Again, picking up in the vicinity of where I left off: I own a GoRuck GR1 (21L, black). I bought it in 2014, just as it was beginning to garner the internet’s ubiquitous cult of approval as Greatest Backpack of All Time (GBOAT). I can’t tell you if it’s the best backpack ever. It’s the only notable backpack I’ve owned aside from an L.L.Bean monogrammed Deluxe Book Pack which lasted me from middle school through college. I haven’t touched a TOM BIHN or any others in the $200+ price range. I bought the GR1 and moved on from the domain. But, I will say: The GR1 seems fine to me. It doesn’t get in my way; it holds what I want, the pockets are convenient, the zippers are smooth, and it’s comfortable to wear. (I should note that I removed the supportive plastic frame sheet; I prefer it without, though I tend to carry rather little around.)
I use the bag mostly for transporting my laptop and whatever else (notepads, a water bottle, candy, snacks) when I walk a half mile to and from my local library. To get there, I must venture on roads without crosswalks or sidewalks. Which is perilous, because I am certain I will be run over one day. (I had a very near miss in 2014 when cycling down a hill [Google Street View if you want to recreate the scene, head north] and a driver rolled through at a stop sign to make a left turn at an upcoming T-junction [I was on the major roadway; I had no stop and absolute right of way]. I’m having a slo-mo PTSD-type moment thinking about it. The car was a dark silver slash gunmetal Land Rover, and the driver was a well-to-do, immaculately-coiffed professional on his cell phone wearing mirrored sunglasses. It may as well have been Death himself. I yelled a yell for the ages1 while clamping my caliper brakes with bone-white knuckles. My back wheel began to fishtail in variable road gravel. I was within feet of colliding head-on with Death, who nonchalantly puttered off, oblivious of one incoming cyclist, (business as usual),2 and also within inches of skidding out into an indeterminable trail of biomatter. I steadied the rear wheel, but it—was—close. Ever since then, I’ve been understandably OCD about making sure I’m obnoxiously visible when I’m on the road, by foot or by bike.)
Because I often carry my bag on the library walk, I figured the most sensible approach to improving my visibility in this situation would be to affix a beacon semi-permanently onto my bag. Idea #1 was to attach a strobe to the outer webbing, because I already had a bike taillight that was compatible, but a light requires charging, and turning on, and turning off, etc. It would be fussy. I need a passive system. I want to be visible without thinking about it. Then (Idea #2) I learned that GoRuck sells reflective velcro bands (which, ProTip:, can be bought elsewhere for less). These bands are probably adequate for most people, but they only provide so-so visibility. Multiple pairs might do better; I only bought a single pair and wasn’t impressed. Remember: I’m neurotic about this, being seen; I believe the road will be my end. Idea #3 was to tie neon, reflective paracord to the webbing, since this in theory should be similar to but allow for more flexibility and better coverage than the bands. I could apply as much as I’d want, where I’d want. In practice, the cord was bulky, only mildly reflective, and couldn’t be secured firmly onto the webbing.
Finally, I discovered two glorious materials:
- Pro-Gaff tape, which is great for daytime visibility, and
- SOLAS tape, which is great for nighttime visibility.
Both tapes are thin, durable, lightweight, and flexible, and can be cut to shape. They’re (near) perfect for this application.
Anyway, as alluded to, sorry to bore you, (drumroll, please), this is my hi-vis GR1:
The SOLAS tape is applied directly onto the webbing. It is incredibly sticky. You could attach the SOLAS to the fabric instead of the webbing, in a different pattern, if you wanted. The Pro-Gaff tape is wrapped around the webbing. It doesn’t stick directly to the webbing or fabric, but it does stick tightly to its own adhesive.
I think the bag looks hideous, but I have received compliments from middle-aged women about it and I haven’t been run over yet.
2To be fair, I did not use a headlight then, which may have been able to catch this driver’s eye. (I only used a taillight.) I bought a headlight immediately afterward.