zippers are of the water-resistant variety. Although they are not YKK brand, I found that they were smooth and functioned without issue.
The Bolstr has four compartments. The main is pretty large given the size of the bag. Below I fit a decent sized paperback book and a 16 ounce water bottle. An iPad mini would fit in there also or even a compact firearm if you CCW. The inverted trapezoidal shape of the Bolstr allows for a larger opening, which helps when you’re pulling items in and out.
A quick access front flap pocket with a velcro enclosure is designed to hold a smart phone as large as the iPhone 6 Plus or a compact camera. I used the pocket to store my Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer. Adding some elastic loops to this pocket of various sizes to hold a knife, multi-tool, flashlight, or other small EDC items would be a welcome change that I’d like to see in the next version of the bag to make it truly EDC friendly. In the meantime, I would recommend using something like the Maxpedition Micro as a drop-in option if you need small item organization.
Side Note: I don’t know why Kickstarter projects insist on slapping their brand or product name all over everything. Unless your logo is kick-ass, go sterile or include a label on the inside. If your product is good, the word will get out. Trust me.
On the backside, there is a slash pocket that is fleece lined. It’s also large enough to hold an iPhone 6 Plus, but I often carried my Nikon L320 in there.
The last pocket, which is also fleece lined, is designed for sunglasses. I had no problem fitting my Aviators with room to spare. My larger Edge Blade Runner XL sunglasses were a tighter fit – to the point where I’d be concerned about the lenses getting scratched by the zipper taking them out of the pocket. Also be aware that this pocket steals space directly from the main compartment.
My biggest issue with the Bolstr was the shoulder strap and pad. It’s just flimsy and in general not the accessory that this bag deserved. It tends to slip off the shoulder and gets twisted far too easily. Fortunately, it can be un-clipped from the bag and tossed. I replaced it with a Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap. Almost any strap off a quality messenger bag would be over an improvement over the Bolstr strap but the combination of the Tom Bihn Absolute Strap and the Bolstr looked great and the difference in wearability was night and day.
The Bolstr carries like a small camera bag. Due to its size, it’s more stable when worn cross body. The bag also comes with an elastic stability strap.
All the pockets are easily accessible while the bag is being worn, which is why I prefer a small go bag/messenger over a backpack when I don’t need the extra capacity.
Quality is sometimes a concern with start-up efforts on Kickstarter but overall I’d say Koyono did a pretty job good with the Bolstr. I’d prefer to see brand name materials being used like Invista/Cordura brand nylon, duraflex hardware and YKK zippers. That would give me greater confidence that parts wouldn’t break overall the long haul. But, nothing on the bag feels cheap and the exterior finish quality is good.
The interior however is another story. It’s as bad as I’ve seen in a production-ready pack made domestically. Stitching in certain areas is rough and it starts and stops for no apparent reason. Edges are not finished.
Different colored threads are used. Needle holes are visible in several spots .
I haven’t circled back with Jay and his team to discuss whether the interior finish of the bag I received would meet their typical standard. After discovering all this, I tortured the bag by forceably pulling all the seams apart to see whether the stitching would hold up. Nothing popped or ripped. So, despite the poor aesthetics, its likely that none of this would limit the life of the pack I received.
Overall, the Bolstr has a lot of potential and I feel like it’s a good EDC bag that could be great with a few tweaks. For instance, I’d like to see them include a better strap and pad to round out the overall package. Otherwise, right now, I’m not sure I could recommend the Bolstr over say… the Hazard 4 Tonto, which is a more finished product with brand name materials at around the same price.
The Bolstr can be purchased from Koyono’s website in both left and right-handed carry versions. It’s available in a number of color combinations including black/black, black/foliage green, black/hot orange, black/grey, grey/hot orange, and grey/grey.