- Buyer's Guide
Filson Ripstop Nylon Backpack Review
Based out of Seattle, WA, Filson and their products have deep, gnarled roots in the frontiers of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. They are famously known for the hard-wearing bridle leather and tin cloth waxed cotton that they use on both their bags and apparel. Creators of inspired collaborations with USFS, Smokey the Bear and Popeye, it is not uncommon to hear stories of their heirloom-worthy bags and the life they have lived in some of the harshest places in North America. Filson, and their products, are the very definition of Americana. However, not everybody spends four hundred dollars on a tin cloth and leather backpack. This year, Filson has started to release some modern and more affordable interpretations of famous designs from years past. Here is our review of the Filson Ripstop Nylon Backpack.
Who It Suits
If you like Americana and all the nostalgia that comes with it, this could be perfect for you.
Want to keep it fast and loose? This bag keeps it simple with straightforward pockets and sections; no need to wrestle your pen into the “right” spot here.
Who It Doesn’t
If a sleek, slender profile is your style, this bag won’t work for you. When packed, this adds some width to your profile (I certainly don’t need any help there!). Equally, this wouldn’t fit the boardroom; it has a strong outdoors vibe. While it can work as a good EDC bag, if you like your built-in organization, look elsewhere.
The materials chosen here are excellent quality, the 500 denier ripstop nylon can, and will, take a beating. The weatherproof capabilities of this 500D makes it perfect for focusing on the task or excursion at hand, rather than worrying about your bag and the safety of its contents.
The bag is also exceptionally comfortable. When empty it is light, which is a benefit as you can pack A LOT inside the cavernous main compartment.
Though it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles, the ones it does have are great and well thought out. The YKK AquaGuard zipper for the laptop compartment (it swallowed my setup with ease), the Woojin Duraflex buckle points on the handle and the closing, the WJ tie-down points on the straps, the neat strap keepers for those of us who hate things dangling unnecessarily. All of those small, simple and essential material choices make this a really enjoyable bag to use.
The cinch, covered by the storm flap, allows flexibility in what you carry. If you need to shove a bit more in, you can leave items (in my case, two tennis rackets) sticking out the top and just cinch around them. Alternatively, you can cinch all the way down, and shrink the profile a little.
She’s a looker. This bag has a great, vintage style to it that is equally at home in urban or rural environments. It has a military charm, but certainly isn’t tacti-cool in the way that some bags are. There are minimal MOLLE-esque straps, strategically placed on the shoulder straps and the main buckle closure. The two available colorways, Black and Surplus Green, are simple and understated and will work with most styles.
This bag has been incredibly versatile. It has been packed with 25lbs of camera gear for a 1500ft sunset summit hike. It has carried tennis rackets, balls, and gallons of water to the local courts. It has brought precious, and delicious, cargo home on a bike from the farm stand a few miles away. Time and again, it has proven to be a hardy gear hauler. The bag is made to be used, abused, and used again. It doesn’t attempt, or even pretend, to compete with organization heavyweights such as Tom Bihn; this was made to be an unpretentious workhorse. The design cues come from deep within American history.
This particular pack is a hybrid mix of Filson’s well received Ranger backpack and a WW2 A.L.I.C.E (all-purpose lightweight individual carrying equipment) Paratrooper’s pack. Even the color name ‘Surplus Green’ links to a strong military identity. It must be said that there is something wholly romantic and nostalgic about knowing you are using a pack that was intended for, and thrived in, the theater of war.
The materials have been updated to keep the bag lightweight, durable, and water resistant. Throughout my adventures with it (even the small local ones during quarantine!) I never doubted that my cargo was safe from the elements. I even had one situation while using it where I had stored a water bottle between the storm flap and cinch opening. Low and behold I hadn’t closed the bottle fully, and it leaked, but the water just beaded off and didn’t make it inside my bag to a fresh set of clothes and lunch. The same can be said for the YKK AquaGuard zipper on the separate, suspended laptop compartment (which also can work as a hydration bladder in a pinch). Whilst carrying my MacBook or iPad Pro, sometimes both, I was caught in a few heavy showers but not a drop made it inside to harm my vital gear.
This bag was really enjoyable to use. There wasn’t anything complicated about it. Loading, unloading, all the same; effortless. After hiking with it, it stood up by itself easily so I could access my camera gear and well earned dinner! In my opinion, this is an often overlooked feature, the ability to use your bag quickly and efficiently is critical, and the Ripstop Nylon Backpack thrives in this department. For example, the simple inside quick-access pocket, made out of a stretch mesh, spans the whole width of the main compartment and easily had enough room to hold my keys, phone, wallet, field notes and a pen. It’s easy to reach the moment you uncinch the bag.
Not So Good
The fact that this bag is something of a blank canvas will appeal to many people. However, if you like to open your bag and see everything in its place – good luck. You’ll need a searchlight or at least a headlamp to see right into the depths thanks to the dark green interior.
Want to be told by your bag where you should put your laptop, your pens, your face mask, your hand sanitizer, and all your other EDC necessities? This bag is just as indecisive and looks back at you and asks where YOU want to put it. In the age of ultra organization, that takes a little getting used to.
The Ripstop Nylon is excellently rugged, tough and resistant to many things…including movement. It just isn’t very malleable. That’s not to say you can’t finagle it to fit things, it is just very rigid and doesn’t have much give.
Throughout testing, in all of the different situations I used it in, I kept missing a hip belt. Now usually, I wouldn’t yearn for one. However, I feel at 35L that a bag of this size, with its Swiss army knife capabilities, should have the OPTION of a hip belt. Even if it was a simple Cordura strap like the grab handle. When this beast is loaded, it can be heavy. The aforementioned sunset hike was comfortable under load until the last few miles where my shoulders wanted a team mate to help spread the load.
The handle itself could use some light padding. While the clean, streamlined look is great, when loaded up it is a behemoth and you want to keep your fingers.
The front pockets are almost too simple. They can carry a good amount, but I would have liked to see some simple organization options in at least one of the pockets, similar to their other backpacks. These two front pockets, which are useful for anything small and things you want to get to quickly, get their zippers stuck a lot! If you don’t fold back the protective lip, you invariably end up with a zipper full of Cordura.
And in terms of heirloom-worthy? I’m not sold on that front, but I think I might break before this pack does.
Others to Consider
Try the Mystery Ranch’s Rip Ruck. It’s the same vibe but with a more maximalist approach.
This bag was a joy to use, and one that I can easily see living in my rotation. It felt capable of anything that I threw at it, in both outdoor and urban settings. The style is excellent, and as always, Filson’s nostalgia makes it feel quite special. With a few tweaks, this could be a home run. However for sub $200, I think this bag will make a lot of people very happy.
This article was written by new contributor, Laurence Fry, a Creative Media Director who loves rugby, photography, and micro adventures. He’s also been known to drink Gin and a few IPA’s from time-to-time. You can find him on Instagram here and here.
Welcome to the team, Laurence!