Review: Axio Fuse Hardpack

by James Bain Jul 20, 2007

I spent some time ago reviewing a variety of ruggedized cases for small electronics, iPods, PDAs, even cell phones and cameras.

There are two different approaches in this sort of treatment, you either make the container bulletproof, or waterproof. Sometimes, in the better (IMHO) cases, you get both.

When you bulletproof, things get heavy. Stronger material generally means heavier material and as such your perhaps very-light-when-naked device gets incredibly heavy when armoured. Penguin cases are an example of this. Penguin makes some very durable cases. When I was travelling here and there for business into areas where the environment and/or baggage handles might be a bit more than simply brutal on my gear, I wanted to protect my precious things and looked at what Penguin had. Well, the wheeled piece that was of a size I could fit in carry-on had one major problem: empty, it weighed more than my baggage allowance! If I carried nothing, it would be safe as houses. Not the solution.

What I’ve found of late is that some people are working on what I might term bullet “resistant” solutions, cases that are very durable and while they might not stop an axe blow, will deal with the vast majority of person- and environmental-handling your luggage can reasonably expect to face.

One circumstance where total armour is not the answer is in biking, for example, or in any other more or less active and fast moving transit sport, like skateboarding, rollerblading, and so forth. If you’re biking or boarding or blading, and you slip and take a tumble, I’m not sure what would bother you more, the crunching sound of your laptop breaking or the snapping sound of your arms. Arms heal, but laptops don’t. And I’m sure that even AppleCare is not going to handle the realistic effects of gravity. Not the last time I checked.

So, you’re thinking about biking to work, okay? And you are going to be taking a laptop with you. Carrying a case that weighs three times the laptop’s size is probably not going to be on your agenda. But carrying something that weighs maybe a sliver more than a usual backpack might work, right?

Enter the Axio Fuse Hardpack.

It’s not bulletproof, but is one of those bullet resistant ones I was talking about. It’s a nice backpack, good carry harness, well-padded. Stylish too. It doesn’t look odd or unusual, unless your kids just watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles recently. In which case they might just start calling you Donatello. What the Hardpack does is give your back, your pack, a stiffened shell to protect the gear inside your pack. You can smack it pretty hard and it all bounces back well enough. I haven’t jumped off a truck to test it that hard, but I’ve given it a few good swift kicks, with the pack laden down with old textbooks, just to see how it fared. Pretty well, actually.

Here’s the idea. You’ve got this stiffened shell on your backpack. Into this zipped compartment, you place your laptop and other breakables (the laptop has its own padded sleeve), close that part, put the rest of your stuff into the main body of the backpack and off you go.

So, some [email protected]([email protected] smacks into you, and you go for a tumble, onto the grass hopefully, and roll over on your back. Hold your breath! Was that the sound of your work shoes smashing through the back of your LCD? Was that your Nano wrapping itself around your bike lock?

I can’t guarantee you won’t hurt your laptop. I can’t guarantee you won’t hurt yourself. But I can assure you that you’ll be far less likely to damage your stuff if it’s stowed safely away in a hardpack. A lot less likely.

And there are always the dual matters of look and style. The backpack itself is streamlined and is obviously not going to get in your way if you’re seriously speed biking. There’s room enough in it for your day-to-day stuff and to spare. Tons and tons of room. Because there’s some attention paid to how things look as well as how they work, the molded PE plastic hardshell is wrapped in a very fashionable design. Contrasting colours for the inside and outside. I think I’ve said sturdy several times already. Nice zippered pouches so everything isn’t rubbing up against everything else. Hit the site and ooh and aw there. Trust me, you will. I’m trying to give you a sense of what it feels like to use this thing, what it *means* to you.

Basically, the Axio Fuse Hardpack is a slick-looking backpack that has lots of well-thought-out room, and included an innovative protective shell that I couldn’t even dent its book-filled self when I kicked it clear across the room.

Giving this a score is easy: 85%!

Nice bag, nice look, nice function. I have no problems recommending this for cyclists, boarders, bladers commuting with their laptops and stuff, or even for general people like myself known to be a little less than agile. If you’re looking for a backpack now, this is something you really do need to look at. Seriously.


  • I can really recommend it to bikers. I regularly go to work on my bike with this backpack for 1 year now(24 km single trip). The ergonomics are super. The backpack, loaded with laptop, adapter, and some light spare clothes weighs about 4 kg, but it doesn’t hurt my back at all. Because of the shape of the padding and the straps the package lies on your back rather than hanging on your shoulders like a sac of potatoes.

    I once got soaked in a storm during 1 hour; the backpack got a bit moist at the bottom (racebike, no mudguard) and around the zippers, so for real extreme conditions I would recommend extra protection.

    Maarten had this to say on Jul 20, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I was trying to be too cunning by half here. It’s Pelican, not Penguin. I guess it doesn’t matter if I name another brand here.

    Glad you like your Axio, Maarten. It’s a pretty impressive case over all!

    Thanks for the comment,


    James Bain had this to say on Jul 20, 2007 Posts: 33
  • There is also a waterproof cover available for some models, according to their website. That should cover most possibilities…

    Paul Foster had this to say on Jul 21, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Water-resistant I’d guess. Good for biking in the rain definitely though.

    James Bain had this to say on Jul 21, 2007 Posts: 33
  • I am a motorbiker and I have an Axio Hybrid. It’s huge, absolutely enormous. I use it pretty much every day and in all weathers. The stiffened foam outer is durable (if not as durable as a hardshell) and very comfortable. The only weakness I’ve found so far is the zippers. If it’s raining, you need to make sure the zip pulls are at the bottom of the bag, otherwise they do let a little water in. More worryingly, I had a zipper give out when my pack was about 8 months old. The teeth started to come away from the material. Axio replaced it free, but the new one has a zipper issue as well, where I have to be careful how I do it up, or they don’t bite properly in one spot.

    All in all, expensive but a reasonable purchase for a large and comfortable rucksack.

    Dan Ebeck had this to say on Jul 27, 2007 Posts: 23
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