Chrome Industries recently released updated versions (2.0 they call it) of their popular Orlov (30L) and Pawn (42L) backpacks that were discontinued some years back. I fondly remember using a coral-colored Pawn back in my undergrad college days. I could bring everything I needed for the day–plus room to spare–without anything getting wet during a Utah snow. That bag has long been sold in order to fund other items of want, and at a $200 price tag, I am currently unable to procure the updated version. However, I will provide my impressions based on pictures and my deals with the first generation of the bag.
*Due to copyright, click the hyperlinks to view photos of both the 1st and 2nd generation of these bags.
Problems with Gen. 1
The main problem I had with the first generation Pawn was the front pockets. They were plenty big, but offered no built in organization for pens, pencils, notecards, etc. The flaps were also problematic. You could never quite shut the pockets all the way. There would always be a gap to one side that could let in water. While I never had a problem of snow getting in, I was always worried a good rain storm would soak anything stored in there.
The other problem, while minor, is something that many Chrome backpacks of the time had–organization. Yes, there was a spot for a laptop, front pockets for smaller items, and a large main compartment. And yes, organization pouches exist, and I have used them. But would have been so difficult to add some dedicated pockets for pens, sticky notes, small electronics, and other everyday carry items?
Improvements of Gen. 2
Right off the bat I can see they fixed the pocket issue. The front pockets are now gusseted and feature added material sewn on the side of the flap to create a lid for a closure. This allows for better closure and alleviates the anxiety I had of water getting in the pockets.
The other improvements I see are the quick access pocket on the bottom right-hand side and the stash pocket under the roll-top flap. The sternum strap has also been upgraded to the mini seat belt buckle, versus the plastic hardware of the previous generation.
I love the updated sternum strap, the improved pocket flaps, and the new stash and quick access pockets. I am still a bit disappointed in the lack of organization that could have been added to the inside of the laptop pocket.
The bag materials appear to have changed. I cannot recall exactly, but I remember my gen. 1 being made of 100 denier Cordura fabric. This 2nd generation is made of 1050 denier abrasion-resistant nylon. I am not sure if Cordura is still the brand they are using, or if they went with a cheaper, lesser-named brand for the nylon fabric. While this fabric will most likely perform just fine, it gives me a little caution that they are not using or advertising the trusted Cordura fabric of old.
Overall, the Pawn and Orlov (which is the same bag, only smaller) 2.0 look to be great offerings if you are in the market for a roll top backpack. I would definitely buy the upgraded version versus a used 1st gen. on Ebay.