I'm all for a smart backpack for day-to-day use. It can fit everything an "all or nothing" bag lady like me wants with her, switch to an overnight bag on a dime, but these donut-sized fashion backpacks of late do not cut it. Though I don't exactly intend to hike through Nepal in the next year or two, I could never buy a backpack without equal parts function and form. Unfortunately, that meant any day backpack use included my ancient bag from college days, long since reeking of bong water as a renovated carrying case. My shoulders and Lyft drivers are ready for an upgrade.
It was at the Powell's in the airport that I found myself perusing Herschel Supply Co.'s aesthetically-pleasing collections of modern dopp kits and laptop cases. Amidst the fine canvas bags I spotted a very reasonably priced collapsible backpack, the Packable Daypack. I never stopped using it when I returned from my trip.

It’s too cute to put in the dirty BikeTown basket anyway. (Robert Allen)
It’s too cute to put in the dirty BikeTown basket anyway. (Robert Allen)

The simple design still features a large zippered pocket on the front, despite easily folding down in to a self-contained pocket. Once unpacked, the wrinkles quickly smooth out and the weightless bag keeps a normal shape regardless of how much is inside.

All packed up when you don’t need it. (Lauren Terry)
All packed up when you don’t need it. (Lauren Terry)

When it comes to these super lightweight, collapsible things, the question is whether they can carry more than a couple pounds. The polyester material, something Herschel refers to as "ripstop fabric," feels like a thin windbreaker. But even after carrying multiple bottles of water, laptop, hardbound books and journals, an unnecessary stuffed makeup bag, and more for several days on end, the bag looks barely used. One month of the usual day use with my Longchamp and the corners started to wear, but I'd venture to say this handful of ripstop fabric could carry a backpack's worth of rocks without a tear. If you are out to test the bounds of this polyester weave, the adjustable straps come in handy.

The Packable DayPack in Navy. (Amazon)
The Packable DayPack in Navy. (Amazon)

In any of the colors, you can still look forward to the charming striped Herschel pattern on the inseam. Those little details and overall craftsmanship make the brand a standout in every category, but one can only have so many pouches. This versatile, no-frills bag can come in handy at the grocery store, a music festival, a trip to Germany, and an unpredictable day job. With a contemporary design that can carry impressive weight without tearing, Herschel's Packable Daypack is the perfectly chill, utilitarian backpack everyone can use. Just don't waste it on your bong.

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