Stubble & Co The Backpack Review
Accessibility isn't Stubble & Co's The Backpack's strongest feature, but its dry-waxed canvas gives it a soft feel and shape that's very likable.
- Dry wax canvas doesn’t leave a waxy residue
- Able to stand up on its own
- Adjusters and handle are soft and easy to use
- Fabric is a bit of pet hair magnet
- Hard to find loose gear inside all-black interior
- Soft structure prone to lumpiness
2.2 lb (1 kg)
19.3 in x 12.2 in x 5.51 in (49 x 31 x 14 cm)
Canvas, Leather, YKK Zippers, Cotton
Laptop Compartment Size
There are a ton of factors to consider when picking out a backpack. Chief among these considerations are the materials used, arguably the most interesting of which is the choice of fabrics. You have your usual picks of ballistic nylon, polyester, and ripstop. Then you have your more eye-catching names like X-Pac, tarpaulin, leather, and—a key player in this review—waxed canvas.
We like waxed canvas, hence why we’re pretty psyched about Stubble & Co The Backpack. Before you ask, yes, they’ve listed it as “The Backpack,” so we’re sticking with that name. Anyway, this is a major feature of this bag, mainly in two areas: its feel and structure. Spoiler alert: both can be summed up as soft. This is a good thing because that’s a major draw of the bag. It falls short in other areas like compartment accessibility and interior visibility. In other words, there’s back and forth between the style of the bag and its practical side. Read on to find out which side comes out on top.
Materials & Aesthetic
This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered waxed canvas here at Pack Hacker. Waxed canvas looks and feels premium, and it’s a joy rocking the heritage look whenever we get the chance. Each time we get to use a bag with the material, though, we’re always a bit apprehensive about the waxy residue it leaves on our hands. The experience varies from tolerable and all the way down to “I need to wash my hands ASAP,” depending on the bag.
The great news is that we don’t see this issue in Stubble & Co’s implementation. The brand uses Tekwax dry-waxed canvas, and we must say it lives up to its name. We don’t feel any wax rubbing off on us, and the material has a sort of soft, brushed feel.
Ours has gathered up quite a bit of pet hair throughout testing, so we have to take a lint roller to it from time to time when the pets are around. The wax does have a positive practical purpose, though: water resistance. Water just beads off the fabric like it would on a freshly waxed car. This isn’t to say that The Backpack is waterproof; that’s an entirely different thing altogether.
The biggest impression we have of The Backpack is just how soft it is overall. The dry-waxed canvas is soft, the adjusters are soft, and even the shape just looks soft. We dig the vibe the bag is giving off. It sounds counterintuitive, but despite the “soft” looks, it also has an outdoorsy style with a touch of class that we can get behind.
Perhaps the outdoorsy impression we’re getting is because of our sample’s Olive colorway. It has a nice forest green look that feels refreshing compared to the other two colorways. Yep, you’ve probably already guessed it. The other two colorways (available at the time of writing) are All Black and Pirate, the latter being a lighter shade of black. We’re usually fans of the all-black aesthetic, but in this case, Olive does the waxed canvas more justice than shades of gray do.
For those wondering, the patches for the branding are made of full grain leather; bad news for those hoping that this is a vegan-friendly bag. However, something we can all (hopefully) find agreeable are the YKK-branded zippers. We always rave about how YKK zippers are pretty much the industry standard because of their quality. You don’t have to go by reputation alone, though. Based on our testing, the zippers on The Backpack zip and unzip without issue, so we’re quite confident in giving them our stamp of approval.
The Backpack may be draped in class courtesy of that waxed canvas, but the design is actually simpler once you take a closer look. Take the simplified harness system, for example. Standing at 21 liters, The Backpack is by no means a heavyweight among its peers. It more or less belongs in the middle in the subcategory of daypacks. It’s not so big that you’ll be using it for your one-bag carry-on needs, nor is it too small that you might as well be using a sling.
With that in mind, The Backpack only really needs a pair of decently comfortable shoulder straps, and that’s exactly what it comes with. There’s no sternum strap, no hip belt, no load lifters, nor are there any loops along the shoulder straps themselves. Stubble & Co took the minimalist approach here—and that’s okay by us.
The shoulder straps are well-padded and rounded. It’s a single-piece strap bridged seamlessly around the neck portion. The good news is that, unlike other backpacks that have a similar style, this one doesn’t brush against the back of our neck. The straps’ edges are also leather-accented along the outer edges. It’s the same black leather used on the logos at the front, so it’s not too noticeable.
Complementing the shoulder straps is an equally well-padded back panel that’s covered in mesh. This keeps heat to a minimum, especially on those warm summer days. Though it’s not a perfect solution, it’s better than having bare waxed canvas pressing against a sweaty shirt.
The straps on the outside of The Backpack are made of the same material. It’s a kind of soft-touch nylon that’s comfortable to hold. We appreciate this the most on the top carrying handle because it provides a comfortable grip whenever we have to grab the bag quickly. However, despite the soft material, it’s by no means a long-term carrying solution; we’d stick to the shoulder straps for that.
It’s also worth noting that the base of The Backpack is quite flat, flat enough that it can stand up on its own. This is often looked for in a backpack since leaning a bag against a wall isn’t always an option. As long as you’re not loading the bag up with something super round like a melon, the base should remain flat enough to be able to stand.
Last but not least, The Backpack also comes with a pair of water bottle pockets, one on each side. They’re nothing fancy, just simple drop pockets that remain relatively flush against the bag when not in use. They don’t feature any elastic, gussets, or cinches to hold bottles down. On the other hand, our 18-ounce YETI Rambler fits in snuggly enough that extra grip isn’t really necessary. The pockets are designed for 500 ml (approx. 16.9 ounces) bottles, so anything larger may struggle to fit depending on the shape.
Inside The Backpack
Apart from the water bottle pockets, The Backpack has another exterior pocket in the form of a vertical zippered one on the front. The opening is located closer to the left edge than one might expect. The opening is also relatively narrow, just wide enough to fit an iPhone 13’s length.
In terms of space, the pocket doesn’t really have much of it. We’re able to fit inside our iPhone 13 alongside our keys, ChapStick, and wallet. The amount of space available also depends on how packed out the main compartment is. A packed-out main compartment pushes against the front pocket, causing a lumpy look from the outside, not to mention that a stuffed front pocket isn’t good for accessibility either.
On the flip side, the vertical opening is useful whenever we need to swing the bag around to take something from the pocket. We just have to make sure to swing it the right way so that the opening faces us rather than downwards.
The main compartment is covered by a waxed canvas hood, held down by an unbranded G-hook that does the job well enough that we don’t have any complaints. Underneath the hood, the opening is further secured by a drawstring cinch. This combo doesn’t make for a quickly-accessible main compartment. However, this approach does make for a cleaner aesthetic that’s also quite water-resistant.
The main compartment suffers from a typical drawback of a top-down opening like this: visibility. It’s not a particularly narrow opening, but the all-black interior makes the inside pretty much a dark pit. Preventing small items from getting mixed up inside is a worthwhile packing strategy for this bag. In our case, we use two packing cubes to keep things organized with room to spare for our lightweight jacket.
You’re not limited to pouches and cubes as a means of organizing your items, though. There’s also a front side zippered pocket. We use this one as a tech pocket where we place our charging adapters, cables, and thumb drives. Though it’s near the opening, it doesn’t really work as a quick-access pocket because you still have to open the G-hook and the cinch to get to it.
The built-in laptop sleeve doesn’t look like much, but it’s well-padded at the front and at the back. It has a false bottom that gives it good elevation from the ground as well. The hold-down strap even comes with two snap fasteners, and you can use either one, depending on how big your laptop is. The sleeve is rated for up to 16-inch laptops, so our 13-inch MacBook fits with tons of room to spare.
Accessibility isn’t The Backpack’s strong suit. The front pocket especially struggles once the main compartment’s fully packed out. This is partly because of the waxed canvas’s softness, but we like that aspect of the bag; it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. It’s outdoorsy enough to make us feel adventurous yet classy enough to look professional. It’s not the complete package when it comes to practical features. But, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit stand-out from the crowd, this one’s a good pick.
- The all-black colorway subdues the waxed canvas’ looks
- The interior is also black
- The back panel is fully covered in mesh and soft padding
- All materials are soft, which is a nice change of pace from other bags
- Dry wax canvas doesn’t leave a residue but repels water well
- Dark inside makes it hard to find loose gear
- Front pocket is versatile for quick-grab items but starts to look lumpy when overpacked