I make no secret of enjoying and appreciating a good backpack. In fact, I often scout around the Interweb looking at backpacks, collating the finest into another post in a series of “Backpacks for the style conscious man”.
A backpack is a great way of bringing stuff with you, without the hassle of having to use one or two arms to carry it. Witness the legions of fancy girls with monster handbags hanging in the crook of their arm and imagine the bicep they are developing. Two simple straps and you have transferred that chore to your back and have your hands free to forage, gesticulate and read the newspaper. Genius really.
What is it about backpacks that appeals so much to me? Is it the purity of function and design? Or the simple old-school load-carrying possibility? Or the way it adds another design-cue to your strictly curated daily outfit?
In fact, it’s nothing so deep, sensible or wanky that lies behind it. I just detest black nylon backpacks with absolute conviction, and I very much appreciate something well made, well designed and … well, really nice looking.
Which brings me nicely round to my new backpack from the small Scottish company Trakke. Based in Glasgow and started as recently as 2010, it consists of a small band of hardcore hikers, developing and making the backpacks they use, with the features they need.
They make a point about their packs being hand made in Britain, or Glasgow in Scotland to be quite accurate. The materials used are also quite local, as in waxed cotton from nearby Dundee, or Harris Tweed from up North a bit.
The model that suited my purposes perfectly is the Arkaig, named after the river and loch by the same name, I’d hazard a guess. A perfectly sized daypack, suitable for commuting with a laptop and a packed lunch, or the requisite sundries for a days hike in the wilderness. The 20 litre capacity is just right.
What first grabs the eye on this pack though is the incredible colour and fabric it’s made of. While available in black, olive and burnt orange, it’s the greenish blue hue of the teal colour that had me hooked. In a world of backpacks of standard list colours, it’s good to see someone select colours from the “extended selection”.
The fabric is, as mentioned before, produced just up the road in Dundee, by Halley Stevensons, who appear to have been in the business of waxing cotton fabric since 1864. Quality stuff, waterproof and rugged. And if the wax wears off you just reapply wax, just like you’d do to your Barbour jacket. Sustainable and sensible.
To stay on the topic of fabrics, it’s good to see corners not being cut even on the bits you don’t see as well. The liner is quality Cordura nylon ensuring it will be as hard wearing from the inside as the outside. Polyester webbing for the shoulder and closing straps.
And the hardware is stainless steel. Yep, they could have saved money and used plastic, or some generic metal bits, but no, it’s stainless steel. Built to last. And I really really like the branding of the pack, so subtle I think many will miss it. Just the T-logo on the end of the strap on the back. Impeccable.
So, any pockets or other features? Yes, some you will be expecting and some you may not be. There is a laptop sleeve situated against your back, so stop the pesky computer moving around. This fits a 15″ Macbook, so may not fit your big old laptop, in which case it’s handy for storing important secret documents and suchlike. This pocket also has a zip.
Outside the zipped pocket is a smaller pocket for keeping maps, timetables or a paperback of usual proportions. Handy when the rest of the pack is full of kit.
The lid has a water resistant zipped pocket for easy to access stuff.
Finally there are two outside pockets, on each side, for stuff you might want to access easily. Depending on how hard you have stuffed the inside of the pack these pockets are sizeable, or less so.
The top of the pack cinches shut as you’d expect, and stays shut. It took me a few goes to get the hang of the mechanism, but once picked up it’s totally natural.
The lid itself closes using a stainless steel buckle and slide fastener. This is a welcome change from the sort of cheap plastic mechanism you would expect to find. You know the sort, they either go bad or break way before they should. These bits will outlast your grandchildren’s children.
The shoulder straps are generously wide and padded to spread the load comfortably. They also have metal rings on the end of the straps to make it easy to grab them when tightening. Good thinking, and much easier to use than the more common unadorned straps.
To complete the features, a nice steel ring at the top, for lifting or hanging the pack up.
I was initially a little concerned whether such a vibrantly coloured natural fabric would be colour-fast, both with regards to the fabric keeping it’s colour over time, but more critically not transferring the teal colour to various other garments. I’m pleased to say that after testing in hot and sweaty conditions in London there was absolutely no sign of any colour transfer. If a sweat-soaked white shirt being repeatedly rubbed against it over a long days walking doesn’t shift the colour, I think it’s safe to say it will be staying there long term as well.
If there was one small wish I’d like to make, I’d like a ring on the inside of the pack to clip keys onto. A workaround to this is to clip a key ring onto one of the holes the top cinch.
All of this perfectly put together, and at the price no more expensive than you’d expect to pay for something by a more common brand casually constructed for top profit in a low cost country. Quite remarkable really. Well done, Trakke!