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Can a Fashion Brand Make a Better Outdoor Backpack?

A technical backpack that can hang with the best.

When packing for a trip to the mountains of southern Mexico, instead of loading my gear into a bag made by a mountaineering company — as most of us do by default when traveling — I opted for a nylon and leather backpack made by Visvim. The Japanese brand is known for their exclusivity, and their prices reflect that point: the backpack has a price tag just shy of $700, fitting into the low-mid range of Visvim’s products. Though technical gear and fashion rarely come together with much success (save for Arc’teryx Veilance), Visvim’s attention to heritage production techniques and high-level components promised a genre-bending product. I put it to the test.

The Ballistic 20L pack is made from Cordura Ballistic nylon — top packs from Kletterworks and Madden Equipment feature similar Cordura outers — and has a suede-reinforced bottom panel. Visvim doesn’t skimp on the zippers, and each of the four hefty exterior zippers (all waterproof) are made by Swiss brand RiRi. Though the interior details (a neoprene-lined laptop compression chamber and hanging fleece-lined audio-player pocket) nod at adventures in the urban setting, I took this backpack high into the cloud forests of the Sierra Juárez.

The Ballistic 20L backpack is understated and doesn’t call attention to its luxury price tag when traveling in foreign countries, urban centers or remote mountainsides.

I utilized a pre-curved elastic clip set on the side of the Ballistic pack to carry a camera tripod, while filling one of the main compartments with a change of clothes and the other with a camera and a collection of dogeared documents. The backpack excelled with this light load, and the padded back panel and shoulder straps seem geared towards day excursions with moderate weight. Once I loaded the bag down with a computer and more camera gear, my thoughts shifted toward backpacks with built-in frames and suspension systems to handle more weight.

Accessing your gear in a timely fashion is facilitated by well-thought-out zipper placement. One of the main compartments features a three-quarter zip for easy packing, and a “side door” slash zipper for quick access.

The Ballistic 20L backpack is understated and doesn’t call attention to its luxury price tag when traveling in foreign countries, urban centers or remote mountainsides. More importantly, its rugged construction can take a beating, and I never thought twice about how it would hold up against rocky trails, thorny trees or sudden downpours. In this case, fashion kept pace with the outdoors.

Buy Now: $690

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