Disclaimer: I know that the Ghost was designed with bikers in mind & my TL;DR at the end (jump) pretty much confirms this. I wrote this review from the perspective of my use case though: as a general-purpose shoulder bag for use in the crowded city of Manila.
The Ghost backpack & its siblings are relatively high quality products that make opinionated design decisions in order to cater to a specific niche. RoadGods, the company that created Ghost, did a good job marketing to their target demographic of hip, young riders with disposable income.
I have been using the first gen backpack (more on this later) for 2-6 days a week over the past 14 months. I decided to write this post because all the reviews available online do a poor job of covering the product.
First thing to know about the Ghost — it grabs a LOT of attention. I have received compliments, or at least comments, from almost everyone I know. In Manila, I notice most strangers’ eyes going to the bag when I (a foreigner) walk by.
Another thing that I noticed in the first week of regular use: it’s cumbersome in tight situations, like when commuting. Admittedly, the Ghost was not designed to be opened and closed quickly, like when you are entering a mall and the security needs to have a quick look inside your bag. It is also ill-suited for tightly packed public transport, like jeepneys or metro trains during rush hour.
The materials and general construction of the bag are about what you would expect from a bag that is priced well above “budget”.
The way the bag is constructed makes it quite stiff; provided it’s not unevenly loaded, it can stand without any support. Ghost has an internal volume of 22L, and it will always take up 22L worth of space — whether it is completely full, completely empty, or anything in between.
The side pockets are really handy. They are protected by wing-like flaps that shroud the zip when the bag is worn. The zips themselves appear to be good quality & YKK-branded.
The shallow pocket on the strap is great for ticket stubs, change and/or some currency notes. I use it to hold my RFID travel card, which allows me to just tap the shoulder strap to a card reader and have it magically register without needing me to physically remove the card (yaaay contactless payment!) This pocket, along with the 2 side pockets, are the only parts of the bag accessible from the outside.
The outer covering is water-repellant. There is also a layer of lining material on the inside of the shell for added protection.
The carrying handle is padded, and nice to use, but is attached to the shoulder straps instead of directly to the bag. This causes two issues: 1) a pressure and/or annoyance on my neck if the bag is worn tightly and 2) it completely removes the option of wearing the bag across my chest because the strap then presses against my neck. The newer model seems to have fixed this to an extent.
The shoulder strap tension adjusters sometimes slip over the course of the day. Tightening them just requires a firm pull, but it’s something to keep in mind on days when carrying a fully-loaded bag.
The material of the hard outer shell seems to hold up pretty well to usual wear and tear, though I am noticing a few cuts on the weave of the outer nylon material and some fraying on the edges of the bag and the piping. I’d consider this “normal” wear and not be too concerned about it.
Ghost can’t just be tossed into a washing machine like a normal, “soft” bag. I clean it with a wet cloth.
Ghost offers decent laptop protection through its padded laptop pocket. My MacBook Air 13″ fits comfortably; I estimate the pocket can hold an average 15″ laptop too.
The velcro hood for the laptop compartment is nicely designed to cover the two adjoining pockets, ensuring the contents of both the laptop and tablet pockets remain put. Only the laptop pocket is padded though, so I use the table pocket to carry my diary.
Organisation pockets, cannot be easily accessed without fully opening the bag, which limits their utility when on the move. The two velcro loops work well with smaller cables. The netted compartment can hold small, flat items like thumb drives or rolled-up cables. All of the pockets and cubbyholes are accessible only through the main compartment.
I use the pockets to the opposite wall of the bag to hold my laptop charging brick + adapter and a pouch with my stationery. These are “floating” pockets provide the items placed within them a degree of insulation against bumps.
The main compartment is slimmer and taller than other 22L bags. Because of its rigid outer shell, overstuffing the Ghost puts pressure on the internal contents of the pockets.
The Ghost, because of its relatively rigid design, can be too ungainly in tight spaces. This, in combination with the fact that it needs to be laid down in order to be opened makes it annoying to use in certain situations, like security inspections.
I think the Ghost would make an excellent bag for someone who needs to open/close it only a couple of times a day on average — like an office worker who travels to work on their bike. This use case plays into the strengths of the product: rigid, sleek & weatherproof design that won’t jump around while riding, secure, easily-accessible pockets that can be accessed using only one hand, a padded laptop compartment, lots of organisation cubbyholes and a cavernous main compartment that can easily hold a water bottle, some snacks and a jacket (because the air-conditioning is always too cold ❄️) Just beware: it can attract a lot of attention.