Remember when backpacks were for boy-scouts and troopers? In the decades when briefcases (then, for some time, shoulder-strap laptop carriers) were de rigueur for metropolitan professionals, it would have seemed peculiar that diminutive versions of the hiker’s best buddy could ever become boardroom friendly: they are, after all, intrinsically functional, hence their perennial use by the military (the first external-frame “knapsack” with hip belt was patented by United States infantryman Major Henry C Merriam in 1878).
A far cry from the green canvas affairs Merriam equipped US troops with are a range of British offerings at the moment, including the ‘Explora Deluxe’ range from gun maker Westley Richards in dark or mid tan (£1,295), buffalo (£1,495) and safari coloured soft suede (£895). The range – a timely addition to the brand’s repertoire, as the itinerant among us prepare to dust off our passports – is lightweight, comfortable yet sturdy, and lined with stunning printed fabrics and soft suedes.
London Velvet allow you create your own customisable backpack (£450), from with customers choosing the whole colour scheme (including the piping and the velvet lining on the straps) as well as front letter and symbols; all are made from supple vegetarian-dyed calf leather, and are extra comfortable (perfect for cyclists in fact) thanks to the padding on the back.
More London-based brands are behind The Hopper (£600), Ruskin’s tan leather and tweed rucksack that will accommodate a 13-inch laptop (its wipe-clean internal lining is another bonus), and Bennett Winch’s delightfully minimalistic black or brown leather backpacks (£850) which, typically of this boutique maker, come in fabulous materials (full grain Tuscan leather and London welded brass) and feature a British summer-friendly removable nylon wet compartment).
Tanner Krolle – a heritage leather brand that has counted the Queen, Jackie Onassis, Cary Grant and Diana Princess of Wales as customers over the years – has just bolstered its luggage range with the Freddy Backpack (see main pic), which comes in soft grainy or smooth leather in black, oxblood or British racing green, whilst Brunello Cucinelli’s latest offering, made in Italy from full-grain buffalo leather, is in the goldilocks zone in terms of being sized perfectly for both work and travel (£1,990). It can also be flattened and stored in a very small space.
One of the less pricey but understatedly dashing and impressively functional pieces that’s caught our eye, though, is from Way Travel: an American brand dedicated to perennial itinerants (they also make travel blankets, neck pillows and natty plane masks) which has mastered the art of making prosaic goods that facilitate long journeys desirable pieces for the au courant itinerant.
Made with water-resistant nylon, their £175 Front Pocket Backpack (these guys’ product names reflect their no-nonsense approach to elegant pragmatism) includes a spacious front zipper pocket, a breathable mesh back panel and padded shoulder straps for added comfort and – this is a nice touch for those on the move – a full wraparound zip opening for easy access to its main compartment. The laptop pocket (15-inches) has a magnetic locking zipper for security.