The Ridge Classic Backpack (Weatherproof) Review
The Ridge Classic Backpack's external USB charging port is convenient for keeping a phone charged, but the bag developed blemishes quicker than we’d like.
- Tarpaulin and YKK AquaGuard zippers protect well against splashes
- USB pass-through makes on-the-go charging convenient
- Generously padded shoulder straps for its size
- A ripped pocket and loose threads raise durability concerns
- USB port lacks cover for protection
- Base of bag digs into back when carrying a laptop
17 in x 12 in x 5.5 in (43.2 x 30.5 x 14 cm)
Tarpaulin, Nylon, YKK Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
What’s the one thing you’re always reaching for in the middle of a trip? If you answered a charging cable, we just want you to know that you’re not alone, and we can definitely relate. Having important and relevant information at your fingertips is almost indispensable when you’re making the most out of a day-long exploration of the city. Thus, we always carry a power bank and a charging cable along with our smartphones. But it’s not totally convenient if you have to either carry the power bank in your hand simultaneously with your smartphone or leave both inside your bag.
Backpacks with a cable pass-through aren’t anything new, but The Ridge’s Classic Backpack goes a step further by integrating it with a USB extension cable embedded in a plastic housing. That’s the bag’s hook, but unfortunately, the bag’s build quality and carrying comfort leaves much to be desired. It is a good-looking bag, though, with its matte black tarpaulin shell. There are definitely trade-offs here and there, so if you’re already weighing the pros and cons in your head, let’s get into it.
Materials & Aesthetic
The first thing that popped into our minds when we first held the Classic Backpack in our hands was Fonzie. To be more specific, we couldn’t help but think of his signature leather jacket. Okay, to be clear, the Classic Backpack doesn’t have leather, but it certainly creates a good impression of it. It’s tarpaulin, and its matte black sheen gives the bag a rather classy and vintage look that we dig.
Tarpaulin comes with its usual advantage of being very water-resistant—minor splashes just roll off like rain on a freshly waxed car. We typically see this material on bags from NOMATIC and WANDRD, but The Ridge even doubles down on the Classic Backpack’s water resistance with YKK AquaGuard zippers on both the front and main compartments’ openings.
Unfortunately, tarpaulin also comes with disadvantages. The more common downside is how easily it marks up, and our sample did gather some blemishes, most notably a white chip at the front. Interestingly, because the tarpaulin comes in this black colorway, it absorbs heat rather well. In one instance, we left the Classic Backpack in the passenger seat of our car, and after a while, it was more noticeably warm to the touch—perfect if you’re trying to keep your packed lunch warm, not so great when you’re trying to hold your bag.
While we dig the Classic Backpack’s overall looks and styling, we found the build quality concerning. The most minor infraction we’ve seen so far is bits of plastic stubbornly stuck to the logo at the front—a shame since it’s a rather neat-looking logo. We also found a handful of loose threads scattered all over different spots on the bag. But the most notable damage we found is the ripped cable management pocket inside the bag. We’ll discuss its function later on, but for now, onto the harness system.
Like the rest of the backpack, the Classic’s shoulder straps are also covered by tarpaulin. The pair is well-padded, very comfortable to hold, and has mesh underneath for breathability. The straps themselves are easy on the shoulders, but unfortunately, padding is only one of the many factors which make a backpack comfortable to wear. The way the Classic Backpack carries is interesting, and it’s a good example of how seemingly little things can affect how a bag feels.
We found that the Classic Backpack hangs low on our backs, with our laptop inside noticeably bulging around the base of our spine. We had the chance to take it on a long hike, and after a few hours in the great outdoors with the Classic Backpack, that spot was definitely sore. The culprit is the lack of padding on the back panel, plus the absence of a false bottom for the laptop sleeve inside. Fortunately, the easy-to-use sliding sternum strap somewhat alleviates the bag’s low-hanging nature, but not completely. The heavier the backpack gets, the more noticeable this problem becomes, so it still gets minus points in the carrying comfort department.
The Classic Backpack gets some points back in other areas, and one such feature is the padded top handle. It’s comfortable to hold for those situations where you need to move the bag, but it’s not worth the effort to put on the shoulder straps. Sounds niche? We do it all the time when hanging around the airport lounge—gotta save those shoulder muscles for later. But if even the padded handle is too tiresome to use, there’s always the luggage pass-through which you can use to rest the bag on your rolling luggage.
There’s also a nice, tiny little bonus right between the shoulder straps: a nylon loop. Some backpacks will ditch this nylon loon if they already have a top handle. But some hooks are too small to reach centrally-located top handles, so this little loop is quite handy. Our desks’ hooks, for example, are on the short side, so we ourselves appreciate loops like these.
Flanking the Classic Backpack are water bottle pockets. They use mesh material with an elastic brim at the top for added stretchiness, and they work as intended. Simple, effective, and they also pull double-duty as smartphone holders. Of course, you can do this with any bag that has a water bottle pocket or two. But what sets the Classic Backpack apart is the small protruding piece of plastic housing just above the left water bottle pocket.
Surprise! It’s a USB charging port! We’ll discuss how exactly it works later once we get inside the bag. For now, though, we do have one complaint about this feature: its lack of protection. The USB port itself doesn’t have a cover, so accidental splashes can get inside and corrode the metal. The silver lining here is that the port is downward facing, so at least it’s not going to catch rainwater in the event of an unexpected downpour.
Inside The Backpack
The front pocket on the Classic Backpack can be described as a pouch-style compartment, considering how much it protrudes from the main body. Apart from lending to the overall heritage vibe of the bag, this pouch-style front pocket affords it a good amount of space inside. It’s very roomy, with enough space to fit a chunky laptop charger. For organization, there are two wide mesh pockets on either side and two pen silos in the middle.
It’s worth noting that the interior liner is all-black, so visibility inside can be tough for small items that manage to tuck themselves away. This same caveat extends into the main compartment, where the nylon liner is all-black as well. We rarely found ourselves in dimly lit environments, so this wasn’t a huge issue for us. But for those who frequently travel during the night, this could be a problem.
Inside the main compartment, there is a zippered front pocket for everyday carry items. Yes, the front pocket is primarily there for this exact purpose, but some items like passports and expensive gadgets need extra security. Since it’s located inside the backpack, this pocket has a good blend of accessibility and protection. Plus, it’s also spacious enough for bulkier items or if you want to load it out with a bunch of small gear.
Towards the rear of the main compartment is the laptop sleeve. But unlike other built-in laptop sleeves we’ve seen, the front material is mesh, which lacks any padding for protection. Considering that the Classic Backpack’s back panel also lacks padding, laptop protection is minimal at best. Furthermore, the laptop sleeve’s lack of a false bottom really puts the bag’s weight at the bottom edge; hence, the low-hanging feeling we get when wearing the bag.
We opted to use a separate laptop sleeve to mitigate the lack of protection and the carrying comfort issues. Not only does this add protection for our laptop, but the extra padding means that the laptop doesn’t dig into our lower back as badly as it does when it’s bare.
The main compartment is mostly empty space, with no dividers or subcompartments to speak of. That’s not a bad thing, as it offers us the flexibility to use our own pouches and packing cubes. The available space is pretty generous for a 22-liter backpack, and we were able to get two packing cubes inside easily with tons of room to spare. Again, the interior liner is black, so we suggest organizing items into pouches to avoid losing them inside.
The USB charging port’s housing is on the left of the main compartment, and embedded into it is a USB extension cable. The USB extension cable is semi-custom, with grooves around the port that secure it into the housing. That said, we’re glad to see that the cable is technically replaceable and relatively easy to remove in case it breaks. However, it’s worth noting that removing the extension cable will turn the housing into a gaping hole at the side of the bag.
Just below the USB port is a cable management pocket for the extension cable’s extra length. Unfortunately, this pocket ripped pretty early on in testing. It’s not super essential, and it mostly serves to keep the cable neat and tidy. Below is the main pocket for your power bank, and if the extra slack of the extension cable really bothers you, you can stuff it in here as well.
Barring the ripped pocket, we think the USB charging port is a convenient feature to have, and it serves us well. We frequently find ourselves using battery-intensive apps like Google Maps when we’re roaming the city. With the Classic Backpack, we no longer have to leave our smartphone in our backpack, nor do we have to have a cable dangling out of a half-opened zipper. We simply leave our charging cable plugged into the USB port and stuff it inside the water bottle pocket when it’s not in use. This way, we always have a way to top up our phones just within reach.
The Classic Backpack isn’t the first bag to feature clever charging integration like this, but we’re really on board with the idea. The convenience it offers is pretty sweet since we’re almost inseparable from our smartphones. This feature alone may be enough to sway some in its favor. However, it’s also pretty hard to ignore the less-than-stellar build quality of the bag, and it makes us think how well it will fare in the long run.
- There’s a built-in USB port on the left side
- All-black interior can be a bit hard to see into
- Soft and well-padded top handle
- External USB port for is great for on-the-go charging, though we wish there was a better option for cable management
- Tarpaulin shell easily repels water but has already collected some chips and scratches
- Bottom of back panel lacks sufficient padding, so laptop stored in laptop compartment cuts into back; sternum strap alleviates most of this, but it’s still pretty uncomfortable on the shoulders if the bag is super full
- Multiple loose threads, and the inside cable storage pocket has ripped away from the seam
- Black tarpaulin gets hot to the touch in direct sunlight