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Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks


Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

by , June 8, 2022
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Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

It’s rare to come across a brand such as Vormann. Very few brands can grab you in an instant. Glowing with a clear and unique vibe, to help it rise above the sometimes overwhelming amount of choice. However, Vormann does just that with their FRT23+. It’s a pack that’s streetwear, fashion, hiking, technical and tactical, all weaved into one, splashing in each with perfect balance. 

But who is behind this special little brand from Germany? The answer is the namesake: Hendrik Vormann – a young designer who cut his teeth with German design house, Airbag Craftworks before moving on to spearhead his very own creation. 

Hendrik is a one-man brand working out of his small workshop in Dortmund. A workshop located in the University of Arts, where Hendrick conducts sewing workshops. In it you’ll find his collection of sewing machines, all German classics (ADLER, PFAFF and Dürkopp), not one from this century, and FRT23+ order sheets clipped up, surrounded by rolls of X-Pac, Dyneema, and drawers filled with Fidlocks. 

The FRT23+ is his backpack. Inspired by the Nike 2009 SB, one of Nike’s best (and best made) packs in their history – then, of course, built into something entirely different. A combination of so many influences: ACRONYM, NIKE ACG, MSPC, Head Porter, Neighbourhood, designers like Damir Doma, Rick Owens, Nigel Cabour, and melded together to make a pack, in my opinion, a clear 10 in X-factor.

And the kicker: the FRT23+ (Functional Roll-Top 23L) can be completely bespoke. Built up or down or enhanced to your heart’s content. Using a very simple order sheet, you can work with Hendrik to build your dream version of the FRT23+, making it your own, one-of-a-kind daily driver. And, I found, it’s an experience well worth the ride. 

There’s no fancy menus or digital surveys to fill in. The process is straightforward. You follow Hendrick’s order sheet and tick off the things you’d like, then move to email, where Hendrick guides you through, and gives you advice on what will work best or what new possibilities you might want to consider, like using unique colorways of X-Pac he has in, or pairing new hardware bits taken from his other collections to enhance your dream pack, just that little bit more.

Our order looked like this after my email consultation: 

Surface: Olive X-Pac VX42

Puller: Leather puller from Dyneema Collection (black, red stitching)

Rolltop: Fidlock

Compression: Fidlock

Frontpart: Aquaguard Pocket

Front / Bottom Part: Fidlock Straps

Side part: Aquaguard pocket

Back part: Aquaguard pocket

Extras: Interior Mesh Pocket, Sternum Strap, Interior Sleeve

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

The pack amounted to €700.00+. But you can work to your budget, an FRT23+ can range from anything from 280,00€ to 900,00€  depending on your requirements and desires.

If you have a budget to work to, Hendrick will work to help you get the best result for your buck. The man knows his stuff. However, as some of you makers might know, this custom backpack game can be tough. Too many options and it can put extra stress on the maker, so since our order, the options have been trimmed down a touch to keep the experience smooth and achievable for both parties. 

On Arrival | Build Quality

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

Straight out of the box Hendrick’s pack and craftsmanship impresses. It’s an exciting feeling to see a pack in your hand that has been made tailored specifically to your taste. It feels robust, tough, and ready for adventure,  much like a GORUCK or Mystery Ranch who we tout as the durability benchmark. The stitching is precise, straight and clean. While the Fidlock hardware and AquaGuard zippers are sturdy and feel good in the hand. After all the build-up and anticipation for the pack to arrive, the unboxing moment is a delight, I can assure you that. 

Rolltop with Access Considered

The usual drawback with rolltops is the sacrifice of access vs weatherproofing – that roll keeps the weather out 100% but it can be a chore to roll and unroll if you’re in and out of your bag for essentials on the regular, particularly while hiking. 

Most brands tackling this dilemma run a vertical waterproof zip down the side panel, allowing you to get to your gear, but not smoothly or completely. Hendrick chooses to run a U-shaped zipper just below the top seam all the way down near the base of the pack, giving you universal access to your kit. It’s smart and allows for great packability when the pack’s laid flat, giving you a good visual on your contents as well.  After a short learning curve, this opening became one of my favourite features on the pack, with good packing, you get to everything very quickly and easily.


The harness is more comfortable than I had anticipated. Almost one inch thick foam is divided into six rectangular pads, two rows running down both flanks with air channels running in-between, and a beefier pad for your lumbar. Initially these foam panels look large and a little daunting, but in use, when paired with the comfortable and wide,  half inch thick shoulder straps and load lifters, the FRT23+ hugs your back like a high-end hiking pack and is exceptionally comfortable for miles on the trail. 

If you’re looking for even more stability, a waist belt is also offered in your options, and something I recommend if your pack will be heading into the hills or on planes for travel. It simply slips behind the lumbar and attaches via velcro. The Fidlock V buckle is excellent for hiking, and allows one handed operation, and the sternum strap has the same configuration. Two AquaGuard zippers give you quick access to trail essentials such as a knife, keys, snacks, medkit etc. I found for daily EDC use, I’d often take the hip belt off as it gives the bag a clean, urban look.

Slim webbing zigzags cross the top-sides of the pack to compress your load down without impinging on your side quick access pockets. A thoughtful touch was to pair this webbing with fidlock magnets, which means these straps are quick and easy to use. You don’t have to uncinch each time, you can swiftly unclip and re–attach. I found myself enjoying the tactile experience, one because it’s fun, but two you know if you don’t hear that satisfying “click” that you haven’t secured properly. 

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

Pockets and Modularity

The pocketing on the FRT is a well balanced blend of organization and open space, which again speaks to Hendrik’s design nous. Obviously with the FRT’s customisation options, you can make this bag your own with your choices. But I have often found that bags which claim to work well in a variety of situations can be cursed by too many mixed styles, particularly when it comes to pocketing. I’ve found the opposite to be true of the Vormann. There is a great blend of function and freedom on the FRT.

There are two AquaGuard side pockets that can pull duty as water bottle pockets or EDC org, and if you use pouches to organise your gear, you can easily utilize these for “bring your own” organisation. At 1.5L volume, I found these to be genuinely useful. They easily held a 26oz insulated bottle, and could house a hydration bladder instead if needed. Each of these side pockets has a four inch tall stretch pocket which became my go to spot for hiking essentials such as a headlamp, GPS device, or micro first aid kit. The stretch pocket keeps items secure rather than allowing them to bounce around the bottom of the volume. I grew to appreciate this feature, as I didn’t have to search for items when I needed them quickly. These pockets also have an AquaGuard zipper, so anything inside should stay nice and dry too.

On the front of the bag, where the u-shaped opening lives, you’ll find a duplicitous feature. On the internal side of this opening is a mesh pocket, and on the outer a healthy sized AquaGuard zipper pocket with its own volume (4L). I found myself using this pocket all the time while using the FRT. In hiking/trail mode, it is the natural spot for a rain shell, a hat, and some snacks. In EDC mode, it is also the natural spot for a rain shell, a hat and some snacks too! The fact that this pocket has its own independent volume makes it stand out. Usually front pockets on hiking bags are mesh only, places to put the dirty stuff, and forget about it until you get home. On the Vormann, this front pouch is almost like a mini sling, with enough storage to remove the need to fully open the main compartment unless fully stopped. It even has a floating pocket for your wallet, e-reader, headphones and keys. When hiking, I found I could quickly grab something without having to take the bag off, or I could ask my wife to get my raincoat without having to go into the bag. Behind this pocket, you have a “slip” too, unused webbing from the roll top closure sits nicely here, and I also found it to be a good spot for gloves or other small accessories.

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

There is a separate access laptop sleeve, which is well sized and could handle most 16” laptops on the market today. It is padded at the rear thanks to the back panel and harness, but I do wish it had a little more padding at the bottom of the sleeve to protect against any heavy handed set downs. If you choose the AquaGuard option like we did here, it’s important to know that the back panel is separated from the main body, and you gain an extra storage compartment, while on the non AG option, that volume remains in the main compartment. On the base of the bag are two adjustable and removable g-hook straps, I didn’t use these a whole bunch and often took them off to give the bag an extra clean profile, but these straps accommodate a tripod comfortably, and have enough webbing to hold something more substantial such as a blanket or sleeping bag.

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

Aesthetically, this is a handsome bag. From the build quality to the profile, this is a considered design that has drawn admiring glances from those who have seen me using it. It does a magnificent job of blending in, particularly in this olive X-Pac. I like that it’s easy to change the profile, based on your needs that day, and the bag really does transform wonderfully into an EDC piece without the hipbelt, it’s sleek and understated, but with tough guts that will look after you on your commute. Although I think it really excels as an outdoor backpack.

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

While this is undoubtedly an excellent bag, which you would hope for after choosing your options, it isn’t without faults. Firstly, it is a bit of a learning curve about how to get the best out of the FRT in use. The unconventional, but ultimately brilliant, front opening felt unnatural and took me a good few hikes to get used to. Once you have it down, it’s flawless, but there is a little bit of trial and error when opening the bag up. I also found it surprising that there isn’t a hydration port on a pack that is so adept outdoors. Usually on hikes, I prefer to use a reservoir, and sure, using the elasticated pocket on the interior, you can pop the hose out of a zipper, or through the rolltop, but it seems counterintuitive to do that and risk your weather resistance, particularly in winter!

The Vormann FRT23+ is as unique as they come. Guided by Henrick, you’ll build a bag for your uses, with your preferences. It’s not often you actually get to be part of that conversation as a consumer, and it’s a special experience. Not only do you get the pack that you want and will use, but you gain access to Hendrick’s infectious knowledge and passion for Carry, you understand why he offers these options and not those options as he explains the genesis behind the FRT: “Before I started the FRT23 customization project I built several variations of this rucksack just to find the “one“ real rucksack which has it all. But I realized there is not “THE ONE“ rucksack. All my customers needed different functions and wanted different styles.”

The FRT23+ isn’t just a display of great customer service and excellent customisation, it is a brilliantly executed design. With expandable volume, adjustable carry methods, and ingenious access methods, I’d go out on a limb and say you’ll never own another bag like it. Neither will anyone else.

Hendrik Vormann | One of the World’s Best Bespoke Backpacks

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
Brand experience
X Factor

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