In Portland, backpacks are as much a fashion statement as septum piercings and highlighter colored rain jackets. And if you've ever stepped foot in an Animal Traffic, you know how overwhelming it can be to choose a hipster backpack that will compliment your style, fit all your stuff and ultimately hold up.
Some of these babies look the part, but barely fit your laptop. That doesn't mean they're not quality items, but you should know what you're getting yourself into before blowing 100 bucks.
As a hip backpack connoisseur, I have had the privilege of owning four common Portland backpacks: the Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack, the Topo Designs Rover Pack, the Filson 70240 Small Carry-On Bag and the middle school savvy JanSport Classic SuperBreak Backpack.
Here, we look at these four backpacks and asses what they will, and won't, do for you.
Herschel Little America Backpack
Herschel Supply Co. was founded in Vancouver, B.C. in 2009, just around the time New Portland was taking off. It has become a global staple for cool, with Slate dubbing it, "a global phenomenon, glimpsed wherever hipsters dare to tread."
So, should you tread?
The Herschel Little America will treat you real nice. It's a large backpack (20" high with a 14.5" shoulder drop) with lots of pockets, supported by Nylon lining. You'll have no problem fitting a laptop, a wool sweater, an IPA and a medium-sized notebook in here. The four Buckle Drawstrip Magnetic Snap closures make the backpack easy to seal, but be careful and don't get the metal wet. (This can be problematic in Portland.) I made this mistake and not soon after, one of the drawstrings fell off completely.
Topo Designs Rover Pack
Topo Designs isn't just a brand, it's a way of life. Founded by two Coloradan entrepreneurs, the company began as a basement sew shop and is now located in a LEED-certified shipping container in Denver. The company touts simplicity as its business model, and it markets bags and backpacks for bikes over SUVs, camping trips over four-star hotels and carrying beers to a good friend's porch just about better than anything. Sounds like your kind of July, amiright?
And with Topo Design's Rover pack, you can really taste the rainbow. Topo Designs is as colorful as Herschel, but it mixes and matches with a fierceness that rivals RuPaul's Drag Race.
The Rover is designed from heavy-duty plastic hardware and has zippered front and top pockets. It makes a lot of sense for camping or outdoors activity, which is what it was designed for.
Topo Design's Rover Pack is great looking, but it's one drawback is space. The backpacks will serve well for a 13" or 15" Macbook Pro, but you might not be able to fit the carrying case as well. It can feel stiff.
Filson 70240 Small Carry-On Bag
OK, so this one's technically a messenger bag–but come on, there's a little Seth Cohen in all of us. Filson is as vintage and Pacific Northwest as they come. The company traces its roots to 1897 when its target audience was racing to profit from the Klondike Gold Rush. It's headquartered out of Seattle, Washington to this day.
The 70240 Small Carry-On Bag comes at a hefty price: $325.00, but the quality is bulletproof. The messenger bag is produced with 22-oz. 100% cotton oil finish and a Rugged Twill with 100% Genuine Bride Leather. It's not only water repellent (perfect for any PDX season that's not summer), but it has a two-way brass zipper with leather pulls and storm flap with double leather buckle closure. It is also very pocket friendly: 2 front bellows pockets with snap flap closures and an additional rear pocket.
So, basically, this thing will hold up come rain or shine. It can be yours in three classy colors, all sort of masculine and unassuming. However, I can tell you that I received more compliments for my Filson's throwback prep boy aesthetic than my Herschel and Topo bags combined.
Jansport Classic SuperBreak
There's a very high chance you've already owned a Jansport. It's as American as apple pie or anarchy, and its DNA is potent within most American elementary, middle and high school systems. If you possessed one growing up, it probably lasted you K-12.
Jansport may never be retro, but that's because it's always in style. It's completely durable with its implementation of 600D Polyester. It gives you a roomy, cozy front compartment that allows you to mingle any and all personal belongings.
And with over 60 colors, it's not like you can't personalize it. The cool thing with the Jansport Classic is that owning one doesn't make you appear that you're trying, which scores you some major brownie points in Hipsterworld.
And most importantly it's undeniably affordable. Starving artists please apply.
(Cool Stuff is a new feature at WW that reviews the best gear and stuff. Our reviewers are experts in their field and are asked to provide honest and independent assessments. When readers choose to purchase our editorial picks, we earn affiliate commissions that support our journalism.)