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Reflections

Defying convention | Bags that take a different approach

by , September 7, 2010

Defying convention | Bags that take a different approach

Most crew start their bag research knowing they are after a backpack, messenger, tote, or some other specific type of bag. Heck, we even try and help you narrow to the ‘right’ category, with posts like Backpack or Messenger, trying to cut your mass of options down to something more manageable.

But what about the bags that don’t fit any one category? The bags that defy categorisation, and in doing so, defy convention?

So here’s a few Jonathan Livingston Seagulls*, those bags that don’t want to be defined by the traditional way to carry them. These are a sort of carry trail-blazers, trying to open your mind and your carrying freedom…


Hard Graft 2Unfold
We’ve covered this bag before, but it really is a trail-blazer in many ways, so we think it deserves another look. It was one of the earlier messengers that let you extend and fill the flap. It is one of the earlier bags to add a hand brace for carrying in your palm. And it allows multiple configurations and ways to carry. We’d call the 2Unfold a godfather if it wasn’t still so young and fresh.
PS The image is above – the top one… yeah, yeah, that one up there.

Porter Totesack
Speaking of godfathers, Porter is probably more qualified for that term than any other carry brand. For decades they have been producing great quality, really functional carry goods.
Their Totesack is not a completely original format (climbing brands have done similar things for years), but what is original is how well this combo backpack and tote works for an urban audience.

Betabrand Cornucopia bag

Can’t decide between an Apple Picking sack and a backpack? Yeah, us too… and now you won’t have to decide. The Cornucopia is a pretty unique looking sack that can be wrestled into all sorts of service. Don’t expect a performance piece for trekking to the North Pole, just expect a fun sack that can be slung without thought.

Rickshaw Technical Messenger
We’ve mentioned a bunch of times that we think heavier loads are better in a backpack than a messenger. Rickshaw have solved that problem by making their messenger more like a backpack, with a second strap. You probably would not call it an elegant solution, but if you’re living on your bike and refuse to give up the messenger look, this will get you sorted.

Chester Wallace Canvas Tote

The flop over tote is gaining a fair bit of ground, with a number of brands playing in the space. We like the Chester Wallace as one of the better ones, with both tote straps and/or a shoulder strap. There’s loads of colour combos, simple construction, and a versatile urban bag that can handle widely varying volumes of stuff.

Did we miss any crackers? Any great combo bags that we should share?

Please do let us know.


* Yeah, of course there’s a random end bit on this one…
Not sure if you’ve ever seen or read Jonathan Livingston Seagull… it’s a best seller from the 70’s about a seagull that is not happy being an ordinary seagull. Apart from the film having a cracking Neil Diamond sound track (haha, how can you not love him!), it really questions our acceptance of the status quo. Like these bags do. It’s really hard trying new stuff, but we’re stoked these guys are all doing just that.

  • huy

    While not combo pack like the ones in this post, I know of a backpack that certainly takes a different approach. The Jensen Rivendall pack from the 70 (made from ’71 – ’81) is a frameless mountaineering pack in a market dominated by external and internal frames at the time — but what really set it apart was that instead of having a single storage compartment there were two vertical columns that came together at the top and bottom leaving an indentation right in the middle of the pack. This redistributed the weight efficiently, if packed well.

    These packs are still being made on a custom basis near where I live. I think they would be excellent ultralight backpacking packs. See for yourself. http://rivendellmountainworks.com

    • http://www.bellroy.com ando

      Wow, that is rad. Great link Huy.

      Totally defying convention. We might have to try and track one down to check it out…

      Also reminds me of Aarn, one of the world’s great Carryologists. He has been totally defying convention for years, working out how to better balance loads for trekking. Check out the little NZ hotbed of innovation at http://www.aarnpacks.com/

    • Ando

      Huy,
      there was something vaguely familiar about that Jensen Rivendall pack, and I’ve just realised what… Check out this modern version: http://www.highsnobiety.com/news/2010/08/03/bbcice-cream-mountaineering-softpack-and-climbing-camo-laptop-case/
      If it’s not a collaboration, it’s a worry, because it’s pretty clearly the JR pack with some modern embellishments. It looks amazing treated in black with tan leather.

      • huy

        Ando,
        Personally, it feels weird to see a climbing pack taken out of context like that — it makes me cringe, but at the same time I can sort of understand the extent of the utility, the universality of it. In the same way that the Jansport pack became a campus staple from its outdoors orientated origins, this ‘borrowing’ shows how much of “Carrylogy” is inherently connected and informed by each other, definitely in the technology but also the aesthetics. Then again, I’m the type to begrudge this and harp on tradition, originality, authenticity — but to what means if it only toots my own horn, you know? I’ll be damned if we lose faith in history, though.

        • Ando

          Haha, this area of ‘borrowing’ concepts is usually best discussed over a beer, as it can lead to some glorious debate 🙂

          Urban brands have always ‘borrowed’ from specialist activities. The modern SUV, the skate shoe, even things as simple as a carabiner on a backpack or a puffer jacket. Heck, even that great Porter Totesack above has received a big dose of inspiration from big wall climbing haul bags.

          I think the issue is usually when rather than taking inspiration, they take it literally. That’s when you end up with a Zoolander feel to it all.

          While some streetwear brands have achieved huge sales by virtually stealing a design (think Bape for sneakers), it generally makes me cringe as well. If BBC have infact taken that Rivendell pack without involving the original brand in the project, then I’m completely with you in begrudging. The design looks identical other than a colourway change.

          However if they had involved the original brand, then it’s kinda interesting to see the frameless pack brought to a new urban application. After all, it’s is a really interesting pack.

          Hmmm, I think I’m basically saying that I agree with you Huy. It’s a weird one.

  • Steve

    The 2unfolds JUST came back into stock on Monday after being out for awhile. I snagged myself one. They, hard Graft, also have an “outlet” link in their online shop where you can buy one offs and production tests for much cheaper than the official production bag.

  • Hamish

    I just bought a cornucopia bag! I’ll let you know how great it is when it arrives.

    • Ando

      Yeah, rad. It’s a really querky bag, with loads more personality than most. We’d love to hear how you find it…

  • http://www.soawkward.com Eric Benjamin

    Check out this video review of the 2Unfold: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxwo1dZPw4 – by far my favorite backpack / messenger bag!!

    • Ando

      Eric,
      that’s an awesome video review. Well done.
      It sure is hard finding great reviews of this bag, and you’ve really done it well.
      Big thanks from pretty much the whole online community.

  • Ando

    You need to scroll down a little on this link, but there’s a really interesting Stone Island bag that follows the ‘fill the flap’ messenger idea, however adds a twist: http://www.flylyf.com/stone-island-shadow-project-010011-collection/

  • http://www.jtcopper.com/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%A1-%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%9E%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%A0%D7%94-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%AA/ Lauren Papale

    That is certainly some inspirational stuff. Never suspected that viewpoints might be this diverse.

    • Ando

      Haha, yeah, there’s a whole world of us bag and carry geeks that have just never had the forum to talk it through!

  • Ando

    Property Of have just done a messenger that forms into panniers, and it looks REALLY nice: http://www.coolhunting.com/travel/property-of-pan.php

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