It’s back to the office with the Shinola Rambler Backpack

Given what we named our site, it?s a very natural extension to say we?re going to talk about knapsacks here. We let you know about one up for crowdfunding the other week and now we?re here with our first hands (back?) on review of a backpack with the Shinola Rambler.

Yes, that?s right, the selfsame Shinola that has made Detroit it?s home and is building out a number of interesting watches and clocks. They?ve also got a pretty extensive leather workshop, which I learned when I toured the facility. This means they can craft their own designs (as well as make their own watch straps), which has extended into a number of different leather goods. Or, items with a dash of leather, like the Shinola Rambler.

In many ways, the Shinola Rambler reminds me of the backpack I had when I was in college – it too was made of a thicker nylon, and had a suede lower extremity as well. While this is partly for styling, it?s also adding in a layer of protection where the bag is most likely to take abuse. Continuing the throwback styling you?ve got a tie down patch/grommet on the upper portion, quite sizable grab loops top and bottom, and nary a hint of a bottle-holder pocket.

For anyone who?s bought a backpack in the last few years, the commission of that pocket on the Shinola Rambler can come as a shock (I know it did for me). We?ve become used to having that dedicated space to drop a coffee mug or water bottle and have it kept secure and not needing to be carried. If I were to guess, it was omitted here in a combination of a clean design and simpler construction. What they have done is included a loop on the side into which a carabiner would easily slip. Then, onto that clip, you could pop your bottle (or keys, or whatever).

The lack of that external pocket on the side was sorely missed, as I?m always carrying coffee with me to and from the office. Past that, though, using the Shinola Rambler was rather nice. The large zippered compartment in the back easily swallowed the 15? MacBook Pro that I carry (just go slow with the zipper around the corner of the laptop), and the main compartment swallowed everything else I normally shove in a bag (mostly lunch and a raincoat).

Additionally, the Shinola Rambler has a smaller external pocket bumped out, and this was a handy place to toss my Kindle, glasses, and a few odds and ends. These were easily accessible, and the quite-large zippers opened and closed easily. As to how water-tight these are, I did not specifically test that. The main compartment does have a flap over the zipper, but the padded laptop section and small external pocket did not have this extra protection. I?ve a feeling in a light rain you?re probably ok, but in a storm situation, I?m willing to bet some water would get through.

Then again, if you?re like me, the Shinola Rambler is going to be a work commuter bag, not necessarily something you?d use for outdoors adventures (though I suppose you could – just toss a hydration pack in the laptop section). And to that end, you?ll have an umbrella for storms, so the backpack (and it?s contents) should be fine. Oh, one other styling note – there?s a prominent Shinola patch on the bottom of the bag. This gives it a visual similarity to some other popular bags out there, which you may or may not like.

In terms of comfort, the Shinola Rambler was a decent bag. It carried my regular daily workload without issue (aka, it all fit and stayed tight to my back). The straps have a decent amount of padding, but are a bit narrower than my normal daily bag (a Timbuk2) so that can impact comfort, depending on how much weight you carry in the bag. Past that, the back panel was nice, with a more breathable meshy inlay, so that seemed like an upgrade to what I?m used to, though I did notice it was a bit grippier against clothes/jackets (aka, doesn?t slide as easily) depending on what you?re wearing.

If you want to add the Shinola Rambler to your daily essentials, it?s available in grey and black (as we reviewed) or a green and brown, either for the price of $395 direct from Shinola.

Review Summary

  • Device: Shinola Rambler Backpack
  • Price: $395
  • Recommended for: You need a new bag for your daily commute, but you want something that feels more outdoorsy than technical
  • What I would change: an external bottle/mug pocket -or one that can clip securely on (no jostling) would be a serious upgrade
  • Would I use it? It is a nice bag – roomy, and the zippers were like butter. The lack of a dedicated bottle pocket breaks the deal for me, though.

Specifications from Shinola

  • Zip closure to large compartment with an open pocket on back wall
  • Water-resistant nylon exterior and interior
  • Exterior front zip compartment with 2 open pockets and 2 pen holders
  • Nylon lined 15? laptop sleeve with foam padding
  • Spacer mesh allows for breathability
  • Convenient grab loop on top and bottom
  • Front lash tab for fastening equipment
  • Loop for carabiner clip on side
  • Adjustable straps for backpack carry
  • Suede reinforced bottom
  • Dimensions: 18? H x 12? W x 6.25? D | 45.7cm x 30.5cm x 15.9cm

Patrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.

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