- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Modern Industry Drive Rolltop Backpack
Modern Industry has been a hot red dot on our radar for a while now. They’ve quickly gone from a small San Francisco-based upstart rookie carry brand and transformed themselves into a carry powerhouse who is making a major splash in the game by delivering innovative quality products. In fact, they’ve made such an impact on us, that they were double finalists in our the 2014 Carry Awards, winning “Highly Commended” for Best Work Backpack and Best Work Messenger (Faraday Tote Pack).
“Live uncompromised, with rebelliously good gear”. Their team, made up of a small tight knit group of friends, must drink a lot of that delicious SF coffee, as they handle nearly every single aspect of their business in-house, including; web design, shipping, manufacturing and more. Impressive stuff. To learn a bit more about the brand specifically, check out their “About Us” page. These guys are fun, and carry geeking aside, we want to hang out with and be friends with them, if they’ll let us.
Let’s dive into the award-winning Drive Rolltop Backpack, which is why you’re here. On paper, this thing is hard to be beat. Utilizing the leathery and durable water-resistant Martexin 10.10oz waxed cotton canvas (who has been making the stuff in the USA since 1930), this can take some hard-wearing urban abuse. I opted to review the Crucial Black colorway, which does attract a good bit of my heavily-shedding dog’s white hair like an electro magnet. However, it is also available in Ash Grey and Navy Blue, both which look just as handsome and would solve this issue.
The Horween Leather Company’s vegetable tanned leather (Chicago, USA since 1905) trim adds several points of classiness to the Drive, which we think makes it completely suitable (pun?) for an office work environment. Additional highly notable features include water-resistant YKK zippers to keep the water out of the two zippered accessory pockets and their completely custom California laser cut (!!!) aluminum hardware, which is anodized to a deep matte black. It’s hard to argue against these specs, as they’re each in the top tier of their respective categories.
But how well does it all come together? We’ve seen more than a few products (that we didn’t review and politely returned), that have a great bill of materials, but don’t carry well. Well, since you’re reading this review, it means we didn’t return this backpack. Quite the contrary.
The Drive makes for an excellent urban adventurer and work backpack, with one cavernous main compartment accessible via the roll top. I love details, and the fact that you get to see their simple woven label inside every time (no branding on the exterior, a major plus), is really elegant. Notice that each label is hand-signed by one of the Modern Industry team. You don’t see this very often.
This main compartment, like most roll top backpacks, is devoid of organization, which is expected. We’re cool with that. You can opt for Inception Packing, and then adjust the overall volume of the pack via the graded seatbelt webbing loops and the custom aluminum “G buckle”, additionally cinching it down via the excess webbing at the bottom.
And of course, there is a Horween Leather tab at the bottom of this webbing, to increase the user experience upon each grab.
It’s our belief that nearly every form of bag should have a quick access pocket for small items and accessories. You shouldn’t need to fumble with buckles and webbing and latches and passcodes and security clearances if you just want to grab some mints or a pen. The Drive delivers here with an aptly-sized expandable front zipper pocket to store your goodies. I love that the zipper is slightly angled to make getting in and out easier.
You’d be surprised how much this little detail helps. And no, this isn’t a GORUCK specific feature as some have brought up. Military packs have been using angled zippers for decades. This pocket is lined with the same bright cream white cotton canvas as the main compartment, which makes it easy to spot miniature items hidden away in the pocket due to the nice visual contrast provided.
One feature that is super convenient, is the rear zipper laptop pocket. Makes accessing your laptop quick and easy, no fumbling with webbing or buckles. Again, with the YKK water-resistant zipper, but also comes with a Martexin waxed cotton canvas rain flap to further protect the valuable contents. Though their site lists the pocket as floating off and away from your back, it is in the rear of the bag, so it is indeed, up against your back. However, there is an ample amount of padding in between the laptop and your back, which provides considerable comfort. The laptop drop pocket sleeve is also suspended up and off of the ground, so the bottom edge of your laptop won’t hit the ground when you set the backpack down on a hard surface.
Admittedly, the shoulder straps could be a tiny bit thicker, but they have yet to feel uncomfortable during use. So maybe it is just a perception thing? The hardware to adjust the straps is also fully custom, made out of the same aluminum as the clasp on the front. Plus, they’ve got the Horween leather tab at the end of the seatbelt webbing straps here too (note the intentionally stitched “M” in the leather tab). Feels fantastic when you’re making minor adjustments. Really dig how they add a tiny loop of elastic to keep the excess webbing in tidy and in place, instead of blowing around and looking messy.
Overall, this pack is deceivingly simple in appearance, but the details and functionality are executed perfectly, which is what makes it shine. This could make for a great work pack, an urban commuter pack, and even a light-use hiking bag. Highly recommended and “Highly Commended” by our crew here. Thus we highly recommend you keep an eye on this crew, they’re going places.