- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: T-Level Dos backpack
When T-Level dropped their Dos backpack we were keen to take it on a drive by to discover how it handled. Read on to find out whether the T-Level Dos earned street cred or is fashion-focused with minimal functionality…
This is modern streetwear with nods to heritage. It has nice proportions that work well and there’s some interesting shaping. But the thing that surprised us when we got it is it’s all a little bit flimsier and less structured than we were expecting (but maybe better in a different fabric option). From very little structure in the back panel, which just folds over, to the use of a white interior that’s quite translucent, it ends up just feeling a bit lightweight. The bag isn’t lined, there’s a PU-coated nylon fabric on this one. So what you end up with is a bag that looks great but perhaps is just missing that next level of refinement and hardware construction planning to give it a touch more presence. So, if you fill it well, it looks great. If you don’t fill it, or if you fill it unevenly, it just ends up sagging and moving around a bit.
The position of the laptop section means it is placed up against the back. A laptop gives you a lot of structure, but because it’s buried under so much flap, it’s a bit awkward to get to. If you’re running a smaller laptop, that’s fine. A 15-inch kind of struggles to get into the laptop section; it’s a bit awkward for daily use. It works and it’s fine, but it’s just not perfect.
As I said earlier, the bag is a touch smaller than we were expecting from images of it. However, the size means it works well for smaller crew. If you’re under 6 feet – if you’re 5’5”, 5’6” it doesn’t dwarf you. My wife happily throws this on and feels like it’s a good-looking bag.
With regards to pocketing, there’s a bit too much low down and in crush zones. Too many of these pockets end up sagging out. When you put things into them, they catch them and then you end up with awkward stuff at the bottom. There’s not enough structure to keep the pockets up, so they do sag over a bit. You end up with a pretty classic school bag format of a front joey pocket.
There are a few organizing bits in the main section and then there’s a whole bunch of really interesting external pockets. These include a side Velcro pocket whose gusset doesn’t really work because it’s a constrained entry. So there are not many items that need to go down and fill out when you then constrain the entry, but it creates a really interesting look. There’s another small pocket you can put your keys on that kind of comes out on the waist belt wing. In addition, there’s another section that’s sort of tucked in for a wallet or passport or the like that’s out on the side for access, plus another pocket on that side wing.
The pockets are the sort of thing that if you want to get your bag set up once and you remember where everything is, then that’s great. You can imagine an urban young adult or university student really knowing what to wear and loving this. For me, my items didn’t fit these pockets perfectly so I ended up using the inside ones a bit more and getting a bit confused with some of the others.
In terms of softness, it’s quite soft air mesh, it’s soft straps, it’s really soft webbing. This is a bag that girls will love and not feel intimidated by. It’s a bag that guys who aren’t after something too girly are going to love. It kind of wraps around a bit. But the downside is it’s not as durable. There’s a lot of air mesh to get caught and pricked and damaged. The straps are just not finished with a real kind of maker’s understanding of longevity. So it’s not going to age really well.
In terms of the load lifters, since there’s no rigidity here these are more for look rather than any form or function, and there’s not enough gap to actually really help you shape your strap with them. But there is nice leather. The lash tabs are less likely to tear, whereas most of these things are normally from fake leathers that tear the second you use them. The bag uses a YKK zip, but in our opinion it’s a little undersized for a main zip, and because it’s under a storm flap it’s sometimes a little awkward to hit when it’s a smaller zip like that. So this is a bag you’ll buy off its looks rather than impeccable build quality. But having said that, they used name brand parts – the clips, the zips are all name brand. They’re just a slightly different spec to what we would have done.
The bag is a bit retro and a bit street, with lots of lash tabs. Interestingly, T-Level actually provide lashes with them. A lot of people will want to take these off to use it, especially when they’re white; they do dirty up a bit. But it’s interesting that it’s one of the few heritage packs that actually provide lashes with the lash tabs.
The fabric is versatile and looks great in an urban environment. If you’re commuting on the train, it looks good. You’ll get comments on it. It feels nice. There’s a lot of intriguing patterning work with a sort of 3D form to it. The stitching is reasonable but it’s not top end, so you do get a few fraying, loose bits. This bag feels like a good urban streetwear brand, but if you’re after super high quality, super resolved build, stuff that’s going to last you for years, there are other brands you should be looking at. Beyond that, you have the basics – the sternum strap, the soft air mesh offering a bit of ventilation but not heaps, and a bunch of interesting pocketing.
Others to consider
So, we’re into this bag. Of course, there are other bags that you could look at. This is a lot cheaper than Lexdray, for instance, which is a similar kind of street vibe, with a nod to heritage but not lost in it. Visvim is another brand in this space that’s more high-end streetwear, but again Visvim is $700, whereas this is a lot less at $125. We’re digging this more than something like a Herschel, which has similar enough price points. But this is not a slave to heritage in that way, so it’s a bit more modern streetwear.
There are a few different fabric options which we think will change the nature of the bag a lot. The one we’ve chosen is quite soft draping fabric. It’s just that this fabric needs a bit more structure to do this bag format justice. But, having said that, it’s a cute bag. It suits university students; it suits young adults looking for something with a bit of street sense to it. Just don’t expect it to be passed down to your grandkids.