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Filson Ballistic Nylon Duffle Pack review

2 Feb 2018

Well-designed, tough and rugged backpack and duffle bag. But you really pay for the quality

Cyclist Rating: 
Rugged construction, lightweight, all the necessary pockets and straps
No escaping the price

Buy the Ballistic duffle pack from Filson

Filson has heritage. Founded in 1897 by Clinton C. Filson in Seattle, the company supplied prospectors (presumably the rootin’, tootin’ kind) with logging equipment amidst the Amercian Gold Rush.

Post-gold boom it switched to supplying kit for hunting and fishing, and today offers a host of outdoorsy gear to make even the most hipstery person appear genuinely rugged, or the most rugged lumberjack or jill the smartest, warmest, most technically well-dressed lumberjack or jill in town.

Forever searching

Finding the perfect bag has been a Holy Grail for me for decades. I want comfy straps and svelte form for commuting, but I also want a cavernous interior for ramming with sportive or weekend away kit.

It has to be durable, lightweight, water resistant and built like a Swedish interior designer has tricked out the Tardis.

The Ballistic doubles as duffle bag and backpack thanks to two sets of straps, of which the ‘back straps’ fold away neatly into what is the base in duffle/hold-all mode or the back in backpack mode.

Both sets of straps appeared sturdy enough throughout testing, with plenty of stitching in all the right places and nice pop-rivet, genuine leather clasp to bind the duffle handles together.

There’s also a removable shoulder strap too.

That said, the rucksack straps are more utilitarian than on more ‘technical’ backpacks, ie those with ergonomically shaped straps with different densities of padding, aeration holes, chest clips etc.

Also, since the back panel doubles as the underside in duffle mode there is no natty shaping to aid airflow and stave of sweaty backs. What there is a 600 dernier, rip-stop style nylon back with a layer of padding. It’s basic but functional, and again sturdy in feel and appearance.

What lies inside

The inside of the Ballistic is generous, taking all the helmets, shoes, jumpers and lunches I could throw in it, and volume is further increased with two side-pockets featuring leather tassels on the zips, which I found a nice glove-friendly or reach-around touch.

One pocket has a further internal zip-pocket for ultra-valuables such as house keys and wallet; the other has expandable waterproof innards and breathing holes on the outside for used kit.

This I found especially useful for wet ride gear or sweaty gym kit, preventing cross contamination or worse, the ‘oh shoot, I’ve left my kit in my bag overnight now it will forever smell like a damp dog and I’m going to have to burn it now’.

There is also a laptop sleeve, which will happily fit most laptops beyond a vintage IBM ThinkPad, max size 38cm, says Filson.

It is well padded and weather-resistant and positions the laptop adjacent to your back in backpack mode. It’s standard bag design stuff and my laptop travelled happily enough, protected from the elements and the odd biff and bang.

However I didn’t feel it was a particularly safe place to stash said laptop when using the bag like a duffle. In that fashion the laptop essentially becomes part of the base of the bag, and it’s easy to forget it’s there when you drop the bag to the floor (a user error of course, but still, easily done) and it means everything else in your bag rests on top of your laptop.

Probably fine unless you are carrying a couple of kettle bells around, but again, I didn’t feel confident having my laptop in the sleeve when using the Ballistic as a duffle bag.

I wouldn’t call that a design flaw, more a limitation of sorts. It’s just how it is if you want to have your duffle-backpack cake and eat it. Plus the other element of the bag – it’s construction – makes up for it.

Built to last

The Ballistic isn’t 100% waterproof but the nylon fabric has a dense weave that offered decent rain protection, yet was also rugged and lightweight – too many bags are overbuilt and seem to weigh a considerable amount even when empty, or are light but flimsy.

Top marks for the Filson Ballistic here.

Yet, at £240 you’d better hope this was the case. It’s a huge amount of money for a bag, even one that promises years of dutiful service. As such it’s hard to ignore the price here.

However, if you are a well-heeled rider, commuter or lumberjack or jill that works in an office occasionally, there is no denying the Ballistic is a stylish, functional and built-to-last piece of kit. 

Buy the Nylon duffle pack from Filson here


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