North St. Bags Flanders Backpack review

After what seemed like an endless winter, including a late-season snowstorm that dumped a foot and a half of snow, we’re finally starting to see some decent weather. And all that sun and warmth has put one thing on my mind… long hikes on one of the many trails in the area. One of the necessities for a day on the trail is a sturdy, comfortable backpack.

Enter the Flanders backpack. This handmade rucksack from Portland-based North St. Bags is a fitting companion for your both your most rugged hike or a daily work commute.

The Flanders backpack is roll-top, weatherproof and ready for action.

The backpack’s construction and quality is top-notch. All of the hardware felt like it could withstand a small explosion. The zippers are easy to open, the buckles snap together easily and stay closed, and the straps stayed in place. And due to the fact that it’s handmade, the shoulder straps and side compression straps are extremely tough. I used to own a Chrome messenger bag and would say that it matches that epic build quality and waterproofing while remaining very much lighter.

You can see the roll-top length from this angle. Closing it is like rolling a large lunch bag.

According to North St.’s website, the Flanders Backpack is made from “1000 denier CORDURA® nylon” with a waterproof liner made from “lightweight and durable VX-21 X-Pac™ sailcloth.” It also features:

  • Handmade, built to last a lifetime
  • Easy access external pockets and internal Velcro rows enable adding or swapping out pockets as needed
  • Bright lining makes finding items fast and easy
  • Side-sleeve for u-lock or bottle
  • Internal laptop sleeve
  • 1000 denier CORDURA® nylon
  • Waterproof X-Pac™ sailcloth liner
  • 2” buckle and strap

This inner X-Pac material is indeed very thin and durable. The tradeoff is that it’s also very noisy. Digging around for something inside the large compartment or the front pockets creates a crisp rustling that wouldn’t matter so much while hiking but might be really loud fetching something from a pocket in the middle of the night.

The chest strap keeps the backpack from moving around too much and further balances the weight distribution.

As far as features go, the Flanders is fairly minimal. There are two zippered front pockets, two side pockets that could easily fit a large water bottle, and an internal laptop sleeve. The main compartment opening is a roll-top and held shut with a large buckle. I noticed that when the buckle is undone, it hangs down over the first zippered pocket and gets in the way, but that’s a minor quibble. One could probably fit a 15″ laptop inside the laptop sleeve.

The large main compartment is cavernous.

The main compartment is quite large and could hold plenty of stuff. There isn’t much division for this area, and even though it’s large, there isn’t a lot of room for maneuverability, so I’d pack the things that you need to access frequently near the top. Four expansion straps along the side of the bag allow it to hold its shape very well no matter how full it is.

All of these features would be useless if the backpack itself was a pain to wear. Fortunately, the Flanders is super comfortable. Thick padding on the shoulder straps coupled with the chest strap allows the bag to hug close to your back and distributes the weight very well across both shoulders. I almost forgot I was wearing it during the review time.

I didn’t get a chance to test the weatherproofing in a downpour, but it did stand up well to some splashes from my water bottle. I imagine it would be just fine sitting on a wet ground or during a steady rain.

There wasn’t a lot I’d change about the Flanders backpack. That crew up on Portland sure knows how to put together a quality product. If you’re looking for a virtually indestructible, medium-sized backpack for hiking, commuting or travel, this bag could be the last one you’ll ever have to buy.

The Flanders Backpack is available now for $199 from North St. Bags.

Source: The sample for this review was provided by North St. Bags. Please visit their site for more information and to order.

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Product Information

Price:$199.00
Manufacturer:North St. Bags
Pros:
  • Comfortable padding on shoulder straps
  • Good weight distribution and compression
  • Holds its shape well when full
  • Weatherproof and very durable
Cons:
  • Average number of default dividers/pockets
  • Buckle/strap obscures front pockets when undone
  • Liner material is very noisy
2 comments… add one
  • HK April 26, 2017, 9:18 pm

    What size water bottle can this bag fit? Would a one liter nalgene or similar fit?

    • Jacob Haas April 27, 2017, 10:08 am

      It doesn’t really specify on their site the diameter or circumference, however I imagine the narrow Nalgene would fit in there rather well. I don’t really have one of those to test out. A typical water bottle that you’d buy from the store fits with room to spare, I usually just have one of those I refill multiple times to use on hikes.

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