The Portland made North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack will really appeal to folk prioritising brand and product eco credentials. Made from upcycled event tents from cycling events, means no two bags are the same, and with limited availability - the backpack will be a talking point, and hot property. The rugged fabric offers impressive water resistance, and practical external pockets for water bottles and locks make it ideal for bike rides. However, its subtle nod to cycling also makes it a practical and individually designed day bag on and off the bike. Compartments on the backpack wouldn't go amiss, and a little more padding with back ventilation would make it a more comfortable wear, as well as making the $145 swing tag more palatable. That said, the individual and quirky designs and construction appeals to me massively, so I'd suffer its flaws to own one.
Made from upcycled event tents
No two bags are the same
Great water resistance
Handy external pockets
No internal compartments as standard
No venting or padding
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I've been in a big quandary lately. The old North Face backpack that I won at a race many moons ago has been suffering a long lingering death. I've been gifted a beautiful sustainable* and locally made canvas replacement by my loved ones, but I decided it was too 'posh' to be used as a commuter backpack, too good for slinging on my sweaty back when riding more than a couple of dry miles.
Which made me super keen to put the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack through its paces as a rugged altnative to the original old faithful backpack.
North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack: construction
I adore the fact that the fabrics used as the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack construction are donated old unwanted SRAM and Life Time event tents - this is by far the biggest draw to me.
Not only is this a great way to upcycle in a sustainable* way, but also - what could be more robust than the fabric of an event tent?
According to the brand, this line of backpacks has already saved over half a ton of landfill waste this year, and with the fabric upcycling comes rugged highly water resistant vinyl.
This also means that no two bags are exactly the same, something that also appeals to my non-conformist self.
The handmade in Portland roll top backpack measures around 18" / 45cm when closed, around 10" / 25.4cm wide and has a 5.75" / 14.6cm depth, with a volume size of 1100 cubic inches/ 14 liters.
If, like me, you tend to do an overstuff a rucksack, leaving the rolltop open and just securing the contents with the adjustable giant plastic buckle clip you can increase the size to 24"/ 61cm tall and the volume to a larger 1240 cubic inches/ 20 liters.
The inside of the backpack is lined with EcoPak sailcloth, which made from recycled plastic bottles.
As some readers will be aware, we're still very much on a learning journey as to what recycled fabric is and how it's defined brand to brand. Putting my learning from writing how to be a greener cyclist and is greenwashing rife in the cycling clothing market into practice I've spend some time digging deeper in to the fabric manufacturer's claims.
I'm still far off being any expert on the sustainability* subject, but it was reassuring to see a lot of traceability and transparency with EcoPack all the way back to the processing plants up to date, specific, measurable and accountable reports.
Internally, pre-sewn Velcro strips make the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack compatable with the brands own Velocro-In pockets. Available to purchase directly from North St, it advises on the possible combinations for the bags internal size, and consist of a choice between laptop sleeves, a zip secure 10" pocket, or smaller open 5" pockets.
Externally sits one large pocket across the width of the backpack, measuring 8"x6.5"/ 22cm x 16.5cm, which uses a waterproof zip to secure it closed. At either side of the bag are open pockets, both large enough to hold a regular cycling water bottle.
The two shoulder straps can be clipped together at the chest with an adjustable height strap to prevent slipping at the shoulders, and the bag is finished off with a grab handle for carrying the backpack when it's not on your back.
* The sustainability definition varies greatly depending on industry and environmental organisations. Here at Cycling Weekly we use the United Nations definition that can read in more detail here.
North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack: the ride
Size wise the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack is spot on. I'm renowned for filling bags to the max, often with superfluous items, just because I have the space, so keeping the volume low helped me (and my back) to a sensible level of carrying.
This was somewhere along the lines of adequate luxury items, so spare jumpers/ rain jackets, work stuff, magazines and one medium soft toy. If it was a packed lunch day, then the jumpers needed to start on the body before the contents was demolished in order to create space.
When on and riding, assuming the backpack opening was rolled down, the size of the backpack was perfect to prevent catching on the back of my bike helmet, a pet hate of mine. If I had overstuffed it, the backpack tended to be off the bike and inside, and with the coat I'd ridden in, so the ability to use just the clip buckle and carry handle was really helpful.
The straps, measuring 2"/5cm apart at the top also prevent another pet hate of mine, a sore neck. Admittedly I'd also have to ride this in warmer months with less outer layers which do create padding to be confident that it really would rub. I say this because the straps are noticeably minimal in the padding department, although this helps contribute to the bag's low weight of just 370g.
This does make the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack easy to pull on over winter layers, but I'm unsure how this would perform in summer with much less fabric between skin and straps.
Yes, the idea of riding this on an indoor trainer to check crossed my mind, but I concluded that I would just update this review in warmer weather. But in the meantime I decided to give it an extreme cold weather shakedown, putting the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack through a tougher test ride than most cycling commuting backpacks.
Having ridden it on the bike, and found the size and side pockets very practical, it was selected to come on a family adventure to the Arctic Circle.
Ok, so this technically wasn't a cycling test, but I concluded that cross country skiing and snow shoeing were a very close second.
The extreme cold weather was a very good test for using the bag while heavily togged up in winter clothing. The ability to grab a drink bottle, and open the bag without having to remove thick ski gloves was especially welcomed.
It was also a good waterproofing test. While the air is very dry in the far north of Finland, it does snow and you can't help getting covered in it. As you are so well insulated, it's not until you are inside, warming up, that the snow melts, making you realise your gear is damp.
With a backpack, it's generally noticeable when you pick the bag up and discover it has been sat in a puddle on the floor. Thankfully, the high water repellence saved our spare thermal layers from getting even remotely moist.
While this wasn't a test of a constant jet of mucky rear wheel spray that riding a bike in the rain creates, it was a good test for the moments when you have place the backpack on the wet ground to rummage for an item that's inevitably sunk to the bottom.
Thankfully I live in the rainy city and have also been able to put the rear wheel spray protocol easily in to practice. I'm happy to confirm that during an hour's ride in constant drizzle, which soaked me through as a rider, the bag contents stayed totally dry, even the paper that I had intentionally popped in showed zero water ingress.
While it was comfortable over layers, the lack of any back padding or built in ventilation channels became apparent, and after a few kilometres of building up a sweat, it quite literally built up a sweat on your back. Something to consider if you are using your commute for training, or on the hot days in the city.
North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack: value
I really like the North St LTD Upcycled Davis Daypack. It's a great size and as it doesn't scream bike rider, it's a great option for on and off the bike, giving it a lot of versatility.
It's water repellence was impressive, and as close to 'waterproofing' as I've found on most backpacks, especially as there was no reinforcement on the bottom.
The real life test of having stood in puddles made me realise the importance of compartmentalising backpack life. I'm sure that the added investment of Velcro pockets would achieve this perfectly. The ability to personalise the size and exact position of compartments is a nice touch, but I can't help but feel slightly put out by the requirement to buy these at an extra expense after forking out nearly $150 for the backpack in the first place.
The issue of the bag's sustainability is worth picking up here too. Opting for the unique and upcycled fabric is at no extra cost from the regular North St Davis Daypack, good to know there is one if you wanted something more muted.
The fabric is robust, durable and incredibly water resistant, so it begs the question why was the fabric requiring upcycling in the first place. In my experience most event tents are condemned due to being turned in to large kites and the legs getting bent while the fabric remains intact.
While it's great to keep it out of landfill - the question as to why it was headed there in the first place is still lingering in my mind.
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