Backpacks did not originate in the realm of everyday carry. Rather, if you’re trying to trace them back to a concrete origin, the likeliest realm of their birth is that of the great outdoors. You see, the concept of a shoulder-strapped bag is ideal for on-foot adventures, and that means rucksacks were — in all likelihood — the first backpacks ever invented.
Topo Designs may be a relatively young brand — founded in 2008 — but they’ve quickly become one of the most recognizable and well-respected backpack brands around. They’ve even made our own list of the best EDC backpacks. And a part of that is undoubtedly due to their designs, which manage to incorporate modern features and sensibilities into offerings inspired by the gear of the past — like the aforementioned rucksacks. One of the bestselling offerings, the Rover Pack Classic, is perhaps the best physical example of their old-meets-new outlook. And we got up-close-and-personal with it for the following in-depth hands-on review.
The Topo Designs Rover Pack Classic is beautiful — that’s clear — but it definitely gives off more of a hiking pack vibe than that of a city-friendly commuter bag. There was a time when that might’ve bothered us, but we now live in a world where there’s a lot of overlap between the streetwear and outdoor gear industries. As such, this backpack seems like the ideal blend of the two, as it features hiking-inspired styling but with a smaller silhouette perfect for daily carry. The only thing that stands out as a possible negative is the somewhat excessive length of the straps — which could be easily grabbed and tugged at by strangers, pickpockets, and other ne’er-do-wells trying to cause inconvenience and/or harm. It’s not the biggest issue and likely won’t cause any issue 90% of the time or more, but it’s an issue no less.
Materials & Craftsmanship
If there’s one thing we really love about Topo Designs’ offerings, it’s that their designs are simultaneously clean and relatively minimalist while still being instantly recognizable and, perhaps, even iconic. The Rover Pack Classic is definitely no exception to that rule. Available in a whopping ten different colorways — some subdued and others vibrant — there’s a version of this pack that suits just about any stylistic taste. Of course, while the colors vary, the features are shared across the board, which is another very good thing.
It’s worth noting that the clean design and minimalist aesthetic of this pack is, at least in part, possible thanks to the excellent craftsmanship behind it. Seeing as how this bag is one of Topo’s bestsellers, it’s safe to assume that these bags are mass-produced. And, while that leaves open the possibility of manufacturing errors to slip through the cracks, the bag that we got our hands on was pleasantly well-built. The seams and stitches are clean, the materials are sturdy and free of blemishes, and the hardware is tough and durable (at least as far as we can tell).
This bag and all its permutations are built from a trio of materials — all of which add to its overall value, distinctness, and help shape its styling. The top of the exterior is constructed from water-resistant 420D nylon pack cloth, the bottom is built from even sturdier 1000D nylon, and the interior is lined with 210D nylon — which is sturdy but soft enough to the touch that we’d not be concerned about anything with a glass display getting scratched or damaged in any way. There are some who might prefer it if the entirety of the bag’s exterior was built from 1000D nylon, but we actually really appreciate the difference in texture between the two external materials and, for all intents and purposes, it will not affect its functionality in an EDC sense.
Function & Form
As mentioned, this bag is modeled after the rucksacks of old — which means it has a flip-top main compartment closure, as opposed to more common zippered closures. And while this might seem more like a style choice than anything else, it actually has performance implications: the Rover Pack Classic is more weatherproof than similarly-outfitted zippered bags, making it useful in places with a high likelihood of a drizzle. The dual buckles and drawstring closure beneath the top flap also help make the main compartment more secure — although, as mentioned, we do have an issue with the excessive length of the straps.
The bulk of that main compartment is unstructured and makes up the majority of the bag’s 20L capacity, but it is not entirely without organization. Inside, users will also find an elastic pouch sized specifically for 15″ laptop computers, which has padded backing for added protection. It’s also worth noting that the inside is highlighter yellow, which actually makes finding things inside a bit easier because your gear won’t easily blend into the background. It’s a subtle touch, but it’s also handy. Aside from that, there isn’t much more to the main compartment. Thankfully, there are external storage options, as well.
That starts with a single horizontally-zippered external pocket. Like the main compartment, it is similarly unstructured (there are no internal organizational compartments) and also lined with hi-vis nylon. Flanking that medium-sized zippered pocket, there are also dual elastic water bottle pockets that can expand to fit most standard-sized reusable water bottles but could also do double duty as umbrella pouches. Finally, aside and above those pockets, the bag boasts a quartet of compression straps, so you can stabilize your load whether the bag is mostly empty or packed to the brim. Altogether, the organizational options are somewhat limited, but the bag is well-suited to average EDC usage overall.
Who Is This Backpack For?
If you’re watching the streetwear space, you’ve probably noticed a distinct increase in outdoor-inspired styling making its way into city-going designs over the last few years. And while this bag wasn’t made with that in mind, it is well suited to those who appreciate those aesthetics, especially if you’re still looking for something with modern EDC sensibilities built into it. At 20L, the Rover Pack Classic isn’t overly capacious, but it doesn’t really need to be for daily everyday carry usage. If you’re a commuter looking for a beautiful, well-built, moderately minimalist, outdoor-inspired daypack that is equally suited to walking the city streets as it is well-equipped for short hikes, this Topo Designs offering is undoubtedly going to be right up your alley.
Topo Designs Rover Pack Classic is not boastful (although some of its colorways are quite vibrant) nor does it promise a long list of unrivaled compartments, durabilities, and otherwise. As it turns out, that’s actually a very good thing, as it means the bag does exceedingly well with its more concentrated array of features. The exterior is gorgeous and well-suited to city-going EDC usage — with inclusions ranging from reliable weatherproofing to a pared-down organizational scheme that’s functional-yet-minimalist — and the quartet of compartments, while somewhat limited, are all functional and well-considered. If you’re searching for a classically-styled backpack that’s not cumbersome or confusing, but is still refined and useful enough for city commuting, this may just be the perfect bag for you.
Topo Designs Rover Pack Classic
Traditionally styled rucksack with modern functionality that's built with technical materials.
- Ideal Size For EDC Backpack
- Timeless Styling
- 10 Beautiful Colorways
- Limited Organization
- Too Much Length On Straps
- Drawstring Closure Can Be Frustrating
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