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The first thing you do when you order a new pair of shoes online: try them on and walk around for a little while to test comfort and fit. Since no two pairs of shoes feel or fit the same, despite being the same size, it's important to test if they'll work for you.
The same concept applies to travel backpacks. Before traveling with a new bag, make sure to do a test run.
Step One: Pack the Bag
It's impossible to tell if your new travel backpack will be comfortable if you test it when it's empty. In order to do a meaningful test fit, pack clothing in the main compartment and your laptop in the computer sleeve before putting on the bag. You don't have to pack exactly what you would on a trip, but make sure to pack approximately the same amount of stuff so the weight is as close to a real-world situation as possible.
Step Two: Put it On
Put the shoulder straps on first, then clip the hip belt around your torso.
Step Three: Adjust
Adjust the height of the shoulder straps by pulling on the webbing at the base of the foam sections.
Move the sternum strap up or down so that it's just below your collarbone, then tighten until the bag is taught against your body. Tighten the hip belt until it's snug, but not suffocating. The base of the hip belt should rest right on top of your hip bones. If it's too high or too low, it won't successfully transfer weight from your shoulders.
Step Four: Walk Around
In order to tell if your bag will be comfortable enough for a long walk through a city to your Airbnb (or a sprint through an airport terminal), walk around for a little while. Pay attention to whether or not the hip belt is transferring weight from your shoulders, and see if anything is gaping or tugging.
The shoulder straps will be a bit stiff at first - that's normal. They're made from a custom injection-molded foam that will conform to your body and get more comfortable over time.
Now that you've tested for fit and comfort, take a tour of every pocket, compartment, and feature so you can make the most of your new backpack. Let’s kick it off with an overview video on the Setout Divide to get you acquainted.
On to the exterior of the bag.
On the front of the Setout Divide, you'll find a small zippered pocket. It's the perfect size for a postcard, small headphones, important papers, or other small items you might need to access quickly.
On one side, you’ll find a water bottle pocket. Unzip it to reveal an elastic panel that helps you fit larger or oddly sized water bottles inside. Zip it up when not in use for a sleek, out-of-the-way profile.
On the other side, there is a padded grab handle. Use this to grab your backpack out of a car’s trunk or the overhead compartment on an airplane. There’s a grab handle on top of the bag, too, which is useful for pulling your bag out from under the seat of an airplane.
On the side with the grab handle, you’ll also see two D-rings. Use these to attach a crossbody strap if you want to carry the Divide like a duffle. The D-rings are also useful for tying a dirty pair of sneakers to the outside of your bag, clipping on a luggage tag, or attaching anything else you might want to keep at hand.
You'll also find two compression straps on both sides of the Setout Divide. Use these to condense the size of your backpack when not fully packed. Compression straps help with ergonomics, because a compressed load feels lighter than one that's jostling around all loosey-goosey.
On top of the bag, note the webbing loop next to the zipper. Use this to hang your bag on a hook for easy storage.
The Setout Divide’s shoulder straps are made from a comfortable, injection-molded foam that breaks in and conforms to your body over time. It's similar to the kind of foam you see in the soles of running shoes. It might feel a little stiff at first - that's normal!
Adjust the chest strap up and down to fit your body, then tighten it to feel taut for the most comfortable carry. Chest straps help keep your backpack close to your body so the load doesn't shift as much. Similar to compression straps, a secure and nonmoving load feels lighter on your back. If you prefer not to use the chest strap, it's removable.
One of the most-requested features from our customers was the ability to stow shoulder straps when not in use. Here's how to hide away the Divide’s shoulder straps for more security.
To stow your straps, unclip the Duraflex buckles at the bottom of the bag and tuck the straps into the velcro compartment on the back panel. When you're ready to reattach the straps, hook the buckles to the webbing loops at the base of the bag (not the plastic D-rings). For a demonstration, scroll up to the video at the top of this page.
Hideaway straps are especially useful if you need to gate check your bag on a small regional jet. Whenever your bag leaves your hands, it's nice to stow away pieces that might get caught on something and cause damage.
Along with the velcro section to stow your straps, note a pass-through sleeve on the back of the Divide. Use this sleeve to slide your backpack on the handle of a rolling suitcase.
Unlike flimsy hip straps on other travel backpacks, the Divide’s padded hip belt transfers up to 80% of the bag’s weight to your hips. That means your stronger leg muscles carry the bulk of the weight, saving your shoulders from a painful afternoon.
The hip belt also has two pockets that can hold a phone (iPhone 8 fits just fine), boarding pass, and keys. You don’t have to take off your backpack to reach for something important. Our co-founder, Fred, likes to take everything out of his pants pockets and transfer the contents to the hip belt pockets before going through security at the airport.
If you don’t like to use a hip belt, it’s removable. We recommend stashing the hip belt in the Setout Divide’s front pocket if you need to stow them while in transit.
The zippers to the main compartment, front organization compartment, and electronics compartment are all equipped with lockable YKK zippers. Slide a TSA-friendly lock through the loops at the base of the zipper to secure your stuff.
The Divide’s outer fabric, a 900D polyester, is treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish for weather resistance. It's not fully waterproof, but it will protect your stuff while you find a place to wait out a rainstorm.
In the front pocket, you'll find a panel with lots of places to store small incidentals. There is a pocket for your sunglasses, a sleeve for your ereader or a notebook, and a zippered compartment for anything else you might need to store. Slide pens into the pen holders, clip your keys to the key clip, and store cards and a passport in the smaller slots.
The front pocket is also a great place to store things you might need to access quickly like a jacket, your liquids bag, chargers, and in-flight essentials.
The Divide’s main compartment is divided (get it?) into two sections. Use the two halves to separate dirty clothes from clean clothes, or shirts and pants from socks and underwear.
The left half of the main compartment is a zippered mesh section. This is great for smaller items like socks and underwear. If you like to pack with packing cubes, we recommend using the two small Setout Packing Cubes in the zippered mesh section. You’ll have a little extra room for a small pair of shoes.
The right side is an open space with internal compression straps. Use this for larger items like pants, sweaters, and toiletry bags. The large packing cube fits perfectly in this section, as well.
The Divide’s electronics compartment sits flush against your back for security and ergonomics. Your computer is often the most valuable - and heaviest - item you carry, so it's placed in the spot least prone to damage. Plus, your bag would feel heavier if the laptop was further away from your center of gravity.
Pack a 15" laptop and 9.7" tablet in the two electronics sleeves and secure them with the velcro strap.
First, make sure to wipe off your backpack any time you spill something on it or otherwise dirty it. A few seconds of effort right when it gets dirty will prevent more work later.
If you need to fully wash your Setout Divide, hand wash it. Don't put it in the washing machine.
Hand washing your backpack will allow you to target problem areas with a little extra elbow grease and prevent a washing machine from damaging the zippers or tearing the straps.
First, fill a large sink or bathtub with cool to lukewarm water. By not using hot water, you’ll avoid burning yourself or damaging your pack.
Add a gentle detergent or natural soap like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to the water. If you use detergent, make sure it’s free of dyes, fragrances, and chemicals which could damage your bag or irritate your skin. Soak your backpack and spot treat as needed.
Once your bag is dry, treat the zippers to keep them running smoothly. A non-greasy, non-staining silicone spray will help lubricate the zippers and keep them from rusting. The helpful users at Ask Metafilter recommend using paraffin wax, powdered graphite, or even a crayon to keep zippers running smoothly.
Wiping down your bag after a trip is always a good idea, but you shouldn’t do a full wash too often. Once or twice per year is plenty. Excessive washing can damage the bag and wear away its day-to-day water resistance.
Read more here about how we designed the Setout Divide to be the ideal carry on for city travelers.