Sunday, April 20, 2008

Leaving the MASSES

It took me a few years, but I finally had to do it:  I no longer use either bag in the Patagonia Critical Mass family.  While I'm quite happy with my new product, the Patagonia Lightwire Tote, a part of me still longs for those old friends, the Critical Mass and the Half Mass.
Below:  Out with the old, in with the new.  The Half Mass (left), and the Lightwire Tote, both in Midblue (though the colors are actually quite different).
I received my first Critical Mass as a birthday gift about 8 years ago from my mother-in-law.  Truth be told, I had requested it.  It had a great look to it and its volume was impressive.  I like bags that have more than enough room for everything--carry-alls.  Then when the redesigned Critical Mass came out in, what, 2004 (?) I eBayed the old one and bought the new.  The old one brought in some $56 dollars if I remember correctly.  
Then came the roots of the eventual divorce.  The new one just wasn't as functional as I was hoping it would be.  It didn't stand up (as the catalog claimed), the top zipper was literally right on top which made it tough sometimes to get stuff in and out, but most bothersome was the smaller opening to the bag.  It narrowed toward the top making it less accommodating to being overstuffed.  I realize that was because the folks in design were trying to seal it better to keep out water, but still it just didn't work well for me.  
Then in spring '07, it was revealed on The Cleanest Line blog that there was a redesigned Critical Mass in the making.  I was excited about that possibility and very much looking forward to doing the ol' ebay-the-old-and-save-up-for-the-new.  So in the winter when Patagonia.com started putting some of the new spring items on the website (including the new and improved completely redesigned better than ever Critical Mass), I was ready to roll.  
Now, the new $119 price tag compared to the old $99 price-point?  Yes, sacrifices would have to be made, but baby, it's the new Critical Mass!
Old bag on eBay?  
Check
Saving some money to upgrade to the new?
Check
Ready to purchase on the Patagonia website? 
Check
Patagonia website have the new Critical Mass in stock?
Uh...
Patagonia stores have the new Critical Mass in stock?
No
The website kept saying it would be in stock on February 5.  Then it said February 12.  Then it said February 25.  Then March this and March that.  By then I no longer had a bag for work, and the Patagonia Winterfest Sale hit.  
I was desperate.  I was needy.  I was lonely.  Okay, that was due to factors other than the Critical Mass.  But still!
So I broke down and bought the old Half Mass that was a measly (comparatively) $39 during the sale.  Yes, it carried my stuff.  Yes it was still stylish.  But yes, it still had the same deficiencies and carried even less.
By the time the new Critical Mass made it to the Patagonia website and stores toward the end of March, my money was gone (mouths to feed, you know).  
I enjoyed my Half Mass, but when I saw the Lightwire Tote for $49 on the website and was lured by its many friendly features, I knew it was time for a change.  I bid adieu to the Half Mass (actually, eBayers did the bidding--hardy har) and...left the MASSES.  
Don't get me wrong--I love the Lightwire Tote.  Functional, roomy (over 1,000 cu/in. compared to 950 with the Half Mass), and sensible, but lacking that messenger/bike guy/ready-for-a-trip-to-Yosemite look of the Masses.
So look for an upcoming review of the Lightwire Tote.  I'm enjoying it and getting a lot of use out of it, but it's kind of like driving a Ford Taurus after having a Mustang.
Man, it looks like a bowling ball bag.

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