- Buyer's Guide
Road Test :: J. Panther Luggage Co. RollTote
J. Panther has a great brand feel, interesting aesthetic, and lovely materials. The RollTote is an urban tote that can swing straps around to become a backpack. The roll-top allows for some weatherproofing, and the materials are great. But for us this innovative format hasn’t really resonated. We’ll explain why soon…
Who it suits
This is an attractive urban tote that you might buy on a bit of a whim just because you like the look of it, you like the materials, or you like the feel. It’s US$645, so you’ll have to be relaxed about that sort of coin. You can imagine folks in New York or London using this as a tote for short outings or a relaxed office vibe, and then occasionally flicking it into backpack mode for a quick bike ride.
Who it doesn’t suit
Those short on cash, or demanding on carry, or after a performance bag.
It’s an attractive heavy-gauge canvas that is only very lightly waxed – so think light showers, not heavy downpours. The leather is lovely and soft, but it is quite analine, so expect it to mark up, darken, and get a real patina to it.
Other things to note, the canvas is picking up quite a few marks from me just in daily use, so it either needs a cleaner owner than me, or would need cleaning or another surface coating to just help protect it from that.
This bag is all about its format, a roll-top tote with backpack-able straps. Here’s our take on why you buy key formats:
Tote: Fast access without much demand for carry comfort
Backpack: Slower access but better carry comfort
Roll-tops: Slow access but great weather protection
So the J. Panther RollTote has innovated by combining several of these. But for us, we just couldn’t love it. A tote is all about great access, but the roll-top stops that fast access. A backpack is all about comfort, but with the short torso height, thin straps and clanging metal clips, this misses on the comfort. And then a roll-top is all about great weather protection, but with only a light coating, and the external pockets, the weather protection is only okay.
You can’t just grab the bag by the backpack straps, as it tips forward and carries awkwardly. So it’s best in tote mode, and then needs semi-careful handling in backpack mode.
Inside there’s a very simple slip on the back but very little organizing in there. It really is just a big shell. Plus, with an all-black interior it’s a little harder to find contents in.
The two long front pockets are deep enough that it’s not easy for organizing and then if you’ve only done up to the top buckle they’re not watertight, so rain would fall straight in. Therefore you need to fold the top over to the lower edge to get it watertight but when you do that you’re left with these sort of rabbit ear vibes unless you really carefully try and nest it and tuck it yourself. But then you’re just doing a lot of the work instead of the bag doing it for you.
It’s well made. There’s no loose stitching and the materials are nice.
Others to consider
This is playing between a tote and backpack, so we’re really talking about handsome bags that are simple and low volume.
The Hard Graft 2Unfold is a natural comparison, which really innovated in this convertible fold-over tote space.
J. Panther have a great brand feel, but we think they have better bags than this. The RollTote looks nice, but there are just a few too many compromises, and in a price range where there are some amazing other options.
We say check out the other J. Panther product, and let us know how you go.