Product Review: Karkoa Smartbag

You Always Need a Good Backpack or…



For a while now I have been looking for a decent sized backpack that I can take on those weekend trips to run somewhere outside of London. Yes, it is true that I like to book foreign races, but I also do race a lot in the UK. Next year, with the Gods of Health and Injury Prevention willing, I shall be enjoying overnight stays in Brighton, Gloucester, Manchester, Shrewsbury (wherever that is) to name but four, and for those trips I need more than my OMM and Inov-8 running backpacks, I need something up to the job of housing:
  1. My clean running kit
  2. My running kit when it is a soggy ball of mud, sweat and polyester
  3. My clean running shoes
  4. My shoes after the race, when they are a clump of muddy mess that resembles the kind of thing Time Team would enjoy finding
  5. Drinks, including a water bottle
  6. Race pack, instructions, printed maps to the hotel from the station, from the hotel to the start, hotel booking confirmation, reading book for the journey
  7. Phone and charger
  8. Ipod and charger
  9. Nike+ Watch and charger
  10. Clothes for dinner the night before the race, including a pressed shirt if meeting people
  11. Clothes for after the race for the journey home and probably Sunday lunch
  12. Bananas, snacks, gels, Jelly Babies, and all other manner of snack
  13. Toiletries of all manner, toothpaste and brush, deoderant, Glide etc
I have researched this to a degree, and found plenty of candidates out there that are just larger versions of my other running backpacks, but nothing that really does allow you to take everything with you, in it’s own zipped compartment, allowing you to cram everything in, including the proverbial…
Entering the fray from way off my radar is French brand Karkoa, described on their blog as being “L’accessoire idoine pour les sportifs du quotidien” or the approproate accessory for everyday athletes. And you cannot get more “everyday” than me. If it had said professional athletes, I would have had to shy away, but no, I am happy to be classed as everyday.
Here is the spiel:
The blurb does read very well, and I like the idea that this was a collaborative effort rather than the brainchild of some maniac at a sports company who has wacky ideas about what people actually need. And the “afterwork athlete” idea rings true for a lot of people I know.
The Line Up
Non offensive colours are good, neutral colours I guess you would call them in a smart grey or blue, that would look fine on your shoulder for your commute and under your desk. There would be no need to hide your day-glo backpack from view, over-stuffed like an American sandwich to get everything in, when your CEO walks by.


The Karkoa backpack, sorry! smartbag,  also comes in two sizes, 25L and 40L. Which I guess equates to medium and large and, given my list of items needed for a 2 night stay at the MacDonald Spa and Hotel Bath for the Two Tunnels 10k etc, I went for the latter. 
So, let’s put it to the test…
Very exciting for me, or maybe sad as I have been injured since Berlin and have only made it out 3 times in 6 weeks, I am packing for a race weekend. The Karkoa needs to handle this lot to keep me happy.
  1. Running shoes
  2. Running socks
  3. Calf sleeves
  4. Shorts
  5. Shirt
  6. Runderwear
  7. Sweatshirt
  8. Jogging bottoms
  9. Jeans
  10. Tshirt
  11. Spare Tshirt
  12. Socks
  13. Underwear
  14. Sweater
  15. Smart shirt
  16. Smart trousers
  17. Books x 2
  18. Bottle of water
  19. Bottle of Lucozade
  20. Toothpaste
  21. Toothbrush
  22. Deoderant
  23. Cologne
  24. Ipod
  25. Charger
  26. Phone
  27. Charger
  28. Sunglasses
  29. Bananas
  30. Bag of Jelly Babies
  31. Bounce
  32. Glide
  33. Energy powders
  34. Tub of CrampFix
  35. Rock Tape 
  36. Pump It Up
  37. Waterbottle
  38. Race number clips
  39. Assorted Paperwork (hotel, race etc)
  40. GPS Watch 
  41. Wallet 
  42. Keys
This may seem a lot, but it is pretty representative of what I may take for a big race weekend away. So come on crammers, let’s get cramming. First the smart clothes for the great dinner the night before the race.
Compartment comes with straps to hold it flat


Job Done


Then rest of weekends civvies added
Next to put the kit in. Now these go in one of two compartments on the front that… Hold on, can you hear it? “All above the streets and houses Rainbow climbing high…”
Zippez La Separation


This is one of the many clever features. As it comes the front two compartments are joined, allowing you to really stuff it like a Christmas turkey. But, in the scenarios where you have a wet running kit, you can separate the two by zipping the seam closed.
Kit in the bottom section


Whilst everything else goes in here
Note, there is even an in-built toiletries back and a dirty clothes bag there so no need to pack your own.
On the at the bottom is a round zipped pocket.
And inside is silver heat/cold preserving material for your drink. Big enough easily to fit my litre bottle of water.
 I can’t possibly think why, but this reminded me of my childhood and a particular TV show.



Can’t think why


And then finally you have the secret money, wallet, keys compartment. Just for safe measure.
Under the seam


Keeping your valuables safe
First thing to note it this is not a running backpack, not like the smaller OMM and Inov-8 backpacks. The 40L is a monster, it is a 18-wheeler of a juggernaut and I am sure that the smaller 25L will be better suited to run to work with. It is, as they have dubbed it, the smartbag, and with all the pockets and separations, in-built zips, bags and waterpoofing.
Full but not to bursting
Would I recommend it? After the total disaster of the I AM RUNBOX, where I wanted it to be great, to be the be all end all of running backpack-garmet carrier crossover, I was sceptical. But this backpack blew me away. 

All the little touches and designs, no doubt from the 400 people giving the designers input are superb. I will probably get the 25L too for day to day usage, but the 40L is more than enough for a weekend away running or not.

For the Karkoa Smartbag I give it a solid two thumbs up. Exellent work guys. Great product.
Yup, like it.

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