Trakke Bairn and Bairn Pro — Quick Thoughts

Two very well made, and great looking messengers.

Trakke’s recent offerings are becoming more and more appealing to me, while at the same time the pricing seems — it’s a lot. I picked up both of these bags second hand, which is a good way to save money and get a sense of how they wear overtime. They are both quite good, but flawed in their own ways.

These bags are a meld of modern layouts and ideas, married with more classic aesthetics. They feel like they sit somewhere between something like DSPTCH/Defy and Filson. I am not going to go very deep, as I didn’t use either for extended time — but enough to get a good sense of what they are and aren’t.

Overall Materials Thoughts

The Bairn I have is at least one generation older than current, while the Bairn Pro is a current generation bag. My thoughts on the materials of each bag:

  • The outer waxed canvas feels very durable and not waxy at all. It’s a very nice material, though I do see a couple snags in it — so it’s not as resistant as other waxed canvas goods. At the same time, I have a high confidence you will not get much wax transfer from these.
  • The interior lining in these is very nice, but I wish it was not bright orange. The bags are both rather subtle and subdued in their looks, so opening them to a high visability orange destroys that facade in a very disappointing way.
  • The zippers are aquagaurd and are nicely done. I do not care for the large circular metal zipper pulls — it’s an odd choice and mostly annoying to deal with.
  • All of the webbing appears/feels like cotton webbing. It’s really rugged and nice, but on the older Bairn it was showing its age. Not only does this not look ideal, but as this type of webbing ages, it doesn’t slide through tri-glides and ladder locks very well because of how dense the weave is.
  • The fit and finish and construction is stellar.

Overall: the material selections and finishing back up the pricing.

Bairn: In Use & Carry

The Bairn is the smaller of the two bags. This is roughly 10L in capacity, but it feels a touch larger than this to me. The bag is very simple. It has one large flap which comes over the top, and reveals a large main compartment with a 13”-ish laptop sleeve, and open area, and a nicely sized zippered pocket. In the front of this is a flap which doesn’t secure, and reveals two open top pockets, both nicely sized at half the width of the bag.

For me, this bag was a touch too small for office carry, but nearly perfect for dad carry duties. This is a pretty ideal size for travel and exploring. It’s overly simple, but that simplicity works to the Bairn’s advantage and charm.

There’s only three downsides with this model:

  • The g-hooks on this bag are terrible in every way. They are hard to release, hard to fasten, and hard to adjust. All of those actions requires two hands.
  • There’s no externally accessible pockets on the bag, so you have to unfasten the top flap to get at your gear and the g-hooks are crap.
  • The grab handle sits a couple inches below the top of the bag on the back. If you grab this without the bag secured, you risk spilling out gear. Even with the bag secured, it’s a shit grab handle as the bag is always off center for the gravity of it, and it’s annoying to use and carry.

If this had the cobra buckles on it, I’d keep it for the size alone. There is no getting around the terrible grab handle though — I’d rather it not have one at all.

Bairn Pro: In Use & Carry

The Bairn Pro is larger and generally better than the Bairn. It scales up the bag close to 12L (per Trakke) — and per this bag reviewer I would say 12.5L. I don’t know how Trakke is measuring, but I feel strongly they are undercounting the capacity.

I can carry everything I need in this bag to the office, though it is fully packed out when I do so. The Pro model changes the front pockets, and the sides of the bag (as well as the strap), and those changes are:

  • Each side of the bag has comically small ‘water bottle’ pockets. I think you can stuff a standard American 16.9fl oz disposable water bottle in there, but nothing much larger. I was really hoping these would hold my insulated coffee mug, but they will not.
  • The front pockets are different as well. The unsecured flap now reveals a full width open top pocket.
  • The Bairn Pro also adds two front pockets which have zippers on either side of the front of the bag. These reveal decently sized pockets which are accessible without opening the top flap of the bag — a huge usability improvement.

On my Pro model I have the cobra buckles. I generally loathe cobra buckles as unnecessary tacticool bullshit, but on the Bairn Pro they are excellent. Because of how beefy the webbing is, the male portion of the buckle does not drop to the surface of a desk if you rapidly release the buckle. You can fasten and unfasten these with one hand. The webbing slides through these easily to adjust. And importantly, most of the buckle is hidden behind the top flap. It’s well done.

The Pro is not without its flaws:

  • The shoulder strap has an overly large shoulder pad which is not only aesthetically unbalanced for the bag, but it is unnecessary and slightly digs into your body at the front edge of the pad. This is not removable without cutting it off. At the very least, this I should be a velcro flap so you can remove it. I would cut it off and be happier.
  • The side water bottle pockets are a big let down.
  • The rear grab handle remains the same, and thus is shit.

I do like this bag a lot, and I think it’s really well executed with only a few small misses.

Which is Better

There’s no doubt that the Bairn Pro is the better bag. The front quick access pockets alone make the bag worth the upgrade, as you can actually get to stuff quickly and easily. I do like the size of the Bairn, but it will be a squeeze for most people to use for anything resembling office carry.

These bags also have more padding and structure than other bags, while the main compartment will still flatten out when it’s not being utilized. The structure does mean it holds a nice shape on your body, so it is not likely to floppily wrap around your body.

I personally prefer the Pro, but I could see an argument for the Bairn as a daily carry for non-tech needs. Which is yet another benefit: the laptop sleeve doesn’t take up much space, so the bag works well if you don’t want to use that.

Overall

What ever you do, get the cobra buckles on this bag. That might be the first and last time I make that recommendation. Beyond that, the tan and the olive are stellar looking and feeling.

Oh, and if you often like to carry your bag with the handle — look at other bag options. For me, I’d keep the Pro if I didn’t have the 24hr already, it’s a very good bag.

Find them here: Bairn ($285), Bairn Pro ($379).

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