- Buyer's Guide
Ethnotek Premji Pack Review :: Drive By
Grabbing the Premji I throw it over my shoulder and run out the door, skipping over the last few steps on my way out. Strolling through downtown the fabric adorning the Premji is constantly catching curious sets of eyes. On the heels of a successful Kickstarter (421% of their $30,000 goal) the Premji is Ethnotek’s latest bag. Ethnotek, a company that has been trailblazing the social aspects of bag construction, has continued this philosophy with the Premji. The fabric on the Premji that is catching eyes around town is sourced from five countries around the world. It’s a process that employs nearly 20 families, and is a testament to the craft and culture of these communities that Ethnotek celebrates through their bags. No doubt it’s a beautiful bag but is there substance in this style?
Who It Suits
Anyone who needs a thoughtfully designed and unique daypack boasting some serious style. By purchasing the Premji you’re also allowing Ethnotek to continue employing local artisans around the world. That’s pretty cool.
Who It Doesn’t
Someone looking for a technical, hard-wearing pack that can serve as a bottomless black hole for all their carry.
In a world of bland and muted daypacks, the Premji is a refreshing dose of non-conventional bag textiles by making use of traditional textiles. Seriously, the handwoven fabric that the Premji touts is gorgeous. The Ethnotek team has put a lot of time into sourcing the textiles from no less than five different countries – Ghana, Indonesia, Guatemala, India and Vietnam. For the bag reviewed here you’re seeing the Indian pattern which is even more stunning in person. And even if these bold patterns along the front and top of the bag aren’t for you, there is still a black on black option. In the world of carry the colorways in these handwoven textiles are a cut above the rest.
Not that the rest of the material that makes up the Premji is any slouch either. All of the exterior fabric is water-resistant 600 denier made from 100% recycled plastic bottles (PET). The compression foam back panel is pleasantly comfortable and a fantastic alternative to conventional air mesh back panels. The three YKK zippers have all-metal hardware, though the buckles on the four side compression straps are still plastic. Finally the stitching that holds the Premji together is very tightly sewn and of high quality. Again the Ethnotek team has spent considerable time with their production team in Vietnam to make sure every stitch of the Premji is on point.
“The Ethnotek team has put a lot of time into sourcing the textiles from no less than five different countries.”
The layout of the Premji is a simple but effective use of its 20L of storage. The front handwoven fabric unzips with a ½ length zipper to reveal a vertical pocketing arrangement. Up top there’s a sleeve for a tablet, below that sleeves for hard drives and pens and then additional space for items to lay flat. On the top of the bag there’s a small zippered pocket with a mesh lining. The usual spot for sunglasses, keys and a wallet. The entire top section of the bag then unzips with a ¾ length zipper to reveal the main compartment. An accommodating 20L of space that’s roughly 16″ (40 cm) deep makes up the majority of the Premji with a minimally padded laptop sleeve for 13″ and 15″ laptops.
On the exterior you have two side pockets. One side is expandable for water bottles and the other fixed, great for stashing a phone on the go. Finally there are four reflective side compression straps that round out the Premji. These are the perfect size straps to hold a tripod, yoga mat, a baguette, you name it. There’s also a strap for the excess straps, so you don’t have a bag with dangling straps. A small detail that’s always much appreciated.
The Not So Good
One of the main draws of the Premji is the handwoven fabric used in its construction. Now handwoven textiles are a beautiful thing but they are also delicate. After two months of using the Premji there are a few points where the fabric is fraying and relaxing. Granted the pack reviewed is a pre-production sample but we’re really hoping the handwoven part of the Premji will hold up as well as the rest of the bag.
Speaking of durability there is no rainfly included (it’s sold separately). While the 600 denier PET fabric will do just fine keeping your carry dry, the same likely can’t be said about the handwoven fabric. At the end of the day it’s a balancing act between the durability of conventional fabric with the elegance of traditional fabric. To be sure the Premji isn’t the most hard-wearing bag on the market but you don’t always need a bag that will survive a war zone when all you want to do is go to the coffee shop.
“After two months of using the Premji there are a few points where the fabric is fraying and relaxing.”
As mentioned above, the Premji is a very effectively designed 20L pack. But physically it wears as a very small bag on your back. At 6’6″ I felt like a small Japanese schoolboy wearing this backpack. It’s a perfect size for certain body types but I’m afraid that I exceeded this limit.
For those looking for an all-around daypack that will stand out from the crowd the Premji is your bag. While it’s not the most hard-wearing or most technical backpack on the market it is one of the most unique and beautiful bags out there. And aside from being a very well designed and put together pack it’s made by a company who is genuinely committed to working with local artisans around the world to produce the gorgeous handwoven textiles that deck out the Premji. Get some style into your carry with the Premji.