Backpacks Are Designed to Break

Are backpacks designed to break, like for example Savotta 123? How to find more durable backpacks?

Durable Backpacks Are Designed to Break

Our durable, small backpack that had served for a decade got stolen in Spain. It was made in Finland and available only there. We tried a bunch of other small rucksacks that all broke in 2-4 months and as they were made of polyester fabric, they could not be fixed. Finally in Borneo we received visitors from Finland who brought us a new backpack from Finland, the same Savotta 123 that got stolen in Spain. However, meanwhile the manufacturer, Savotta, had updated their model that was originally introduced in 1950s. Those updates proved to be less than desirable at least for our needs.

This is how the backpack is being promoted:

“The Savotta Pack 123 is the traditional model produced by Savotta since the 1950s. In all its simplicity it is a very durable piece of equipment.”

This is what happened in real life, and how the backpack ended up in the trash bin in less than two years of use:

WhereWhat happenedWhenCost
Borneo, MalaysiaWe got the backpackSep 2011A gift from HS
Hua Hin, ThailandRight shoulder strap snappedDec 201150 Baht = 1,24 €
Penang, MalaysiaRivets of the pocket strap droppedFeb 201214 RM = 3,5 €
Zagora, MoroccoClosing mechanism brokeDec 201210 Dirham = 0,92 €
Masatepe, NicaraguaLeft shoulder strap snappedApl 201320 Cordobas = 0,65 €
Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaTop lid fabric rippedJul 2013Not fixable

How Savotta 123 got broken
We decided to contact backpack makers to offer to help them in making their products more durable. Our quest for a truly durable backpack had begun.

We approached Osprey, Fjällräven, Deuter, Haglöfs, Halti, and Rei only to learn that none of them was interested in making durable, heavy-duty backpacks that are not designed to break. All their backpacks are OK if you go for a short two-week hike once a year. That way the backpack will perhaps last ten years and you are happy. But if you use it all the time, it will break just in a few months´ time because it is not made to last: fancy straps get ripped off in airport luggage handling, fabrics wear out and tear, plastic buckles and rivets break, zippers jam, stitches open, shoulder straps snap, and hip belts become loose.

Savotta answered to our challenge and delivered us two of their crown jewels to see how they can cope with our nomadic ramblings. We got a Savotta LJK and a 0.7 kg lighter Savotta 906. At the first glance they look promising. Savotta has fixed almost all the issues that existed in their previous models we had used almost a decade. We will keep you posted how they will stand the test of time.

See also: Recycling Tricks To Consume More


Here is a summary of responses we have received so far:

Lowepro Fastpack 350 for 5-6 years without any problems. It's maximum capacity is ~
- One laptop (max 17")
- Medium sized DSLR body + few lenses and/or flashes
- 1,5L waterbottle (or 0,75L thermos)
- Some food
- Jacket or warm shirt
- Some tools

Three things it's missing:
- Raincover (you can buy one)
- Straps for carrying tripod
- Straps for sleeping back

Also it seems to work as a 2-3 day flight trip bag as it fits the dimensions of hand luggage:
- Camera body + 1-2 lenses .
- Gorillapod
- Socks, t-shirts and underwear for 2-3 days
- one warm shirt
- Laptop
- All the cables and recharges one needs (~ quite a lot)

I've been trying to find better short flight trip back for all that but nothing seemed to be that much better so I've used that same bag I've lugged around forests, cities basically every day It has paid it's price off really nicely.

If you don't have the need for camera compartment separation pieces, you could probably stuff quite a lot more into that compartment

Maybe the reason it has fared so well is that nobody will buy another new camera bag from vendor whose bags gets broken because that also can mean your gear gets broken...

Other more bigger option could also be Lowepro's Rover Pro 45L AW or 35L models. I would probably buy either of them if my old bag gets broken but they are really pricey but on the other hand is more adjustable for travelling. Not sure if they can be used as airplane hand luggage, though.

Thanks, Matias!

Tasmanian Tiger, maybe? What about their Mission Pack? Has MOLLE straps, but designed to fit the maximum size for carry-on, so no need to worry about it ending up mistreated in cargo. Philippe has had excellent experiences with his, so far.

Thanks, Martin-Eric!

I've had the GoLite Jam for about 5 years and it sure has seen a lot of stress. The past 2 years it has been my constant companion
travelling around the world and it looks like it'll do another 5 years.

It's also very, very lightweight, comfortable and affordable.

Thanks, Florian!

We will look into these options and tell how it went.
Unknown said…
Mathias the 35 compressed will pass in the hand luggage , uncompressed it might attract attention from the clerks..

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