A small Portland, Ore., upstart is changing the way we look at the humble duffel bag (and daypacks and panniers, too).
With no-frills designs and basic functionality, the line of backpacks, duffels, and bike panniers from North St. Bags appear to be from another era.
But despite my association with a “little kid backpack” look circa the 1980s (see the red pack below), this year I found myself reaching often for the simplistic totes.
Made in Portland, Ore., North St. Bags touts its products as hand-sewn and stitched with fabric and materials procured almost exclusively from within the USA. It’s a refreshing switch in a category dominated by goods made overseas.
Review: North St. Bags
The line commands a bit of a margin for its domestic construction and quality builds. But buyers get solid packs and bags that appear to have been found at an art fair, or maybe in Grandma’s attic.
Take the Alberta Daypack as example. The Cordura nylon pack costs $85. It is so simple it looks like a child’s drawing of a backpack, a sharp red fill included.
But the Alberta fits a laptop and the wide, seatbelt-like straps are comfortable. The company adds a weather-resistant zipper to help keep goods safe in light rain.
The Clinton Backpack, at 20 liters of capacity, is $169 and more full-featured. It has a vented foam back panel, an external pocket for a U-lock, and a waterproof main compartment.
The company makes a line of bike panniers. We did not yet test these, but they range in price from about $40 to $120. A convertible line of panniers work both as on-the-bike totes and backpacks to sling on once your destination is reached.
Old-School Duffel Bag
A retro prize goes to the Scout 21 Duffle model. I got the tan iteration for its 1970s appeal. The $99 carry-all is made for travel, though I find its gear-swallowing build great for day trips, too, where I can pack sloppy and quick.
It’s made of a tough 1000-denier Cordura nylon and lined with a waterproof sailcloth. A single internal pocket is good for keys and small things.
The Scout’s zipper slides easily with one hand, and the bag is rigid enough to stand on its own when empty, a gap open and ready to take your gear.
North St. Bags’ products are far from technical outdoors gear. But for casual pursuits, travel, daily life, and bike commuting, the company offers something different.
Look to this brand for a back-to-basics approach. You might pine again for the simplicity of it all.
–See the full North St. Bags line.