Filson Ranger Backpack

Taking a look at a discontinued Filson bag, which is quite good.

I am still picking up discontinued Filson bags, and a while back I picked up two different Filson Ranger Backpacks. These bags are not that old, but they didn’t sell all that well before going on clearance and, eventually, disappearing. I had never seen one in person before, and picked up a like new version with the Bridle Leather closure straps/buckle system.

I liked it so much, I jumped at a chance to buy a dead stock variant of the Ranger, which has a canvas strap g-hook closure, and an error with the Filson leather tag being sewn on upside down. These backpacks are really simple, but surprisingly amazing.

Specs and Materials

The closest specs I can see listed for this bag is 14″ W x 18″ H x 6″ D, for a 26.5L Volume. That’s pretty close to what I measure, though it certainly doesn’t look 14” wide. The bag has no structure, thus the width and depth is far more amorphous than most bags and the final size is going to depend on how you pack out the bag.

The body of the bag is Filson’s Rugged Twill, which is thick and hard wearing. The bag closes with a Cover Cloth area that cinches shut with a cotton drawstring. This is then covered by an Oil Tin Cloth flap, which adds a bit of rain resistance to the top of the bag. The shoulder straps are more of the same with Rugged Twill being the primary material.

As I mentioned above, there’s two variants. Most easily identified from the straps closing the Tin Cloth flap. I think the first variant is the one with the Bride Leather straps, and the cotton webbing strap came later. There’s a few differences between the two worth noting.

Version 1 Bridle Leather:
– Bridle Leather and Brass Buckle closure on the front.
– Mackinaw Wool Zipper Pocket which Snaps into the top of the bag at the top.
– Brass D-Rings to adjust the length of the straps.
– Bridle leather across the back of the bag, where the shoulder straps attach.

Version 2 Cotton Webbing:

  • Two Cotton Webbing Straps with Metal G-Hooks attach to the lid of the bag to pull it closed.
  • Rugged Twill pocket which snaps into the top of the bag.
  • Brass/Metal ladder adjuster for the webbing on the shoulder straps.
  • Cotton webbing across the back of the bag, where the shoulder straps attach.

Like all Filson bags, this is extremely well made and the overall specs on either variant are top notch.

In Use

The backpack is quite simple: it’s a large Rugged Twill bucket, with a cinch closure, and a Tin Cloth flap. There’s a small hanging pocket. There’s no padding to really talk about except the back panel. The bottom is not sewn on, but rather the front of the bag, the sides, and the bottom are all a single piece of Rugged Twill, which wraps to the back panel and has a seam at the bottom two corners.

Which means it looks vastly too simple to actually be good, and yet it is quite good to use. It’s one of those packs which is nice when you might need the space to carry some light but bulky items (clothes), when you don’t know what the day might bring (shopping). There’s little fuss about it. It’s almost like a Rugged Twill Filson Tote bag, but with shoulder straps.

Because of the construction and size, this bag can flex to be quite large looking while at the same time, holding a ton. I used this as a one bag on a short business trip. And I used it as my daily bag on a trip to Colorado over the holidays, where I needed to carry odds and ends the kids bought in shops, as well as layers as it warmed and cooled during the day.

What I learned in both of these: it packs really well. The straps seem like they wouldn’t work well or be comfortable, but in fact they work really well to carry the weight you put in the bag.

And, for one bag travel, this would be right there among my favorite bags to take. It slid under the seat in front of me perfectly, and swallowed up a 10L packing cube of my clothing without any issue.

It’s not the world’s greatest bag to carry weight, but, to carry bulk in a bag which looks a rather normal size — it’s very comfortable. I found that even pushing the bag between 15-20lbs, it still was plenty comfortable for walks throughout the airport.

The top loading design, with the cinch strap and flap can be a bit tricky to navigate and to use. The bag lacks any true organization so it can be more narrow for who would like it during EDC use. Which is where the two variants of this bag come into play.

Buckle Straps

This is easily the better looking of the two variants. The Bridle Leather with the brass buckles looks stellar and is really a much better look all around. The issue is that you have two buckles to undo and do up, just to get in and out of the bag. That’s a huge pain. And the bag has to be secured, or the shape doesn’t hold.

Which means you are doing up those buckles quite a lot. The shoulder straps also tighten with two rings, instead of a traditional ladder lock. Now this is really nice looking, and makes for really easy adjustments, but I found that when not under tension, the straps slipped looser nearly every time.

That’s good and bad. Good because it meant it was easier to toss on the bag, and pretty easy to cinch the straps tight. But bad because it makes the setup even more fussy.

In other words, this variant of the bag is better if you are not taking it on and off a lot — or you want the best possible looking variant. But it is the more fussy of the variants.

G-Hook Straps

The G-Hook strap variant fixes all the issues of the above, while sacrificing good looks to do it. Gone are the leather straps, instead you get two bits of cotton webbing, with a metal G-hook on the end, these latch on to the lid of the bag. This is tremendously easier to get in and out of the bag with, and they actually hold quite well (not common with all G-hooks).

The shoulder straps tighten and loosen with metal ladder locks, and they hold their place, while being a little more cumbersome to tighten/loosen when wearing the bag.

All in all, this variant is vastly better if you are wanting in and out of the bag a ton, and really easy to open and close while it’s at your feet on a plane. But, it doesn’t look as good as the version with the buckles.

Overall

I was impressed using this bag. It carried better than I thought, and worked better. It’s not ideal for carrying a laptop/iPad. It doesn’t have great areas for quick access or small goods. It’s a pack it, and get on with your life bag. Point A to Point B — if you will. But for that, it’s pretty damned nice.

Ultimately, at about 27L, it’s larger than what I need and want most days. And for me, that means it is not likely to stay in the collection. It is certainly underrated, and if Filson made a slightly narrower and thinner variant, while keeping the height of the bag — instant purchase from me. I have no idea which variant between the two is better, so go with your gut.

It was originally between $245-295, and can be had used between $130-270 for those on the hunt. (For members, mine is current for sale in the Discourse.)

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