It might be time to get a new backpack. The British company Troubadour Goods makes just just what you need. It recently released four of its sustainable bags in a limited-edition color, a dark khaki.
They sent me the Troubadour Pioneer Backpack to try out. And it’s a stunner, fit for taking to work or outdoor hikes and trips to the gym in between.
Stylish, durable and sustainable: The Troubadour Pioneer Backpack is fit for adventure or a day in the executive suite
Just to get one thing straight right off the top: the Troubadour Pioneer Backpack in khaki — part of a limited-edition collection — is a luxe travel bag with a price to match. The company sells it for $275.
But given that your old nylon Jansport or whatever has toted a million sweaty gym socks and might let your iPad slip through a frayed lining at any moment, it might be worth your while to try a Troubadour.
Maybe it says something about my own history with knapsacks — or backpacks, though that term makes some people think of long-distance hikes with a tent in tow — but I’ve never been more impressed with something you strap on your back.
Troubadour makes “sustainable work and travel bags that combine the performance and comfort of outdoor bags with the elegance and function of high-end office bags,” according to a press release.
And that description is right on the money. I feel like I could take the Pioneer anywhere, and it would fit in and do its job well.
Recycled fabric is durable and waterproof
The Khaki Collection is crafted from a proprietary recycled fabric woven from a mix of post-consumer plastic bottles and repurposed textile waste. About 44 plastic bottles go into each bag, the company said.
A very dark “khaki,” the brown fabric is sleek, tough and smooth all at the same time. And the black vegan-leather trim and strategically placed padding only add to the sense of refinement and durability. The bag is lightweight and waterproof. In addition to the waterproof fabric, the zippers are set in waterproof tape.
The waterproofing works. When I doused the bag with a glass of water — there’s never a downpour when you need one — the interior stayed dry. One minor quibble is that the padding on the back became wet to the touch in places, which could soak into your clothes during wet weather. But it dried quickly afterwards.
While the recycled fabric has a smooth feel to it, you wouldn’t call it soft, necessarily. It’s softer than ballistic nylon but also feels thicker and a little stiffer than many nylon bags.
The Pioneer and other bags in the collection feature padded laptop sleeves for devices up to 16 inches, easy-access pockets for phone, keys and pens, as well as interior zippered pockets for valuables.
I found the cushy main laptop sleeve more than big enough for a 14-inch MacBook Pro, of course. It even fit the laptop together with a 5th-gen iPad Air in a keyboard case. And the backpack has plenty of spots to stash smaller items.
A separate bag inside for shoes? Nice.
Inside the bag, at the bottom, a separate shoe bag features an antimicrobial lining. And the outer fabric of the bag at the bottom is stiffened by some leather trim and features metal vents so odors don’t get trapped.
Though made for shoes, that same interior bag would be suitable for a toiletries case, or perhaps a light pair of sandals, slipper or shoes plus toiletries.
Ergonomic, memory-foam-padded shoulder straps and molded back panels make the Pioneer comfortable to wear.
And you can unzip the main compartment most of the way, across the top and more than halfway down the sides, so you can see all the interior compartments and all of your belongings. A separate zipper zips all the way down one side, providing another way into the main compartment.
The bag also features slotted pockets on the lower sides, similar to the elastic netting many bags have for water bottles and such. With the Pioneer, which has just a touch of elasticity to those outer pockets, you may find larger bottles won’t fit (but, like the rest of the bag, those pockets sure look elegant).
The Troubadour Pioneer Backpack comes in the new Khaki color as well as black or navy blue.
Where to buy: Troubadour