Archive for August, 2015

Gear Review: Hylete Icon XL Convertible Backpack

Hylete XL Icon Backpack

You might think you don’t need the Transformer of gym bags, but you’d be wrong. The Hylete Icon XL Convertible Backpack is probably the closest any athletic company will get to building a gym bag that is the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.

Hylete has had a couple of iterations of this bag, most notably upgrading the first release with improved zippers all the way around. We’re talking a lot of zippers here. Zippers on top of zippers; but the design and reason for all those zippers are the key strength and contributor to the expandability and versatility of this bag.

The bag is built in the common tear-drop daypack shape with a base capacity of 36 liters. With the flip of the wrist though, those zippers start to turn that basic daypack into something else entirely; adding an additional 17 liters of holding power. Across the front of the bag is a full arch zipper that expands the volume of the whole pack. At the base of the bag is another zipper that when undone exposes an entire shoe compartment capable of holding three separate pairs. The side compartments zip open for accessory storage on one side and a thermal insulated space for keeping food cold or warm. The last zipper covers the concealed section for a full set of backpack straps for even more mobility if you need it.

I think Hylete’s video on this backpack does a much better job of explaining the versatility and “presto-changeo” capabilities of this bag.

Inside the bag there are even a couple of more surprises. There is a fully padded laptop inner sleeve with a Velcro closure to keep the computer from popping out when you toss the bag around. And there is a mesh sack attached to the back wall of the pack to toss dirty clothes into. And the surprises just don’t end there. Inside the bag is an entirely separate drawstring bag that buckles into the primary backpack. Even this drawstring bag is tricky, having a bottom zipper that opens to another dirty clothes bag and side zips that give two more compartments of separation for rings, wallets, watches or whatever you toss in there.

At a price point of $200.00 I could easily just give this pack a really high mark as one of the most versatile backpacks you’ve ever seen.  And I would have no hesitation in telling you that if you wanted to invest in a portable CrossFit footlocker, this is your pick. But, let’s face it, 200 bucks is a lot of coin for a gym bag when you can just as easily pick one up for a quarter of the price. Or just use the one you pulled out of the closet that you think used to belong to your uncle, or roommate, or that hitchhiker you wish you’d never met.

Even though I had been putting this bag through the wringer for more than three months, I knew I had to up my game if I was going to push this duffel to its limits. In the gym setting, nothing I threw at this bag phased it. Considering the cost of the bag, I decided I would run it through some really difficult trials; namely as my single piece of luggage on international business trips.

6 airports, 10,000 miles and none the worse for wear.

6 airports, 10,000 miles and none the worse for wear.

My professional career gives me the chance to travel frequently (the adventures of which I blog about on and I am very set in my luggage choices. As a global road warrior for the last 15 years I am one of those “one-bag-never-check-anything” types of travelers. I can go for a two week business trip and never use a baggage space bigger than the overhead compartment. Taking a gamble and using a gym backpack was no easy decision given my longstanding habits. But my specialty bags, like my indestructible Red Oxx Air Boss cost $200 to $300 each, so it only made sense to see how the Hylete Icon XL would stand up against stiff, purpose built competition.

I have to admit that after three 10,000 mile round trips even I am surprised by this bag. My first trip was to Warsaw, Poland and I did the one bag carry-on on the out bound flights. Even in a couple of small planes, I never had to ramp check. On this first trip I took the rare step of checking a bag just to see if the handlers could tear it up. I never, ever check a bag. They didn’t even put a scuff on the ballistic nylon. As I write this I am on a return flight from my second trip to Zurich, Switzerland and I pulled off a pair of easy 4 day business trips with shoes, changes of office clothes and a set of gym gear. This pack has become my go-bag and my bug-out bag for both the gym and parts unknown.

I’d encourage you not to think of this as an expensive gym bag. Consider it the Swiss Army Knife of your luggage collection that you just happen to take to the gym every day. If you’re looking for the perfect bag, I might have just found it.


  • Incredible versatility
  • Seemingly endless expansion of space
  • Rugged, high-quality construction
  • Really cool design features like the insulated food pocket and extra string bag


  • A big price point
  • Easy to stuff to the point of overload (an 80lb gym bag isn’t a lot of fun)

Richard Bird reviews gear and documents his travels to CrossFit gyms around the world for Tabata Times and at Along with being a Masters level Scottish Highland Games Athlete,  Richard is also a co-owner and coach at CrossFit Westerville.

Originally posted to Tabata Times @