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PRODUCT REVIEW

The Classic Backpack according to bag expert Taylor Welden

Ah, Bellroy’s Classic Backpack. So perfectly named, because that’s precisely what I think of this bag… Classic. Is this a weekend backpack? A work/commuter backpack? Is it tailored for men or for women? I keep asking myself these questions, with many more variations, and the best answer that I can come up with is, well… “Yes”.

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Firstly. It’s simple and bold, yet somewhat elegant. It’s Helvetica in a bag; its success is in its simplicity.

Don’t be fooled, though. Looks can be deceiving. This backpack has the same level of tech and features of other packs that might ‘look’ more feature rich. The fabric is refined in both aesthetic and performance. There’s been more than a few times I’ve been caught out in a fluke Texas rain and I was happy to see happy little beads of water droplets hovering on the surface of the fabric.

The designer scientist magicians in the Bellroy laboratories took the same approach to this backpack as they did their wallets, which they’ve been nailing for years.

The certified environmentally friendly leather Bellroy brand patch on the exterior doubles as a loop that you can attach a blinky bicycle light to – which I think is a clever little bonus. It’s at the perfect spot when you’re hunched over the handlebars, cruising through city traffic.



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Speaking of leather, I appreciate how it’s tastefully placed around the bag. It’s where it needs to be and not slapped on for looks alone. All the touchpoints have a hint of this smooth, luxurious stuff. The grab handle, the padded shoulder strap adjustment points, and of course the zipper pullers. So every time you interact with the bag, your fingertips are treated to leather instead of plastic.

I’ll admit, at first the shoulder straps looked a bit too minimal for comfort. They’re not covered in MOLLE webbing, don’t have a sternum strap, and don’t have plastic hardware hanging off them. And then I loaded it up with a heavy load of gear, including my laptop, a jacket, water bottle and much more. Properly weighted down, I slung it over both shoulders. I was impressed with the comfort immediately, and was still impressed after wearing it across a full day. They’re perfectly padded, without the extra nonsense. Additionally, the minimal design would allow it to be worn over a suit.

The one thing that has changed the most when it comes to my taste in bags, is how I prefer the design of the organization. I like it straight forward. Organized. If I’m asking someone to please grab something out of my pack for me, I don’t want to map the whole thing out on a whiteboard just to demonstrate which of the 47 pockets it is in. Bellroy gets it. And nailed the pocket system

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Inside, there’s a stretch mesh pocket which seems to be able to expand to hold all my small items without fail. Then, there’s a luxuriously padded and protected laptop sleeve in the back. My 15” Macbook Pro sits firmly in there without sliding around while I’m walking, which I really like. In front of that, a sleek pocket for a large tablet and a stylus (or just a normal pen) slot just to the right.

It’s simple and bold, yet somewhat elegant. It’s Helvetica in a bag; its success is in its simplicity.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit, it took me more than one week to discover the hidden sunglasses pocket, artfully tucked behind a seam at the top center between the shoulder straps. I actually found this pocket as I was thinking “man, I love this pack, but what would really make it better is a sunglasses pocket….”. And there it was. I might have blushed.

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Ultimately, the designer scientist magicians in the Bellroy laboratories took the same approach to this backpack as they did their wallets, which they’ve been nailing for years. Eliminating bulk, streamlining the design, distilling products down to their pure functional essence, while still managing to include those fun and useful ‘a-ha’ moments that make this backpack a pleasure to use. They have a way of taking abstract ideas and distilling them into such refined forms. And that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. It’s far easier to throw more and more (and more) features onto a product, but it’s not as easy to take elements away and be confident enough to leave the pure essence of the idea. Bellroy have found a balance here, and it works.

My life is – as I imagine yours is too – multifaceted. I like the things I own to work across those facets. So, do I use this bag for work, for travel, for cycling, for fun, or for something else? The answer is “yes”.

Taylor Welden is an industrial designer, Senior Editor of Carryology, and every bit the bag geek. He was commissioned by Bellroy to tell us what he thinks of our Classic Backpack.

Shop the Classic Backpack.