Behind the Design: New Urban Ex Backpacks

Behind the Design:  New Urban Ex Backpacks


Greetings from the land of perpetual drizzle, where umbrellas go to retire, and waterproof gear is practically a fashion statement! Yep, we're talking about our hometown of Portland, Oregon! Now, if you're wondering how we became masters of staying dry (and looking good), let us introduce you to our Urban Ex collection. It's been a staple in the Chrome lineup, weathering several seasons like a champ. Travelers and commuters alike have declared it the MVP of waterproof bags! In fact, the previous version earned a gold star from none other than Outside Magazine's Jakob Schiller, who probably knows a thing or two about adventures and great gear. 

But hold onto your (rain) hats, folks, because this spring, we're rolling out the red carpet (or should we say waterproof tarp?) for the newest version of the Urban Ex 20L and 30L backpacks. These bad boys are not just bags; they're (water)proof that you can stay dry and look good while doing it. 

We snagged some time with one of the brains behind the brilliance, Chrome Product Director,  Nate Kuder, to spill the tea on how the team sprinkled a bit of magic on these backpacks. Hint: It involves customer feedback, a dash of genius, and knowing a thing or two about creating great, commuter-friendly gear. So, buckle up, it's about to rain knowledge in here! 🌧️💦 #UrbanExUpgrade 

CHROME: Can you highlight the standout features that make this backpack unique? Any innovative elements that set it apart from previous designs?

NATE: The biggest standout feature is being fully waterproof, that’s the primary feature behind the Urban Ex collection. The bonus is that it's also more comfortable than previous generations, due to the new back panel and shoulder strap designs and more durable with the improved, proprietary knurl welded seams. 

Urban Ex Backpack back view of straps

CHROME: Knurl welding? Sounds gnarly. Can you tell us a little more about it?

NATE: Don't mind me nerding-out a bit here... knurl welding is Chrome's proprietary manufacturing process that delivers enhanced seam strength with no compromise in weight. Our inspiration was the knurling found on metal tools to offer better grip, which essentially makes the tool perform better without adding anything other than texture. We added that same texture when welding two pieces of fabric together, which creates mechanical interlock and more surface area which ultimately equals greater strength. 

CHROME: How did user feedback and experiences with previous designs influence the development of this new backpack? Were there specific challenges or desires from users that you aimed to address?

NATE: People loved the previous Urban Ex, so the challenge was picking it apart to find areas of improvement. Increased comfort and durability were the big ones, but we also updated the shape to make it slightly wider and not as tall, so it’s easier to get into and easier to see over your shoulder when commuting on bike or on foot.  

CHROME: What materials were chosen for this backpack, and why? How do these materials contribute to both the aesthetics and functionality of the design?

NATE: We chose a 500D Nylon with PU and TPU coatings for total water resistance and bomber seam construction, while also being incredibly good at abrasion and tear resistance. The material has a really nice feel and look on the outside and keeps the bag from looking like it’s for a river trip. 

CHROME: Is there a focus on versatility in this new design? How does the backpack cater to various needs and activities, from daily commutes to weekend adventures?

NATE: Obviously the ideal use for this bag is commuting, but because it’s a comfortable waterproof bag it works great for any adventure that could end up in gnarly weather or harsh elements. Adventure travel through the rainforest or just a day at the coast.  

CHROME:  Are there any tech features integrated into the backpack? 

NATE: There’s a nice quick access pocket that’s perfect for a phone or wallet and some medium-level organization (laptop sleeve and org pockets) on the inside to make the transition into the office that much easier. 

Urban Ex front view of reflective loops

CHROME: Do you have a personal favorite aspect or feature of the backpack? Something that makes you particularly proud or excited about the final product?

NATE: As a user of the bag, I love the new shape for better access and visibility, the much-improved laptop sleeve, and the long-term durability of the updated seam construction. 

Inside the Urban Ex padded laptop sleeve

CHROME: Every design process comes with its challenges. Can you share any hurdles you faced during the development of this backpack and how you overcame them?

 NATE: Materials were the most challenging. Finding just the right balance of durability, welding strength, and overall weight is a real problem for fully welded bags. Getting that dialed in and then working to make the bag feel nice (not too boardy) and look great overall were the final steps.  

 And there you have it! Tap here to explore the new Urban Ex backpacks and see how they can make your rainy days just a little brighter, because let’s be real, the weather shouldn’t be the only one making a splash. 

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