- Buyer's Guide
North St. Bags Flanders Backpack and Davis Daypack :: Drive By
North St. Bags, handmade out of Portland Oregon, added two new rolltops to their line this spring: the Davis 20L and the Flanders 32L. Both bags utilize a VX-21 X-Pack drop liner for increased weather resistance and everyone’s favorite burly 1000D Cordura brand nylon on the outside for longevity and general PNW grit.
While the Flanders has a handful more features than the Davis, it’s easiest to think of them as big brother little brother. Same silhouette, same build, materials, access, etc.
I’ve been all over the last three months and have used the Flanders as my daily carry for chores, hotel stays, and as my personal bag on a road trip across the country to my new home in RVA. These bags are built to last and are up for whatever, so let’s get into it.
Who It Suits
City slickers and urban commuters, the styling and materials are right at home in your concrete jungle.
Who It Doesn’t
Boardroom champions, these are dialed for urban play and lack the shirt and collar cred necessary for your office meetings. Outdoorsy folks, the VX-21 and 1000D Cordura are certainly up for the task, but I found they lacked the features and comfort for all-day outdoor use. Add on the optional hip belts if you plan on logging dirt time with the packs.
Build and Materials:
North St. used some choice materials for these packs. VX-21 is frequently used as an outer fabric, so when North St. decided to use it as a liner under 1000D Cordura–well the term overkill comes to mind. The result is a bag that holds its silhouette even with a half load. I turned a few heads the first time I took the Flanders out to play, and a couple of self-proclaimed bag geeks stopped me for some info on North St.—jazzy.
I did not find any issues with the fit and finish, and I literally turned the bag inside out looking for one.
As is, the Flanders has two front face envelope pockets measuring *6”x9” and 7”x8” with 10mm PU-coated coil zips from Lenzip. I found those to be enough for my daily odds and ends. If I needed additional organization, I just dropped a DAKA in the main compartment. If you think you’ll need more than two pockets, North St. offers a handful of organization pouches that you can hang from the internal hook and loop panels. Cable management? EDC items? North St. has a pouch for that. The built-in laptop sleeve on the Flanders also has a discreet little document envelope sewn in to keep your corners crisp.
*All measurements are close approximations to give readers an idea of space and loading potential.
“VX-21 is frequently used as an outer fabric, so when North St. decided to use it as a liner under 1000D Cordura–well the term overkill comes to mind.”
Attention to Detail:
The slider on the main strap is smooth! Little details like this keep the pack looking sharp and prevent any excess webbing from slowing you down. Additional sliders on the compression straps achieve the same thing and keep your pack streamlined and dangle-free.
North St. went as far as to add D-rings on the end of the shoulder straps to make tension adjustments easier. Even the carry handle is sewn off in a way that doesn’t expose raw edges and feels plush and comfortable.
Access & Compression:
Rolltops in larger volume bags can be a bummer if there’s no additional main compartment access. In a 32L day bag, it’s a non-issue. What’s more, with the VX cloth liner, the Flanders is nearly waterproof. I’m throwing the compression system in here because with the addition of the single rolltop strap, you’ve got five additional attachment points for tripods, blankets, jackets, whatever. I appreciate that external real estate because it provides a little more lateral creativity in what you can carry and how you can carry it.
The Not So Good
The weakest part of the Flanders is its suspension. It’s not bad by any means, but in the spirit of a good review, I’m going to make two suggestions for improvement.
While carrying a laptop, I noticed a good increase in pressure on my lower back. I think doubling up on the padding on the lumbar panel would make a big improvement. Since we can’t adjust the torso length on the pack, the only adjustment we can make is to the shoulder straps themselves. At 6’1’’, when I dial in the fit on the shoulder straps my laptop corners put pressure squarely on my kidneys. Not a deal breaker, but I either have to ride the pack a little lower than I want, or just deal with the pressure. I experienced similar discomfort hauling groceries. I think adding a light framesheet or increasing lower lumbar padding would be an amazing upgrade to an already solid pack.
The other weak spot is the shoulder straps, which again could benefit from just one more layer of padding. The width and shape work just fine, but when stuffing the 32L main compartment full of weekend grilling essentials, the bag tends to lean back a bit. This is more a fit issue, but assuming North St. isn’t going to offer more than one torso length, a little extra cushioning in high-pressure areas would be a welcome modification in future models.
“The weakest part of the Flanders is its suspension.”
The Davis is a perfect example of less is more. North St. is using some really topnotch fabrics and letting a simple design speak for itself. One 7”x8” envelope pocket on the front face for your phone/keys/wallet and you’re out the door.
“The Davis is a perfect example of less is more. North St. is using some really topnotch fabrics and letting a simple design speak for itself.”
Usable volume on the pack is great. It’s a 20L sack with endless possibilities for you to fill it. There’s no compression to clutter the aesthetics, and at only 4.5″ deep, I really don’t think the bag needs it.
The Not So Good
The Davis is a scaled-down version of the Flanders in every way. That unfortunately translated to a very minimal pair of shoulder straps. Since it’s a small pack, you won’t be hauling huge loads across town, but in my opinion they’re the biggest opportunity for improvement.
“The Davis is a scaled-down version of the Flanders in every way. That unfortunately translated to a very minimal pair of shoulder straps.”
I’d also like to see a light framesheet or a laptop sleeve to provide just a little more rigidity to the back panel. For the customer looking for those features, North St. offers the Flanders of course, which includes all those things the Davis drops.
I could make a case against the drop liners, but they didn’t prove awkward enough for me to get up in arms about them. In future iterations, I’d like to see the VX panels sewn in to clean up the interior a bit. If you wanted to wipe the main compartment, you could just as easily pull the drop liner out as turn the bag inside out. That’s just my personal preference.
Alternatives to Consider
I like the Flanders. It found its way into rotation for me pretty quickly. It checks all my boxes for organization, volume and access, and comfort and style. I really dig VX fabric; the rolltop and compression straps give me enough flexibility to head out with a half load and grab some groceries on the way back. It’s a solid all-rounder.
The Davis is a great kicker pack. I’m 6’1’’ 180 lbs and it’s a bit small for me. As a daypack for urban exploration, it might fit the bill on shorter outings, but I’d rather compress 32 liters to 20 liters than be limited by the Davis’s volume. The shoulder straps are much less substantial and there’s no laptop sleeve sewn in, so it carries much less forgivingly as well. I still wouldn’t hesitate to grab it for beach trips and weekend excursions to local parks.
For me, the Flanders is a no-brainer between the two—the increased price is easily justified for the additional features and versatility.
|Space & Access:||6||7|
|Look & Feel:||8||8|
|Build, Materials, & Hardware:||8||8|
|Warranty & Support:||8||8|
Carryology Score: 7 7.5