Day Owl The Backpack (Larger) Review

The Day Owl Backpack (Larger) is constructed with sustainable materials and features sleek external storage, but the fabric picks up fluff easily.

Day Owl Backpack in Essex, England
Day Owl Backpack in Essex, England

Our Verdict

7.9 /10
Good info

Form

80/100

Design

77/100

Value

77/100
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Pros

  • Premium, eco-groovy materials
  • Sleek, hidden water bottle pocket
  • Clamshell opening offers great visibility & ease of access

Cons

  • No false bottom in the laptop compartment
  • Fabric picks up fluff easily
  • Strap adjusters can be tricky to adjust

Technical Details

90 %

Carry-On Compliance (Beta)

View 145/162 Airlines

43 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    21l

  • Weight (lb)

    2.4 lb (1.1 kg)

  • Dimensions

    17.5 in x 12.5 in x 5.5 in (44.5 x 31.8 x 14 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Canvas, Recycled Polyester, Leather, Neoprene, YKK Zippers

  • Manufacturing Country

    China

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Day Owl FAQ

Full Review

Day Owl is a Certified B Corporation, meaning they’re one of the most socially and environmentally-friendly companies out there regarding their products and production. Their main objective? Making the most out of plastic bottles by repurposing them into sustainable fabric for awesome bags.

Day Owl Backpack in Essex, England
Day Owl Backpack in Essex, England

The Day Owl Backpack is a great example of this. It does well in its job as an everyday pack and has some clean and clever things going on. It’s available in a smaller 16L version as well, though we’ll be focusing on the larger 21L version in this review.

We’ve got two weeks’ worth of experience to talk about, so let’s get to it!

Materials & Aesthetic

According to our Instagram poll, less than half of you (43% to be exact) are fans of this pack’s look. We expected a higher score, as we personally really like the pack’s heritage aesthetic. It has a classic look, and smooth, robust materials.

At the time of this review, this pack is available in six different colorways, many of which have a more muted vibe like Deep Navy and the Charcoal Black colorway we’ve been testing. You can also opt for opposite and pick up the brighter-but-still-subdued Pale Pink or Olive Green if they’re more your speed.

Day Owl Backpack Material
Day Owl Backpack Material

The only logos on this pack can be found on the zipper pulls. You won’t find a large wordmark or patch on the actual body of the bag, which you may appreciate if you prefer a more subtle approach to branding.

The material on this pack reminds us of a lot of what we’ve seen on Fjallraven bags, like the Raven 28L Backpack. It features Day Owl’s First Mile material, which is comprised of waxed canvas produced entirely of 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. Its lining and trim are also made of recycled polyester—we dig the sustainable approach.

You’re also getting a lifetime warranty when you buy this pack, meaning if you incur any fixable damage (tears, missing pieces, etc.), you can send it back in and they’ll patch it right up. If there’s no saving your pack, then they encourage you to send it in anyway—they’ll recycle it for you and give you 25% off a new bag.

Our only nitpick with this fabric is that it does pick up fluff more so than some others we’ve tested, but not more than we’d expect from a canvas material. This is especially something to note if you have any pets at home, as this pack easily attracts hair, dirt, and other debris. It hasn’t been too bad on the Charcoal Black colorway we’ve been testing, but it can still get and look pretty dirty after only a handful of uses.

Day Owl Backpack Zippers and Hardware
Day Owl Backpack Zippers and Hardware

The zippers are from the trusted brand YKK. When we say trusted, we’re speaking to the many positive experiences we’ve had with this brand in the past. We can add this bag to that list, as everything has been zipping and unzipping smoothly.

We’ve also really been digging the metal hardware on this pack, as it’s helped keep the shoulder straps nice and tidy and adds a premium look and feel. Everything in this area has been working as it should be, so no complaints to share.

External Components

Left: Rebecca, Height: 5’7” (170 cm), Torso: 16” (41 cm) | Right: Nathan, Height: 6’4” (193 cm), Torso: 19” (48 cm)
Left: Rebecca, Height: 5’7” (170 cm), Torso: 16” (41 cm) | Right: Nathan, Height: 6’4” (193 cm), Torso: 19” (48 cm)

The Backpack’s harness system is pretty basic. It doesn’t feature a sternum strap or really cushy padding, but we’ve overall found it to be more than comfortable for a bag of this size.

Looking at the shoulder straps, you’ll notice a small amount of padding to add some comfort but nothing crazy. You do have a nice mesh lining to add some breathability, which is always appreciated, especially when you’re wearing the bag for long periods of time or are out in warmer weather. Altogether, they’ve worked well enough for the length and load that we’re usually carrying.

Day Owl Backpack Shoulder Straps and Back Panel
Day Owl Backpack Shoulder Straps and Back Panel

This pack’s back panel doesn’t have any mesh lining to help ventilate your back on those longer wears, so some back sweat is unavoidable. What it does have, though, is a luggage pass-through for easy wheeling of your bag on your roller luggage while traveling. It stays flat against the pack when not in use, so it’s not poking into our backs or creating any unnecessary bulk.

Day Owl Backpack Top Handles
Day Owl Backpack Top Handles

This pack also features two grab handles at the very top with some smooth leather that makes for a nice, sophisticated accent. They secure together by a snap fastener, so they’re not slouching on the pack when not in use. These handles have also been great for picking up the bag during testing, and can even be used for carrying this bag as more of a tote when you’re heading into a more professional setting such as a business meeting.

Day Owl Backpack Water Bottle Pocket
Day Owl Backpack Water Bottle Pocket

Last up for this section is the water bottle pocket integrated into the side of the bag. It has a neoprene lining inside that adds some water-resistance, so you can be confident that if you have a spill, it’s not getting into any other part of the bag. We’ve been keeping a YETI Rambler 18oz Bottle inside throughout testing, and it fits nicely. We’re also digging how it doesn’t bulk up the outside of this pack, and that it’s not actually visible when it’s closed—it makes for a much cleaner look.

Inside The Pack

Day Owl Backpack Side Pocket
Day Owl Backpack Side Pocket

We have a few pockets to cover before we get inside this thing, starting with the hidden pocket on the other side of the pack. It’s smaller than the water bottle pocket we mentioned, but you’re still able to fit some smaller, more valuable items like your wallet or passport to keep them secure from any pickpockets. We didn’t get too much use out of it ourselves, but we have been stashing a pair of Apple Airpods Pro for safekeeping, and it’s worked well during testing.

Day Owl Backpack Top Pocket
Day Owl Backpack Top Pocket

Next, you have the quick-grab pocket at the very top. It’s a handy spot to keep items like sunglasses, keys, a snack or two, and really anything else you’re constantly grabbing throughout the day. It has a green liner inside, so you’re able to see what you’re looking for instead of having to fumble blindly for your stuff, which is always a thoughtful addition.

Day Owl Backpack Front Pocket
Day Owl Backpack Front Pocket

Lastly, there’s the larger pocket on the front of the pack. We’ve just been slipping in some basic gear, like some solid cologne and a lock for the gym. Because there’s no organization inside, we’ve also been keeping a Tom Bihn Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch inside to help segment our even smaller items. Overall, this pocket works best for flatter items, as anything too bulky will give it an overstuffed look, and not a good one.

Day Owl Backpack Main Compartment
Day Owl Backpack Main Compartment

Now, it’s finally time for the main compartment! This pack has a horseshoe style opening that opens up almost fully clamshell, but not quite. The opening, along with the same green liner you’ve seen in the quick-grab pocket, offers lots of visibility and ease of access to everything inside.

In terms of organization, you have two pockets against the back wall—one larger and one smaller. We’ve found the larger pocket to be the perfect size for an Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet inside a protective case, so if you have this tablet or another one of a similar size, this is the place to put it. As for the smaller pocket, we haven’t been keeping much inside, but if you have a few pens or pencils you’re looking to keep handy, this is a nice spot to stash them.

The rest of the compartment is a whole bunch of open space, so you can load it up with pouches and packing cubes as you see fit to help separate your gear. We’ve been using the Day Owl Cord Pouch ourselves to organize our chargers and cords, and it works well in conjunction with this pack. At 21L, there’s leftover room for a sweatshirt or jacket, a larger pair of headphones, an extra pair of shoes, and other daily essentials you usually take with you to the office, school, or even the gym.

Day Owl Backpack Laptop Compartment
Day Owl Backpack Laptop Compartment

To wrap up this review, we also want to point out the laptop compartment, which is located at the very back of this pack. Day Owl says you can fit up to 15″ laptop inside, but we’ve even been able to get a 16″ MacBook Pro inside during testing—it only works without a case, though, which is something you might want with this pack. We say that as there’s some padding to help cushion your tech on your commute, but no false bottom to protect it from accidental drops. So, we do recommend keeping your laptop in a protective sleeve when and where possible.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Waxed canvas material looks great and feels nice in the hand
  • Water bottle pocket stores the bottle internally and is lined with water-resistant neoprene
  • Top handles are great for moving the bag around quickly but not ideal for carrying for longer periods
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • The hidden water bottle pocket on the side works really well in day to day use, and we like that it allows the bag to keep its minimal aesthetic
  • The plentiful external quick-grab pockets come in really useful, there’s always a place for something
  • The shoulder strap buckles can be tricky to adjust, but the dangle free experience is well worth the trade-off
  • Even though there’s no false-bottom, the separate laptop compartment at the back of the pack is a great addition
mm
By Nathan Coverdale
Created October 2, 2020 • Updated October 2, 2020
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