Outlier Ultrahigh Quadzip Review

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Even if you can cram everything you'd ever need in your EDC pack, it's only useful if it's easy to get to at a moment's notice. Most traditional backpack designs make more sense for simply lugging gear from point A to point B, while crossbody slings and messenger bags make for a more nimble EDC that's always ready. But one backpack aims to turn that preconception on its head. The Outlier Ultrahigh Quadzip is a truly unique pack from its design to its construction, made from a material that's ounce for ounce stronger than steel. We got a chance to give you a closer look at this pack courtesy of the technical menswear experts at Outlier for this review.

An Outlier in Every Way

Even the best EDC-worthy backpacks tend to look alike: tactical styling, heavy-duty ballistic nylon, and pockets for everything you can imagine. For many of you, that sounds like the perfect bag. But for plenty of EDCers who prefer something lightweight, minimal, and discreet, it just isn't ideal. The Outlier Ultrahigh Quadzip is nothing like a tactical pack, and I mean that in the best way possible.

To get a better understanding of the bag, you should know a bit about the brand behind it. Based out of New York City, Outlier is best known for making high-performance, utilitarian, and stylish clothing for men. There's definitely plenty of overlap in their approach to clothing and what we as EDCers look for in gear. 

Where we take note of blade steels, ergonomics on a pen, and color rendition on a flashlight, Outlier obsesses over fabrics and hardware that give their pants proper stretch and mobility, their button-ups stainproofing and longevity, and even their T-shirts temperature regulation and wrinkle resistance. Aside from classic styles you can easily wear to the office, Outlier tends to get experimental with their products.

So it makes sense that their carry goods look, feel, and function completely differently than most bags out there. The most obvious difference is the namesake material that makes up the bag. Ultrahigh refers to stronger-than-steel “ultra high molecular weight polyethlene,” more commonly known by its brand name, Dyneema — the world's strongest fiber. It gives the bag a surprising amount of structure and strength despite how thin and light it is. And by light, I'm talking barely-there, ultralight levels of airiness. 

When empty, the bag weighs in at 534 grams, or about 1.2 pounds (that's including the removable frame sheet, too). Visually, the Dyneema composite has a crinkliness to it that you can see and feel that breaks in and patinas over time. One last thing about the fabric: while the fiber it's based on is extremely strong for its weight, the fabric as a whole doesn't make the bag bombproof. Ballistic nylon packs are more durable against heavy use and abuse overall, but weigh significantly more even when empty. With a 22L capacity, the Ultrahigh Quadzip is still remarkably durable for weighing only 1.2 pounds and should hold up for urban EDC.

The unique materials don't stop there. The removable frame sheet is made of woven Armordon, a thermoplastic polymer chosen for its rigidity to weight ratio. The pockets use stretch fabrics that expand to fit bulky objects without ruining the sleek silhouette and structure of the bag. Waterproof zippers further enhance the Dyneema composite's weather resistance. Suede zipper pulls and aluminum buckle adjusters make handling the bag satisfying to the touch.

All Access

If high-performance materials don't really do it for you, chances are the zipper design on this pack will. The Quadzip uses four zippers on its main compartment instead of the usual one or two. It sounds simple but in practice it addresses many of the problems a traditional pack has in an EDC context. First, it lets the bag open completely for lie-flat loading. Packing is so convenient I sometimes catch myself wanting to overcarry because of how effortless it is to load it all up. When fully open, it's easy to get an at-a-glance look at your loadout to better distribute weight.

That said, packing is easy only if you provide your own organization. For the sake of light weight and simplicity, there aren't any internal pockets in the main compartment. Instead, the top of the bag has a small section for MOLLE-compatible attachments. Outlier also makes a matching set of 'flat packs,' which are basically zippered pouches made of the same material that provide extra internal organization (for a hefty sum).

Personally, I prefer a bag-in-a-bag packing style, so I don't mind the lack of pockets too much. With the quad zip layout, it doesn't even really matter where your stuff is in the pack because of how easy it is to access everything. Consider this example: carrying a light jacket and a water bottle. Most backpacks might have external water bottle pockets or internal sleeves on the sides of the bag. Depending on your loadout, that can really throw off the balance of your pack when moving around, not to mention how hard it makes retrieving your bottle. You might either take the bag off entirely, set it down, and rummage through it from the top, or dig for it from the side if you swing the bag under your arm.

With the Ultrahigh Quadzip, you can pack the light jacket to pad the bottom of the bag, then lay the water bottle horizontally on top for a much more comfortable weight distribution without sacrificing access to your jacket, either. By drawing the bag under your arm from either side, you can unzip the side zippers to get to the bottom of your pack. If you need something at the top of your pack, your arm can reach in from the side.

This also applies to the small zippered stash pocket at the center bottom of the bag where you can keep loose items and keys. The exterior stretch pockets can be accessed comfortably without even slinging the bag, either. Obviously they aren't the most secure, so don't risk stashing bulky, heavy, or valuable items here.

So far, I haven't had any issues with the zippers failing yet. Over time, the suede zipper pulls might stretch out and the zipper's coating might wear in, but that's all part of the patina.

Ultra Highs Not Without Their Lows

As much as I enjoy using the bag, I can't help but feel extra disappointed by some of the smaller details I think missed the mark. The biggest letdown for me are the straps. They're lightly padded, adjust effortlessly, and even have extra webbing to attach a sternum strap, a carabiner, or MOLLE-compatible gear. But for me, they're not very comfortable when carrying a heavier load. I don't have the sickest traps, but I feel the the straps digging into my neck and shoulders when the pack is cinched closest to my back.

Once I carry my 15” laptop or anything heavy, I have to make some adjustments. The quickest fix is to simply release some slack in the webbing so the pack sits further down my back. It's just tedious to dial exactly into that same positioning every time and it takes away from the otherwise stable feeling of the bag. Taking a closer look at where the straps terminate, you can see they come pretty close together right where your neck would be. And the top pull handle underneath works in a pinch, but it's not the most comfortable way to lug the pack around either (like when I'm in a crowded train and need to take my bag off). It's an understandable compromise considering the zipper design.

The other big issue here is the price. At $375, this is hardly an impulse buy. It makes other problems with the pack that can be solved by buying accessories that much worse, like buying a sternum strap to help with the strap stability or MOLLE pouches for internal organization.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy and intuitive loading of the pack thanks to lie-flat design
  • Nimble, quick-access to every part of the bag even while on the move
  • Incredibly light weight for its 22L capacity
  • Functionally and aesthetically harmonious materials with a subtle yet distinctive look overall

Cons:

  • Shoulder straps not the most comfortable, especially under heavy load
  • Lackluster internal organization
  • Expensive

Should You Get This Bag?

From the get-go, this is not a bag for everyone. That's clear from the cost of admission alone. But I'm willing to bet for some of you, there's immense value to be had here.

If you live in an urban environment and commute by public transportation, you'd know how crucial a good bag is. Without a car to store stuff in or drive back home, you'll have to pack for potentially an entire day or longer. When running errands, you'd want a large capacity that can accommodate bulky objects but don't want your bag to weigh you down too much, either. When you're constantly moving and maneuvering through busy streets and crowded trains, you need quick access to your things without drawing much attention. This bag was designed for that kind of always-in-motion urban EDC.

Then there are the minimalists. Those of you who travel light and often, who value quality over quantity, and would much rather have that “one bag” with a small set of considered, versatile items that can do it all for years and years. In that sense, given how well this bag works for city EDC and travel, it could be a good value as your “one bag.” As an added bonus, the Ultrahigh Quadzip has that understated, futuristic aesthetic that any minimalist can appreciate.

If none of the above resonated with you, you can probably find a solid pack from your favorite tactical brand (for cheaper, too). But if it did strike a chord, then consider investing in a premium piece like this. It's a worthy grail, considering you have much fewer options when it comes to discreet, technical urban EDC. You can grab it from Outlier and browse the rest of the Ultra High collection, including a more water-proof rolltop version, a dopp kit, “Molly” zippered pouches, magnetic keychain, and more at the link below.

Buy ($375)

Disclosure: I received these products at no charge courtesy of the manufacturer for editorial consideration. That doesn’t, however, affect my opinion of the product as stated in this review.

#reviews #uhqz #ultrahigh-quadzip #outlier #backpacks #bags-pouches see all



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Discussion (9 total)

What keychain is attached to the bag in the picture above?
It's the matching Ultra High Key Piece. I touch on it in my magnetic keychains guide: http://everydaycarry.com/posts/21633/the-best-magnetic-keychains-for-everyday-carry
Helpful review of an interesting, if expensive, pack. Ease of access and light weight impress. Could have been useful to mention carrying capacity: 22 litres - smallish. The side pockets seem narrow/low where they join the pack towards the front. Did you find the pockets secure? What diameter water bottle will they safely carry, for instance? Thanks, Edward
Hey Edward, thanks for reading. Good point on the capacity -- I update the pros section to add that 22L figure. I think 22L is good for a daypack/weekender. And with the U-shaped top zip you can kiiinda keep it open for any overflow, but yeah not ideal.

I don't think the stretch pockets are the most secure. My thermoflask 24L is a 3.25" diameter and it fits.

The side pockets work well as a sort of second pair of hands. Like if I take my headphones out of their case, I can put the case back in the side pockets cuz I know I'll be putting my headphones away again soon. A small power bank + cable while I'm charging also works, that sort of thing. Security and access is a tricky thing to balance, luckily the main compartment and zippered central pocket are accessible enough for most use cases I think.
Thanks Bernard, for answering my queries. Useful clarification. Keep up the good work! Cheers Edward
Wonderful description about this products.
$375...? I can buy two TNF Overhaul 40's and have change left over. LoL.
Cost aside, it's just not a very attractive looking bag. The floppiness and lack of shape make it look like you're wearing a duffle bag on your back. Cannae is releasing a couple of bags that have more of the Urban EDC look rather than the "tacticool" style that, quite frankly, I'm getting tired of.

It's good to see more companies making bags that aren't covered in molle webbing. I hope more tactical manufacturers take note and continue that trend.
So I own this bag (it's my work bag) and it's not a bad looking bag at all. It's sleek and low profile, doesn't come off like a duffle bag either as a result. Doesn't draw attention but I do get compliments on it when people examine it. It's not actually floppy or lacking in shape, the material has a lot of structure and it's very stable. Something like TAD's Azimuth has noticeably less structure and is more floppy (although it's not too bad). The material holds structure better than cordura in my opinion.

I'm still glad I got it at the pre-price hike price though! It's not remotely cheap.