Product Review: Apera Performance Duffel Bag

Back in early April, I was asked by Apera Bags to check out their line of products. During that time you guys may have noticed it seemed like a lot of bloggers in the running community were all posting reviews about Apera. However, I really wanted to take my time with this review and put the bag through its paces, so after a few months, and a handful of business trips with the bag,  I'm now ready to share my thoughts. 

First, a little background on Apera. Before being asked to try them out, I didn't have a lot of knowledge of the brand, so I scoured the internet to see what I could find. It turns out the folks running the brand have pretty extensive luggage experience spanning American Tourister, Samsonite and even Nike. With those credentials, my immediate expectation was a quality product. I was also curious as to why they would enter an already saturated bag market, basically, what made them different. 

Apera has a few marketing positions. From their website, Apera mentions the need to address social athletes' needs for a quality bag that can perform at any facet of their active lifestyle. Also, the company selflessly dedicates to donating bags to the Special Olympics (one bag for every three sold), which is a good step most smart brands are approaching these days. But, the piece that most intrigued me was the claim their bags have an antimicrobial product protection that reduces bacterial odor. Basically, they are saying minimizes "the funk" that we runners are known for producing. 

Brand positioning.

Okay, so let's check this mother out. 

I decided to try out the Performance Duffel among their line of products, which ranges from backpacks to yoga packs to duffel bags. While my wife and I have a ton of hiking packs, we needed something larger than a backpack to carry more gear and this bag was a departure from the "traditional" tube shaped duffels that tend to have only one large pocket.

So, if I fit in this does that mean I can go with you?

My initial thoughts when first receiving the bag were that it's a surprisingly large bag, had pockets galore and had a unique look. Given the ends where the shoulder strap met the bag were turned up gave it an almost "purse" feel. It's not a bad thing, more of just something that took me a few trips to get over. 

Wish the ends were flatter.

Getting past the shape of the bag, the quality of the bag is definitely of a sturdy construction. There is very little exposed stitching with most of the seams receding into the bag, so there are no worries of snags as it sits underneath a cramped airplane seat or in a gym locker. The bottom of the bag has a reinforced nylon/plastic bottom which helps to keep your contents in good and dry shape. There's a nice water bottle pocket on the outside that's stretchy so it can accommodate any sized bottle (I tried a few). 

Sturdy construction.

Let me say this bag has room for everything I could throw at it. Its various assortment of various pockets in and outside of the bags allow for everything to have its own place. I really enjoyed this aspect as most duffel bags just have a big pocket and maybe one or two small pockets (which are usually useless), where the Performance Duffel had no less than ten pockets, including dedicated ones for shoes, which is great for me when I have to bring multiple shoes to mulit-race weekends. They also include a good-sized removable and washable bag to hold all your soiled gear. 

Staring into the abyss.
Shoe pockets.

Lots of pockets.
Top of the bag is good for things like phones, watches, keys, headphones, etc.
My typical race weekend setup: Shoes (x2), shirts (x4), singlets (x2), shorts (x4), pullover, even got some Nipguards in there.
Like a glove.
Great pocket in the back for a 13" Macbook

The real test, can this thing handle the real world? Sure, it fared well enough on my easy train commute into the office, but how would it fare outside my reach. Wanting to get that answer, I crammed everything I would need on a five day cross-country trip from Boston to San Francisco. Since this was a business (and client) trip, I had to not only pack running gear, but client-friendly duds (read: chinos and a few button downs), nightlife and sightseeing clothes. I planned to take the bag as a carry-on, but my airline (let's just say their name is the opposite of "divided") ran out of room and made me check my luggage at the gate. I guess the best test is that of being handled by the infamous baggage handlers. However, upon receiving the bag at the baggage carousel, it showed no serious signs of living through the jigsaw puzzle of checked bags and boxes. The same thing happened on the way home (of course) and the bag stayed in great shape. 

"Sir, if you could just leave it at the end of the jetway.....never to be seen again. Muwahahahah!!!!"

My wife then took it on a train ride down to New York City for the week, and it handled just as well as my cross-continent trip. Nary a scratch or tear. 

I should also mention the bag held up its mention of minimizing my "road funk" clothes. They were still pretty nasty (this bag isn't magic), but it definitely compartmentalized the smell.

Final Thoughts:
Overall the bag performed well for what I needed, which was a medium sized bag that could handle a long road trip. There are a few nit-picks, such as the shape of the bag, the shoulder strap could be a little softer and I wish it was detachable from the bag. However, overall it's a solid bag. Retailing for about $75 US it's not cheap, but if you are looking for a sturdy weekender, the Apera Performance Duffel is a solid bet. 

The Fine Print: As I said before, this bag was supplied to me directly by Apera Bags. I received no compensation for my review and as always, my opinions are my own.