It’s high summer and for those of you looking to keep your backpack game strong this Autumn, it’s time to climb a tree and get an overview of what might be available. Strong backpack game? Not something you come across that often in the world of fashion, but believe me, a crummy backpack will really kill off any effort you have otherwise put into your outfit. Your company provided you a perfectly fine black nylon pack to carry your laptop home in? Kill it, kill it with fire! Nothing says “I have no sense of style” like a black nylon backpack. Not even if it’s a name-brand or even expensive one.
Given that I have pretty strong feelings about the matter, you may be wondering what I deem acceptable to sling over your back? Well, I have had a look around and found a few I like the look of. A couple of them I’ve featured before, but they’re so nice I can’t help include them again. Other are either brand new this season, or I’m just late to the game. I’ve tried to vary the price level a bit, from acceptably priced to rather expensive. Links included to shops that carry them, though in many cases there are multiple sources for them.
Starting out at the more reasonably priced end of the scale we have this neat pack from Carhartt. Not overly large at 13 litres, but if you don’t require a really large backpack, this could be just the ticket. The wool blend gives it a nice look, but means it’s not one you’d want to take out in heavy rain. Internal pocket, double zip and good shoulder straps. Link.
A step up from the Kong we have the Tramp, also from Carharrt. A more mountaineering style of pack, with a main compartment and two side pockets. In 100% polyester and with a sturdy flap it will be more tolerant of rain. Again it has solid and adjustable shoulder straps, and also solid straps holding the flaps closed. Looks more expensive than it is! Link.
Millican Matthew Daypack
In a somewhat similar style to the Carharrt Tramp we have the Matthew daypack from British Home of Millican. I know, I’ve featured this one before, but it truly is a really nice backpack. 22 liters capacity and you can open it top only, or also open the front to really get into the contents. Millican are very much about the eco, so this is made from organic cotton, recycled polyester and vegetable tanned leather. 3 internal pockets and 2 external water bottle pockets, plus a foldaway rain cover! And wide, padded shoulder straps. This pack has a huge amount of utility built in! Available in 3 different colours. Link.
Swedish Sandqvist have managed to quite quickly become a very popular brand. The mix of Scandinavian chic design and reasonable ratio of price and quality means you see quite a number of them in use. Thankfully they have a lot of different models, so it’s not like the Fjällräven Känken where every hipster in town is sporting the same backpack! This one is a 20 litre version made from heavy cotton canvas. Natural leather is used for trim, side pocket covers and straps. The two external pockets are a nice design feature and the main compartment has both flap and drawstring to keep it safely closed. The contrast between the untreated canvas and the natural leather should evolve into a very pleasing look. Link.
Going for a more compact variant again, we have the Master-Piece Surpass backpack from Japan. I’ve featured Master-Piece before, as they usually have some quite distinctive backpacks available each season. Known for top build quality and impeccable hipster-credibility, the Surpass is one of their more reasonably priced models. This one in rugged cordura nylon, with lots of cowhide leather details. The straps are also in cowhide, which is a nice touch. Once all that hide settles inn it will look really nice. The pack has a section for a laptop in the main compartment, along with a zipped pocket and a key clip. All metal pieces are in brass, which again should age nicely. All in all a nice backpack with quality features and cheap for a Master-Piece. Link.
Ally Capellino Kelvin
Going for a more lean and stripped down design, and also moving into the waxed fabric scheme of things, we have the Kelvin from Ally Capellino. Waxed canvas and bridle leather, simple and rugged. Two external pockets with stud closing, one internal zipped pocket. Drawstring and flap closing on the main compartment. All with no fuss at all. All style and almost hidden features. Link.
The next pack is something of a lucky find. I can’t recall where I first came across it, but I’ve been keeping an eye on Trakke since then, and my appreciation for their work has grown strong. Made in Glasgow from waxed cotton produced locally in Dundee. The design is not fussy or loud, yet features are rich and thoughtfully designed. 20 litres capacity gives it a daypack capacity. There is a laptop sleeve in the main cordura-lined compartment, as is an internal pocket. Side pockets, and a zipped lid pocket. The buckle and slide fastener is a really nice design, and all the hardware is stainless steel. Oh, and the shoulder straps look proper as well. Available in 4 great colours. I truly can’t decide whether I like the blue or the green best, both look so good. Not cheap, but possibly the last backpack you’ll buy. Link.
Please note, the Arkaig has now been reviewed in full as well!
Yes, I know. I’ve had this one on the list before. It’s a classic, hence it gets another go around. 22oz cotton twill, densely woven, treated with paraffin to beef up it’s water repellancy. Bridle leather straps and detaling, reinforced seams, plenty of pockets, great straps. Made in the USA. You can’t really fault it. Totally traditional. Link.
Waterfield Designs Staad laptop backpack
From the utterly traditional to the very much more modern design, we arrive at the Staad. Innovative and unusual design, attractive and great use of materials. Available in either tan waxed cotton or black ballistic canvas, with three different colours of leather lid. The strictly designed exterior hides a very functional interior, with a number of pockets and compartments. Refined and rugged. Link.
Brooks, maker of utterly desirable bicycle seats. And also of at least one incredible looking backpack. This is the improved version of the Islington, now even better than the first effort. More hardware, better flap closure, and still the superbly engineered multi-modal straps. Available in 2 colours of water resistant cotton fabric. Spacious, as in 23 to 33 litres capacity. Gorgeous backpack with only 2 flaws that come to mind: 1) It’s really a bit too large, and 2) for a company that appears to be as British as a chip butty, why on earth did this have to be made in Italy? Oh, and it’s the steep side of pricey as well. Which goes for the bike seats as well, sadly. Link.
Barbour Thornproof Tarras
As a bit of an outsider to round off, I can’t help but think this waxed cotton bag from Barbour looks absolutely great. Could I cycle with a bag slung over my shoulder? Perhaps, though carrying a fullsize laptop would make it tricky. The outside is Barbours ubiquitous thorn-proof waxed cotton. This bag has the space though, with a large compartment, tartan lined for you, squire, and two front pockets. All strapped and buckled. The branding is also subtle, unlike some recent efforts from Barbour. I can’t help thinking this is a really nice bag. Link.
So, that’s what I came up with after a poke around. There will no doubt be other backpacks that would make the cut, so tell me, what is your favourite?