Spire Torq Backpack

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Cory at Spire USA contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their latest product : The Torq – a laptop backpack. Although I currently use a backpack bag for all my camera gear – the Crumpler Karachi Outpost backpack – and I only have one back, I thought I would give it a try. What could it hurt (aside from my back)?

At first glance I thought this bag probably wouldn’t work for me. Aside from my aforementioned concern about having only one back, this bag looked too small to house all the stuff I carry with me on a daily basis. When I took it out of the box it was compressed flat. This was misleading.

The bag/backpack actually has three full length vertical pockets – each with considerable space. The center pocket comes with a variably sized laptop sleeve. You select one of eight boot sizes to fit your laptop when you order the Torq.

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I typically carry two laptops and I found that both fit easily into the center pocket. I put the Toshiba I own inside the laptop sleeve and slide the Dell machine provided by my employer right in there next to it.

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In the front-most vertical pocket I carry the two laptop power bricks and a mouse. There is plenty of room in there for more stuff!

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The front vertical compartment also has a nice selection of mesh, nylon, and zippered pockets to help you organize your equipment.

In the rear-most vertical pocket, I carry my 6×8 Wacom tablet, a mouse pad, and a fair stack of papers, CDROMs, etc. Again, there is room for a lot more stuff here.

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There is also a roomy front pocket which will expand to carry smaller items like card readers, office supplies, etc.

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After you get everything packed into this expandable pack, you can bind everything together with the dual sets of straps on the sides. Each side has a permanent adjustable strap located about a third of the way up.

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Each side also has another set of adjustable straps with quick disconnects located about a third of the way down from the top.

Spire has done a good job creating a flexible design which allows you to expand to contain your gear while still keeping everything tight inside so it doesn’t shift around when you are moving. I think I could reasonably double the amount of gear I am currently carrying, but this is not necessarily a good thing.

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Let us talk about straps. The Torq comes with four different strap systems. You can choose which way you prefer carry the bag and stow away the unneeded straps in the pockets provided for this purpose.

The removable laptop sleeve is held in place inside the Torq by a Velcro pad on the back of the sleeve mating to the solid Velcro backside of the center vertical pocket. You can just pull it out and attach the included nylon strap to the two D-rings located at the top of the sleeve.

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Of course the Torq comes with standard padded backpack straps. These straps are fastened at the bottom with quick disconnects. This allows you to quickly stow the straps away inside the gap between the bag and the rear padding.

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The standard backpack straps are easily adjustable. They also come with a sternum strap which is adjustable vertically as well as for tension. Each has a small horizontal nylon strap and one has a medium sized D-ring where you could hang small items.

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Spire has also included a padded waist strap with a large quick disconnect buckle which can be used to take some of the load off of your shoulders. This strap can also be stowed in the gap between the pack and the rear padding when not in use.

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Finally, the Torq comes with a fairly wide, padded shoulder strap which can be connected to the bag in a number of ways. The bag has metal O-rings located at all four corners. I prefer to connect my shoulder strap to the two O-rings at the top of the bag. You could carry the bag on its side – or even upside down if you are feeling wild and crazy!

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Note – carrying a fully loaded Torq backpack upside down is not recommended by either the author of this review or The Gadgeteer. Please do so at your own risk.

This shoulder strap allows me to carry my Crumpler Karachi Outpost backpack simultaneously with the Torq with minimal discomfort – said discomfort having more to do with the overall weight of my gear than any design issue with either bag. The amount of gear I carry around with me is really ridiculous and seems to grow over time. I am like the old woman in the Labyrinth who has accumulated a lifetime of junk on her back.

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This is not your problem and I apologize for bringing it up.

The bag also includes two nylon mesh side pockets with synch straps. These are suitable for water bottles, cell phones, etc. I use one of mine for my PDA. At the top you will also find a round, hard rubber, nylon covered grab handle.

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Now it is time for specifications. The backpack’s external material is primarily 1680 Denier Ballistic Nylon. The interior pockets are lined primarily with 210 Denier light gray nylon. The bag weighs appx. 2.9 pounds and has overall dimensions of 19.5″ x 14.5″ x 9″ unexpanded (49.5cm x 37cm x 23cm). As mentioned earlier, the laptop sleeve, included in the price of the bag, is variable — based on the size of your laptop.

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You can purchase the Torq for $170 in one of the following color schemes: Arctic Gray/Black, Chili Red/Black, Midnight Blue/Black, Stealth Black (as shown in review pics). I prefer the ‘stealth’ plain color schemes as I am not trying to draw the attentions of any would-be thieves out to run away with my gear.


Product Information

Manufacturer:Spire USA
Retailer:Spire USA
  • Multiple strap configurations
  • Heavy duty construction
  • Large, expandable capacity
  • Adjustable straps bind your gear together
  • None

3 thoughts on “Spire Torq Backpack”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I just received my own Torq, ordered on June 27th, and I’d like to share my initial thoughts. I’ll preface them by saying that I purchased a Boot from Spire some 4 years ago. I was pleased when it arrived to protect my 12″ iBook, and I’m still using it to protect my 12″ PB presently. It was well made, with great attention to detail. I lusted for a matching pack, but as Spire packs were priced at a premium, I used my Boot in my messenger bags.

    This afternoon, I opened my box from Spire to something of a disappointment. Something Mr. Ray may have missed was that the seams where the zipper tapes and pack fabric panels are sewn together are not bound or taped. My experience has been that packs lacking this are prone to having the stiching pull out of the fabric in the direction of the unfinished fabric edge. This is usually sped up by fibers unraveling from the fabric as items are placed into and removed from the pack. As the amount of fibers decreases, the integrity of the fabric also goes down, and the stitches pull out of the fabric. I have other packs, for different applications, for which I paid similar amounts, and which are thoroughly taped.

    Also, in the past, the Boot laptop sleeve was held in place within the pack by a fabric and foam covered plastic pocket. This pocket was 3-dimensionally structured, with velcro tabs on three edges which stuck to a low-pile fabric panel inside of one of the main pack compartments. The plastic was substantial enough to help prevent sharp corners from pressing on the back of the screen lid, causing dead pixels on your screen. It also suspended the Boot off of the bottom of the 1/4″ foam padded compartment bottom. Such is no longer the case, at least in the Torq pack model. This was one of the main selling points on which I based my recent purchase.

    These two things alone have lowered my opinion of my pack, and of the Spire product in general. The lack of seam binding, combined with the loss of security for the Boot make the Torq blend back into the sea of average, lackluster computer packs to be had on eBags or in the local department store.

    To top off my disappointment, while transferring my typical day’s contents from my present messenger bag to the Torq, I snugged up one of the bungies holding the mesh pockets closed. I didn’t have anything to put in them immediately, so I thought I’d lower their profile. One end of one of the bungies pulled free of the stitching at the pack seam.

    One of the brighter things I can share is Spire’s 30-day return policy. Defects encountered within the first thirty days are able to be replaced in advance. That is to say, they will advance you a replacement item, along with a return label for the defective product. I only hope that this doesn’t indicate a rise in return claims due to an increase in defects.

    When I bought my Boot, Spire was in Boulder, CO. Spire is now in Easthampton, MA. I used to live in Boulder, and folks there are commonly involved in gear-intensive activities. To survive in such a marketplace, your gear had better be of good quality, or word got around fast. I don’t know what prompted the move to the East, or how long ago the move occurred, so I don’t know how relevant the move is to my quality issue. I don’t mean to imply a lack of quality items coming out of the East coast, only that the ownership may have changed hands, resulting in a new design philosophy, or that the new factory may not be up to standard yet.

    I just finished emailing Spire sales regarding my concerns, and hope to hear from them soon. My desire is that I get my present pack replaced with what I was expecting (the Boot pocket, properly taped zipper seams, and properly secured bungie cords), or that the pack be returned in exchange for a full refund.

    If Spire replaces the pack, I will be very pleased, and will not doubt their products’ integrity again. They would be the first brand I would recommend to anyone. If not, I’ll be choosing a pack from among the small companies involved in small unit military supplies, and modifying it to suit my school requirements through a local gear repair shop here in Salt Lake City.

    I’ll post one way the other with the results. For now, I’d have to give a thumbs down for the Spire Torq.

  3. Whew! Quite a detailed post. Kind of makes my original review look a little bit fluffy.

    Perhaps you could send me a few close ups of the old Spire bag design vs the new one so I could better understand the changes?

    I have been lugging mine around with two laptops, a 6×8 Wacom tablet, a Maxtor external hard drive, three power bricks, etc., for a few months now. So far none of the seams are letting loose.

    I mostly use the over the shoulder strap that connects to the top of the bag with two O-rings. There is a LOT of stress at those two points. I really think I am the worst case scenario when it comes to stress and weight in a camera or laptop backpack.

    At this point, I stand by my original recommendation. This is an excellent laptop backpack with amazing capacity.

    Please let us know how your return or refund works out.

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