- Buyer's Guide
Bellroy Weekender Plus Review
Our friends at Bellroy made their mark reimagining wallets, then moved to refining their product line, adding in office accessories and everyday bags, all with their signature blend of sharp style and smart feature innovations. Building themselves, piece by piece, as a leader in carry.
So when they put their minds towards rethinking the humble weekender, I got excited. Not only does the Bellroy Weekender Plus feature recycled water-resistant materials and premium environmentally certified leather, all in a universally good-looking silhouette, but there’s some smart new upgrades to a classic form.
Let’s dig in!
Who It Suits
Anyone who travels, big or small. This luxurious adventure companion comes in two sizes, 30L (Weekender) and 45L (Weekender Plus) reviewed here.
Folks who care about ethically sourced / sustainable products, and brands who operate responsibly across the board (Bellroy are a certified B-Corp).
And those who want that fine blend of form and function.
Who It Doesn’t
If you need backpack straps, this bag doesn’t have them. But stay and read anyway, I think you’ll like it.
The Weekender… A Classic
Growing up, there are a few “things” that are considered coming-of-age items. For some it might be their first leather wallet, a dress watch, a suit for a school prom, a fancy jacket, or any other seemingly luxurious item to a youngster. However, for me, it was always the weekender. I can’t really tell you why. Even as I write this, I’m trying to decide if it was the mystery around what secrets lay within them, or was it just because they looked bloody cool? “Paul Newman sitting in a vintage Porsche” kind of cool. I remember seeing men I admire just disappear for these seemingly exquisite adventures with just this one, predominantly leather, bag.
My first weekender was a freebie with some cologne; laughable, I know. It looked great for the twenty minutes it lasted. My next, a hand-me-down (stolen) from my brother, was very functional, but not quite the demure man-about-town look I was going for. On and on the saga went, with many bags laid to rest or tossed aside in frustration. There always seemed to be a compromise; while some design features were good, the materials were bad. Or if the materials were great, they were just too small or too cumbersome. Why oh why after fifteen years could I not create the perfect partnership with this sodding bag? Honestly, I’d just about given up on the idea of luggage love with a weekender.
Enter the Bellroy Weekender Plus.
I kid you not, this may be the closest thing to a perfect bag that I’ve come across.
Earlier on, I alluded to some of those coming-of-age items that are special the moment they arrive in your life. Whether taking the watch out of the box, or taking the dust cover off the suit, these items become more than a purchase, they become an experience. Bellroy have nailed that with their new transit line. From the moment you unbox it it’s different to other bags. It comes in an individual dust cover which doubles magnificently as a travel laundry bag. Small notes filled with well-thought-out offerings guide you through the bag before you even use it. Through these small gestures, you are conversing with the bag. Honestly, it’s an experience that I imagine is traditionally reserved for bags four or five times the price.
Now that you’re questioning if I’m having an affair with this bag, let me tell you why I think it is the one weekender to rule them all.
The materials feel great in your hand. The rich canvas weave appears hearty, durable, and tasteful. It’s water resistant too, making this a good year-round bag. Snow and rain showers will bead off nicely. Not only does it feel good, it is good. Alongside being made from recycled materials that actually reduce energy consumption during production, the Weekender Plus has leather handles, zipper pulls, and tabs that all come from gold rated Leather Working Group Tanneries. It’s nice knowing that what you spend your money on isn’t just going into a corporate executive’s pocket, but rather to a collective who really think about their process and values. Oh, also, it has locking zips to protect your valuables from would-be thieves while traveling! This shouldn’t be exciting on a travel bag, but it is as so many companies seem to ignore them.
The casual, yet suave styling of this bag makes it seem just as at home in the back of a truck on the way to a mountain cabin for a lads’ stag do, as it would in an ornate five star hotel lobby. The Bellroy Weekender Plus looks elegant, but robust. Tough, yet gentle. It is an enigma, and one that I’d been searching for. Before I’d even used the bag, I felt good about it. You can tell, from my preamble, and my initial hands on, that I was excited about this bag.
Then I got that sinking feeling. What’s wrong with this bag?
Usually, when you get a bag for the first time, you notice the great things, but quite quickly a couple of niggles stand out. They’re mostly inconsequential and you can deal with them, but still, they’re there. However, this bag threw me off. I was ten days into using the bag, and I couldn’t figure out what I’d improve.
Then it hit me. Nothing.
Fundamentally, the Bellroy Weekender Plus is easy. Easy to use. Easy to handle. Simple to choose. I know that all sounds a bit convenient, but I’m serious. I didn’t have much to pick at, because it assimilated into my lifestyle seamlessly.
When you pack this bag it opens up wide. You can see every inch of the 45 liters and work out how to configure it best for your trip. If you’re OCD about your clothes folding like I am, your selection moves from drawer to bag with consummate ease, without having to finagle or refold. Alternatively, if you like to just toss it all in there, then there is space aplenty and it will keep swallowing one more item. The clay red interior makes it easy to see things, without a neon explosion stinging your retinas.
The selection of pockets gives you a spot for everything you’ll need, but not too much. The lined device pocket cradled my 12.9” iPad Pro gently, without the use of an external sleeve. I grabbed it easily when I craved some Netflix or needed to respond to an email. The pop pockets are a genius innovation to a classic form, with one on either end of the main compartment. While designed for water bottles up to 36oz, they equally supported dopp kits or shoes (in the included recycled shoe pouch) admirably. If you don’t want to use them? No problem, they magnetically close out of the way and return some interior real estate. Every single pocket is wonderfully malleable stretch polyester. It makes this bag a breeze to pack. Items naturally find their way into the available nook or cranny and utilize the space available.
On the exterior, you’ll find a spacious “oh shit” pocket, which I find is an absolute must for any travel bag. All of your receipts, parking tickets, half used chewing gum, and other “my gate is closing!/my train is leaving!/I’m late!” paraphernalia go here. The OS pocket also has a convenient luggage pass-through, in case your weekender needs to join you on a seven-day jaunt.
On the opposite side you’ll find the organized side of your travel experience. You know the one, where your passport, boarding pass, pen, wallet, keys, sunglasses etc., etc., etc. go. They all fit nicely into the appropriate pockets (again made from the wonderful elasticated mesh) which lay atop another lined tablet pocket. That’s right. You can have your 13” device accessible from inside or outside depending on your packing needs. I hope you’re getting the picture. This bag works FOR you, rather than trying to make YOU work.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “If you can pack everything it sounds heavy!” Well yes, it can be. You can fit a lot in here. However, the team at Bellroy saw me coming. They must have read my journal and my deepest secrets about the pursuit of the perfect weekender. Often, when these sleek bags begin to fill, they become cumbersome and fat, a little like me after an all-you-can-eat buffet. Not the Bellroy Weekender Plus.
The clever design of the profile means the bag becomes almost wedge-shaped when full. It fills upwards rather than outwards and becomes a little taller, not wider. It means that it slots perfectly beneath your arm when slung over your shoulder. This really surprised me, so simple and effective: why hadn’t others done this before!? It increased the comfort of a loaded bag immeasurably. It also increases the amount of contact points with the bag, it is no longer just bouncing along on your hip. By having contact with other parts of your body, it invariably spreads the load.
Not only is the shoulder strap detachable (in case you’re a suave type with swag who casually strolls with the bag by your side), it’s really comfortable. A mix of leather, light padding and more nylon weave helps avoid a fully loaded companion separating your shoulder. The handles are simple strips of leather, scored down the middle so that they fold in and become molded to your hand the more you use the bag.
Then there are the geometric-looking loops at either end of the bag. At first these look integral to the structure of the bag, however in use you quickly realize these serve dual purpose as grab handles for packing or unpacking an overhead bin, a car boot, or a shelf. The comfort factor cannot be denied. Often bags of this size become tiresome to use when loaded. In this case the multitude of different carry options allows this to be a bag you want to use, rather than dreading the packed weight. This isn’t going to be a bag you hike with, but it is more than comfortable enough for the scenarios it is designed for.
While we’re talking about scenarios, I was pleasantly surprised by how versatile the Bellroy Weekender Plus proved itself to be. Often, I’ll throw in a small canvas tote or packaway backpack if I’m one-bag traveling for 3-4 days. However, I decided not to with this bag, and I’m glad as I ended up using it in a multitude of situations. It performed well as a beach bag, spacious enough for two bottles, two beach towels, flip flops, books, and a lunchbox full of snacks. I took short trips where it fit all of the necessary clothing, shoes, and toiletries for 4 days away from my abode. It even did a stint as a reusable grocery bag when I realized I had forgotten mine on arrival. I’d hazard a guess you could make this work as a gym bag, an office bag, and probably even a tool bag.
I know that all of this gushing seems too good to be true, but this bag really is a pleasure to use. It doesn’t force me to change my habits, it works with me, and for me. When I travel, I want to be focused on where I’m going, not “I just wish that it would…”
Not So Good
Honestly, if you hadn’t already guessed, there aren’t many things I would improve on the Bellroy Weekender Plus. I truly mean that. However, it is my duty here to try and find all of the faults, and a few small idiosyncrasies finally came to mind after months of use. One, is that lint can stick to this a little. Nothing crazy, but enough that I would take a lint roller to it after every couple of uses.
Two, the laptop compartment is a little too snug. On a couple of occasions when the bag was full I had really focus and ease my iPad past the zippers.
Three, when you are carrying the bag with the shoulder strap attached, it finds its way across the zipper and it can make accessing your items take four seconds instead of two.
Four. I lost my little leather strap keeper. Probably my fault, but could it be stitched to a strap to avoid losing? Probably.
Fundamentally, Bellroy has fused the simplicity of a cavernous weekender with the design prowess of an architect. The design language is simple, understated, and thoroughly overthought. From the “notes” on the packaging, to the reusable laundry, shoe, and accessory bags, this is an enjoyable experience from the moment it arrives. On top of that excitement, this bag has every bit of space, zip, or pop pocket you could need for a weekend of adventure, and not a thread more. It is simply a joy to use, because in line with their philosophy, Bellroy wants you to focus on the exploration at hand, and nothing else. If you ask me, that sounds like a good weekend, plus some.