I learned the hard way that my favorite Jansport and Roxy backpacks just don’t cut it for hiking. After suffering from post-hike back pain, shoulder pain, and a knee injury that required physical therapy for months, I decided to upgrade my hiking gear by investing in a proper day pack.
My keywords: lightweight, waterproof, flexible, multiple pockets, affordable, and—as vain as this sounds—a design that complements my travel wardrobe. After Googling and scouring through the mall, I narrowed down my choices to Sandugo (a Filipino brand) and Deuter (a German brand).
This Owl’s a Hoot
I also asked my hiking buddies for advice. Turns out Banjo Joson (the head of Unofficial: Gala, a travel group that organizes monthly hikes around the Philippines), had just what I needed.
Banjo started hiking in 2015, but came up with the idea of creating a tangible product back in 2014. “I was still thinking about what kind of bag I wanted to produce back then, but the hikes made it easier to decide,” he said. “I finally zeroed in on bags in 2015.”
He and 9 other freelance creatives spent their free time fleshing out an apparel concept. They called their startup company Quago, the Filipino word for owl. “We were working in the morning fulltime, and were still up all night, working freelance,” Banjo shared. “We were basically night owls, so the name Quago resonated with us.”
The Owlet Spreads Its Wings
By September 2016, the first prototype of the Quago Cosmos backpack was produced. At that point, there were only four members of Quago left—Banjo and his main crew Mimi, Cloud, and Jeff.
They spent months testing the Cosmos backpack in their travels around the Philippines—from mountains and hills to caves, rivers, and waterfalls. Every feature they personally needed in their hikes, they incorporated into the backpack.
Quago’s few-of-a-kind backpacks and hiking accessories are now available online, and I’ve spotted travelers taking them to trips around the Philippines and neighboring countries like Japan.
Dissecting the Quago
There are four Quago backpacks available in different colors:
1. Quago Cosmos – 18L, great for day trips
2. Quago Universe – 35L, great for overnights to weekend trips
3. Quago Universe Pro – 45L, great for weeklong trips
4. Quago Universe Pro ver. 2 – 50L, great for weeklong trips
I purchased the black Quago Cosmos for ₱2,800, and while the fabric is semi-waterproof, I got an extra Quago backpack rain cover for ₱400.
Here’s a closer look at the bag features:
The five features that made me decide to purchase my first Quago are:
1. Hip belt – to lessen the weight strain on your back and prevent other injuries
2. Detachable sternum strap – additional belt to further lessen weight strain
3. Multiple pockets – for easy access to immediate items. I can’t stand backpacks without pockets!
4. Adjustable design – to compress or expand the bag as you please
5. Interior divider – for hydration packs (if you’re climbing) or laptops (if you’re using it as airline carry-on)
Testing The Waters
So far I’ve used my Quago in three trips—Mt. Romelo and its waterfalls, Zambales Tribes and Treks, and a side beach trip to San Felipe.
I’m happy to report that I’ve had no back injuries or discomforts. I utilized almost all the practical features of this backpack. It was easy to clean and dry, and it stands out from the usual mass-produced day packs. Design-wise, I’m still looking for “the one,” a specific fabric or color combination that represents my personal style, but I’ll stick with my classic Quago Cosmos for a long while. I’m planning to take it to Europe soon.
And let’s not forget the price. For ₱2,800, the Cosmos is a steal! Other foreign brands that have similar features and the same size will cost you an average of ₱4,500. If you’re looking for a new backpack to take to your next hiking trip, I highly recommend Quago. You’re not only getting your money’s worth, but you’re also supporting a group of creative Filipinos who share your love for the great outdoors.