- Soft and flexible harness system is easy on the shoulders
- Use of recycled materials is always a win
- Beautiful, heritage-style looks
- Internal organization hard to utilize
- Sternum strap slow to adjust
- Access can be slow (but that’s most roll tops)
1.87 lb (0.8 kg)
19.685 in x 11.02 in x 5.9 in (50 x 28 x 15 cm)
Cotton, Recycled Polyester, Paraffine, DWR Coating, Aluminum, YKK Zippers, Leather
Laptop Compartment Size
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It’s not often that we get to test a top roller like Millican’s Smith Roll Pack 18L. This was an interesting change of pace since we’re more accustomed to more typical bags that use zippers. We’ve had a few weeks to get intimate with rolling and unrolling the bag, and we’re ready to share our thoughts.
Top rollers like the Smith Roll Pack 18L aren’t a common sight. For some of you, this might even be your first time to read about one. One look at this bag and your mind immediately draws up some questions. Most probably along the lines of, “How do I open it?” And in the case of the rather bare-faced Smith Roll Pack, you might even ask, “Are there no extra pockets?”
Both are valid questions, ones we’ll be taking a closer look at in this review. As it is a Millican product, the Smith Roll Pack is also donned in eco-friendly materials, notable among which is the new “Dalton Canvas”. If you’re interested to learn more about these features, then strap in and read on.
Materials & Aesthetic
Starting with the looks of the pack, it has this vintage vibe courtesy of the heritage styling. We dig the looks, it’s one that fits in nicely when we sit in one of those coffee houses that serve artisan lattes. There’s no in-your-face branding anywhere, and Millican settles for an almost unnoticeable logo at the bottom front of the bag. Overall, it’s just an innocent-looking, pillow-shaped backpack.
While Millican encourages getting good mileage out of their products, the fabric is prone to getting marked up. From our testing, the Smith Roll 18L has earned some noticeable creases. These marks are purely cosmetic, however, and it hasn’t affected usage and quality.
In a bid to go even more eco-friendly, Millican has started to use their own designed Dalton Canvas. From their standard fabric which has a blend of 65% recycled polyester and 35% cotton, the new one is now 100% recycled polyester. That is a substantial jump that makes purchasing this bag much easier for the environmentally conscious. This fabric is currently limited edition for a select few Millican products, but the company says they plan to use more of it in 2021.
The Smith Roll Pack 18L is currently available in a variety of colors: Graphite grey, Rust (red), Ember (orange), Gorse (yellow), Moss (green), Slate (blue), Stone (grey), and Tarn (lighter blue). Thankfully, Millican spares you the trouble of guessing what these words mean and provides pictures on their website. We dig the healthy amount of color options here, and it makes it easier for you to pick one that matches your taste. One thing to note is that the Dalton Canvas is only available in dark grey at the time of writing.
Let’s start with the headline feature: the roll top. In its rolled form, the slack is secured by an adjustable strap that utilizes a G-hook. The top half of the strap where this hooks onto is leather, partly wrapped in polyester to prevent the leather from degrading. Also up top, you’ll find a standard-issue handle for carrying the bag with one hand or for hooking the bag on to racks.
We found the Smith Roll Pack’s harness system comfortable to use. The harnesses are padded adequately and are soft on the shoulders even when the bag is loaded. They’re also flexible enough that they don’t dig in when carrying the pack around. The straps are just super comfortable.
The sternum strap, however, has room for improvement. It does get the job done, but we’re not huge fans of how it’s adjusted. Tucked into the right harness are four mounting points. You have to undo the sternum strap’s buckle to move it to the desired mounting point. The G-hook then attaches to one of the five mounting points on the left harness.
This isn’t an issue if you have a usual load for your bag since you’ll only have to set up the sternum strap once. But if you pack irregularly from time to time, it’ll be something you might have to adjust often.
On the subject of straps, sliders, and G-hooks, these adjusters are all made from aluminum. They all adjust and slide along their respective straps easily. That’s a benefit of using metal over plastic, a material that tends to have imperfections from the molding process that hinder a smooth action.
There are only two external pockets to speak of, and both use standard affair YKK zippers. The two pockets are hidden away at either side by gussets. One is the laptop compartment while the other is a stow-away compartment for smaller items you wish to keep easily accessible such as your keys, wallet, earphones, etc.
The back panel is lined with a thick layer of breathable foam flanking each side. It’s still the winter holiday season at the time of this review, so we haven’t had the chance to try this out in hotter conditions. But the air channel between the foam should help keep your back nice and cool.
Inside The Pack
On the right side of the bag, directly behind your right shoulder, is the side-loading padded laptop compartment. It can accommodate, though barely, a 16” MacBook Pro if you unzip the pocket fully to the end, being mindful not to catch the zipper on the gusset. This is a floating laptop compartment, and an inch of buffer is left between the bottom edge of the compartment and the bottom of the bag itself.
On the upper left side of the bag is the aforementioned stow-away pocket for your identification papers, wallet, keys, cards, etc. It even has a bonus key clip so you can easily fish out your house keys in a pinch. Accessing this small pocket may prove difficult once the laptop compartment has been occupied. Better to keep the items stored here to a minimum to avoid this.
Opening the bag reveals that there’s about a foot or 30 cm of fabric between the mouth of the bag and what we’d consider the main interior. This is nothing unexpected for a top roller such as this. Still, rolling and unrolling this much slack can get tiresome if you frequently open and close your bag. One trick we picked up during testing is to peel back the fabric like you would on a long-sleeved shirt. This minimizes the amount of slack you have to go through and makes everything inside a lot more visible. The stiff outer lip at the mouth of the extra fabric makes this trick almost a no-brainer and we highly recommend doing it when you need to keep the bag open.
Moving deeper inside the cavernous space, you’ll find a pocket meant for tablets that goes about halfway down the length of the pack. It’s fastened by a simple but effective snap fastener. Next is a pocket that does go all the way down and is meant for documents, folders, or envelopes. The left forward-most pocket is also fastened by a snap fastener and is perfect for a mouse or a small laptop power brick. Right next to it is a zipper pocket for things like small packs of wet wipes, sachets of toiletries, and medicine.
Then there’s the main compartment itself. It’s very spacious, as one would expect, even if you don’t factor in the extra slack of the top roll. You can easily fit large bulky items inside like a packed lunch, a water bottle, a travel pouch, or folding headphones. The only issue we had trouble with is visibility.
The bright green fabric only covers the rear half of the interior, while the black Dalton Canvas dominates the rest. This makes digging out items located in the main compartment somewhat difficult, especially in low light environments. You can avoid this issue if you pick some of the lighter colored variants, but then you’ll be giving up the Dalton Canvas.
The Millican Smith Roll Pack 18L has few shortcomings that prevent it from being our first choice for outdoor trips where lighting is almost entirely dictated by mother nature. We’re sure Mr. Dalton would have had a bit of trouble reaching for his self-made shaving kit if he had kept it in the great void of the main compartment. We hope to see the Dalton Canvas come in more colors to remedy this minor inconvenience, and we’re almost 100% sure Millican is already working on it.
So while it’s potentially mostly going to be relegated to ruck-sack duties, it does nail the important points for a travel bag despite its relative simplicity. It’s comfortable to use, has tons of space, sufficient organization, modern amenities for gadgets, and vintage styling fused with contemporary eco-friendliness.
- Heritage look and style, and feels great in the hand
- Large open interior with an admin panel for a small amount of organization
- Fold-away reflective strip on front for added visibility
We’ve been really digging the overall look and feel of the materials of this bag, and the harness system is a very comfortable carry. Other than that, we really haven’t been blown away by any of the other features of this bag. Don’t get us wrong, they are not bad, just nothing outstanding. The laptop compartment has not been the smoothest access with our 16 inch MacBook Pro and the tall rolltop makes the admin panel very difficult to use. Although you can pull the top down around the bag to eat up some of the long rolltop, this is not the fastest. This bag is better when used with pouches and organizers.