Sunday, July 15, 2007

How's YOUR Critical Mass?

(photo from
I was thinking about which product I'd like to discuss first, and I thought I'd start with the grandaddy of shoulder bags, the Critical Mass. This is my second CM; I upgraded after Patagonia released the updated version in 2004 (or was it 2005). Mine is Cave Blue (greyish-blue). The CM holds 2,400 cubic inches and is almost iconic among bicycle commuters and travelers.

Me, I'm just a little high school teacher who uses it to carry my laptop, lesson plans, and papers to correct. Sometimes I'll throw in a change of clothes for a quick workout and the CM takes it all beautifully. It's a great bag for an overnighter or a 2-night getaway. The laptop sleeve is padded and there are an abundance of pockets (though the one inside, above the laptop area seems a bit of a waste). The fabric seems like it could withstand a beating (though mine only sees the less-than-brutal conditions of the area behind my desk) and it's held up nicely over the last few years.

The rolled/roofed edges of the bag designed to keep rain out were a nice thought but they take away from the expandability of the bag whereas the older version would open up as big as a whale's mouth to stuff all your gear in.

The couple of times I've used it for commuting on bike, I did notice that the shoulder strap is a bit too long and actually goes far enough down to reach my spinning back tire. It could just be that I'm on the shorter side (5'8") but that does seem a problem. On the Patagonia company blog The Cleanest Line, a commenter (presumably a Patagonia employee) mentioned that issues have been raised by customers and that the bag is due for an update around the spring of '08 (see comments here:

All around: great bag and looking forward to using it for years to come. At $99 it's on the higher side of messenger bags but there's some confidence in the buyer, knowing that it is Patagonia and that it's been tested and re-tested and will hold up (even if the closest it gets to a jungle expedition is a classroom of 35 teenagers). What's your experience been with the Critical Mass? Pat Com would love to hear from you.

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Blogger Michael said...

I love my CM bag and have recently started riding consistently to work with it. I find it carries the load well and has always been very comfortable.

Because it can hold a lot, I find that when I do put a laptop in it and fill up the other space, it can get quite heavy when you just throw it over your shoulder.

I've added some reflective tails to mine and have asked them to include a clip for a tail light in a future version.

Overall, a great bag and one that I see lasting a long time.

Jul 16, 2007, 5:50:00 AM  
Blogger patagoniacommunity said...

Thanks for the comment michael. I agree about the weight of the bag when loaded. The shoulder pad on this version of the CM is considerably thinner than the original. A tail light clip would be great and was indeed something they had on the previous version.

Jul 16, 2007, 3:12:00 PM  

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