It’s no secret I love Filson gear, I’ve been buying and reviewing their stuff for years now. Current Filson gear has two lines these days, and one of those lines is the Dryden lineup of bags/accessories. These are Filson designs made overseas, and primarily with Nylon materials and only small touches of the classic Filson materials.
They are less expensive, but in the same way the the entry level Porsche is less expensive — factually correct, practically not worth being the reason alone to purchase. Here, I have been testing a Filson Dryden Backpack which I picked up in great condition second hand.
I’m torn on this bag. It’s quite good, even very nice in many ways, and yet at the same time it is not at all for me. This is a quick look as I didn’t spend extended time with this bag, but publishing because it is worth considering for some.
Materials & Size
As I mentioned, this is not the typical Filson heritage materials, it is in fact 1000D Cordura Nylon, with Bridle Leather accents and nylon webbing/linings. You will see in the pictures, that this bag looks black, but it’s actually not. Filson says this is dark navy, and perhaps it is under jewelry store lighting, but even with black leather accents, it looks black.
This is all put together in a large package: 18”h x 12.75”w x 7”d. It feels bigger than that for sure, and Filson claims it is only 25.5 liters, but it feels like 27-28L.
Because of the way this bag is designed, it will stand up on it’s own, and it also almost always retains it’s full shape. There are good and bad things about that. It’s a stiff bag, but not abrasive feeling at all.
Use, Carry, and All That
The most surprising thing was how comfortable the bag carries, even with a decent amount of weight in it. The straps are very nice, and hold their place well — there are no complaints here. The top handle is really nice as well, as it is unobtrusive and nice to hold — though I do think it looks like not enough stitching for it to be secure, but no issues so far and I did try. A leather top handle on a bag really is hard to beat — they feel great.
The front pocket is comically large, but nice to have. A mixed bag, as it could use more organization. There’s a small zipped drop style pocket on the front as well, which is oddly large, but holds a rain jacket really well. The main area is giant, and has no real useful organization.
The biggest issue with the main compartment isn’t the size, but access to the space. A lot of reviewers complain about the rain flap over the zippers on this compartment, and how it can be hard to open — when I initially got the bag I had the same issue. It drove me mad. After a couple of days of using it, I somehow stopped having the issue, so I don’t think this is a big deal if this is going to be your main bag. The bigger issue is that the opening is pretty small for how large the compartment is, which limits how useful the capacity of the compartment is. It’s almost like a top loader.
The real hero is the laptop section which is massive. It opens wide and is very easy to use and get stuff in and out of. There’s plenty of space for both my iPads and a notebook — plenty more room for flat things too. My only nitpick is that this compartment would have looked so much better with the zipper coil being reversed or even an aquagaurd zipper. As it is, that’s the only visual issue I have with the bag.
I honestly had no usage issues with this bag, only visually looking large when carrying it. But it doesn’t feel large at all when using it. The side pockets actually work well enough for a travel mug, though they do require taking 80% of their volume from the main compartment, so a bag loaded out full with firm objects might make the water bottle pockets unusable.
Ok, I have a new metric to explain bags: forgiveness. This bag has a huge amount of forgiveness, which means that this bag does not punish someone who doesn’t want to learn how to use a bag, and just wants to use it. A lot of bags I love and review, require a certain mindset, a certain bag nerdery level, to really get maximum value from — those bags are low on forgiveness. The Filson Dryden Backpack has a very high forgiveness level — it doesn’t care how you use it, and however you use it the bag will perform well.
So this is a great option if you don’t want to have to think about your bag, want to be able to do whatever with it and not destroy it. It’s all around a solid bag — but it’s large and it looks large. It’s nicely designed and should last a good long while — though the price is a little high for what it offers compared to the rest of the market. You’re paying a premium for the brand, but it’s not too big of a premium compared to the other Filson offerings.