Our Review of the Paxis Swing Arm Easy Access Backpack


The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack is a unique design with a clever swing arm system that lets you access the inside of the backpack without setting it down and to say it’s unique is no understatement.

In our almost 20 years of travel together, It’s safe to say that we’ve used and reviewed a lot of backpacks over that time. We’ve tried nearly every kind from the cheapest backpacks to expensive backpacks. We’ve used top loading packs, suitcase style backpacks, overnight backpacks, urban backpacks, and even some of the best travel backpacks and the best business travel backpacks out there.

But no matter how expensive the backpack, or how well designed, they all have one flaw: you need to take the backpack off your back, and set it down, to access what’s inside.

This can be a huge hassle.

If you’re stuck outside in the rain, setting your backpack down to access the inside means placing it on the soaking wet and muddy ground. Half the time, backpacks aren’t balanced well, and the pack topples over on the ground, soaking the entire thing.

soaked to the skin in the rain waiting for a ferry on Isabela Island in the Galapagos
Our then 12 year old hamming it up a little and stuck in the rain with his backpack in the Galapagos Islands

Even when the weather’s sunny, it’s a hassle to access the contents of a backpack when you’re wearing it. If the backpack’s small enough, and you’re especially flexible, you may be able to slide the pack around your hips so you’re wearing it on the front of your torso, and access the inside that way. This is pretty tricky to do, but especially difficult if you’re a person with more curves.

Accessing the contents of my pack is especially annoying when I’m outside taking photos. Having to stop, put my pack down, and dig around to find my photography gear has ruined quite a few fantastic shots. Wildlife tends to not pose patiently while I set my pack down to find the perfect lens.

So why hasn’t a backpack company come up with a way to access your pack’s content easily while you’re wearing it?

Well, one company has.

Paxis backpack review

The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack has a pod that swivels around from the back to the front of your body. The whole thing takes seconds, and it means that you can access the gear in the pod without having to take the entire pack off.

The Paxis swing arm backpack was designed and engineered in the USA by outdoor enthusiasts Paul and Cathy Vierthaler.

We reached out, and Paxis agreed to let us test out a Paxis Twin Lakes backpack for our readers.

Pros

  • Innovative swing arm design that lets you access the pack without putting it down
  • Attractive design with modern fabrics
  • Comfortable, padded straps
  • Useful as a day pack, fly fishing backpack, fishing backpack, or day photography pack

Cons

  • At around 6 pounds, it’s a bit heavier than other backpacks of the same size.
  • Time will tell if the swing arm mechanism holds up over multiple uses.
  • Great for day use, or short trips, but small for extended travel.

Technical details

  • Capacity: 30 liters
  • Exterior Dimensions: 21” high, 14” wide, 9” deep
  • Shuttle Pod Capacity: 5 lbs.
  • Shuttle Pod Interior Dimensions: 11”W x 4.5” H x 5” D
  • ARC Swing technology swings lower part of backpack to the front
  • Free standing design
  • Waterproof base
  • Interior tablet/laptop pocket
  • Lifetime limited warranty
Charles wearing the Paxis backpack on a day hike

How does the swing arm work?

There are two parts to the Paxis backpack with swing arm: the upper part, which acts like a standard small day bag, and the lower pod, which swings around so you can access the pod contents without removing the pack. The top part of the pack does not swing around – only the bottom pod swings around to the front.

To operate: Keeping the straps on, and sternum strap closed, pull the release handle with one hand. The lower part of the pack (the pod), swings from your back to the front, letting you access the pod gear (snacks, camera, fishing gear, and so on), without taking the backpack off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the swing arm. Would it be hard to operate? Would it feel flimsy and cheap?

The swing arm worked exactly as Paxis said it would – with one quick pull of the release, the bottom pod swung smoothly from the back to the front. Perfect for grabbing snacks from the bottom on a day hike!

accessing the lower pod in a Paxis swing arm backpack
Getting snacks from the Paxis pod

The motion felt smooth and effortless, and it just required as gentle push to swing the pod to the back of the pack and a small tap to click it back into place.

lever to release swing pod on new Twin Lakes Paxis backpack

Paxis Twin Lakes Materials and Design

The Paxis Twin Lakes swing around backpack is made out of nylon fabrics, with hi-tech polyethylene foam.

The frame itself is made of aluminum for strength, and to make it lightweight.

The Twin Lakes pack comes in four colors: mineral (aqua), quarry (a greyish brown), madrona (orange) and long range grass camo (a green camo color).

calico cat helping review Paxis swing arm backpack
Review assistant.

The Paxis logo is big, and up front on the pack, but because it’s white, it’s not terribly obnoxious on the grey, orange, or teal blue version of the pack. The logo’s in a fluorescent orange on the camo version, though.

Zippers on the Paxis Twin Lakes easy access backpack feel sturdy and move smoothly.

The shoulder straps are well padded, with a sternum strap for stability. The waist / hip straps are padded as well, with a quick release buckle.

The back of the pack is comfort fit padded and vented, and cool when worn.

Paxis backpack interior pockets and exterior straps

There are plenty of interior pockets. The most important to us, of course is the tablet/laptop pocket on the interior of the top pack. There are two other interior zippered pockets, perfect for storing electronics gear, like chargers and cables.

Twin Lakes Paxis backpack front top pocket with laptop sleever

The main pouch of the upper pack is softly lined, with plenty of room for a day’s worth of clothes and toiletries.

On the top exterior of the top part of the pack, there’s a small key or sunglass pocket.

small pocket for wallet or passport at top of Twin Lakes Paxis backpack

The bottom Shuttle Pod part of the pack is a single compartment, lined with a soft fabric. It doesn’t come with any dividers (though you can buy them separately as accessories).

inside Paxis swing arm backpack pod

There’s also a small exterior accessory pocket on the outside of the bottom pod.

Twin Lakes Paxis backpack pocket at front of swing compartment

There are exterior straps on either side of the upper pocket for holding tripods, ski poles, hiking poles, fishing poles, or other gear.

There are also exterior compression straps, with quick release buckles, on either side of the top part of the pack.

buckle at side of Paxis backpack

Fit and comfort on the Paxis backpack

We tested the Paxis Twin Lakes fit and comfort for myself (female, 5’4″), Charles (male, 5’11”) and our 12 year old daughter (female, 5’0″).

The pack fit snugly on my back, and was easy to adjust using the waist and shoulder straps, with a pull on each.

Charles needed to let out the waist and shoulder straps a bit for comfort, and the backpack rode up a little higher on his hips. That said, he said it was plenty comfortable for a day hike, and well padded.

Switching the pack from Charles’ frame to our 12 year old daughter’s frame took a little more adjusting of the waist and shoulder straps.

After a minute or two, she had the pack snugly on her back, and said she was quite comfortable, even with a loose fit in the shoulders. There was plenty of room to tighten the shoulder straps, but she preferred them a bit loose.

12 year old wearing the Paxis Twin Lakes pack
12 year old wearing the Paxis Twin Lakes pack

Returns and refunds

Paxis allows returns for a full refund, if gear is received in “new condition with all tags intact“. The purchaser is responsible for return shipping.

Accessories

Paxis has two accessories you can buy: a foam packing system for the bottom pod to help protect valuable gear like cameras and binoculars, and a rain cover.

Paxis pod dividers – Pod Armor Gear Protection

The two (somewhat confusedly named?) Pod Armor inserts let you divide the lower Shuttle Pod section of the backpack.

The two inserts can help to protect camera and photography gear or other electronics, or help you organize fishing gear.

The inserts are hade of high density aviation foam covered in soft velour fabric.

paxis pod armor for backpack pod

Paxis Rain Cover – RainShield Gear Protection

The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack does not come with a rain cover.

The RainShield rain cover accessory, with an elastic binding, slips over any 30-liter or smaller pack.

paxis rain cover

Use timeline

Initial use: Backpack is in excellent condition.

  • swing arm works smoothly and effortlessly
  • upper fabric repels water beads nicely
  • cool and comfortable back panel

Two weeks of use: Pack is in excellent condition.

  • swing arm working smoothly, no binding or wear visible
  • shoulder and waist straps are padded and comfortable for day hiking

We’ll continue updating this timeline as we use the pack over time.

Cost: The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack runs around $199 USD.





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