Made to order in Portland Oregon, the Flanders backpack by North St. is a waterproof, durable, stylish backpack that’s poised to be the culmination of a daily carry, commuter, and hiker’s pack, all in one.
The flanders is a roll top backpack, meaning the top of the pack is closed by rolling the fabric down, then clipping it in place with the large, adjustable support buckle on the top. The backpack is built in two primary layers, an inner for weather protection and an outer for durability. The outside in made from impressively rugged 1000 denier Cordura nylon, with the inner layer being made from waterproof VX-21 X Pac Sail Cloth. Within the back of the pack lies a fairly stiff frame sleeve, while contoured and lightly padded shoulder straps adorn the front of the pack. The Flanders has two waterproof pockets on the back complete waterproof zippers, two open side pockets, two cinch straps on each side for compression, and an internal laptop pocket. There are also expansion mounts inside which allow for extra organization and storage pockets, available for purchase separately. The pack also supports an optional waist belt which can be added for extra stability, and it’s easily stashable within the back of the pack itself, behind the mesh back panel. The pack comes in a wide variety of colors (Shark tested here), weighs 2 lbs 4 oz, and retails for $189.
What I liked
When it comes to a backpack, being comfortable is a high priority. Thankfully, the Flanders backpack performs well here. The mesh backing of the pack is lightly padded and reinforced by a thin but relatively stiff frame sheet, meaning nothing in the pack creates bulges or sharp points. This not only protects the spine of the user (and the gear inside) but also makes for a nice, flat back panel at all times when worn. The shoulder straps are naturally contoured and are lightly padded; just enough to provide a bit of cushion when heavier loads are being carried. The optional waist belt (recommended if you’re hiking or biking in this pack) completely locks the pack in place, preventing swaying that could cause abrasion, soreness, or even balance issues. It also breathes fairly well thanks to the full mesh back panel, meaning long trips with it on hot days are quite tolerable. There are no load straps, so much of the weight does rest along the shoulders, but considering the size of the pack (about 20 liters) that isn’t much of an issue as the carry weight should be relatively low. All in all, it’s a very comfortable pack, especially when the chest straps are used.
To me, aesthetics are very important in an everyday carry bag, which is what I’ve been primarily using the Flanders for. If I’m going around town or heading into work, I want a pack that looks a little professional, but also looks sporty enough to hit the trail. This pack suits all of those needs. The minimalistic yet utilitarian design works well with the vibrant flashes of color generated by the zipper pulls, and the fabric is high quality, both in look and feel, meaning the pack looks at home in a casual work environment. It’s mostly subtle, but also a little bold, and certainly sits right in the current trends of modernism that many backpacks are currently following. It looks great.
When it comes to build quality, the pack is quite exceptional. The use of highly durable 1000 denier Cordura nylon means the pack easily resists abrasions, scuffs and tears without issue. The straps are thick, burly, and all reinforced where it’s important, and even the carry handle is sewn all the way down the back of the spine, ensuring it can bare any weight that could reasonably be stuffed inside the pack. I especially like the extra wide top strap and metal adjustment mechanism, as it allows me to cinch down larger loads as tight as I want, without worrying that a clip or buckle is going to pop. Even the inner waterproof layer is exceptionally tough, easily taking a bit of abuse by being used as both an everyday bag, a gear bag, and a hiking pack. My confidence is its ability to last for many years is high, and it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.
I’ve found the pack size to be just about perfect. I can pack a few layers inside for cold days, along with a lunch and other supplies, or I can cinch it down tight for a lightweight biking commute. It’s versatile, expandable, and offers plenty of organization, making is a useful pack for just about any situation.
The pack is completely waterproof thanks to the burly interior barrier, sealed zippers and effective roll top enclosure, meaning if you get caught in a hard rain while biking to work, everything inside is going to be safe and dry. The roll top does slow down closing the pack just a bit, but I can normally seal it up in about 6 seconds after a little practice.
What I didn’t like
The included zippers, while burly, are metal and jingle, a lot. I ended up cutting the metallic zipper pulls and replacing them with the cordage that was wrapped around them. Now it’s completely silent . It wasn’t hard to do, but it’s still surprising that a pack aimed at being on the go would make so much noise when moving about. Still, if you’re noise sensitive, you may want to follow suit via my guide here.
It could stand a little more organization within the outer, water sealed pockets. Currently, they’re just open pockets with nothing inside to keep things tidy. Perhaps just a couple sleeves for pencils or whatever would do the trick. Internal organization can be added to the large internal pocket affordably, but out of the box micro-organization is a little lack luster. Those who demand everything have its place may consider adding some of the (well priced) accessories on their order page.
The flanders is a unique pack. It’s built like a tank, but feels nimble on the back. It’s lightweight, yet still manages to provide an excellent amount of storage, even for winter commuting and hiking. I love the way the roll top allows me fast, easy access to the entirety of my gear, and it’s presence separates the backpack from the rest in a meaningful, non-superficial way. Using the pack has been a pleasure. Adjusting it down, organizing items inside, and getting things in and out is quite fast and easy. Above all, the pack is comfortable, reliable, and does everything I really need it to do. Thankfully, the noisy zippers were an easy fix and organization can be expanded for just a bit of extra cost for those who truly need to micromanage all the details in their pack. For me though, I’ve found that it’s working out great as is. If I’m hitting the trails, heading to work, or just going on a road trip, it does an excellent job and looks great while doing it, making it an easy backpack to recommend.
For more information on North St. and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, https://northstbags.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks to North St. for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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