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Reviews > Packs > Pack Accessories > Gobi Gear Hoboroll > Test Report by Kerri Larkin
The Gobi Gear Hoboroll is designed to help organize and carry gear, either within a backpack, or as a separate carry bag. I could sure use some help taming the chaos that lives and breeds in the bottom of my backpack. Even though I try to travel light, it seems that pretty much every trip finds a new 'just in case' item, or a 'nifty new tech' item finding its way into my pack. Apart from having to tote all this gear around, the chances of finding any given piece of gear seems to be inversely proportional to how urgently I need it: don't really need it = easy to find, urgently need it = impossible to find even after dumping the entire contents of my pack out on the trail. So, I was keen to give the Hoboroll a trial to see if it could help sort out my pack woes.
Gobi Gear market the Hoboroll as, "designed to suit everyone, from the adventurous traveler to those who just like being organized." So just what is a Hoboroll? Basically, it's a long segmented tube; think segments like a grapefruit or an orange. There's a drawcord at each end of the tube to close it off and gear gets loaded in the five internal segments. Around the outside, there's a webbing compression strap which will squash the gear inside down to a more manageable size for travel.
Outside, the Hoboroll is made of 840 D nylon and looks like it will stand up to a fair bit of tough love. My Hoboroll is in the Arctic Blue colour with grey trim. It looks very nice! Sewn to the outside of one of the five panels is a long length of one inch (2.5 cm) webbing which forms a large loop. This loop is used as the carry strap when toting the bag. Attached to this webbing are some buckles which can be clipped together to form the compression strap.
Running the length of the roll is a webbing 'daisy chain' for clipping extra gear to should the roll be used as a stand-alone pack (like for summiting or day use).
Inside, the material is a lighter, softer nylon. The segment dividers are made of this same material. The internal dividers are soft enough to conform to anything put in the roll, so stowing odd-shaped gear looks to present no problem. All stitching looks to be of a high quality, and there were no loose threads visible.
One discrepancy between the website and the actual product is in listed weight. On the website it states the Hoboroll is 100 g (3.3 oz), although the tag on the bag says 176 g (6 oz). My actual measured weight was 181 g (6.5 oz).
A single page of instructions were included but really not needed as use of the Hoboroll is pretty self evident.
I guess one of my initial questions was, "Why use the Hoboroll instead of a dry bag?" I think the answer to that is that a standard dry bag (or any type of bag) only opens at one end, so it doesn't solve the problem of organization and finding a particular item. The segments or partitions within the Hoboroll make it much easier to arrange things in order, and the double opening at the ends means items can be removed from either side without the need to unpack everything. I think that's a great idea.
In order to see how much 'stuff' I could pack in to the Hoboroll, I lined up a bunch of clothing and a pair of shoes - a fairly typical load for a typical backpacker (not ultralight!). As you can see from the photos, my test load consisted of:
* a fleece jacket
* one pair of lightweight trousers
* one pair of water shoes
* a sun-block long sleeve shirt
* one pair of knickers
* one pair of socks
* a pair of shorts
* a short sleeve T-shirt
* a wool beanie
* a small toiletries bag
It was a tight squeeze but I managed to get it all in, which astounded me! When I cinched the ends closed I found they wouldn't fully close, but did cinch enough to stop everything falling out. Next, I clipped the compression strap buckles together and gave a good yank on the straps to compress the roll. I managed to get some compression to reduce the diameter, as shown in the photo. When I pulled a bit harder to see if I could get more compression, one buckle disengaged. After reconnecting the two buckle ends, I pulled a bit more gently and got a bit more compression without the buckle pulling apart again. This is a problem I've experienced before with plastic snap-lock buckles, so I'll be paying close attention to see if this is an isolated event or a common problem.
I can see that selecting what goes into the Hoboroll will be an important consideration; some things just won't work, and softer items that are compressible will probably work far better than hard items (like a JetBoil) which just don't compress. I also noticed that with the gear I'd chosen to trial the roll, I was unable to completely cinch the ends closed. That might be significant if I've packed some smaller items which could fall out when toting the roll around. I'll be interested to see if that happens
Perhaps the hardest part of stuffing the Hoboroll is when a few of the compartments are already full: as the roll gets fuller, the remaining segments seem to be harder to fill. I think it will help to load big items first, then smaller items last, but I'll experiment during my testing phase.
Although the Hoboroll is much heavier than advertised on the website I think it will still prove to be a useful piece of gear to help me organize my pack. It seems to work better with soft items, but will certainly accept hard items, they just don't compress without a horrible noise!
I'm looking forward to further testing the Hoboroll to see if it really does help keep me organized.
This concludes my Initial Report on the Gobi Gear Hoboroll. I'd like to thank both Gobi Gear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.
LONG TERM REPORT
I've taken the Gobi Hoboroll on four trips.
The first was a two-night walk in the Barrington/Gloucester area of New South Wales (NSW). Terrain varied from open fields to rainforest, and from about 200 m (660 ft) Above Sea Level (ASL) to 1000 m (3300 ft) ASL. Temperatures ranged from a low of 1 C (35 F) over night to highs of around 18 C (64 F) during the day. I encountered showers on the first day and mist on the second morning. The second night was fine and very cold with a very heavy dew the next morning.
My second trip was to Northern New South Wales, to my parent's farm. While this was a car-based trip, the comparison between backpacking the Hoboroll and traveling with it by car are quite pronounced. This second trip was for three nights. Weather was fine and cold with lows of 1 C (34 F) and highs of 16 C (61 F).There was a very heavy dew each morning. The altitude was approximately 150 m (500 ft) ASL.
My third trip was an overnight trip to Platypus Flat camping area near Dorrigo NSW. Weather was fine and dry during the day with a maximum of 12 C (54 F), and a minimum of 0 C (32 F). This area was accessed along a dirt track running along the ridge and down to the valley floor below. The campsite was next to a fast flowing section of white water, with some quiet pools which did actually contain wild platypus. A very heavy dew occurred overnight.
My final trip was for two nights in the Yuragir National Park, some 50 km (31 m) north of Coffs Harbour on the NSW coast. Again, conditions were very cool, 3 C (37 F) overnight, but otherwise sunny.
The Hoboroll is a strange piece of equipment. It's not a dry bag as it has holes in both ends. It's not a compression sack as it really doesn't compress that much. What it does do is organise my packing. As I said in my Initial Report, it's easy to pack things so that by selecting which end to open I can access anything I need without having to dump the entire contents on the ground, like I would with a standard dry bag. Having said that, it seems the less packed in the Hoboroll, the better. Over stuffing the Hobo makes it very hard to compress. The ends also don't cinch down tightly, so very small items can fall out. Very small items are best packed towards the centre of the Hobo, or grouped into a smaller tote bag.
On a car camping trip, the Hobo is just great! It's easy to fill, compress, and toss in the back of the car. It really does make a nice overnight bag for that kind of travel. When partly filled with soft stuff and uncompressed, it makes a great pillow. The interconnected straps make a great carry handle when the Hobo is used as an overnight bag. By contrast, I found the excess strapping simply got in the way when the Hobo was used in a pack and kept getting caught around other items in my pack.
I also found using it as an overnight bag, or car camping tote, I tend to fill it more as I take more clothing, which seems to be the best thing to put in the Hobo. When backpacking, I rarely take sufficient extra clothing to fill the bag.
I have to say, though, I found the Hobo to be somewhat more frustrating when used with a backpack. One of the challenges of using a small pack is to fill every tiny space so the whole pack is used. Putting items in compression bags, be they sleeping bags, dry bags, or the Hoboroll, makes it harder to utilise all the tiny corners of a pack. Once compressed, the bag forms a fairly solid lump which doesn't contour to the pack so readily. I found that with my small pack, I get better results by simply stuffing everything in and filling all those nooks and crannies. That was a bit disappointing.
I took a larger pack on my Platypus Flat trip to see if that worked better as cramming isn't such an issue with a bigger pack. I found the Hoboroll much easier to manage in the 65 l (3965 cu in) pack. There are a lot more packing options to find somewhere to put this solid brick of compressed clothing. I've found it best to pack things I don't need in a hurry in the Hobo, and then I can bury it in the depths of the pack easily. The Hobo also fits easily in the sleeping bag compartment of my pack, which keeps the weight a bit lower.
The second thing I found somewhat frustrating is that the internal dividers are fixed in position. That somewhat limits the size of items that can be stuffed in the Hobo. As more is inserted, the remaining spaces become smaller and harder to fill. I found the best way around this is to pack larger,
bulkier items first, then it's easier to stuff the smaller items in as the internal space gets smaller. I don't profess to have any design skills, but I felt it would be so much more versatile if the internal dividers were attached with something like hook-and-loop so they could be pushed out of the way to make a larger compartment, or stuck back in place to make more smaller compartments.
Again, I found I have to be fairly careful pulling on the compression straps to avoid popping the buckles open. This somewhat limited the amount of compression I could apply, but using slow, careful increments I found I could still get sufficient compression on the Hobo.
I'm pleased to say there are no signs of wear on my Hobo despite less than careful use, and that dirt and grime has easily sponged off. I did hear a popping sound when I cranked up the compression at one stage - it sounded like stitches tearing, but I've not seen any broken stitches.
In all, the Hoboroll is a difficult thing to categorise. It's not suited to ultralight backpacking (but in fairness, it's not targeted at that market), but it can be used very successfully with a larger pack. I can see that it would be very useful for backpackers traveling overseas on an extended trip and staying in hostels. I found the Hoboroll excels in car based camping, although the open ends don't stop dust or rain getting in. The fixed segments somewhat limit the size of clothing that can be packed in, yet a surprising amount of gear can be fitted in the small space. It makes a comfy pillow when uncompressed, and is easy to carry using the straps as a handle.
So, if space and weight are not considerations, the Hoboroll is an excellent addition to one's packing options. It seems best suited to those traveling for an extended time and carrying a bit more clothing than the disciplined lightweight backpacker.
I've enjoyed discovering the best ways to use the Hoboroll, and I'm sure I'll continue to discover more in the future.
That concludes my Long Term Report on the Hoboroll. I'd like to sincerely thank both Gobi Gear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.
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