- Buyer's Guide
DEFY Bucktown Backpack (2016 Edition in Black Wax Canvas) :: Drive By
I originally came across DEFY on Instagram and immediately noticed that we share a similar passion for motorcycles, craftsmanship, and the occasional outdoor adventure. So when the opportunity was presented to test out one of their packs I was excited to see what this Made in the USA company had to offer.
Originally, I had planned to bring along the pack during my honeymoon to Southeast Asia to test it on a three-week trip, but after a slight delay and the offering of a brand new Martexin Original Wax Canvas version of the DEFY Bucktown Backpack, that idea was pushed aside for the time being, but it was worth the wait.
See why this pack has been added to my current bag rotation.
Who It Suits
Those looking for simple functionality and ample storage in a sleek, well designed, and durable daily pack.
Who It Doesn’t
Hikers and the price conscious. The pack is a bit heavy especially when full and doesn’t have the specific performance build for long treks. Quality construction and materials come at a price and at $US289 this is a long-term investment.
DEFY Manufacturing Co. was founded on the principle of simple authenticity, taking satisfaction in being designed and manufactured in the US, while finding inspiration from craftsmen who take pride in their work. So it’s no surprise that attention to detail is a major factor in this pack.
First off this is one durable bag that should last a lifetime. The version I tested is built with 18 oz. Martexin Original Wax Canvas, which not only feels soft and smooth to the touch, but provides lasting protection from the elements. The interior is lined with lightweight industrial grade 1000D Cordura for even more strength.
“First off this is one durable bag that should last a lifetime.”
For additional protection the pack utilizes YKK waterproof zippers, which I simultaneously love and was slightly annoyed by, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Ironically, what caught my attention is the overall minimalist style of the pack. No unnecessary frills, with each design detail adding a functional purpose. Even the branding is kept to a single discreet label, which is quite refreshing when compared to the overtly branded, brightly colored, and exaggerated bag designs that flood the market. The pack can easily be used for the office, travel, and even looks good and works well on your motorcycle or bike.
The top handle is built tough and stitched to the bag strongly. I had no hesitation when lifting the pack with a full load and no worry that it may not withstand the weight.
“Ironically, what caught my attention is the overall minimalist style of the pack. No unnecessary frills, with each design detail adding a functional purpose.”
Where this pack really shines is in the storage department. The pack is a bit deceiving as the natural silhouette is slim, but the two large storage compartments and even the front compartment hold their fair share of goods. The company’s site states the pack to be 12″ wide x 19″ tall x 6″ deep.
The front pocket runs vertically and is quite convenient and accessible. The YKK waterproof zipper works well and the pocket can hold everything from a wallet and passport case, to portable chargers, or even an iPad mini 4.
“Where this pack really shines is in the storage department.”
The main storage compartment is deep and expands to fit larger items from a laptop to clothing and even a camera. The zippers allow the bag to open about three quarters of the way for easy access. I appreciate the versatility that this main compartment offers and many packs can’t accommodate for modular packs, which I use from time to time for my Sony A7RII and extra lens. The built-in computer section is fully lined and features DEFY’s closed cell foam technology for padding. This section is made of 1000 Denier Cordura in keeping with the quality throughout the bag, both inside and out. What I really appreciate is the size of this section, which fits up to a 17″ MacBook. I was able to comfortably fit my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina along with my Incase ICON sleeve. I never travel without this sleeve after I had an incident with a dropped bag by a taxi driver (long story). Two additional interior pockets and a zippered pocket add to the storage and organizational strengths of this bag. The pockets can fit items such as hard drives or a portable mouse. The zippered pocket was a nice touch and has allowed me to keep items with a little more value discreetly hidden as well as keep smaller items from falling out. This pocket can also fit an iPad mini 4 and items such as a wallet, spare change, etc.
“The zippers allow the bag to open about three quarters of the way for easy access.”
The secondary compartment zips almost entirely open and adds useful storage and organization. This space is a bit less wide, but still holds its fair share of items. I used this mainly for items I needed quick access to such as a magazine while traveling as well as a notepad, pens, and snacks. A nice feature to keep your pants pockets slim is the steel matte black key clip.
“The secondary compartment zips almost entirely open and adds useful storage and organization.”
The pack also has two exterior side pockets that are deep enough for water bottles and even some portable speakers. Each side pocket has an attached matte black D-ring, which still keeps the design clean, but adds some extra usefulness in case you want to quickly attach extra items such as a portable charger or bottle opener.
Finally, each bag from DEFY MFG Co. has a lifetime warranty that covers defects in material and craftsmanship for the original owner. Their policy does state that it won’t cover “reasonable wear and tear or abuse.”
The Not So Good
Now on to the bag’s weaknesses. As I mentioned above the YKK zippers used on the two main compartments I both came to like and despise. Functionally, they work how they should in opening and closing each compartment to keep the items safe inside. However, they occasionally would stick a little and weren’t as smooth to use as I would have liked, which isn’t that big of a deal with a little more effort, but what really became an annoyance was the noise they made while walking. The size of the zipper pulls are a double-edged sword as it makes it easy to grip them (even with gloves) but they also make a loud clanging noise as they bang against each other with each step. If your goal is to remain inconspicuous then this isn’t the bag for you. After a while you may get used to the noise, as I did, but every so often a friend would bring up the noise factor.
“The size of the zipper pulls are a double-edged sword as it makes it easy to grip them (even with gloves) but they also make a loud clanging noise as they bang against each other with each step.”
The shoulder straps while built strong and padded were found to be stiff and uncomfortable. The straps themselves aren’t really the issue as I do like the size, quality, and materials chosen, especially the metal ladder lock clamps which work pretty well. I also found the strap’s leather band a nice detail to help keep the extra webbing in place. Yet, the leather section that separates the padded top part of the shoulder straps from the bottom adjustable strap is what really put me off. I found that nice-looking leather piece to be the bane of my existence. It is thick and very stiff and often would dig into my chest so much so it left a mark after a day’s use. Adjusting it did work slightly to move the leather from digging into me, but it still does rub into my arm and into my chest with use. I also blame my body type as I’m a little wider at the top of my torso, possibly from too many push-ups.
“…the leather section that separates the padded top part of the shoulder straps from the bottom adjustable strap is what really put me off.”
After months of using this pack I have finally somewhat gotten used to it and can power through the discomfort since I found the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.
Finally, the price is a little on the higher side at $289, but it’s what I would expect to pay for a hand-built pack using premium materials.
Others to Consider
The KILLSPENCER Special Ops V2 was kinda the originator of this look, and if you want black, minimal and luxe, they’re killer in this space.
Overall, the pack was found to be versatile. A good balance of everyday style with the functionality for multi-use activities, from the office commute, to your bike and travel. The build quality is solid and should last many years. I’ve gone off and on with this pack now for the past few months and have added it to my bag rotation.