A Detailed Guide to the Backpack

As busy as we are these days, you never know what you’ll need to take with you or where you’ll end up.  From the art gallery to the great outdoors we’ve got you covered breaking the backpack in the following categories:


This is going to be your daily bag.  Most likely you’ll be carrying a laptop or a tablet (or both), some papers of import, perhaps your lunch, a spare shirt or change of shoes, random additional technology and office supplies like a phone charger, pens, etc…  You’ll want to make sure that you have enough space for what you need, and perhaps for some various things you don’t, or didn’t know you’d come home with. At the same time, this is the bag that will be defining your daily presence in front of that crush you might ride the train with or the co-worker you’ve been trying to get to know a little better.  You’ll also want to consider how you get to and from where you’re going.  If you’re biking think about if it will it rain or how grimy traffic is. Whatever the case, don’t slouch on it.

Côte&Ciel – Isar Rucksack


Possibly the most unique backpack you’ll have seen, this amazingly designed bag features all the important stuff like an easy to reach dedicated laptop compartment. The adjustable main compartment is the perfect size for all kinds of unruly ridiculousness, and can neatly be cinched down with the side compression strap.  This special techno canvas version is also water repellant. You can pick it up for € 289.00 at Cote&Ciel

Timbuk2 – Phoenix Cycling Bag


Just like the previous, this is a bag that has got your best interests at heart. It has a swing access padded laptop sleeve, bottom compression straps front organizer pockets, and Velcro clips for things like your helmet.  The bag also has a huge capacity, expanding to 35 liters, just in case you wanted to bring your yoga mat along with the groceries you were picking up after work. It’s made from an ultra light ballistic weave and has a water resistant top flap, while the side pockets can hold anything from your u-lock to a grapefruit.  Oh yeah, did I mention that the back panels are vented so you don’t have a crazy wet spot when you arrive where you were headed? It’s $109 at Timbuk2.

Fjällräven – Kånken


If the last bag had too many bells and whistles, slim it down with the super basic Kånken.  Designed for Swedish school children in 1978, this version has and updated main compartment and straps to accommodate a 15″ laptop.  It’s also made from their proprietary Vinylon F fabric which is great for repelling moisture.  All around a simple, yet functional bag. The Kånken retails for $110 at Fjallraven.


Ok so maybe you work in an office somewhere, but occasionally need to bounce off to a foreign country, different city, or crash a friend’s place.  Life is unpredictable and you’re unsure what weather or timezone or mode of transportation you’ll wake up with. On top of that, you’re not quite sure what you’ll be bringing home or what you might need to carry.  In these instances you need a transition bag.  The kind that hold up to whatever nebulous situation happens to materialize around you.

Mission Workshop – Rambler


This bag has you covered.  In fact, Mission Workshop offers a lifetime guarantee on it.  All of their products are infused with two ideas 1) that you’ll be using them for a long time and 2) that the weather is the enemy.  This bag features multiple weatherproof compartments, urethane coated zippers, durable waterproof materials, and on top of it, an interior carbon fiber reinforced frame suspension system.  It can easily double in capacity from 22 – 44 liters and the rolltop allows you to fit pretty much whatever into the rear compartment. The front compartment will accommodate a 13″ laptop or pretty much any tablet, but it is not padded! It also comes with a chest compression strap, in case you need the extra support (at 44L you might just!) and you can order an additional hip belt. The accessories pocket is just big enough for your passport and a cellphone.  Made in America, designed in San Fran, get yours for a cool $249 at MissionWorkshop

Chrome – Bravo

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Also a weatherproof rolltop the Chrome Bravo features a dedicated laptop sleeve (up to 15″), a handsomely reinforced back panel with EVA padded shoulder straps. It’s the kind of bag you you just load all you’ve got in from the top to the bottom.  But the main selling point of this is not that it doubles in size, but that it’s got utility cross lashing straps which allow you to carry all kinds of miscellaneous gear, from a snowboard and boots, to photo tubes, to a bike. At only $160 this Chinese (Guangzhou) built workhorse is a deal. Scope it out at Chrome.


Ok, so you know you’re going on a trip.  You’re going to be gone for a while and you’ll probably be camping, or at least staying on couch or two. Here’s what you’ll want:

VSTR x Partners and Spade – Nomadic Pack


This bag was designed by rad minds like pro-surfer Kelly Slater and the business bag genius behind Jack Spade (Andy Spade). Seriously. It’s got lots of space, a detachable messenger pack and a hammock. It also has an embroidered check list of things to remember like passport, a decent shirt, duct tape, and a jacket. The waxed canvas construction also makes it mostly water resistant. Their bottom line, if it doesn’t fit into the pack, you don’t need it.  It’s $395 at Partners & Spade, but check back soon because it’s so hot it’s sold out.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear – 2400 Southwest Pack

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Possibly the lightest in the bunch, this almost submersible bag is made from a rip-stop Cuben Fiber/Polyester hybrid material which is durable, lightweight, and waterproof. While it’s frameless the two removable, shaped aluminum stays, fully padded back panel, and cushioned shoulder straps and hip belt will make sure that it’s comfortable on your back. While it has no padded laptop sleeve, this is for the minimalist traveler who at max is taking a tablet that already comes with a cover. It’s got a 40 liter capacity and top Y-strap compressor system that is designed to hold a sleeping pad or other random gear, with water proof hip pockets that can hold electronics or snacks.  The padded shoulder straps also come a with moisture wicking, antimicrobial mesh spacer fabric allowing for both cushion and maximum air flow.  At just over a pound and half, this is one bag that’s not going to be overweight.  Hyperlight has them for $260.

Poler – The Duffaluffagus

pol duff2

So this might seem like cheating but this duffel actually has backpack straps.  It’s also got plenty of room to through in everything from shoes and clothes to chargers and toiletries.  If you’re into skateboarding it’s handy Velcro straps will help you tie it, or a yoga/sleeping mat down.  Overall it’s a simple no fuss carryall for a weekend or week long trip anywhere you want to go.  Poler’s got them now at $100.

Kifaru – EMR


This is the most serious contender here.  It’s a military grade extended mission ruck (EMR) made by Kifaru (and used by the Special Forces).  At 123 liters you could fit a 4 year old child into this bag. No, seriously, and if  you need to carry a wounded buddy the cargo chair (that’s the back support) will convert into a hauler. It’s made from tough as nails 1,000 d Cordura nylon and has been known to survive an IED explosion or two. The bottom compartment will hold some snow boots or a sleeping bag and a tent.  It’s also got side cargo access (on both sides) so you don’t have to got all the way through the top to get at what you need and quick release shoulder straps you can drop it quick if you need to run (from a bear or something).  The top lid can be converted into a quick carrying shoulder bag, or, with an added claymore, a messenger-style day-bag.  Interior pockets keep electronics both hidden and protected. The frame suspension on it also means that while it’s 10lbs empty, far more weight will feel like feathers when it’s on your back.  It’s got compression straps and daisy chains galore, so if you’re planning a trip through Southeast Asia for 3 months, this is the bag for you!  It’s built to order for $676 (not including claymore or shoulder sling) and takes 4-6 weeks to make.  You can pick it up from the patriotic folks over at Kifaru.


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