- Buyer's Guide
Racing Atelier Rucksack #1 | The World’s Most Luxurious Bespoke Backpack
Deep in the Bavarian Alps you’ll find a small workshop that may be unassuming from the outside, but inside, magical things are happening. A coming together of heritage silhouettes and cutting edge materials. And founder, Leander Angerer, is creating a carry brand lauded by our community’s biggest design and carry fanatics. Racing Atelier is one for the purists, and the designs are both unique and instantly recognisable.
Before we dive into the Rucksack #1, it’s important to understand what makes this mountain workshop different. First and foremost, Racing Atelier is a design house, not a bag manufacturer. That might seem like a small difference on paper, but in reality it is the fuel that makes these wonderful packs special. Leander has serious design pedigree, which we discovered when we spoke to him back in 2018, and it is clear that this varied experience brings unique energy to his brand.
After years of admiration, we were ecstatic to get the chance to play with their flagship piece the Rucksack #1. Let’s dive into this unicorn-of-a-pack from Racing Atelier.
It’s hard not to be immediately drawn in by the look of the Rucksack #1, after using it for the last six months, I have been stopped by people from every walk of life either exclaiming how they “love your bag” or asking “what is it!?” That type of reaction must be common for every Rucksack #1 owner, because it is a beautiful bag, more like a work of art. We had it hung on the wall at our recent Trakke meet up in Glasgow, and carryologists were ogling it and whispering to each other about “the yellow bag!”.
It’s clear to see why, aside from the striking yellow colour, the silhouette is so subtle that it fits any person who’d slide it on. My wife is a lot more slender than I, but it was perfect for her as we hiked around Oregon. For my shorter friends, they’ve carried it for a day or afternoon and had no issues with either look or comfort. It reminds you of an old school, heritage hiking pack, but step closer and you’ll realise that this is a bag that is a coalescence of the past and future. There are no sharp lines on the Rucksack #1, undulating curves make this a joy to look at, and to carry. Konbu® and leather work in tandem to give you the benefit of modern fabric advances, but with a taste of yesteryear, it’s a potent combination. With a 27 litre capacity, it hits the sweet spot of “not too big” and “not too small”, meaning it’ll cater to a lot of people.
Old world style meets new age materials
You simply can’t write about RA and their products without discussing materials, hardware, and all that comes with it. The level of detail in this Rucksack is quite astounding when you sit with it for twenty minutes and pore over every detail. Konbu®, leather, custom aluminium hardware, Edelrid wax dipped zipper pulls, Edelrid b-ware repurposed cinch closure, RiRi AquaZip, the list goes on and on. Each of these materials are leaders of the pack in their own fields, and when unified, it is something to behold.
You don’t need to do much research to realise how exceptional these materials are. Edelrid is commonly used in parachute lines, the custom aluminium hardware is aircraft grade (designed by RA and made in Germany) while the Konbu® and Leather are favourites at opposite ends of the same scale.
Konbu® is pure witchcraft. Made by Cordura®, it is 500D nylon fibre that is 30-60% lighter than its traditional counterpart, it is of course durable like most Cordura fabrics, and it is incredibly weather resistant thanks to its DWR coating. Visually it is reminiscent of waxed cotton, but without the weight and the maintenance. Each bag made from Konbu® looks different, just like each waxed cotton bag takes on its own character. The organic aesthetic of Konbu® is reminiscent of Japanese Kelp, where it takes inspiration from.
Not only does it look good, it performs. I’ve carried the Rucksack #1, in all of its bright yellow glory, up and down mountains, across fields and beaches, not once have I been concerned with its weather resistance, while hiking in Oregon, it even took a pasting in a waterfall crossing and all my goodies were dry inside. It is almost impossible to stain, with a quick wipe down after each adventure, it sits pristine and eagerly waiting to get outside again!
I also found that Konbu® pairs beautifully with the custom made leather harness. It may seem romantic, but the marriage of old and new is truly exquisite on the Rucksack #1. This leather harness has to be seen in person to be believed, it is impeccable craftsmanship, and is arguably the most unique part of this bag. Vegetable tanned, this cowhide is painstakingly pieced together, hand rolled, and contorted into the beautiful silhouette that you see. It starts as a pale natural shade, but after just a few short wears it’ll begin to tell its own story, wear its own battle scars, and become uniquely yours.
This isn’t just happenstance either, Leander intentionally made this choice from a performance standpoint first, not an aesthetic one.
He describes how: “I use raw, untreated, vegetable tanned cow leather for the back panel and shoulder straps of the pack because of its functional characteristics: same as our skin the leather used to be skin as well, therefore can adopt better to the climate of our body – this becomes most obvious when we sweat > then it is a lot cooler to the body than a mesh or other material. Then the leather adapts to the shape of our body – the more we wear it, the more we sweat in it, the more often it gets wet the better it will fit our body. And leather is one of the few materials that can be ‘folded’ around the shoulder straps in inside and outside radius without having to fold it, wrinkle…. which I consider a valuable fact to the comfort of the shoulder straps”.
Not only that, since the spring of 2022, all of the leather is sourced from local towns, giving it an even more unique story than any other pack you’ve owned. It’s a circular process that can be admired, culminating in Bavarian leather coming from a known cow, farmer, slaughterhouse, and tannery. Every detail on the leather work is sublime, from the aforementioned stitching, to the hand stamped logo and product number. While I understand leather isn’t for everyone, if you are going to own it, there aren’t many better ways than this.
How does it perform?
Unique materials and innovative manufacture aside, a bag of this cost must do the job, and do it very, very well. The good news is that it does.
Within a few wears, you can already begin to feel the leather harness molding to your body, that is a real pleasure. While all bags break in with use, there is a connection with this leather harness that feels different, and it only gets better. I’ve had no problems with carrying heavy loads in the Rucksack #1, I’ve managed thirty to forty pounds easily. Either hiking gear including layers, food, and water. Or more tech focused carry including cameras, tripods, and the like. There was no notable discomfort and I was astonished at how breathable the back panel proved to be. Although I do think the optional waist strap would have come in useful on longer trips at those higher weights. The adjustable chest strap is a pleasure to use thanks to the simple hook engagement, and is easily used with one hand on the move.
Functionality wise, this version of Rucksack #1 is a simple bag. With one main cavity, a lid pocket, and a side compression strap. The main cavity is probably around 24-25L, while the lid pocket is 2-3L. This lid pocket is protected by the RiRI AquaZip and I found it to be a natural home for wallet, phone, and snacks or accessories. There is also a key loop in there to keep the essentials close by. The main cavity is whatever you want it to be, and I found myself pairing it with slings and pouches pretty regularly. There is no lining in the Rucksack #1, and I don’t think it’s needed. You can see everything, from the fiber of the leather, to every stitch and join.
This isn’t what you would call quick access by the current standard – there isn’t a secondary access from the side or magnetic closures, but when you look past that, you’ll find my favorite part of the bag. The cinch system.
The delightfulness of this closure system is hard to describe. It’s slow, it takes some getting used to, but once you have it down, it is an absolute joy to use. The custom made hardware shines here from both the rope tension closure, through to the seemingly sailing inspired aluminium and pension tension adjusters. The rope cinch is intertwined with the repurposed Elderid b-ware cord that we mentioned earlier, and the blue adds a wonderful flash of colour as you activate the cinch system. These too take on their own patina and scuffs throughout use, and this bag becomes more and more unique each time you use it. While it is slower to access than I’m accustomed to, it feels very intentional when you do interact, there’s something charming about that.
Orders and Customisation
There is no hiding that this bag isn’t cheap. At 2300 euros, it’s a barrier to most. However, I would say that the Rucksack #1 isn’t just carry, it’s art. It isn’t just any art either, it is personalised, specialised, individual masterpieces. Made to your taste. When you begin your process of ordering with Leander, there are multiple options. While originally designed as a hiking pack, it is not limited to that, and Leander will work with you to create what you desire. Some of the options include: compression straps, axe or pole attachments, laptop sleeve inside, side pockets, waist straps, and different colour webbings. He also offers different materials including Konbu®, Dyneema® and there’s even some special fabrics coming later this year.
Quite the range of choice, however, this isn’t a pick and choose make your own Frankenstein backpack deal, this is a collaborative design process where Leander will take your desires on board and discuss how they can be integrated into the delightful form factor of the Rucksack #1. I love that about Racing Atelier, they create and we’re just along for the ride, riding the coattails.
“Even though not every pack is used heavily outdoor or the like, I want it to be as functional and comfortable as it should be. At first I never say no, because I like to accommodate customers’ wishes. It is my main interest to create a product that is meaningful to the customer – the more it suits his/her needs the more meaningful it becomes”.
Note, it takes approximately four weeks for Leander to create your bag from the beginning of the process.
Why you might like it
I’m going to hedge my bets and say that if you buy a Racing Atelier bag, you’ll never own anything better. It is a work of art, created for you, and no-one will ever have the same bag as you. It is the definition of bespoke, and one that will stay with you and your family for decades. It is pure craftsmanship of the highest level. Recently I watched two owners of other very well respected brands drool over the quality of construction and design of the Rucksack #1. I had to keep my eyes on it at all times!
It’s hard to sum up how I feel about the Rucksack #1. I see its obvious strengths, and some of its less obvious flaws. However, I keep coming back to two things. Firstly, I have never been as excited to wear a bag as I am every time I put this on, I get giddy because I know how unique it is, how comfortable it is, and how different it is. I find great joy in knowing that my “040” Rucksack #1 isn’t anywhere else in the world, just on my back.
Secondly, I have never seen others fawn over a bag the way they do with the Rucksack #1. When I think of our community, and what we aspire to, that is quite something. A celebration of all that people can do, and sharing it with the world. Sometimes, when I wear the Rucksack #1 around town, I feel like I’m wearing a masterpiece on my back, and rather than it being locked away in a private gallery–it’s out there for all to see. I think as Carryologists it can be easy to fall into the trap of criticising bag X for what it doesn’t do compared to bag Y, and we can overlook the intention of the designer. Here, Leander wants to make a bag for you to use, love, and trust. He isn’t trying to make bags that compete with the mass market. That is a wholesome intention that is manifested in his products.
If you’re a purist, and want a very special experience from conception through to delivery – and to wear a backpack that is truly at the pinnacle of backpack design and product art – the Racing Atelier Rucksack #1 is something well worth investing in.