Midwest Basecamp

I’m Kovas Palubinskas. Born and raised in Southern California, I now live near a Lake Michigan beach in Indiana, nestled in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I’ve always loved gear of all sorts and with that, bags that can comfortably store and shlep that gear around.

Besides reviewing the bags themselves, I review all the gear itself, how mobile it is, how well it works, and how well the bag does in terms of storage and transport. I also review destinations, including travel and gear bags that are suitable for the area and/or transportation.

What kind of bags do you review?

I mostly review outdoor recreation bags, like backpacks and duffels, though I’ve also done some camera bags as well. I do get bags from companies to review, either by them contacting me based on other reviews or perhaps during a meeting at a show such as Outdoor Retailer. Shows such as Outdoor Retailer are a great way to keep up on what’s happening with bags slated for production, as are various print and online media.

How do you review the bags?

I do not have a specific review procedure, but rather take cues from the intended use of the bag itself. Generally companies want to see a review quickly, so short term tests are the norm, though sometimes I’ll go back to update an earlier review I’ve published, based on something that’s notable after some extended testing.

To me the most important thing is comfort and fit, as a bag needs to work in those ways to become a go-to or even worth keeping.

Design and features are important, and I review in terms of intended use. That being said, I keep an open mind and, if a bag lends itself to another use, I’ll mention that as another reason to get the bag.

Since a lot of the bags I use are for travel and/or outdoor recreation, one of my favorite features I like to see are additional grab handles. appropriately scaled zippers are another important item, as are a design that prevents them from getting caught on the materials.

I always field test bags, and given the time, I pass them along to my kids for testing as well, as they carry and use them totally differently than I do. They also offer a fresh perspective I may not have thought of.

What are your favorite bags?

Right now my favorite bag is a The North Face Surge Transit backpack – I use it as a commuter bag to carry my laptop and other work items to the office, but also as a travel bag. It’s a great weekend bag, but also can do longer trips if you’re a light traveler like I am. It has several larger pockets, which stay slim when empty but expand to carry a bunch when needed. Two smaller pockets allow for quick access and also organization for smaller items when needed.

How do people use your reviews?

I hope that people can make an informed choice after reading a review of mine. I try to keep an open mind about bags and, even if they don’t work for their intended use, try to find a reason they make work for someone. That being said, if a bag just doesn’t work, I’m glad to tell folks so they don’t make the mistake of buying one.


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