The Filson Journeyman

This is an awesome bag which I love very much, but I can’t say it is better than many of my other bags.

There’s a handful of bags out there I have always wanted, but never thought I would end up getting. Sometimes the price seems completely absurd (looking at you Mystery Ranch 1DAP), and sometimes as the case with this backpack the price is high, and my in-person impressions of the bag are not good enough to take the plunge. Recently though, I was able to trade with someone on the Member Discord to snag this one.

It’s long been on my list, so I first need to state a few things before you read on:

  1. I have long thought this to be one of the best looking backpacks on the market and I am biased by my love for the aesthetics of this bag.
  2. The price of this bag is silly.
  3. I have an irrational love for this bag after only having it for a short period of time, which is problematic for an objective review. The heart wants what the heart wants though.

Ok, with that being said I have actually gotten to use this bag out in the world! I have taken it on a weekend trip, as well as back and forth to the office. I know what this bag is.

And I love this bag for what it is, but it isn’t really better than other options — and that’s the distinction I am going to focus on in this review.

Here we go, the Filson Journeyman Backpack a bag I have been waiting to test for a long time.

The Bag

Ok, first things first, the bag itself — specifically what makes up this bag. It’s a very classic Jansport style design: large main compartment that doesn’t fully unzip and is rounded at the top, and one big ass pocket on the front of the bag. Simple and to the point.

To make this a Filson product though, Filson used just about every single signature material they have at their disposal. The primary material for this bag is Oil-Waxed Tin Cloth, for my bag that is in Otter Green (Tan is the other standard offering with other limited colors coming and going like Black and Navy). Tin Cloth is a densely woven cotton that is very smooth and not easily snagged. That cloth is then finished in Filson’s Oil Wax which gives a unique look and good weather resistance to the bag. (Think rainproof, not waterproof.)

But that’s not where the materials stop. The back and bottom of the bag is matching Rugged Twill which is used in many Filson bags, and here it adds a layer of material so waxed Tin Cloth isn’t resting against your clothing, while still being durable as can be. Which is something I really appreciate.

And then there’s the straps, which are far more involved than I thought. The outside is the same Tin Cloth, but are lined with moleskin to make for a soft but grippy material to rest on your body. The straps have decent but not robust padding. And adjust with Filson’s Bridle leather with brass buckles. Something that gives the bag a signature look while still being durable and on theme.

Simply put: this mix of materials is most excellent.

Capacity

Filson lists this bag as 23L and that seems a little generous to me, as it feels closer to 20L. However, 23L is actually accurate because (as with the 48hr Duffel I reviewed last year), a lot of capacity for this bag is found in the front pocket which is massive. Thus the main compartment feels smaller than you would expect on a 23L bag.

It was for sure hard to pack for a weekend in this bag. Because you tend to pack big things in the big area and small things in the small area. But then by doing that you give up a couple liters of space.

So to recap the capacity: great for EDC sizing, poor for onebag travel, and the front pocket is comically large and thus hard to fully utilize.

Carry

Alright, so let’s talk about actually carrying and using the bag. The first thing to note is that there is a lightly padded laptop sleeve inside the bag, which works fine and offers enough room to carry a thick laptop or a laptop and tablet in it. There is no frame sheet though, so whatever you put in that spot will be felt against your back.


Office carry ready to go.

The lack of frame sheet is the biggest downside of this bag. It works great when you have a laptop or even an iPad Pro in the sleeve, as the device gives some rigidity against your back, but without a device the bag can feel lumpy depending on what and how you packed. It’s not a deal breaker, but something to be aware of if you aren’t planning on using the with a laptop. Many people prefer no frame sheet for an EDC type of bag.


Weekend away setup.

The straps themselves are surprisingly comfortable for what they are and the size of the bag. You won’t be hauling heavy loads with this bag often, but even stuffed full and weighing in close to 20lbs, this bag was still comfortable enough to carry around. The straps contour to your body well, and offer enough padding to keep the complaints from your shoulders to a minimum. I thought they would suck, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by them.


A practical aspect of that top snap is keeping the bag closed without needing the zippers. I tend to do this when I get to my office, or when I was in the hotel room snagging gear in and out of the bag.

The bad part about the straps is that the bridle buckle adjustment system sucks to use. It’s cumbersome and not at all fast to adjust this bag. This bag is one that you adjust before you use the bag and leave it there for probably the rest of the bags life. Even with the bag on the ground, adjusting it takes time.

The thing about carrying this bag is that it’s not comfortable nor uncomfortable — but it is also highly dependent on what the load in your bag is. Not just the weight, but the items themselves. If they are nicely placed in the bag, all will be good in the world, but if you shove a bunch of stuff in there it will make the bag feel awkward to carry against your back.

Style and Irrational Love

This is the best looking backpack you can buy. I stand by it. Just look at it, beautiful. Classic materials, offers patina, durable, and the most classic of classic backpack looks. And the thing about this bag is that it can easily look at home in a fancy office, a TV Show, or out in the backwoods as a hard use bag. It looks right no matter where it seems to be — not many bags can do that (I can’t think of another).

Durable and stylish, while still offering enough to make life easier. I shouldn’t love something that doesn’t carry weight that well. Something which has no frame sheet, or means to access the laptop without slightly unpacking the bag.

The weather flap on this bag alone is a bit insane and it gets a little in the way. Like other Filson bags the zipper can be a little scratchy against your hand or fine aluminum electronics. All of this is true, but then you snap the completely unnecessary, but fully beautiful, bridle leather tab to finish off closing up the bag, grab the strap and sling it over your shoulders and you can’t help but think “yeah, this is nice”.

I call my love of this bag irrational, not because there is nothing to love about this bag, but because the reason I love this bag is because this bag speaks to me. I feel at home using it, and yet, I’ve not used it nearly as much as many of my other bags. I have better bags, but none I love as much as this bag.

Overall

Look, real talk, there’s no reason to like this bag for the $395 it goes for and yet (again) I love it. I resisted getting this bag because I felt like I would be buying it simply because it looks good, and as it turns out, while that is true this bag also works pretty well in certain scenarios.

It’s almost like like the bag equivalent of people who drive vintage cars or stick shifts — there’s something special with it that seems to defy logic and cause you to love it, and sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes.

This won’t be the go to bag if I need something versatile. But for the office, or if I carry a backpack instead of a sling around a city — yeah this is a great option. When I take a trip and want to carry two bags, this could be one of them. For the office, this bag is equivalent to most shoulder bags, it offers slightly more comfort and much less organization — I prefer it over other briefcases I have. For travel, say as a city exploration bag, this is stellar as it offers something that looks classic, not threatening, and yet nice. I’ve gone back and forth on the “do I keep this or not” debate for over a week now.

I don’t know if you should buy it or not, I certainly love it, but it won’t be for everyone — that said, you can buy it here.

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