Today, I want to tell you about a really good bag with a really terrible name: Douchebags’ $179 The Backpack. The product of a Swedish company that serves a side dish of sophomoric attitude with its bags, The Backpack is intended to be your do-everything, go-everywhere workhorse bag, and it succeeds at that lofty challenge with aplomb. I’ve used it for a month and a half now, including during the grueling week of CES events, and I have to declare this my favorite backpack yet. After a decade of Kata, Manfrotto, Peak Design, OnePlus, Waterfield, and assorted others, this is the bag that now most closely matches my personal and professional needs.
Despite the silly brand name, Douchebags picks its materials with a serious commitment to quality. The Backpack is made of hard-wearing polyester on both the inside and outside, and it conveys an immediate sense of quality. The YKK zippers travel smoothly and easily, and they’re decorated with some whimsical pull tabs. Parts of the exterior have a leather-like appearance, but that’s just for looks.
One of my main peeves with modern backpacks is that they try to do too much — too many pockets, too many customization options, too much padding specific to a narrow subset of users like photographers — but the Douchebags Backpack sidesteps all of that. It’s basically one enormous pocket that you hoist onto your back, with a few intelligent bits of organization thrown in to make it an actual backpack instead of a simple sack.
On the outside, you have an extendable side mesh pocket that will house a water bottle or a tripod. A couple of external carry straps grace the front, featuring reassuringly tough metal hardware, and there are additional straps on the other side of the bag for tying down something like a jacket. These are somewhat more advanced features that are intended to help people who haul a lot of gear, but they’re there only if you need them. None of the extra straps add bulk or make the basics harder to use. You also get a top-mounted quick-access pocket (which is delightfully deep and has its own mesh compartment with a zipper), a side-access laptop compartment, and the huge main pocket that opens up entirely.
All 21 liters of this bag’s space are easily accessible and usable. There are no nooks or crannies designed for just one narrow purpose. I’ve grown to favor modular packing over the years, and so the minimalism of Douchebags’ design is perfect for me. Mesh pockets adorn the sides of the interior, and I use one to house my 20,000mAh Anker external battery and Astell & Kern Kann portable media player and the other for my documents and a couple of spare Android phones. (I don’t pretend to have a common loadout.) Similar mesh pockets are on the interior of the front flap, each accommodating the various tidbits that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of a conventional top-loading backpack.
CES and airport security checks are an absolute breeze with this bag. I just pop it off my shoulder, unzip the whole thing in one fell swoop, and present my exceedingly neat interior to admiring security officials. I’m not kidding, I was complimented on how organized my bag was, and I credit the bag itself for that because of how stupefyingly easy it is to get things in and out of it.
The quick-access pocket at the top adapts to how you want to use The Backpack. If, like me, you fill up the pocket with chargers, lip balm, sunglasses, and the like, it’ll take up space from the main compartment. If, on the other hand, you have a huge load of avocados or other shopping that you want to cram into the bag, that pocket flattens out and makes room. I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached into it to retrieve a phone, passport, dongle, earphones, or a business card.
You could probably get as much functionality out of other backpacks, but few will be quite as compact and easy to wear as The Backpack. I used to think my ideal size for a bag was 25 liters or more, but this one convinces me that an intelligently laid-out smaller bag does the job just as well. The Backpack isn’t rigid like the OnePlus Everyday Backpack, but it is stiff enough to both stand up on its own and retain its shape when it isn’t fully loaded out. That means a clean, prim, and proper aesthetic is maintained no matter what. There are two things that the Douchebags Backpack is missing, though. Other bags like the Boundary Errant have better water resistance or are either entirely waterproof or come with a rain cover. Whereas The Backpack could do with a cover both for rain and to hide its unfortunate branding — which can be a real issue if you intend to use it in school or at work.
On my back, the Douchebags Backpack is extremely comfortable, making contact with my entire back instead of just the shoulders and the waist, as some other bags I’ve tried have tended to do. The upside of that is indeed comfort. However, the downside is that there’s not much breathing room, and my back tends to warm up after wearing the bag for a while. I imagine this might be a bigger problem in the summer than the winter months during which I’ve tested the bag. For now, I don’t consider this a big enough issue to worry much about it. The only other negative thing I’ve noticed about this bag is that its rear panel has picked up lint and fluff from some of my hoodies, ever so slightly spoiling the neat look.
I consider it my job and sacred duty to unearth all the possible downsides to a product and inform readers about it. But in the case of this profanely branded Backpack, there’s precious little to complain about. The Backpack is well-thought-out, well-made, and in the wake of CES, battle-proven to withstand the rigors of hurried and uncaring use. Forgive the name, appreciate the everyday carry game.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge
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