The G-Star RAW Two-in-One Is the Ultimate Functional Backpack

Heavy duty enough for a biking and hiking, but light enough to stay comfortable on the sidewalk.

For the daily chore of carrying stuff around the city, I am an unabashed proponent of tote bags. I even wrote an op-ed about why totes shouldn’t be seen as feminine or pretentious. I carry them daily: to my office, out with friends, stashed under countless bars. I own somewhere over a dozen, which is handy, because they constantly wear out.

The problem is that tote bags still have an image problem. I constantly hear guys say that they’re worried about the stigma of carrying them. So I decided to try something different, something that couldn’t possibly be called a murse. I got a backpack. And not just any backpack—the G-Star RAW Two-in-One Backpack, a gunmetal gray-colored bag that’s heavy duty enough for a biking but light enough to stay comfortable on the sidewalk.

Backpacks have undergone something of a renaissance lately. The Canadian brand Herschel makes omnipresent bags that look perfectly heritage down to their wobbly, hand-drawn logo (even though the company was founded in 2009). Fjallraven, which sports a signature swoopy fox logo, can be found on everyone from Williamsburg creatives to small children. Everlane makes its own quintessentially minimalist version. Then there are the leather bags, Best Made’s waxed canvas ditty bag  (for sailors only), and the classic Jansport, if you’re going normcore.

But what sets the G-Star bag apart is that it also features a zip-off waist pack, otherwise known as a fanny pack. The ‘90s-era accessory has had a comeback, appearing in runway shows from the likes of Alexander Wang and Chanel and around the hips of club kids from Los Angeles to Bushwick. G-Star’s take on it is covered in a tessellated, camouflage-colored pattern that disguises it enough to avoid looking like something a clueless tourist might wear abroad. While the waist pack isn’t likely to convince you to adopt the accessory full-time, it does provide an extra storage space apart from the backpack itself, an enclosed pocket for transporting food or fragile packages.

The G-Star backpack doesn’t come with other accessories or hidden tricks. There’s a laptop sleeve to keep your computer away from the other detritus of your daily life. There’s a zippered pocket on the front. That’s all that’s really necessary in a functional bag. Did you really need a brass-buckled leather strap or a heavy vintage zipper to keep your stuff together? Instead, what sets it apart is a strong construction and an unwillingness to dip into twee branding mechanisms.

Waxed canvas might look more traditional, but this backpack is made from Cordura, a nylon hybrid that came to prominence in the 1970s for luggage, but made its way into everything from outdoor furniture to military equipment. Cordura comes in everything from ready-to-wear to faux denim to duck canvas; G-Star’s version is thin and flexible, but it still feels remarkably durable, like it could survive a spill onto pavement or a particularly messy subway ride. This isn’t something you’ll have to worry about fraying into non-existence, though the shoulder straps could be thicker and their connection to the bag itself sturdier. (Trips through Manhattan are one thing; hiking is quite another.)

Rather than having middle school flashbacks to carting around books in a sagging backpack that barely fit in my locker, swapping tote bags out for one reminded me that they have some major benefits. They’re actually ergonomic, unlike a single strap cutting into your shoulder all day. The weight is balanced evenly, so users don’t experience a constant tilt to one side like an overweighted fishing boat.

Like good software, the G-Star backpack never stands out too much and it performs its duty with a minimum of fuss. Perhaps it’s an innovation on the genre for a new, more virtual generation.

Photos by G-Star Raw