King Kong PLUS26 Backpack Review

The fitness-focused King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack offers bang on features for the gym, but the shoulder straps are broad, and some pockets can be hard to utilize.

Our Verdict

7.1 /10
Good info

Form

70/100

Design

77/100

Value

67/100
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Pros

  • Dual access points to the main compartment
  • The shoe pocket is unique and handy—lies flat when not in use
  • Multiple external pockets for easy access to gear

Cons

  • Interior pockets are hard to access when main compartment is packed
  • Shoulder straps feel too wide, can dig into the chest
  • Water bottle pocket has weak elasticity—not ideal for smaller bottles

Technical Details

88 %

Carry-On Compliance (Beta)

View 142/162 Airlines

26 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    26l

  • Weight (lb)

    3.5 lb (1.6 kg)

  • Denier

    1000D

  • Dimensions

    20 in x 12 in x 7 in (50.8 x 30.5 x 17.8 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Nylon, Hypalon®, Fidlock Hardware, YKK Zippers, YKK Buckles

  • Manufacturing Country

    China

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    16"

  • Warranty Information

    Warranty

Full Review

If a giant gorilla climbing the Empire State Building was the first thing you thought of when reading the brand name King Kong Apparel, you’re not alone.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack in Detroit
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack in Detroit

We’ve had the pleasure of testing the King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack these last two weeks and have been taking advantage of all of its efficient and thoughtful features. You can use it for your everyday commute, but its organization also lends itself to be a solid contender for a gym bag, and we’ll explain why below.

No more monkeying around—let’s go ahead and get into this review.

Materials & Aesthetic

This daypack is rather boxy in its shape and doesn’t keep quite as low of a profile as other, sleeker daypacks we’ve tested. This might be why our Instagram audience only gave it a 26% approval rating on our poll of its look. Even so, the pack’s shape and features generate a hardwearing demeanor that we don’t mind in the right context.

We’ve been testing the Charcoal colorway of this bag and there are a couple of other colors, too. Suppose you’re not a fan of this aesthetic. In that case, you can also opt for the Redwood or Burnout option at the time of this review—and, if you’re feeling patriotic, they also offer a USA colorway to display some patriotic pride.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Material and Logo
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Material and Logo

You’ll spot the brand’s logo printed in large letters across the top-front of the bag. It’s pretty noticeable, which you might not appreciate if you prefer a more subtle approach, but in a way, it adds to the hardwearing nature of the bag. We mean, if you see a bag with “King Kong” on it, your first thought is probably “that bag means business.”

King Kong Apparel opted for a 1000D nylon fabric for this pack. It’s proven to be plenty durable as it hasn’t sustained any damage so far during our testing, aesthetic or otherwise. It feels rugged to the touch and has held up well, so we’re not too worried about this bag breaking on us anytime soon.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Zippers
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Zippers

YKK zippers were a solid choice for this bag (and any bag, really). These particular ones feature easy to grab pulls that have helped them continuously glide open and closed without any issues during our testing—we expect nothing less from this trusted brand.

The bag’s hardware is a mix of YKK and Fidlock, both sets of which have been performing to standard so far—we don’t have anything significant to report.

External Components

Left: Riley, Height, 5’4” (162 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Mark, Height, 5’10” (178 cm), Torso: 19” (48cm)
Left: Riley, Height, 5’4” (162 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Mark, Height, 5’10” (178 cm), Torso: 19” (48cm)

The PLUS26 Backpack’s shoulder straps feel as though they were made for King Kong himself. That may be an exaggeration, but we have found them to be characteristically wide. We’ve also found that this can cause the straps’ edges to dig into the chest more so than we’ve experienced with other bags. They have some thin but dense padding and a mesh lining, though, so they’ve been comfortable otherwise.

Then, there’s the sternum strap, which is adjustable via a rail system along the shoulder straps. It feels nice and securely attached, so we’re not worried about losing it, and it glides up and down without much effort on our end. It also features an elastic keeper to help round up any excess strap for a cleaner look and less dangly experience.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Shoulder Straps
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Shoulder Straps

Back up! We need to talk about the back panel before we go any further. It has a similar construction as the shoulder straps in that the padding is minimal but dense, and its mesh lining and air channels do an excellent job of keeping the air flowing—especially on extended wears and when we’re out in the sun.

The handle at the top of the bag is lined with Hypalon material that gives it more grip than standard nylon, so when you’re hanging this thing up, you don’t have to worry as much about it slipping off. It’s also great for just grabbing and pulling the bag around from place to place and when you need to get something out.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Water Bottle Pocket
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Water Bottle Pocket

Last on the list for this section are the two water bottle pockets located on the pack’s sides. They’re quite roomy and secured with elastic at the top, allowing them to flex even further to larger bottles. We’ve been testing with the Hydro Flask Bottle 21 oz (Standard Mouth), and it fits nicely inside. Although, we wouldn’t put anything smaller inside as it’s more likely to slip out if the bag gets overturned.

Inside The Pack

To start this section, we want to turn your attention to one really neat feature of this bag: the shoe pocket. There’s some gusseted fabric along the front panel’s sides that allows it to open up and hold an extra pair of shoes. Once they’re inside, you can take the accompanying strap and secure it to the hardware above the pocket to keep your shoes in place.

We’ve been using it as a spot for the Teva Ember Moc Slippers so that we have something cozier to slip our feet into when we reach our destination, but you can slip in a pair of active shoes if you’re taking this bag to the gym, too. The best part is, you don’t even have to use it for shoes if you don’t want to—stash a jacket or a hat here if you’d like, for example. When you’re not using it, you can zip up its sides, and it’ll lie flat against the bag and out of the way.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Front Organization
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Front Organization

Above this pocket is a quick-grab pocket for the gear you’re continually grabbing throughout your day. It has some integrated organization against the back wall, including a larger sleeve, two medium-sized sleeves, and two handy sleeves to slip in your pens. These pockets can help segment things like a tinier notebook, headphones, and the like, while you can keep bulkier items in the remaining free space (wallet, keys, etc.).

Did someone say main compartment? No? Just the wind? Well, we might as well talk about it anyway. The first thing you should know is that this compartment can be accessed from two places—your first access point is the bag’s horseshoe-style zipper. This entry mode is best when you’re just looking to quickly grab something out on the go, whereas the zipper behind it opens the bag up fully clamshell where you’re getting the most unencumbered access to your stuff.

Whichever way you choose, you can take advantage of the 26L of space this pack has to offer, as well as its built-in organization. The first pocket inside is located toward the top of this compartment, and we’ve been using it as a place for our tech-specific quick-grab items. It’s easier to get to than the remaining organization since we can unzip the horseshoe-style zipper, fold back the front flap, and reach inside.

King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Main Compartment
King Kong Apparel PLUS26 Backpack Main Compartment

Below this pocket are two mesh pockets of a similar size ideal for gear you don’t need constant access to. Why? Because the pouches, clothing, or loose gear that you pack in the free space of the compartment will cover these pockets almost entirely, meaning you’ll have to sort through everything inside to get to them. And it’s pretty much the same experience whether you’re accessing the pack from the horseshoe opening in the front, to the clamshell opening in the back.

On the opposite side of the compartment is a sleeve that can accommodate a 16″ MacBook Pro. It’s padded for extra support and suspended to keep your tech safe from those accidental drops. Plus, there’s a buckle at the top to secure it in place, so you don’t have to worry about it bobbing in and out of the sleeve when the bag gets jostled around.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Main compartment opens fully clamshell for easy access
  • Front shoe pocket zips flat when not in use
  • Bright interior makes everything easy to see
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

This is a great bag for a weekend trip or heading from the office to the gym. We’ve got a lot of use out of the kangaroo-style pocket in the front, too. It fit our shoes very nicely while keeping them away from all our tech and other gear. We also found ourselves using that pocket for holding our jacket or lunch. It’s a sizeable versatile pocket that works for quick-grab use. We’ve been having a little harder time using the internal organization since the bottom two of the row of three pockets can’t be easily accessed unless the bag is open completely clamshell. Although we’ve been enjoying using this bag overall, the extra-wide shoulder straps can rub a little bit.

mm
By Mark Hurrish
Created January 8, 2021 • Updated January 8, 2021
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