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Backpacks

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

EVERYDAY / BIKE

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L Review

by , May 20, 2020
7.1
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Funnily enough my good friend purchased the zippered version of this bag (it doesn’t seem to be on their site anymore) right before I received this one. We live a block apart so when her bag showed up while I was at her house I thought they had magically typed the address just wrong enough to be hers.

I was eager to ask for her thoughts as well. When I did she noted that she LOVED the look of the bag, and the fact she could take it to work (she’s a reporter) and out to the park with friends.

But she just felt the material of the water bottle pocket looked cheap, the shoulder straps she felt would get gross over time and also looked funny with a weird gaping issue, and that she personally just needed more pockets. For the price point she felt she could find other bags with a few more features to make the investment worth it.

Her thoughts mirror my own on this bag, with a few differences given we tried different models.

Specifications

  • Name: Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack
  • Brand: Brooks England
  • Format: Backpack
  • Measurement: W: 26cm, H: 41-47cm, D: 12cm
  • Capacity: 12L-14L
  • Weight: 790g
  • Zippers:
  • Material: Waxed cotton canvas, vegetable-tanned leather details
  • PriceUS$240

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Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L


Features

Some features weren’t well thought out or measured. Specifically, 3 items.

  1. The shoulder strap webbing is cotton, so if there is ANY water it will soak it up right away. Being cotton and hydrophilic I would be leery of this in wetter environments for mold.
  2. Additionally, to that material note, the straps are soft and comfy and grip well but are not abrasive… however, their softness will only increase with time and weather. And I predict would lead the straps to twist and bunch. Especially with the use of the sternum strap. This shoulder strap area just needs a little love IF it is meant to not just be an office/commuting pack.
  3. The one other issue is a very easy fix on their end. It seems that the length of webbing used for the closure was just not long enough. The current length does not allow you to over-pack, or even slightly over-pack this bag. Which to me is a huge blow for a roll-top. From a consumer standpoint a roll-top allows flexibility in the amount you may over-carry in your bag. So some may find it very vexing when they go to throw in just one last item in the bag on their way home and can’t. On the plus side, it does keep you from ever letting items in your bag be exposed to the elements.

The back pocket

The pocket at the back panel really is just a good place to keep your wallet in a more theftproof area. I didn’t find it easy to access while I was wearing it, on or off bike.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

The internal organization pockets

Inside you’ll find a padded laptop pocket (it fits a 15″ laptop), one zippered pocket (good for keys, chapstick, cables, and other essentials), and two stash pockets that easily fit your phone, wallet, etc. For me these pockets were just enough. I think however I would have liked a pocket (and key tether) that was a bit closer to the opening so that when you opened your bag you could have access to a few smaller items without having to dig down to get them, which can be annoying if your bag gets full.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L


Design

Looks

This is a super attractive bag! Brooks always does a killer job making you NEED to have these bags based off looks alone. BAG EYE CANDY 100000%.

I personally am not a fan of brightly colored bags. But the orange caught my eye for some reason. 

The burgundy leather hits are also a nice touch and add a bit more interest to this unique colorway. At first I thought the leather was going to be a deep brown. So when it came and I saw it was burgundy I wasn’t a fan at first. But after some time it really grew on me. 

A few women whom I showed the bag to also noted that was the main thing they liked about the bag. These are colors I personally wouldn’t think to put together but they look great!

Durability

I have an older Islington bag which has held up well over the past few years. So I do think that the materials used are durable. But I haven’t put these to heavy use due to the lack of water resistance. 

I also really enjoy bags that use more natural materials. There is something about it that just draws you in, ages well, and just looks damn good even with age and dirt. And this bag has just that!

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Materials and Hardware

The hardware on Brooks bags always looks beautiful! However, sometimes its functionality or ease of use tends to be the foible.

On this bag the only piece of hardware that falls into this trap is the shoulder strap adjustment. It really wasn’t easy to adjust while wearing the bag. And being able to easily do this while you are wearing the bag is something I feel consumers expect, especially on a bike. Not being able to easily adjust these straps could result in you pulling too hard and falling off balance. However, because this size of bag is so small and doesn’t vary in weight all too much, you really only need to set it and forget it.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Considering the leather accents, specifically on the closure strap… it looks nice but in all honesty it just gets in the way. To put it back on as a cover for the hook just takes an extra 45 seconds that I’d rather not spend fiddling around with. In the end I just took it off and I think it looks much cleaner now.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

The only other concern I have with the leather is color migration. After the rain I could see that the color of the leather began to bleed into the inside part of the bag. Hopefully it won’t start to do that on the exterior due to the coating. But who knows… the color migration could make the bag look interesting and aged. My main concern with this issue is that the leather color could get onto one’s clothes.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L


Performance

Volume

I typically only carried my laptop and a few sketchbooks, a pen case and several tiny accessories in this bag, which was perfect for me. If you needed to carry anything more, such as an extra light jacket, water bottle, or a bit of food on the way home, you might want to size up.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Fit

It’s a great size for smaller folk! The shoulder straps work well for smaller frames. However, if you are larger in size you get an awkward warping of the shoulder straps and this only increases when you attach the sternum strap. But if you are only carrying a few things in your pack it’s not noticeable.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Weatherability

As they state online, their bags are just weather resistant. So don’t expect this bag to hold up in an hour of moderate rain. I took the bag on a 45-minute excursion in moderate rain and the entire bag was soaked through. Even the padded laptop divider was wet… YIKES!!

Editor's note: there is a better choice in their range for water-resistance, check out their Pickwick in Tex Nylon.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

Bicycle-Friendliness

The fact that this bag is missing several features critical for a bike bag really doesn’t place this bag well for being a true “cycling” bag. If this bag was at least waterproofed better, then I think it could be well suited for very casual/light riding. 


The Good

  1. The simplistic aesthetics make it a versatile bag for those who may want to use the bag for going to the office or out on casual excursions.
  2. The size is perfect for someone with a small frame.
  3. It carries what you need (and ONLY what you need). The design is simple, thus so are the features, specifically the shoulder straps. Only allowing you to carry a small amount keeps you from over-packing and thus killing your back and shoulders.

Not So Good

  1. It’s NOT bike-friendly unless it’s a 20-minute bike ride on a day with little to no precipitation.
  2. There’s no water bottle pocket. True the other model does have this…. It’s just a feature that when not there is very missed.
  3. It’s not very water resistant so if you get caught in the rain…. Good luck.

Verdict

If I were to rework this bag there are a few small things I think would help this bag a bit.

  1. Add extra length to the main closure strap
  2. Add more weather resistance (especially in the laptop area)
  3. Put a more durable and water-resistant fabric on the bottom of the bag
  4. Update the sternum strap a little bit
  5. Add a water bottle pocket

Overall I very much dig this bag. It is my go-to for running to the café a few blocks from my house or to meet a client. The main reasons being the cute simple styling, only carrying what I absolutely need, and feeling comfortable on my back for those short distances. Something about the size and straps really does make the bag become non-existent, which is good!

I think though that coming from a company that is a cycling first company there is functionality that I find myself wanting. Namely, a water bottle pocket, better water resistance, and a more thought-out shoulder strap and sternum strap situation.

If you go on their site, there are different iterations of very similar bags that do have these features and/or added protection. So it’s not like Brooks isn’t offering these needs. But for this review on this bag I’d pitch it as a more lifestyle-focused product.

Had it not been for this aspect the bag wouldn’t have had as many cons. So please don’t think this bag isn’t a great bag! It is! But as a cycling bag… me thinks not.

Brooks Pickwick Cotton Canvas Backpack 12L

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
6
Organization
6
Comfort
8

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
8
Build, Materials & Hardware
6.5
Features
6

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
7
Brand experience
8
Value
7
X Factor
8

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