This week, Jared Peltz of Swanson Media Group takes a look at the Wanderer by Duluth Packs, and gives us his thoughts and feedback.
It isn’t every day that I get the opportunity to review a product from a company that has been in business since the end of the Civil War Reconstruction Era. This was a time in US History when the west was still being settled and covered wagons were the SUV’s of society.
Even more rare when the product is made with the same care, attentionon, and craftsmanship today, as it was when they were founded. The sad fact is, in this digital day and age of instant gratification, most things are simply not made the way they used to make them. This month’s article takes a look at a pack that is the exception to this rule, the Wanderer.
This backpack doesn’t come with an iPhone holder, slots for earbud wires, bottle openers, Molle attachments, or a number of other things you may consider necessary. If you can get past that, the Wanderer is the pack for you from a company about as “old school” as it gets. Enter Duluth Pack. This company has been manufacturing canvas backpacks and products since 1882 in Minnesota. Know any other companies that used to repair covered wagons? No? Me neither.
How could a company that hasn’t molded to the modern world still make it in today’s time? Simple, by providing quality products that function and last. Take the Wanderer pack that I had the pleasure to review recently. It is a scaled down version of their very popular Rambler pack designed for bushcrafting, hiking, camping and other rigorous outdoor activities. The Wanderer is made from 15 oz. canvas and a simple box style design. The top flap straps are copper riveted with premium leather and roller buckles. They were surprisingly thick straps in comparison to the buckle down side and front pockets.
In addition to the thick leather straps, leather reinforcement is provided for all riveted and high stress seams. The pack offered a main compartment measuring 16” high, 15” wide, and 6” deep for the main storage area. The side pockets are approximately 9” high, 4.5” wide and about 2” deep. The front pocket measured about 9” high, 8” wide, and 1.5” deep. It definitely had enough room for a quick day+ pack. Much more than that, the original Rambler may be a better option. This one came in Olive Drab, but there are thirteen options to choose from, one of which is waxed. If you are going to consistently be in wet or damp environments, I would recommend the waxed option. Given an opportunity in the future, I would likely consider trying the waxed edition. A second option Duluth Packs offers is a canvas wax kit for those who wish to wax their packs later after purchasing one of the other packs.
The roomy, unobstructed main compartment is cinched closed via a leather draw cord with a fast and easy to use cord lock. The long leather straps attached to the top flap offer 7 holes of adjustment to allow for a bedroll to be placed on the inside of a fully loaded main compartment and still be cinched down to give the roll protection from the elements as well as the rest of the inside contents. Along the top was a well-supported “grab and go” handle for hanging the pack or simply loaded and unloading into a vehicle. The wide shoulder straps were designed from cotton webbing. Four leather re-enforced attachment points for lashing any additional gear was located around the top of the pack. Keeping with the simple design, you won’t find however, a waist belt for long-range lower back support.
So, just how well did the pack work over the 5-month test period, you ask? Not bad. I took the Wanderer on a couple kayak trips, used it as an office work bag, took it out on family outings for blueberry picking, and a few hikes. I found the Wanderer was easily used as a day pack. The canvas is solid, but didn’t offer much breathability as was expected. The cotton shoulder straps are slightly angled to allow ease of use, but made for awkward adjustment at times. The side pockets are buckled with noticeably thinner leather. This made opening and closing easier, but left me feeling that they were a little too thin compared to the sections of leather boot that hold down the top flap. Since the design is a simple box style, users may find the pack sag or load shift without a supporting frame. In reading other comments about the pack online, I had found one suggestion about using a small office waste basket to give the main compartment structure. I didn’t find it an issue as most of my outings had the pack filled to capacity.
One of my favorite points about the Wanderer was the fact there were no plastic zippers in the design to burst open or break off. The leather strap system was easy to use and offered a sound piece of mind that my load was secured. I loved the overall simplistic look and rugged feel of the Duluth Wanderer. It carried well and filled the role of a medium day pack just fine. A waist support could have been helpful on a few heavy loads, but the pack performed well without it.
With a quality product and a lifetime warranty on craftsmanship and hardware, the Duluth Pack Company can provide a well-made pack for a number of scenarios and uses. I was glad to see the packs were proudly made in the USA sadly unlike too many products in our industry today. The old-fashioned attention to detail with the Wanderer was just as impressive as the overall classic look of the pack. Oh, by the way, did I mention you can rent a pack whenever you plan a trip around the Boundary Waters or Quetico area near the company’s base of operations in Duluth, Minnesota? Sounds like a good excuse to plan your next adventure. For more information on the Wanderer and other great products from Duluth, take a look at www.duluthpack.com and see where a Duluth Pack can fit in your life.