North St. Bags review: Portland-made, cyclist approved

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Simpler, better, and purposeful: those are the three words around which Curtis Williams tailors his products. He founded North St. Bags to take a step back from all the fleeting gadgets and gizmos in our fast-paced, high-tech world, choosing instead to make products as people did back in the day when fine craftsmanship and locally sourced materials were the norm. The American-made line of products features anything from totes and duffles to purpose-specific handlebar bags and panniers, all of which are aimed at world wanderers and two-wheeled adventurers.

For the purpose of this review, North St. Bags sent us the all-rounder Scout 21 duffel with matching Pittock travel pouches and tool roll.

The aesthetic is understated and purposeful.

Hand-sewn and stitched in Portland, Oregon, the duffel is constructed of a richly coloured and rugged Cordura nylon exterior in a classic, no-frills design that is so reminiscent of its military forefathers that an airport clerk thanked me for my service when I last travelled with it. Unlike the plain canvas military duffels, however, the Scout 21 sports some hidden modernized features.

The inside of the duffel is lined with North St. Bags’ signature waterproof fabric – absolutely essential for any bag company based in the Pacific Northwest – and there is also a small internal pocket, lanyard, and shoulder strap, all with matching details.

Classic on the outside, techy and modern on the inside.

The Scout 21 is North St.’s biggest duffel with a 30L capacity, but I still found it to be a tad small — only big enough for a long weekend. At most, I managed to stuff a couple of cycling kits, shoes, some casual clothing, and toiletries for four days but even that was pushing it. On the upside, it does fit in any overhead bin space, be it on a plane or a train.

The matching Pittock travel pouches go a long way in organizing the one-compartment duffel, which otherwise would become cluttered very quickly. Offered in three sizes, ranging from 4.5” x 6” to 9” x 11”, the pouches are made from the same Cordura nylon as the duffel and are ideal for chargers, keys, notebooks, toiletries, a small camera, or whatever else one might like to bring along.

Lastly, the North St. Bags tool roll again features the same exterior material and contains five narrow slots to stow your basic repair items.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

While simple in appearance, the purpose-driven design and robust materials make these bags utilitarian yet good-looking travel companions. No, the duffel is not a fancy roller bag you bring on your business-class flights, and no, it won’t keep your clothes from getting wrinkled. But cycling clothing doesn’t wrinkle, anyway, and the Scout 21 does keep its contents dry – and organized, at least with the help of the travel pouches.

I also like the convenience of a duffel bag with a shoulder strap: it’s roomier than a backpack, yet I can just as easily swing it around my shoulders and carry it on a bike if need be. Plus, the duffel still looks crisp after several months of use with no frays, stains, or cuts, despite having been tossed around on numerous trips – which is more than I can say about some of my other (hard-sided) luggage.

Altogether, the North St. Bags products may cost more than many other options, but they make for an elegant and well-made package for travellers heading to far-off lands with or without a bike.

Scout 21 Duffle: $99
Pittock Travel Pouches: $40 for a set of three.
Bike Roll: $20
Northstbags.com

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