Australia’s newest and coolest outdoor equipment supplier Zorali was forged by Surf Coast Victorians Cam and Elise Greenwood, out of the crushed remains of Cam’s fledgeling surfwear brand. After a problem with a multinational corporation, the Greenwood’s pivoted, rebranded and lifted their business sights even higher.
An amalgamation of exotic Persian and African words for “Fearless” and “Full of Life” gives us Zorali, which colourfully encapsulates Cam and Elise’s enthusiastic approach.
Zorali’s product range includes men’s and women’s apparel, bags and backpacks, cookware and camping gear. While the range isn’t intended for extreme outdoor activities or mountain sports, the products are good quality, well thought out items which are intended to improve the simple pleasure of being outside.
For a new business, Zorali has ambitious environmental credentials. They haven’t held back until the company is well established, for a future time when accountants would say the business could afford philanthropy. A fiery passion for the future of our planet has been embedded in the firm’s core, right from the start. Zorali put their money where their mouth is. I can’t help but be reminded of Yvon Chouinard’s Patagonia company, which is considered the ethical ‘gold standard’ of outdoor equipment organisations.
Three generous pillars support Zorali’s environmental policy, they:
- Donate 1% For the Planet *
- Are 100% Carbon Neutral (offsets are with Climate Neutral)
- Plant 10 trees for every product sold through Eden Reforestation Projects
These programs are verifiable with their annual audited financial statements readily available. (*The 1% for the Planet program is 1% of revenue, not profit, a more onerous contribution).
All of Zorali’s products are made in China, which can obscure what is going on within the supply chain. To this end, Zorali has a code of conduct to ensure the people in their manufacturing supply chain are treated well, paid properly and have a safe workplace.
Escapade is Zorali’s new everyday backpack suitable for work, school or play. It has old school styling but is built with durable modern materials. The roomy 32-litre volume gives great flexibility with what you can carry and do with this bag.
The Bag: The design looks boxy and retro with its top flap cinched down with a pair of quick-release buckles. It incorporates features of a laptop sleeve and a pair of discrete outside pockets.
What strikes me first about this bag is simply how rugged it is. The exterior is entirely constructed of 1000 denier Cordura. This is a highly abrasion-resistant textured nylon fabric, which is usually found as reinforcement at high wear areas on packs. Regular weight pack cloth is typically much lighter at about 400 denier.
The bag comes in 3 colour styles, all with a natural vegetable dyed appearance, which marries very well with the Cordura’s canvas-like texture and feel. We tested the Tan and Red model, which we think is the nicest colourway.
Escapade weighs 880 grams, which is very respectable given the pack’s volume and the durable material used.
Main Compartment: The main compartment is a space-efficient box shape with a padded floor. It closes with the conventional rucksack closure of two 25mm plastic buckles over an internal nylon drawstring throat. The throat is long enough for water tightness, yet still allows good access into the body of the pack. The top flap has a slim external pocket set into it, suitable for small items. The flap pocket closes with a bombproof #10 YKK zip.
Inside: The main compartment, including the top flap, is fully lined with ripstop nylon, which gives the whole bag an impression of quality build. I can’t recall seeing a fully lined rucksack before, but I like it. Inside seams are all finished with grosgrain ribbon and there are no loose threads visible anywhere.
An inside sleeve is suitable for a tablet, or for a hydration bladder. A slimline buckle closes this sleeve or could be used to hang a bladder from. No hydration or earphone ports are provided.
Outside: A padded external sleeve is attached to the back panel for a laptop, which is covered by the top flap. A #7 YKK half zip with twin sliders secures this sleeve.
A good-sized external pocket is fixed to the bottom of the front panel. Inside is fitted with a key clip and a 100 x 150 mm sleeve suitable for a small wallet or card folder. This compartment also seals with a heavy-duty #10 KK zip. All zips have cord pulls attached.
A pair of nicely pleated pockets flank each side. The tops are elasticised and when not in use they fold in flush. The robust Cordura fabric will hold up to heavy use up better in this area than elasticized mesh often seen on other bags.
The big zips don’t have weather flaps over them, a bit of swagger which shows off how chunky and muscular the zips are.
Harness: Escapade is a “one size fits all” pack. Just the two shoulder straps, there is no hip belt. The inside face of the harness is of spacer mesh for breathability and the elasticized sternum strap has 50 mm of vertical adjustment There is no whistle on the buckle.
Extras: A placard under the front flap contains a quote by the revered Scottish/American naturalist, John Muir. This is a nice touch which works for me, but others might find twee.
The harness has a pair of D rings above the sternum strap. Another pair of D rings and a webbing loop allow for items to be lashed underneath the pack.
Recycling: How can eco-friendly gear be made of nylon? Shouldn’t it be made of artisanal homespun hemp? Yes, it’s true that nylon is not a cheap or easy material to recycle. The use of 100% synthetic fabric may raise eyebrows when measured against Zorali’s stated environmental objectives. On consideration, I have no qualms here, simply because this bag is so hard-wearing it will last for decades. Remember to list your Escapade pack in your Will, to stop your descendants fighting over it!
Warranty: Everything Zorali makes is covered by their Steadfast Guarantee. It means that any defect in materials or manufacture across the reasonable lifetime of a product is covered. They’ll fix or replace it. Simple.
Even though the Guarantee doesn’t cover damage caused by neglect, improper care, accidents, or normal wear and tear like scuffs, scratches, abrasions or fading, Zorali offer to help you nurse the item back to life at a reasonable charge.
What about real-world performance?
Public transport: There is no waist strap to sweep along the floor or for other passengers to stand on, so that’s great in the urban wilds. The overall size is quite manageable to wrangle onto buses, trams and trains, and the bag slots fine into overhead luggage racks. The zippered pocket in the top flap is well positioned and provides easy access for travel cards.
Aircraft: With more travellers opting for the savings and speed of travelling without checked baggage, its handy to know what you can carry onto the plane. With approximate maximum dimensions of 510mm (l) x 270 mm (w) x 230 mm (d), Escapade is within allowable aeroplane carry on size restrictions. However, with its 32-litre capacity, you could easily exceed the airline’s weight limit! A laptop readily slips in and out of the external sleeve, so no need to fumble around in the x-ray machine queues.
Cycling: On the bike, I found the pack sat well on my back with a medium load. It stayed stable through some quick corners and there was no tendency for it to slop around. The textured Cordura seemed to provide friction with my back, so I didn’t miss not having a waist strap.
Walking: I took the Escapade on a 16 km day walk around the Scenic Rim of the Lerderderg Gorge. It was a warm, humid day and I had about 8kg in the bag, about half of which was water. My water bladder slipped easily into the inside sleeve and the delivery hose snaked out through the throat and hooked under a D ring on the chest strap. Despite the lack of ‘hydration bladder compatibility’, there were no issues there.
I found the pleated side pockets held up to 1.25-litre bottles fine, but I couldn’t remove or insert bottles on the move without slipping the bag off my back.
This walk involves two steep and steady climbs which saw the back of my shirt and the pack’s back panel getting damp quite quickly. Poor ventilation is an issue with packs constructed this way.
I thought the padded chest straps initially seemed a little soft and felt they might tend to fold up under heavy loads, but this fear was unfounded.
In the Office: I found the bags accommodation arrangement sensible and a pleasant alternative to other laptop specific backpacks which have so many pockets that you can never find anything.
The laptop sleeve is quite roomy, my 16” laptop easily fitted. Depending on the aspect ratio, larger laptops would also fit.
The bottom of this sleeve is flush with the floor of the pack. Care should be taken so you don’t get a clunk from your laptop when the pack is placed onto a hard surface. Other makers terminate their laptop sleeves above the pack floor to help prevent laptop damage, and this is something Zorali should consider in the future.
Design, Comfort & Durability (Rating: 85%)
Comfort under active use is inhibited by poor ventilation, but this is typical of small bags of this design.
Quality and durability are unrivalled. This is a dependable bag that can be passed down to the next generation.
Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 90%)
What I Like
- Old school, sensible design. Natural colours.
- Extreme durability. Quality build and finish.
- Zorali’s business philosophy.
What I Don’t Like
- Poor ventilation of the back panel (an issue with all packs constructed this way).
- Laptop sleeve extends through to pack floor. I’d prefer this to be blanked off above the floor to prevent damage to the laptop if the pack is dropped.
Have you tried the Zorali Escapade Backpack? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.