North St. Bags Weekender Backpack Travel System: Review

4 comments

Introduction

North St. Bags is a bag maker based in Portland, Oregon founded in 2009. It has a strong bicycle bag heritage – known for their convertible backpack panniers. They use US made materials and hand build all of their bags in their Portland warehouse. I’ve been testing out their Weekender backpack and the Weekender Meeting bag, which together forms a system for travel. The Meeting bag can be attached to the larger Weekender with a system of straps and hooks. There is a lot to cover so this review will mainly focus on the Weekender Backpack. A separate review will dive into more details of the Meeting bag, as a small EDC bag.

Tech Specs

ImperialMetric
Height18 in46 cm
Length12 in31 cm
Depth8 in20 cm
Weight2 lb 12 oz1.13 kg
Capacity1728 cubic in.28 L

These are the specs of the Weekender backpack only. The Meeting bag will be covered in a subsequent review.

Quality and Comfort

Both the Weekender and the Meeting Bag are made from Dimension Polyant X-Pac materials, a single layer laminate that is waterproof and lighter weight than similar denier CORDURA. Note that North St. sometimes use different varieties of X-Pac depending on availability. This blue one that I have is made from X10 Cotton Duck Canvas. The canvas front material on my bag can pick up dust when rubbing against other things but can be brushed cleaned with my hand easily. The YKK #10 water resistant zipper are among the smoothest I’ve used. Throughout an extended one week trip, I never had a problem with opening or closing a zipper on both bags.

The mostly single layer construction means the bag is relatively light for its size. Because both the Weekender and the Meeting Bag are of a convertible design, the backpack straps are thin. The ones on the Weekender are slightly padded. The ones on the Meeting bag are not padded at all. With an extremely stuffed bag, the Weekender straps are usable but I wouldn’t go on a long hike with it. I took it for a day trip with much less inside and the straps were good for extended wear. It’s a conscious design decision to trade strap padding and structure to allow them to be stowable for travel, but it’s something to keep in mind depending how you plan on using this bag.

North St Bags Weekender side of bag and straps

Both the Weekender and the Meeting bag can be carried using the pair of top handles. The handles are unpadded. Between the two I would only use the meeting bag that way. It then looks really nice, like a small tote bag. The Weekender really is too large to be carried like a tote for very long.

Design and Organization

The Weekender is a great travel pack. The bag is listed at 28L, but because it has a clam-shell opening, I find that I can fit more in it than usual. The bag is also wide enough where I can put my larger packing cube in sideways, not wasting any space inside.

North St Bags Weekender clam shell opening

There are hold down straps on the back side of the pack. I used it to hold down some clothing when I was not using packing cubes.

North St Bags Weekender internal hook and loop organization

There is a separate laptop compartment that is padded and suspended at the bottom. As it is the size of the entire pack, it has no problem swallowing my 13 inch Macbook Pro as well as my 11 inch iPad Pro.

The Weekender has no internal organization except for three strips of loop materials both on the front and back wall. North St. offers a series of Division Pockets of various size and design that can be attached to those strips via hook and loop.

North St Bags Weekender front panel hook and loop

I also used my other organizers like the ones by Alpha One Niner without problem. For a bag without an admin section, attaching an admin panel to the inside front of the bag makes a huge difference.

North St Bags Weekender front panel with attached pouches

There is a stash pocket at the top of the pack that I put my phone, wallet, watch and small items when going through TSA at the airport. The pocket is not lined, but it would be nice if it were.

North St Bags Weekender front water bottle pocket

The front of the Weekender is where someone may find problems. There is a center water bottle pocket that does not have it’s own volume. If the pack is full, there is really no way a water bottle will fit into it. If there is a water bottle there, the front zipper pocket, which also does not have it’s own volume, will become somewhat useless. During travel I did not use either of those two pockets. The water bottle pocket can also hold a U-lock, which is probably more appropriate.

There is a small horizontal pocket near the bottom of the pack that North St. calls a snack pocket, because it really is designed to only fit energy bars placed horizontally. Standard airline boarding pass will not fit without folding them. You can also use it for a small battery pack and cables.

North St Bags Weekender side view loaded up

There is a small webbing loop perfect for a bike light, as well as two short vertical columns of webbing perfect for a heroclip or carabiner, or to attach their Pioneer 12 packs. This is another way of offering more small item storage, instead of adding the Meeting bag.

The Travel System

The Meeting bag attaches to the Weekender by both using the compression straps on both bags, as well as two S clicks at the top of the Meeting bag. During travel, I would have both bags attached together while heading to and from the airports, and going through security checks. That way I have both of my hands free. When the bags are attached, the front of the Weekender becomes unusable. That means I put the water bottle, together with my iPad Pro, my noise cancelling headphones, and small EDC pouches inside the Meeting bag.

North St Bags Weekender meeting bag attached

When fully loaded, the two bags together pull the center of gravity away from my back. I would not recommend this configuration for extended carry. Once I’m at the gate, I wanted to quickly detach the Meeting bag so that I could have the smaller bag at my seat and put the Weekender in the overhead bin. Being able to be hands free most of the time at the airport and then have the smaller bag at the seat is a game changer during my flights.

What’s Perfect

  • The simple clamshell design with the boxy proportions allows for very flexible packing
  • The way the bag curves in slightly at the top, depth-wise, together with the four compression straps, allows me to slim down the pack for carrying my laptop and a few things into the office while I’m on the trip
  • The Weekender plus Meeting bag system works well for a long trip
  • The visual design, especially in a non black color, gives the bag a toned down yet unique look

What’s Not

  • The straps could be slightly more padded
  • I would prefer more loop material inside the bag to allow more flexible attachment of pouches from other brands
  • The configuration of the front of the bag is limiting — I would keep the “no side water bottles” design but find a way to give more volume to either the center water bottle pocket and/or the zipper pocket. Right now most of those pockets are not usable if the pack is full
North St Bags Weekender wearing with meeting bag attached

Wrap Up

The quality of both of these North St. bags are top notch. It has a very unique aesthetic. For me I love it when a travel bag looks smaller than what it can carry. The Weekender on it’s own is already a very good one-bag travel bag for short or even medium length trips. Together with the Meeting bag it definitely made my trips through airports more pleasant.

North St Bags Weekender wearing

Look for a second review on the Meeting bag soon. The Weekender and Meetings bags can be purchased directly from North St. Bags for $289 and $139 respectively.

Editor’s Note: The Weekender travel system was provided by North St. Bags as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with North St. Bags before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.

4 comments on “North St. Bags Weekender Backpack Travel System: Review”

  1. Thanks for this well-written review. I love the look of this bag, but the lack of org and the straps give me a lot of pause. I do think the top tote-handles are an odd design choice (on the Weekender) given the bag’s size.

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    1. Agree with your comment. Its hard to find a “convertible” that has good straps. The other extreme is the Mystery Ranch 3 way briefcase, a small bag with such beefy straps that make them hard to tug away. For internal organization you can use any hook-and-loop pouches or their own add-ons to add organization. Take a look at the Cotopaxi Allpa. That’s my other one-bag bag.

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  2. Hey! Do you have any durability issue with mesh on the back? I mean usually it get quickly teared apart if you travel in places where they throw backpack on the roofs of the bus/pickups and similar.

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  3. I have only used this on a lot of plane trips which I am the one who put it up on the overhead. So far so good. The straps also buffer the contact a bit as I just leave them out — too much work to tug them in for overhead storage.

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