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Db Journey Scholar Backpack Review

Made for the busy student, the Db Scholar is a simple everyday backpack. We like the swanky design & color selection, but the compression straps are questionable.

Our Verdict

6.8 /10
Okay info

Form

70/100

Design

63/100

Value

70/100
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Pros

  • Simple internal organization
  • Structured shape helps it stand up on its own
  • Comfortable carry

Cons

  • Compression straps can bend bag out of shape when used
  • Exterior material can get scratched and marked up easily
  • No water bottle pocket

Technical Details

90 %

Carry-On Compliance (Beta)

View 146/162 Airlines

44 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    17l

  • Weight (lb)

    1.54 lb (0.7 kg)

  • Denier

    500D

    Main tarpaulin

  • Dimensions

    17.32 in x 11.02 in x 5.19 in (44 x 28 x 13.2 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Tarpaulin, Polyester, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Aluminum

  • Manufacturing Country

    Vietnam

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    16"

  • Warranty Information

    Db Journey Warranty

Full Review

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Db The Scholar in Detroit
Db The Scholar in Detroit

Remember when you were in grade school, and your parents took you to buy a shiny new backpack before starting the new year? The material was stiff and glossy. It sat high up on your back like a perfect little box. You were ready to start the year feeling fresh.

Once you put on the Db Scholar, you’ll feel like an overly excited kid about to flaunt their new backpack to the whole school. Ah, to be young again. But this isn’t the plastic Lisa Frank bag that your mom got you from Target before fifth grade. It’s a snazzy, functional backpack for people on the go like you. Take it to campus and then on a day hike, and you’ll be styling and profiling both ways. With minimal features, mainly a laptop compartment and two quick grab pockets, it’s got the essentials covered.

Db The Scholar Male/Female fit
Left: Lauren Hom, Height: 5’3” (160 cm), Torso: 17” (43 cm) | Right: Tom Wahlin, Height: 6’2” (188 cm), Torso: 19.25” (49 cm)

But that’s just it. This backpack is almost too simple. We’re not saying that we need a bag to have space whistles on it, but given the option, who would say no… to whatever a space whistle is. We like the Scholar as a simple, clean, and comfortable choice for everyday carry. We’d like it a lot more if it had a better, more secure laptop compartment and a place for our water bottle at least.

What does Db stand for, you ask? We’re not sure, and it doesn’t seem like the folks over at Db are either. The company used to be called a rather *ahem* unsavory term to describe obnoxious people that starts with a d, ends in g, and has a b in the middle. Catch our drift? No? Well, just check out the patch on the front of the bag with the former name on it below.

Db The Scholar logo
Db The Scholar logo

What probably started as a funny, clever name likely turned into a marketing disaster, so after re-branding, the company now goes by “Db.” According to their website, Db stands for whatever you want it to! Delicious bagels? Deep breathing? Why the heck not? Whatever you say goes, so we’re going to go with Dank Brussels sprouts. Yeah, we like the sound of that. The Dank Brussels sprouts Scholar. Sounds like someone we’d like to party with.

Materials & Aesthetic

The primary material on the outside of the Scholar is a sturdy 500d tarpaulin. This gives it some nice weather resistance, but unfortunately, it got dirty with scuff marks and dust pretty quickly during the two weeks that we used it. Not that big of a deal, as it does wipe clean easily, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re going to be shuffling the bag between coffee shops and classroom floors. The good thing about this material is that it’s stiff, helping to keep the bag’s overall shape.

The sides and bottom are reinforced with 900d and 1600d polyester, and we are pleased to see YKK #8 reverse coil zippers and Duraflex hardware on this bag. Mark those off on the quality materials checklist. Robust aluminum buckles are stylized to look like the letter “D” on the compression straps, a unique branding touch.

Db The Scholar zippers
Db The Scholar zippers

We like how the rest of the branding isn’t too obnoxious, though leaving the former company name on the front is an interesting choice. This could have just been the case when we got the bag. At the time you’re reading this review, it very well may just say “Db” on the front. Beyond that, you’ll find tiny Db logos on the right shoulder strap and the compression strap buckles, as well as imprinted on the back panel.

Db The Scholar back panel
Db The Scholar back panel

Over on our Instagram aesthetic poll, 44% of our followers approved of the look. It’s certainly geared to a particular style, so whether that suits you or not depends on if you vibe with the whole “coolest kid at school” mood.

This pack comes in a wide variety of fun colors like Scarlet Red, Vieira Purple, Deep Sea Blue, Desert Khaki, White Out (really just white), Camo, Gunmetal, and “Every Day Simplicity” (really just black).

External Components

The Scholar has a pretty basic harness system with tarpaulin on the shoulder straps and a dense-enough foam that makes it a really comfortable carry. There’s no sternum strap or hip belt, but you don’t really need one on an EDC bag like this.

Db The Scholar shoulder straps
Db The Scholar shoulder straps

We appreciated the plastic strap keepers on the bag, too, because dangling straps just aren’t cool.

There’s a bit of padding on the back panel, but it lacks any mesh for extra breathability. Again, this doesn’t bother us too much for this type of bag versus a travel backpack, but just a small nitpick for your information.

One thing that did bother us was the compression straps on the front. We dig the way they look and the funky style the metal buckles bring to the bag, but we have some functionality concerns. Db markets these “adjustable buckled straps” as an “opportunity to carry more with less,” and suggests using them to hold a yoga mat or skateboard.

The problem with that is when you cinch the straps closed around a yoga mat, they pull on the sides of the bag, bending it out slightly out of shape. It takes the nice, rounded box shape of the bag (which we actually like) and makes it somewhat puckered around the edges. When the bag is fully packed, you’ll have a bit of reinforcement to hold the mat in place. If you’ve packed light, the yoga mat (or whatever else you may choose to put here) will slide around easily.

Db The Scholar compression straps
Db The Scholar compression straps

You’ll want to make sure the straps are tight to hold the mat in, but the more you tighten them, the more it crunches in at the sides. This is especially noticeable if the bag isn’t full, as the pack bows inward even more.

Admittedly we didn’t try it with a skateboard, but we’d imagine there’d be similar results. Perhaps, our Dank Brussels sprouts Scholar is better equipped for just stuffing your jacket on the front. That seems like a much more reasonable use. Unless it’s a rain jacket with swishy material that could slide out. In that case, maybe tie it onto the straps just to be sure.

Inside The Pack

There’s not a ton going on inside this bag, but we’re honestly okay with that. Sometimes less is more, and the Scholar gives us just enough space to carry all of our daily essentials. That’s really all we could ask for in an everyday carry pack. There are three different pockets here, the main compartment, a quick grab pocket, and a front pocket.

The main compartment is spacious enough to fit a laptop, your lunch, and a change of clothes for the gym. Or maybe you’re more the meeting at 7 a.m. and then hit the road for a weekend trip at 9 a.m. type, and you want to stuff this thing full of snacks for the drive. Either way, the classic layout of the Scholar will do just fine.

Db The Scholar main compartment
Db The Scholar main compartment

Since this bag is obviously made for a student, we were surprised at the laptop compartment. It’s less of a compartment and more like a hammock with a thin blanket for your laptop to take a nap in. Really, that “blanket” is made from polyester with an elastic band at the top to hold the computer in place. It does have a slight false bottom, and there is a tiny bit of padding on the bottom of the bag itself, offering some protection. You may want to use a laptop sleeve with this one for extra security.

Db The Scholar laptop compartment
Db The Scholar laptop compartment

When the bag was filled up, and we were carrying a laptop, it did feel a bit like a brick on our backs. But not like a massively obnoxious brick, more like a small friendly one that we wouldn’t mind carrying.

The quick grab pocket on the top is perfect to put your phone, wallet, and a tiny deck of playing cards—you know, the important stuff. However, it might be a tight squeeze if you want to throw in anything else, like sunglasses. You can stick your passport or a notepad in the front pocket, which is really just a bigger quick grab pocket. It does stretch all the way across the bag, so there’s a decent amount of space in it, but it works best for flatter items you want easy access to.

Db The Scholar front pocket
Db The Scholar front pocket

These pockets both serve their purpose, and there’s nothing glaringly wrong with them, but the top pocket does hang right over the laptop compartment, which we weren’t huge fans of. This isn’t something that would necessarily deter us from buying this bag, but the devil is in the details. That flappy pocket will obstruct your laptop, which is a bummer when you’re trying to grab it quickly. Since the primary material on the bag is tarpaulin, the corners are stiff, and you’ll have to fold them down, then flip the hanging pocket out of the way to get your laptop out. We call it the flip and fold method, a minor inconvenience.

Db The Scholar top pocket inside
Db The Scholar top pocket inside

While we generally prefer packs that open up clamshell, since this bag is for everyday carry rather than travel, we don’t mind the horseshoe zip. All things considered, the Scholar is a decent budget pick for your day-to-day routine.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Open style main compartment with just a laptop sleeve for organization
  • Thin but extremely dense padding on the harness system makes for a comfortable carry
  • Front straps fit skateboards with up to 10” width
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • We like the simple, boxy look and feel of this bag and the color options to match
  • Exterior material can get marked up and scratched easily
  • When tightening the external straps, bag can become misshapen and stressed on the sides—plus, it can be hard to hold objects like a yoga mat tightly on the bag
  • Top pocket can get in the way of the interior laptop compartment when full
mm
By Tom Wahlin
Created February 12, 2021 • Updated February 12, 2021
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