It’s been a while now since I presented any new backpacks, though I’m always on the outlook for suitable specimens. As for the previous posts (here, here, here and here), the parameters are basically the same: We need a replacement for the awful black standard-issue nylon backpack your company have provided you with. And it must be a nice one, with proper design and materials, that works with your style, not against it, and yes, it must also be fairly sensible in that it must hold the kit you want to bring along.
So, what have I come up with this time? Two have been recommended by readers (much thanks, guys), and two I came across via Instagram. They’re all from either tiny companies, or small companies, and uniquely I’d never heard mention of any of them before. Two are reasonably prices, two are more expensive. Quite a varied selection in all respects apart from all being an immense improvement on that dreaded black nylon backpack. So, here goes!
Fernweh “Ness” (GBP 95+shipping)
From Scotland we have the Ness roll-top backpack from Fernweh. Made from local Scottish waxed cotton (the same as used by Trakke), you can select your own combination of colours, as long as they are olive, navy or tan. The inside is lined with brushed cotton tartan fabric, with a large inside pocket. There is also a handy outside patch pocket.
The straps are vegetable tanned leather (I would have liked to see some padding added!) and the lid is closed using an antique brass lobster clasp. Both the leather and waxed cotton should gain a wonderful patina through use. Like a pair of shoes you will need to oil the leather though, and the waxed cotton will want some rewaxing occasionally. Fernwe include a bar of their own wax to aid in this.
The Ness is made mainly for outdoors adventures, hence is strong on usability and strong construction. I think it would look just great with a Barbour or other similar jacket, or even a tweed jacket.
Handmade to order in Scotland.
Size: Rolled 40cm tall, 40 cm wide and 20cm deep. Volume roughly 30 litres. The roll top does give some flexibility with regards to volume.
What’s to like? I love waxed cotton for the way it looks, the way it wears and the way you maintain it over time. This pack also has enough different added to make it interesting. And it is remarkably good value.
Any disadvantages? The only possible problem I can see is that the shoulder straps are unpadded leather. I would have liked to see something to spread the load a bit, though how much of an issue this is depends on how heavy a load you carry.
More info at FernwehUK.
Noise Goods “Odyssey” (365 Euro+shipping)
From Portugal we have the Oddyssey, a combination of leather and wool. The leather is 100% vegetable tanned, full grain, Portugese leather a tan colour, and the wool is a traditional Portugese gray 100% wool burel. The burel will appeal to anyone valuing traditional ways and handcraft, as the fabric is felt-like with a soft surface, good structure, and is eco-friendly, water-repellent and fire-resistant. Take that, black nylon!
And if the thought of leather and woven wool isn’t enough, the pack has the inside lined in denim. All trimmed and stitched for a rugged look and conditioned with organic beeswax. The adjustable shoulder straps are also lined with burel wool for extra comfort. The main compartment has a roll top and adjustable straps for closure, giving flexibility in the volume.
Handmade to order with local materials in Portugal.
Size: 48cm tall, 32 cm wide and 16cm deep. Volume 20 litres. The roll top gives some flexibility with regards to volume.
What’s to like? The combination of leather and wool is excellent. With care the combination will age nicely and give a great worn in look. Good shoulder straps for those times when you carry a heavy load.
Any disadvantages? Like a pair of leather shoes, the leather on this one will require maintenance. It is not a cheap backpack.
More info at Noise Goods.
Stighlorgan “Murphy” (85 GBP + shipping)
This one is quite different, and a design I find very appealing. I’ve long thought a messenger bag would be pretty cool, but have been a worried as to the practicality of having a bag held by a strap hanging on my back when cycling. With a proper pair of shoulder straps you know where your bag is at all times, even under heavy braking, with a single strap all bets are off.
So why is this different? Well, it’s a messenger bag with both a strap and shoulder straps. Which is a pretty good idea. It’s made from a rather unique fabric as well, described as a custom, weatherproof Fisherman’s lacquer canvas, with full natural grain cow leather trim. The inside is lined with rope striped canvas and there are nice steel toggles and drawstrings for keeping it closed closed.
The Murphy is pocket rich and features an internal pocket for a laptop, an additional pocket for a tablet, a secure zipped pocket for a phone and slip pockets. The straps look to be decently padded as well.
I have not been able to find out where it is produced.
Size: 33 cm tall, 43 cm wide and 8 cm deep. Volume estimated at 11 litres.
What’s to like? The design is superbly innovative and both construction and materials appear to be good. A reasonably priced and stylish pack.
Any disadvantages? Nothing apparent, though my personal preference would be to have it without the logo on it.
More info at Stighlorgan.
Bedouin Foundry “Delireis” (290 GBP inc. shipping)
The first thing that struck me about the Delireis was that the design was that this is an example of less being more. It is a very sleek backpack indeed, with the design pared down to the bare essentials. The padded shoulder straps, the rolled top and the strap to hold it closed. Very appealing, and very stylish.
Fabric-wise the waxed canvas is from the same Scottish source as FernweUK and Trakke use, though rather than a regular waxed cotton this is a 14oz Silk Wax waxed canvas, which I can only imagine is a higher grade and more expensive fabric. The minimal leather detail is top grain vegetable-tanned leather and the lining is a handprinted cotton drill lining.
The shoulder straps are made of natural cotton webbing and look properly padded. The rear panel and base are also padded. There is an internal laptop pocket and an external double sleeve pocket. The clasp on the roll-top looks more than adequately dimensioned.
The Delireis is handmade in England and the workmanship and materials are guaranteed for life.
Size: 40 cm tall, 27 cm wide and 19 cm deep. Volume estimated at 20 litres.
What’s to like? A nice, clean and well executed design using quality materials.
Any disadvantages? Nothing apparent, though it is not cheap.
More info at Bedouin Foundry.
So, there you have four new possible packs. There are no doubt many more available, but given the range of styles and prices of these, there is certainly no excuse to not throw out the ugly black nylon pack.