Chrome Buran II Review
Cons: Bulky, stiff materials, heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Chrome Buran II is a big, bulky, and extremely rugged messenger bag that will withstand years of abuse.
The Buran was not one of our top scoring bags.
It is super rugged and has a very large capacity, but it could be cumbersome, heavy, and uncomfortable for smaller users.
The Buran II is in many ways similar to the Chrome Mini Metro, but not in the Comfort metric. While this bag does sit nicely on your back when biking, the shoulder strap is so wide that it cut into many of our tester's necks, proving especially uncomfortable for smaller users
This bag is much heavy and stiffer than the Mini Metro, due in part to the durable and rugged fabrics, but also due to excessive use of fabric, such as the flaps that cover the pockets that are already under the main compartment flap.
The stylish seat belt buckle falls directly on your shoulder when throwing it over one shoulder for a quick jaunt out the door, to catch a cab, or get up from your basecamp at the coffee shop. With some training and practice, testers were able to adjust habits to maximize comfort, i.e. slinging it across the body instead of just over a shoulder the moment it was picked up.
The Buran II is designed for larger bodies. The extra wide shoulder strap hits at the neck and spans to the shoulder on smaller users, and the strap has a lot of excess on smaller bodies that is hard to stow comfortably so it will dangle in your lap on your ride.
We really liked Chrome's reflective straps and 3M Scotchlite reflective panel on the outer flap. It is black in the daylight but reflective when headlights hit it. This greatly improves riding comfort from the perspective of road safety.
Packing & Organization
Accessory organization is not the forte of Chome Industries. The middle Velcro pouch can pooch open with the natural oval loading pattern of this bag, which describes how messenger bags can tend to end up wider in the middle than at ends. In this middle organizational sleeve, since Velcro is only closure, it would often pop open.
Chrome used some extra flaps instead of zippers for the pockets under the main compartment flap, which just adds more girth to the bag and ultimately less security against items falling out.
There is no key clip lanyard in the bag and no internal, main compartment pockets for organization. This didn't give us many options we liked for wallets, phones, and keys. The outermost pockets had cumbersome flaps, the middle sleeve's internal pockets were shallow (and we didn't trust the Velcro closure when the bag was full), and the remaining zippered pocket was ultimately buried through so many layers of buckles, fabric, velcro, and zipper that it was too time-consuming to access.
The best contrast to this bag, organizationally, is the Patagonia Black Hole which provided the best mix of thoughtful pockets, adequate organization, and put it all into a bag that was much lighter weight, less cumbersome, and still very durable. Additionally, the small zipper pocket in the middle compartment is awkward to access and unzip when you have pens/pencils loaded in the sleeves just in front of the zipper.
In our OGL Volume Test, the Buran II was among the most voluminous bags, with 20 liters of usable space, and one of few that still allowed relatively easy access to the outer pockets when the bag was stuffed: similar in design were the Osprey Flapjack and the Outdoor Research Rangefinder.
Chrome stepped up their electronics game with the Buran II. This bag has a great internal padded and zippered sleeve, made of a highly protective material that feels a lot like neoprene. This sleeve will accommodate up to a 17" MacBook Pro.
Ease of Use
Chrome added a briefcase grab handle to the top of this bag, which we really liked, and would have loved on the Chrome Mini Metro.
The adjustable seat belt buckle is super fast to tighten and loosen as you hop on and off your bike and head into the office/coffee shop/school (note: this buckle also plays double duty as a bottle opener for your age-appropriate beverages). The strap also features a nice grab loop to tighten with ease.
The bag's cross strap, however, is relatively difficult to adjust; it didn't loosen easily or quickly to cinch it up when putting it on or slacken it to keep it out of your way when not using it.
The Buran II did not slide as easily into cubbies or in our favorite behind-the-seat spot in our cars because it is more stiff and bulky than most of the other bags we tested. If supple fabric is a priority, check out the award winners, the Patagonia Black Hole or the Outdoor Research Rangefinder.
The Buran II has so much Velcro that it was arguably overly-sticky, stronger than most of our testers needed, and not to mention so loud that we were embarrassed to open it in a hushed library.
The main compartment flap is also relatively stiff and proportionally giant, so it opens over your face when you swing it around to the front to access the contents. This was more of a concern for smaller users, roughly under 5'8".
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns with this bag was how it limited visibility to the left on our bike commutes since the pack protrudes up and over left shoulder (which is where you often glance to look for traffic when merging). The pack as sewn cannot be switched to right shoulder carry; it is not an "ambi-carrier."
Wear and Tear
Chrome crushes the competition in the Wear and Tear metric. The Buran II gave a stellar performance in our OGL Weather Test. The fabric is very wicking, the sides of the main flap overlap to seal the contents inside, the inner laptop compartment is secured with a zipper and is made of a rugged neoprene-like material, and while the zipper on the back is not waterproof, it rests on your back and is thus less exposed to rain.
At 4.02 lbs weighed, this drops into our review as the heaviest bag. It has a nice, wide shoulder strap to distribute the load, but it is easy to make this bag really heavy (because it is also large), so when it is fully loaded, it really weighs mightily on your left shoulder. This bag had one of the higher capacities in our OGL Volume and Load Tests, but because of the heavy starting (or empty) weight of the bag, it had one of the lower Volume/Weight Ratios.
The zippered, padded laptop sleeve, enhanced organization, and a briefcase carry handle make this bag a step up from the Chrome Mini Metro for your office needs. It is in some ways the high capacity, larger cousin of the Mini Metro. The Buran II is a great and stylish messenger bag if you need a very rugged, high volume bag, but these needs must outweigh the need for light weight; otherwise, it will feel cumbersome and heavy and you'll struggle to justify its purpose in your quiver of bags.
At $160, the Buran II is above the average price in this review, but not outrageously so for the durability and ruggedness of the design.
The Chrome Buran II is a step up from the Chrome Mini Metro in the electronics and business category: its durable fabric holds up and looks nice for a long time, the black color is subtle and sharp, and the hidden flap buckles allow you to dress this bag up for the office. But when work is done, roll your sleeves up, let those tattoos show, this is also a bag for your urban expression. In the words of one online reviewer, the Buran II is "steezy, and not too hipster."
— Lyra Pierotti