- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Côte&Ciel Rhine Flat Backpack
Côte&Ciel are a dynamic brand that are continually breaking new ground in bag construction, and the Côte&Ciel Rhine Flat Backpack is no exception. I was excited to try out the bag just from the look of it, and as soon as I started wearing it the compliments flowed. But I also wanted to know whether it was fit for purpose beneath its fashion-friendly credentials…
Who It Suits
The pack fits squarely in a day-use setting, getting to and from work. It’s not an overnighter, nor a weekender. It’s pretty fashionable with a streetwear vibe to it and suits urban environments.
Who It Doesn’t
This is not a bag for anybody who is looking for high performance carry. There are no stabilizer straps, webbing for carabiners or the like. It’s not a heavy utility bag, but rather a streamlined minimalist bag for the most part.
Aesthetically, the bag is really clean. It’s got this nice rectilinear form, but there’s depth to the form because of the pattern. It’s a large piece of material folded in on itself, and in some ways that gives it this structure that can’t be found in any other product. And the aesthetic benefits from that. But outside of that daring pattern construction, it’s very minimal and restrained, which is nice.
“Aesthetically, the bag is really clean.”
Exterior-wise the bag is durable and well suited for day use. Côte&Ciel construction patterns in particular speak for themselves. They definitely lived up to their reputation as far as how this pack is made. This bag definitely has sex appeal. I like that it doesn’t have a drapiness to it but still maintains some of the constructive pattern quirks that you see with Côte&Ciel. It’s really beautiful and inspiring construction.
The main material on the body of the bag is PU-coated canvas. I wouldn’t feel totally confident going out in really heavy weather with the bag but the material feels like it would be decently weather-resistant. It’s got a canvas slick hand feel to it. It feels a little bit tacky because of the sheen, but still has some warmth and depth to it. And it pairs well with the leather that is being used as a feature accent, and the water-resistant zipper tape. It’s a mix of materials that you wouldn’t expect to be mixed but it’s done really well. Aesthetically and stylistically it’s a fun bag to look at.
“Côte&Ciel construction patterns in particular speak for themselves. They definitely lived up to their reputation as far as how this pack is made.”
I really like the hardware. The Côte&Ciel zip pulls are nice, and I like how minimal they are. They’re just straight black metal, and they don’t ask for too much attention. Then there are some leather straps that pull double-duty as hardware, and they’re doing okay. Other than that there are some metal rivets instead of where you might expect some stitching. That felt kind of nice and felt like an aesthetic point for the rest of the bag.
Another feature I really like is the leather strap on the grab handle. I felt that it gave a good solid grip. It felt good in my hand, like I could carry it for an extended period of time and it wouldn’t dig into my fingers or weaken.
“Exterior-wise the bag is durable and well suited for day use.”
The Not So Good
While the exterior is great, the interior construction just falls flat on its face. It’s an interesting choice and feels like a kind of cotton poly blend lining that doesn’t have nearly the durability or the luxe feel to it that the outside materials do. The elastic mesh on the inside just feels like it’s going to break at any time. It’s not horrible, but there are just some disappointing things about the construction interior-wise that were a bit of a let-down after being so impressed with the exterior.
The exterior pocketing is pretty minimal. There are just three pockets. One smaller pocket where I held most of my device accessories, and that works fine.
Then there are two on the sides that are equal in size and symmetrical. They were nice to have but because of their triangular shape they were limited in functionality, like things could get lost in there. So they weren’t ideal, but convenient enough for a day bag. The main pocket has a nice laptop sleeve with plenty of protection. It wasn’t a very cinched-down laptop slot, but it worked.
The main compartment opens up pretty wide, which is good for access. It also has gussets built in, so it doesn’t fall open and gape. However, there are odd pockets that cut into the main storage compartment of the bag and create an awkward divider that really doesn’t make sense and was frustrating. It seems like they could have resolved that and it wouldn’t have been there, and it would have been a much better bag for it.
“…there are just some disappointing things about the construction interior-wise that were a bit of a let-down after being so impressed with the exterior.”
As long as I was carrying my daily essentials, comfort wasn’t an issue. As soon as I loaded anything heavier in it – for example when I was at a leather trade show in Hong Kong and I started gathering leather samples and getting some weight in the pack – it started really digging into my shoulders. I don’t think the straps are particularly well built for comfort or distributing weight very well. It’s a day-use streetwear bag and you shouldn’t expect a lot of performance out of it.
Something else to be aware of is the pack’s size. I was very surprised at how small the profile is on my back. It’s very slim and very small, almost comically small when it’s empty on your back. So I’d recommend making a note of the dimensions when deciding whether it’s the right pack for you. For reference, the height is 33 cm/13″, the width measures 27 cm/10.63″ and the depth is 2.5 cm/1″.
“…there are odd pockets that cut into the main storage compartment of the bag and create an awkward divider that really doesn’t make sense…”
Others to Consider
For a similar look but with more organization, check out offerings from Incase such as the City Compact Backpack, ICON Backpack or ICON Slim Pack, as well as the Timbuk2 Cask Laptop Backpack with its expandable water bottle pocket.
“I don’t think the straps are particularly well built for comfort or distributing weight very well.”
Côte&Ciel is a brand that’s hard not to like, with a creative approach to bag design that is invigorating and exciting. This is a bag you love despite its shortcomings, but there are a few shortcomings and I’m looking forward to Côte&Ciel resolving these in future. However, for day-to-day use it’s great and I would recommend it. You’re going to get compliments and it’s going to look good on you.