Stuff We Swear By: Carl Friedrik’s Day-to-Day Backpack Is an Ideal Commuter Bag

Stylish, spacious and comfortable, this pack offers a refined minimalist design

November 7, 2023 12:13 pm
Carl Friedrik Day-to-Day Backpack
Carl Friedrik Day-to-Day Backpack
Carl Friedrik

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Before my recent commuter backpack disintegrated (almost literally), I had a system in place. 

My packs had to have all the pockets. Everything needed it’s own resting spot, and I mean everything: laptop, portable power banks, travel toiletries, old-school notebooks, pens, a random cloth for emergencies (usually for wiping off sweat during the summer), Covid-related paraphernalia, etc.

My pocket-friendly bag was, hilariously, a mess. An organized mess, but overflowing and impossible to navigate.

So a few weeks back I switched things up. I went from a generic canvas pack to the fancy Carl Friedrik Day-to-Day Backpack. The design of the bag forced me to declutter, so I cut down my commuter belongings by half.

Carl Friedrik, which launched in 2013, makes a lot of handsome leather bags. I have zero use for a leather bag in the day-to-day commuter life in New York, where I’m battling crowds in subways, tourists, mysterious puddles and randomly inclement weather. I wanted something that would be easy to carry, stylish and also durable enough to handle the city’s various grimy obstacles.

And for the most part, the Day-to-Day hits the mark. The nylon bag — built from recycled fabric — offers a high level of water resistance. Instead of endless pockets, the bag offers a select few compartments: A central pocket accessible by a zipper that runs across the bag’s top panel; a padded compartment for laptops up to 16”; two tight and tiny open fabric pockets on the interior, two pen slots, and a small exterior zip pocket. Fun fact: There is also a hidden zip pocket integrated into the luggage holding strap on the exterior, though it’s nearly invisible and harder to access.

That sounds like a lot, but it’s several pockets fewer than I’m used to in a bag (I really just think of it as two and a half places to put things). The more open structure forced me to minimize my belongings, which in turn made it easier to find things when I needed them — see pen, phone charger, etc. 

Front and side views of the Carl Friedrik Day-to-Day Backpack
Front and side views of the Carl Friedrik Day-to-Day Backpack
Carl Friedrik

A few other notes:

  • The bag is extremely comfortable to wear. The company says the shoulder straps incorporate “refined leather detailing and padded mesh to maximize comfort.” Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.
  • As someone who often travels with oddly shaped and bulky items (primarily booze bottles), I appreciate that the bag is spacious enough to accommodate larger items but can also collapse down via tack buttons when I’m packing light. 
  • The “square” design of the top — due to the aforementioned tack buttons — means the pack is a little less svelte than I’m used to, but it’s not a deal breaker.
  • The outside compartment and two inner fabric pockets are a bit tight. Given that this is nylon and not leather, I’m not sure these pockets will loosen up over time. I’d just say keep anything in those areas small and slender (and not something you need to access every day). 
  • I believe the bag is relatively good at avoiding stains, at least compared to canvas or leather. There are a few tiny smudge marks I’ve noticed that might be from something oil-based (as in food oil) that don’t seem to wash off but are also nearly imperceptible. I haven’t attempted a deeper cleaning of these tiny spots, however.

I realize $395 isn’t cheap for a commuter backpack, but wouldn’t you want a bag that you utilize almost every day to be comfortable, useful and aesthetically pleasing? There are a few times in life to splurge; the Day-to-Day Backpack is certainly worth it.

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