- Buyer's Guide
Octovo Backpack Review:: Drive By
As you know from my Octovo wallet (which is still my EDC), I hold Octovo in incredibly high regard. When they asked if I wanted to give the new Octovo Backpack a whirl, I couldn’t say no. While it is an impressive bag that I could easily see becoming part of the rotation, it left me wanting as some details came away as superfluous and just off the mark. Read on to see why.
Who It Suits
The urbanite needing a backpack that can do it all without sticking out like a sore thumb.
Who It Doesn’t
The person who prefers a bag that looks more functional or has a bit more machismo to it.
Let’s get started with what we came to love about the Backpack. Style is a personal preference and as someone with a closet full of bags overloaded with pockets, I have always appreciated this pared-down style but never personally rocked a bag like this before. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I came to appreciate its minimalist approach but how different it looked compared to almost any other bag on the street. The Italian leather accents are comfortable and give it a bit of polish that nylon never could. What is most striking to me about the pack is how simply elegant it is. It’s ultimately a big sack with straps and a central pocket up front which doesn’t detract from both its shape and lines. To me this is one of the bag’s biggest strengths, as it stands out in just the right way, for all the right reasons.
“What is most striking to me about the pack is how simply elegant it is.“
To me, any bag that I use for work has to pass a gauntlet of challenges as my needs vary from day to day. For the days I go to the gym, I need to be able to bring a full extra set of clothes, toiletries and lunch with ease. All the while without adding excess strain on my shoulders for the heavier load. On other days, I might need to bring my laptop home so some internal organization is ideal. Here again is where the bag truly shines. Never once did I have to compromise. The depth of the bag is impressive as the game of Tetris ensues to ensure everything fits (with ease I might add). As an EDC workhorse, this bag continued to take whatever I threw its way without even batting an eye.
For such a simple aesthetic, I was surprised there were as many pockets as there was on the bag. You have an external pocket splitting the middle, an internal pocket for your laptop and a hidden pocket for quick/easy access to your keys (similar to Triple Aught Design’s FAST Pack EDC). This hidden pocket, zippered onto the seam, blends in so well that even after I was shown it was there, I forgot about it for a few days until I reached back by accident and realized it was there. Since then, I used it all the time to grab my keys or cellphone without ever having to take off the pack. Winning!
“The depth of the bag is impressive as the game of Tetris ensues to ensure everything fits (with ease I might add). As an EDC workhorse, this bag continued to take whatever I threw its way without even batting an eye.“
“For such a simple aesthetic, I was surprised there were as many pockets as there was on the bag.”
I’ll take a brief aside to talk construction. To me the mark of a good bag is one where I don’t see loose threads, excess fabric and can see in the details it’s been made well. The Backpack fulfills all of this and more. Having been caught in multiple rainstorms and dealing with the daily grind for over a month, I can safely say that the construction and quality of the materials shine through.
The Not So Good
Despite all that, this bag did leave me wanting. There were some details that I was surprised Octovo missed. Being a V1 bag, I have no doubt that the Backpack will evolve and continue to get better. One of my biggest complaints was the closure. It wants to be a rolltop but isn’t designed as one, so instead it’s a flaptop – where you merely pull it over and latch the buckle. While this works, when the bag is bulky, it never felt like the items on the sides were ever truly secure. They didn’t fly out when I hit a bump on my bike but insecurity with a bag is never a good thing. I also wished I had an extra 0.5″ on the strap instead of maxing it out regularly. Nor do I think that adding a true rolltop would detract from its beautiful style.
“It wants to be a rolltop but isn’t designed as one, so instead it’s a flaptop – where you merely pull it over and latch the buckle. While this works, when the bag is bulky, it never felt like the items on the sides were ever truly secure.“
When the bag is maxed out, the unpadded, leather shoulder straps surprisingly don’t start digging into your shoulders the way you might expect. That said, I realized just how much I love the sternum strap as the Backpack lacks one. When fully weighed down, it would have been a blessing to provide that extra relief from my shoulders. Maybe this is an accessory they can make in the future so as not to ruin the aesthetic when not in use.
The next few items are a bit ticky-tacky and I admit that in advance. But for a company that has really nailed the details in the past, I was surprised these were missed. First, as someone who commutes by bike to work multiple days a week, the top handle was way too high and continually rubbed against my neck while riding. It was the first bag I’ve used that I’ve experienced that with. Not a dealbreaker by any means but it was definitely an annoying, regular experience.
“I realized just how much I love the sternum strap as the Backpack lacks one. When fully weighed down, it would have been a blessing to provide that extra relief from my shoulders.“
Secondly, there are two hold points for each external pocket which I never used. While I am okay with the middle strap being there from an aesthetic and some semblance of a functional perspective, the hold point in the middle of your back to provide assistance for the hidden pocket made me crazy. Especially with new leather, it was always there. I’d regularly find myself lifting the bag from my back, pulling it down just so it would go down my back instead of in my back. Again, this sounds a bit more extreme than it is but it’s the first mod I plan to do on the bag now that the review is done. I also never used it while accessing the hidden pocket which only made it that much more annoying.
“First, as someone who commutes by bike to work multiple days a week, the top handle was way too high and continually rubbed against my neck while riding.“
Others to Consider
The market is big for a minimalist bag with a potential retro crossover. The obvious choices at a lower price are Everlane with their Modern Snap Backpack ($68) and Herschel’s Retreat (from $63.99). That said, there is a significant difference in details and quality of materials between these and Octovo’s bag. A bag on par with the latter is another SF brand, Rickshaw with their Sutro Backpack ($129). It’s simple, elegant and a bit more on the technical side. Bonus points for being made in SF too.
“Having been caught in multiple rainstorms and dealing with the daily grind for over a month, I can safely say that the construction and quality of the materials shine through.“
Although my criticisms of the bag might have come off as harsh, I genuinely do like this bag. The positives still outweigh the negatives. If you’re on the hunt for an EDC that breaks the mold in style and isn’t simply an Everlane or Herschel bag, you cannot go wrong with Octovo’s Backpack. Sure it might cost more but I would also argue you get more in terms of details and quality. Go ahead, stand out from the crowd.