I’ve seen this bag around a ton, but the size is something I have always questioned: would it be large enough? I had a chance to trade for this bag, so I took the chance. This is a really nicely made bag, especially this Special Edition Waxed Canvas.
The bag certainly has it’s quirks, and true to form it is indeed a small bag which doesn’t wear small, while still packing small.
I’ve tested enough bags to know that if I get one that is shorter than 18” I will likely not love it. That if I get one wider than 13”, I will not love it. This bag comes in at a svelte 18.5”h x 11”w x 4.5”d. That’s a small 15L bag right there and it feels like a 15L bag too.
Amazingly, I’ve been able to carry my entire load to the office in this bag every day. Coffee mug, two iPad Pros, lunch, and all my extras — it all fits in this bag. But it’s a just fits type of situation.
The bag is very full once I get it all packed up. The size is actually not bad, and could be perfect, but there’s one execution flaw in the bag which makes it not work well. You have two spots to put your devices: a sleeve in the back, and a pouch/pocket in the interior. I need to carry two 12.9” iPad Pros. While it fits in the sleeve at the back of the bag, it doesn’t fit with a Magic Keyboard attached, and that compartment doesn’t have it’s own dedicated space. So once you move inside the bag to put your other iPad in the pouch, things are tight already.
12.9” iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard in the compartment — it will fit, but the edge of the iPad Pro rubs against the inside of the zipper, not good.
(The back laptop compartment area also has a zippered pocket in it for something smaller like a Kindle I guess. This is silly, the metal zipper is right there, exposed to scratch your device. And there’s barely room in this area to begin with, I can’t imagine trying to fit something more in it.)
Overall this is a bag with a large enough footprint to not constrain you from things are you likely to normally carry (assuming you carry 13” sized laptops). The size is kept minimal by keeping the depth shallow. A GR1 is 6.75” deep, this is 4.5” — that difference is huge in practice. This bag simply needs another 1” in depth.
This bag is something else to look at — I absolutely love the way it looks. This might be the best looking backpack I have ever owned. The seatbelt style nylon accents for ‘MOLLE’ like attachments, the clean shoulder adjustment straps, the waxed canvas adding patina and depth. I don’t know what to say about this back, but it looks amazing.
Shit, I love the way this bag looks. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the Filson Journeyman, but a modern take on it. There’s no reason to have these silly plastic d-rings, or that random strip of MOLLE like webbing — and yet all of it comes together to create something really perfect looking. Insane points here, like a million.
The backpanel has mild vent channels, and a soft padded and soft mesh back. The straps too are wide, thin, soft and very nicely executed. In fact, this bag is Made in the USA and all I can say is that whatever company stitched this bag up — they do top notch work.
The shoulder straps attach to the bag with a 2” wide bit of seatbelt style webbing, which loops back up at the bottom of the bag into a tri-glide. So to adjust the straps shorter, you pull the tri-glide upwards, to loosen you slide it downwards. It locks in place without any issue. The benefit of this system is that there is never any dangling straps. The downside is that the adjustment range is severely hampered. This is simply not going to tighten enough for smaller framed people. I had no such issues, but do note this.
Even with this bag stuffed, it’s not big enough to worry about having too much weight in it. With about 15-20lbs in the bag at the max, it’s comfortable enough to walk around and get where you are going. It really hits its stride around the 10-12lbs mark — you can carry that for quite some time without issue.
This bag has a lot of build in organization. The front vertical pocket has a row of elastic webbing which is wide enough that it can take items larger than pens. There’s also a horizontal pocket inside this area as well, and a d-ring at the top which seems ideal for clipping in your keys. This area has some of the smartest organization I have seen in a pocket like this — normally I find these a waste of space. On this bag I find the pocket really good an useable. My only tweak would be for the elastic webbing to be 2” as that would hold things more securely — especially heavier items like flashlights.
In the main compartment is two pockets on the lid, and a elastic top pouch on the back panel. Both small pockets are zippered and both are pretty shallow — they work well enough, but compete with space on the interior of the bag. The pouch inside the bag almost has to be dedicated for your device.
Packing up this bag is frustrating. My devices (which are not overly large) are cumbersome to get stored in the bag, and to do so properly while keeping them protected. By the time I have my base backpack gear in the bag, and add both iPads there is very little space left. Adding in a coffee mug and my lunch sucks up every remaining bit of space.
12.9” iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard in the pouch.
There’s two compression straps on the side of the bag, which serve no purpose other than to slightly be in the way of the rear device pocket, and the main pocket zippers. I mention this because I found that getting gear out of the bag (unlike storing it) is smooth and easy to use once you get around the compression straps.
These are in the way.
Double points for managing to be in the way twice.
Carrying the bag, moving about with it loaded, and all of that is great. Getting your stuff out of the bag — even finding it — all really great. Putting your gear into the bag: cumbersome.
Side note: there are two side water bottle pockets. They fit things like White Claw I assume. They aren’t in the way and don’t detract, but they add no value for me.
I like this bag a lot, so much so that parts of me wants to make this work by changing what I actually like to carry. That’s how much I like it. The fit and finish of this bag is fantastic. It has some weird quirks: a confused laptop compartment at the rear, compression straps which only get in the way — but it has far more outstanding attributes.
If Arktype comes out with a large, say 18L, variant of this bag, it might be perfect for me. If you spend your time carrying one main device a few chargers, and not much else, then you might be hard pressed to find a better bag. It won’t be a bag you onebag travel in, or going hiking in, but its about as compact and smartly made of a small backpack you can get — while not looking overly small on your body.