I'm writing this from an overnight bus from London to Paris with my Duluth Pack backpack in the seat next to me. The past week of travel has been full of adventures that have so far involved briefly losing my passport, relying on the kindness of strangers, eating incredible fish and chips, snickering at towns with names like "Dorking" or "Cockfosters" because I'm actually a teenage boy inside and riding more trains than I can count. Though at times I have been less than pleased with my own faculties on this trip (see: passport), I have been consistently satisfied with this backpack.
I tend to be suspicious of backpacks with even a hint of "cool" factor, because I've had so many nice-looking ones crap out on me as soon as I try to carry any serious weight. My ugly ones, however, have always held up. But this bag represents the best of both worlds: It's attractive enough that I was happy to wear it in lieu of a purse while touristing around London, but it also made for a sturdy airline carry-on capable of handling my laptop, camera and books. (Considering the bag has a lifetime warranty, perhaps the latter shouldn't be surprising.)
Some of my favorite features are the roll-top closure — it allows me to expand or contract carrying capacity — and the side zipper that makes for easy on-the-go access. But one of the biggest wins comes with the knowledge that this bag was ethically made in Duluth, Minnesota, where the company has been manufacturing gear continually since 1882 (!). This is one part of my American heritage I'll gladly carry with me while traveling abroad.
Deluxe Roll-Top Scout Pack, $225, available at Duluth Pack
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