If you’re a commuter looking for a bag that’s smarter than a messenger bag but less formal than a briefcase, then a rucksack is a good option, as long as you choose the right design. The Harber London Classic Rucksack is that design, a rucksack that has been created for the urban streets rather than the side of a mountain. It’s a great looking backpack, handmade in Spain from premium materials and we’ve featured it in our list of the best backpacks.
I’m a big fan of Harber London luggage – the Harber London Laptop Briefcase was my first experience of the brand and the Classic Rucksack exudes the same style and quality as that briefcase, but with a more relaxed look.
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The rucksack is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, a material which feels more like heavy duty canvas, while the lid, straps and carry handles are made from full-grain leather. The buckles are apparently aviation grade aluminium. The bag’s capacity is 17.4-litres, its dimensions are approximately 40 x 29 x 15cm (15.7 x 11.4 x 5.9”) and it comes in four colours: black, camel, mocha and olive.
On the inside of the rucksack, there are two padded compartments – one for a 16” laptop and a second one for a 13” tablet. There’s also a zipped compartment on the inside and two additional pockets lower down.
On the outside of the bag, you get a hidden pocket on each side of the main rucksack, each of which could fit a sports water bottle. One of these pockets contains a removable magnetic key chain. There’s a small, magnetically closed pocket on the front, under the leather lid.
Speaking of that lid, it’s made from gorgeously soft leather and while it features leather straps to close it, the buckles on them are ornamental as the straps actually have magnetic closures on the back to make accessing the internals much faster. That would be a security risk but that is taken care of by a zippered closure beneath the lid. If you want to carry more than fits in the body of the bag, there are also a couple of straps included so you can strap additional stuff – such as a tripod, coat or picnic blanket – to the outside.
Moving round to the back of the bag, the shoulder straps are full grain leather with thin foam padding, and they swivel for extra comfort. There’s also a grab handle and a trolley sleeve you can slip over a suitcase handle. The back of the backpack is also where you access the two hidden side pockets.
Harber London says the plastic fabric is waterproof but I wouldn’t want to take the bag out in a torrential downpour as it wouldn’t be kind to the leather and I suspect that heavy rain would find its way around the lid of the backpack into the main body of the bag.
Harber London Classic Rucksack review: verdict
I love the Harber London Classic Rucksack. It’s smart enough to take to the office but casual enough for weekend trips and while it has a retro design it has lots of modern extras to bring it up-to-date. It’s a perfect size for a daily commute and would also work well as an aircraft carry-on bag – but probably not your only bag for a short break unless you travel really light.
Are there any negatives? Just a couple, depending on how you plan to use the bag. The 16” laptop compartment is not suspended from the bottom of the rucksack so it won’t provide as much protection as a suspended compartment – so if you’re the sort of person who throws their rucksack down onto hard floors you might want to look elsewhere. It’s also not best suited for lugging heavy loads or for long cycle commutes as it doesn’t come with a waist strap or sternum strap – but then I would not want to subject a bag of this quality to rain and road spray. Cyclists will want to check out our guide to the best cycling backpacks and messenger bags instead.