[Edit: I ended up buying the bag featured above in 2015. It’s also awesome.]
I spent a good portion of last weekend convincing myself not to buy the newly released Hard Graft Ocean Travel Pack (pictured above). That blue is mesmerizing, and I really like the idea of carrying a light pack that’s held securely against the body. However, I ended up avoiding the idea because I don’t need a bag like that — not when I have a few other perfectly suitable choices. It would definitely be fun to try out, but $400 is just too much for a bag that I’m not perfectly sure about.
But the bag obsession didn’t quite stop there. I spent the next few days looking up true messenger-style bags (the ones that ride up high on the back, and stabilize with an extra strap). These bags fit quite a lot of gear, but don’t hang at the hip, so they look like they’re more comfortable to walk around with. My Googling led me to the Monty VX from Mission Workshop and the booq Boa nerve Graphite.
The Monty VX is an incredible weather-proof bag with options to use the top as a flap, or as a roll-top to make it impervious to rain. I chose the VX series over Mission Workshop’s regular bags, because I really like the silent Arkiv closure system. The booq Boa Nerve Graphite is gigantic and weighs over 4 lbs., but it’s got a ton of great pockets and features an incredibly cool magnetic strap buckle. In the end, I decided against putting even more weight on a single shoulder than I already am. My HG 2Unfold has quite a carrying capacity on its own, but I find it difficult to carry heavy loads on just one shoulder. I also prefer to buy bags that don’t have any loud velcro on them — and most messenger designers seem obsessed with including it somewhere on the bag.
What ultimately snapped me out of the cycle of bag research was that I could get something a lot more ergonomic, spacious, and easy to carry. My sister’s Little America Canvas backpack from Herschel was an interesting primer to current backpacks. It looks hipster rustic but is still totally practical, thanks to a set of very solid backpack straps. However, since I like bags with a little more form built into them, I decided not to bite on the Herschel. It wasn’t until I saw the superb Isar Rucksack review on Minimally Minimal that my wallet flew right out of my pocket and into my hand.
I like the Isar because it’s still a legitimate backpack with two solid straps, so I can still peel it off and toss it to the ground with the ease of a high school backpack. The killer feature here is how Côte&Ciel cut and manipulate fabric (raw canvas in my case) to disrupt the shape of the bag. The small buckles and the cut of the fabric along the back manage to make the Isar — which is essentially a canvas sack grafted to a backpack — into something quite attractive.
It was an interesting link-laden path to the Isar, but I did go out and buy one yesterday at a local shop on Queen West. I picked up the large size in “Icelandic Ash”, and I’ll use it for a litle while, see where it fits best in my day-to-day, and come back with a detailed review later on.