Review: Navali ‘Rigger Rucksack’
Navali may be a name that rings a bell for you. And it should be because both Kiyoshi from TheSilentist, and Alex of ThePantalones wrote some informative reviews of their Helmsman Computer Brief and Stowaway Weekender Bag, respectively. My voice now enters the fray with a review of Navali’s Rigger Rucksack, which the company was kind enough to send my way a couple of months ago for a test in real-world (read: lugging books and a camera to and from work on non-rainy days) situations. I’ve been using the bag pretty consistently as a work bag, except when it rains—which it has been doing pretty frequently of late.
I was rather impressed when I first took the bag out of the box. It seemed very well-made with a nice soft, yet heavy 22 oz. washed canvas (not waxed, so it is not water resistant) that seemed quite tough. I was pleased with the quality of the materials and workmanship, especially in the context of their fairly reasonable pricing relative to other similar bags on the market. The stitching seems solid, and the riveting is stout. The sizable leather bottom, top handle, and strap closures seemed to be of decent quality—especially for the price. This is not tanned bridle leather like that you’d find on a Filson bag, or on various equestrian or equestrian-inspired leather goods, but it is solid and thick and could no doubt withstand some sustained use without breaking. I was also pleased with the size of the bag; at 20”x24”x8” this is a decent sized rucksack, capable of carrying anything one might need for a day of school or work. If you’re a light packer, it could even do the duty of a weekender without being unduly strained.
When I inspected the bag more closely, I did notice a section of the leather piece that attached the right shoulder strap to the lower part of the bag to be quite abraded on the underside. I don’t think it really affects the structural integrity or overall utility of the bag, but it was something that would have compelled me to send the bag back for another if I’d purchased it outright. I let Navali know about the defect, and they assured me it’s not a problem that has ever been brought to their attention before, which I assume means it’s not a recurring issue.
Minor abrasion aside, this bag has been a solid workhorse in the time I’ve been using it. What has been a real pleasant surprise is the comfort of the bag. Though it’s entirely unpadded (I think padding would detract from the unstructured aesthetic of this type of bag, so I’m glad it’s not there), it is quite comfortable to wear, even when filled with books and a laptop. I think this can in part be attributed to the thoughtful design of the bag; the shoulder straps attach to the corner of the leather bottom at a slight diagonal line, making the load disperse itself more evenly across one’s back and shoulders than if it had been designed to attach in a way that ran in a more vertical line as many backpacks do. This keeps the bag from pulling too much at the shoulders, which can, over a long day, cause significant fatigue.
The bag features a large main compartment which closes with a drawstring and top flap, and an internal laptop sleeve that closes with two button snap fasteners where you can store a computer up to 15” in size. One drawback of using a bag that has a top flap is that a frequent need to access the bag’s contents can be quite a pain if you have to undo a buckle each and every time you need to pull out a book or other item stored in the main compartment. I’ve found the leather pull-tab on the bag’s drawstring closure to be quite useful in this regard, and often just slide it tight and tie the drawstring in a half-knot without bothering to close the bag using the buckles. It’s no fault of the bag’s, but the buckle closure—any buckle closure for that matter—can be a bit of a hassle. Some kind of speedier hook closure would be much preferable I think, and maybe even look cooler. The two side compartments, however, have magnetic closures masquerading as buckles. The magnet is quite strong, and I’ve had no problems with them popping open during use, though I would definitely not store anything of value in there as accidents can, and do, happen.
Overall I’m quite happy with this Rigger Rucksack, and would recommend Navali to anyone looking for a pared down canvas bag who would like to spend less than $100. Navali is currently having a 25% off sale on their bags, and this one can be had for $75.