Backpacking America

Backpacks are practical. They free up your arms, and generally make life just a tad easier. Yet, most backpacks that I see (save those from Filson and a few other heritage brands) seem unsuitable after high school, or at most college. I bike a lot, including to work, which makes a backpack an absolute necessity for me. I wanted a Filson, but their prices make me slightly hesitant to buy them for actual use. Naturally, I used the infinite power of Google and The American List from A Continuous Lean, and found Topos Design.

Topos Design is based out of Colorado and produces backpacking gear inspired by 70s and 80s hiking gear. The colors are brighter (and admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea) and the designs are on the right side of retro. No over stylized zippers or pockets you will never actually use.

The Travel Back  - A large bag with enough room to hold enough outfits for a week
The Travel Pack – A large bag with enough room to hold enough outfits for a week. The aluminum hooks at the top and bottom can be used to fasten the Trip Pack on top

I own both the Travel Pack and the Trip Pack which interlock very nicely when I travel. I had initially just purchased Trip Pack for my daily use, and it was great for the essentials: my notebook, MacBook, bike lock and few writing tools. Maggie thought that my lack of colorful luggage needed to be remedied, so I ended up getting the Travel Pack as well. As an added bonus I also got the Topos Pack Bags to keep my Travel Pack organized.

The Trip Pack - The ideal daily pack that can hold your MacBook and a notebook plus a few other fun things you might need
The Trip Pack – The ideal daily pack that can hold your MacBook and a notebook plus a few other fun things you might need

The Trip Pack and the Travel Pack are both constructed of durable Cordura, and the bags are lined (throughout including the pockets) with colorful (in my case, yellow), water resistant pack cloth. The Pack Bags are not lined with the pack cloth, but they do not need to be since the end up in the larger bag anyway.

Pack Cloth Linings - Bright yellow in my case
Pack Cloth Linings – Bright yellow in my case

The shoulder straps on the bags are lightly padded and wide enough that they do not uncomfortably dig into my shoulders. This was the real winner for me because too many retro inspired bags have retro straps which make for some seriously bruised skin after a long, heavy day of wear.

The Shoulder Straps - Wide enough to be worn comfortably and fit in perfectly with the general setup of the bags
The Shoulder Straps – Wide enough to be worn comfortably and fit in perfectly with the general setup of the bags. I would have personally preferred a well coordinated color with the actual bags, but black is always a good compromise

To top it off (literally), there are some excellent heavy duty zippers on both bags (YKK), that have run very smoothly since the beginning, and I can be sure that they will not be accidentally splitting open any time soon. Lastly, my bags are seriously beautiful retro olive green and navy with a small Made in USA  flag.

The Pack Bags - These will keep your shirts, tees and other fewer things in order
The Pack Bags – These will keep your shirts, tees and other fewer things in order

The Travel Pack is a large square backpack with a roomy main compartment that can accommodate two Pack Bags side by side. Inside the main pocket, is a net pocket (where I usually stash my Birkenstocks) attached to the cover flap, and a laptop sleeve at the back.There is also a front pocket with a sleeve and numerous little slots for things you might need for a tablet, or a couple of moleskine notebooks. On the front of the pack (and this is just cool for me) there are, along with nylon webbing for your gear, a set of aluminum hooks to fasten your Trip Pack on top. This gives you a type of flexibility when you travel, that is often missing from luggage. What I usually do when I travel now, is to put little, quickly needed things in the Trip Pack, and my clothing and everything else actually needed for the trip goes in the Travel Pack.

Made proudly in the USA, stitched onto every item
Made proudly in the USA, stitched onto every item

The Trip Pack is smaller, with a flat base and a rounded top. Inside the main pocket, is a small tablet sleeve, and a zippered pocket where I usually keep my magic mouse. There is also a front zippered pocket (which I cannot find a use for), but would probably work really well for stashing some pens and pencils in a slim case. There is not as much to say in this case because this is a very simple backpack. It is exactly what you want if you are looking for something light and versatile that will probably last you a very long time and if you get it in a neutral color (as neutral as bright hiking colors can get) you’ll be a well coordinated standout.

As an ending note,  I would like to say that Topos Design is not for everyone. I showed the website to a few co-workers, and while the responses i got were never negative on the bags, a lot of people felt that the brighter colors were not right for them. However, for the people that liked them, they really liked them. If you are in the market for a well made, versatile and downright fun to wear backpack, Topos has you covered.

P.S. I want to note that our photographer is on vacation this week, so the quality of the pictures I took leave much to be desired, but unfortunately it was the best I could do. The good pictures that you guys have come to expect will return in for the next post.

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