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Bolstr Small Carry Bag Review

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.

 

Bolstr Small Carry Bag

Bolstr Small Carry Bag

 

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.

FEATURES

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.

 

Left to Right:  The Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap and the strap that came packaged with the Bolstr.

Left to Right: The Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap and the strap that came packaged with the Bolstr.

 

CARRY 

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. 

 

The Bolstr worn cross body with the Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap.

The Bolstr worn cross body with the Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder 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.  

 

 

BUILD QUALITY

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.

CONCLUSION

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.       

 

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9 Responses so far.

  1. Shae Weide says:

    Blaine,

    What gloves are you wearing in the pics?

  2. Steve Braswell says:

    It’s a shame about the workmanship issues on this bag. I am still rooting for these local (Cleveland) guys to make it. I’m still looking for a perfect bag for shorts and t-shirt weather. I need to carry sunglasses, multitool, flashlight, 3×5 notebook and pens, iPhone 6 plus, keychain, small battery pack. In shorts, I pocket carry a firearm, wallet and knife. I find the Haz4 Kato to be too much for this job. Do you think the Tonto is small enough? I want a sleek (not bulky) look for this bag. My intent is to never overload it or get it all bulging full of stuff.

    • James says:

      I enjoyed reading your review of the bolster, until I read the section on the stiching. The stitching in the bag you pictured looks nothing like the bag I own. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I was fortunate to randomly check out the facility that the bag was made in. The bag is made in the same place as military grade backpacks and high-end backpacks like Mystery Ranch Designs. I find it hard to believe that the Bolster you reviewed came from the same place.

      No offense, but it looks like you bag was altered by hand, by a non-professional. Do you plan on exhanging your bag, or at the least updating your review on this product after seeing another bag? It would be a shame to have an incomplete review of such a great product!

      • Blaine B. says:

        I’m pretty sure James that you’re not a customer of Koyono but rather someone who either works for the sew shop they are using or you’re a shill for the company. Either way, your claims are ridiculous. First off, I have it on good authority that Mystery Ranch doesn’t use a third party in the Pacific Northwest to make their packs. There’s no such thing as “Mystery Ranch Designs”… it’s just Mystery Ranch. Finally, manufacturers don’t let people off the street “randomly check out their facility”. If you dispute this then provide the name of the facility and I’ll contact Mystery Ranch directly to confirm with their design team.

        So no…. I have no intention of updating this review because I don’t want to give any more publicity to a company that operates in this fashion.

  3. Jay says:

    Blaine – Thanks for your thorough review and I really appreciate your input. Bolstr is the first bag I designed and most certainly there are always improvements that can be made. That said, there are thousands in use and the overall feedback from Kickstarter backers and Koyono customers has been positive in terms of quality and design.

    Let me address some of your observations.

    1) I wanted to keep the strap light, comfortable and minimal. The pad will conform over time to the shape of your shoulder and slides allowing the bolstr to easily be positioned on your side or back. When using the Tom Bihn strap, I believe you would have to readjust the length at either end if you wanted to carry it on your backside. Otherwise, the pad portion of the strap would be resting on your chest.

    2) Materials of construction: The nylon that was used for the bag that you have is Brookwood’s heavy weight 1680D urethane coated ballistic nylon. I switched to this material as color variety is limited. Their version of 1680D is really durable and perfectly suitable for the Bolstr design.

    3) Zippers: YKK is the best known zipper but they are notoriously rigid when it comes to customer service and their lead times leave much to be desired. I have been using Ucan, which is made in Los Angeles, for 5 years now and find their quality to be on par with YKK. Fantastic delivery and customer service, as well.

    4) Finish: The seams are double stitched using high strength nylon thread and about nine threads per inch. I will consider other finishes in the future but it is a strong construction nonetheless.

    5) Branding: There were only a handful of backers (less than 10 out of 2,300) who did not care for the logo and I would have removed it if more (100) made that request. The black leather label is substantial but, from a design (finish) standpoint, I felt something needed to be there given the amount of “open real-estate.” As it is stamped vs. printed, the logo is less noticeable and several backers appreciated the leather touch on ballistic.

    Thanks again for your review and please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions in the future.

    Best,

    Jay

    • Blaine B. says:

      Thanks for the response Jay. Almost everyone on this site tries a lot of new gear and with companies that are launching a new brand AND new products, I think the expectation for most of us in that situation is to expect some growing pains. I think if you continue to improve the gear based on customer feedback and a no-compromise commitment to make a better product then your company will be a huge success.

  4. Jay says:

    Blaine, you bet and agreed. I very much value customer input and take it seriously.

    Importantly, I wanted to circle back about the needlework on the inside of your bolstr as it is out of spec. All thread should be black and should look like this: http://goo.gl/5TDWAV. We have gone through and checked several random bolstrs and could not find any like the one your received.

    While the needlework should not compromise the function or durability of your bolstr, it is out of spec nonetheless.

    If anyone receives a bolstr like the one you received, we will send a new one ASAP. I will be sure to have a replacement sent to you and apologize for the inconvenience.

    Best,

    Jay

  5. alan says:

    Nice to see that kind of response.

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