My name is Serenity, and I have an obsession with gear bags. I travel frequently, and whether I'm toting technology, roller derby equipment, knitting needles, or hiking necessities, I need bags that are both functional and, if I'm being honest, functionally pretty. I don't ascribe to the belief that bags need be boring to be useful — there are plenty of beautiful backpacks that also offer storage space and comfort.
Pad and Quill's Leather Backpack is one of those bags: It takes cues from hiking packs of yore with its leather-buckled flaps and drawstring interior, but melds that look with water-resistant waxed canvas and interior storage for everything you could want on a day trip.
The three-pound backpack hides most of its functional charm within one large waxed canvas pouch: Main compartment aside, there are two small side pockets — made for sunglasses, an iPhone, or small water bottle — and a passport-sized front pocket, clasped with a leather strap.
Inside the main pouch, there are fairly few nooks and crannies: You have a single padded sleeve — held by a leather strap — for storing a 13-inch laptop or iPad Pro, and two waxed canvas pockets on the exterior of that sleeve (one for a Pencil or other pen, the other for a cord or other various miscellany).
The rest of the 5.5-inch deep compartment is one large rucksack: You can toss pretty much whatever you want into the bag, and contain it using the compartment's reinforced nylon top drawstring. If you're one to overstuff your backpack, the leather top cover's lengthy straps and bottom buckle provide plenty of give.
Though it took a few days to properly break in the backpack's leather, once done it looks great no matter what you've stored in it — whether it's just one ball of yarn or a fully-loaded tech kit. It puts bags like Herschel's Little America to shame: Both bags attempt to offer similar looks, but only Pad and Quill's option looks truly at home on your back, its leather and canvas conforming to the user like a comfy pair of boots.
I've taken Pad and Quill's backpack on a number of excursions since getting it for review, including a hike through the muddy woods with our two dogs, around several cafes, and walking through downtown Boston and Providence. Each trip had drastically different gear inside the bag, and each felt completely natural and well-weighted on my back.
The canvas, leather, and cotton padded backpack straps are nicer than their thin, somewhat flimsy look gives them credit for; I had no problem or awkward rubbing while wearing the backpack on any of my excursions. (I also appreciate the leather loop at the top of the bag for an alternate carry style or picking it up off the ground.) I will say while the leather buckles on both the strap adjustments and top flap certainly look cool, I found them less than practical in daily use. Sure, you theoretically only have to adjust the buckles once and don't have to worry about your straps losing their tight fit, but in reality, you may want to adjust straps multiple times depending on what you're carrying — and it's less than ideal.
You're not going to want to do any kind of heavy-duty hauling with these straps, as they're not padded enough to provide superior comfort in that situation, nor does the bag offer a waist sinch; I wouldn't recommend the bag for those planning to routinely shove 40+ pounds on their backs. (I see you, high school students.)
Nor do I think I'd use this bag for lengthy plane travel — it's not quite cavernous enough (nor does it have a separately accessible laptop pocket) to replace the Osprey or TYLT backpacks I've been regularly traveling with. Granted, I say this about the medium-size Leather Backpack — those looking at the larger size pack may have different feelings, though I suspect that pack may be much too large for my 5'6" form.
For train travel or smaller plane trips, however, I can definitely see this bag becoming part of my daily routine. It's no doubt one of the most beautiful backpacks I've ever tried, perfectly straddling the line between functional and classy. I can't think of another bag I've used that looks as good hanging on my office door or worn on my back, all the while carrying everything I need in a given situation.
This is a home run of a backpack by Pad and Quill, and worth every penny of its (admittedly steep) price tag. $295 is a lot to drop on what is, essentially, a compartment for your other already-expensive stuff — but if you like bags that look as fantastic as the tech you carry inside them, it's hard to go wrong here. It's buoyed by the company's excellent 25-year warranty; I've yet to have to use it on any of the gear purchased from them, largely because it's held up, but it's a nice additional safety net in place for such a valuable item.
In short: If you have the cash to drop on an art piece of a backpack, it's one of Pad and Quill's best offerings yet, gorgeous without compromising on functionality.
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