Review: Smith The Roll Pack

Ernest editor Jo tests out the first in Millican's new Mavericks range: Smith the Roll Pack is a simple, functional bag made with lightweight weatherproof canvas. Neat enough for the city, tough enough for the great outdoors, he's a worthy companion for those who like to mix work and adventure

Ernest editor Jo testing Smith on the Isles of Scilly. Photo: Oliver Berry

Ernest editor Jo testing Smith on the Isles of Scilly. Photo: Oliver Berry

I’ve been a fan of Millican bags ever since they launched back in 2009. Trusty Dave the Rucksack has accompanied me on wintery trips to Iceland and Norway, as well as wild swimming rambles in Montenegro and many a muddy festival. Along the way I’ve overstuffed him, sat on him and quite possibly used him as a pillow. I'm proud to say he's taking it all in his stride and there’s barely a scratch on him.

So having followed Millican for the past six years, I was intrigued when they previewed their new Mavericks collection in our second print edition (p106-107). Smith the Roll Pack is the first in the Mavericks line and it looks like he’s taken the makers in a new direction.

Before I introduce Smith, here's a quick introduction: Lake District based Millican use sustainable materials to make functional bags for travel and outdoor living. Their thoughtfully designed bags are made with specialist canvas fabrics, minimum plastic and recycled materials and are intended for lifelong use. They named their company after local Lake District legend Millican Dalton, who left a conventional life in the 1900s to live in a cave in Borrowdale, finding all he needed (apart from decent coffee) in nature. Oh and they name their bags after their Lakeland heroes. Dave is a local farmer and (Andy) Smith is a mountain biking creative fellow who's just taken over an abandoned carpet factory and turned it into a community space for local artists and craftspeople. A hero indeed. 

Millican has pared down their design for Smith. The bag is constructed simply, using just a few panels of lightweight and weatherproof Bionic® Canvas (57% recycled and 30% stronger than regular canvas). This modest design aims to reduce production waste, with minimal seams for maximum strength and durability. The canvas is impregnated rather than coated with weatherproof wax, to keep the weight down and the rain out, and to retain that tactile canvas feel. He also has everything else you’d expect: padded ergonomic shoulder straps, removable waist straps for cycling and a breathable back panel – as well as nice aluminum buckles. Plus, I hate to say this sort of thing, but he’s also got a rather pleasing retro feel. So, moving on…

Smith strikes a good balance between city bag and adventure pack. He’s neat enough for meetings, but tough enough for exploring. Over the past two months, I’ve taken Smith on all of my research trips for our upcoming third issue: hare spotting in the Kent Marshes, meeting makers in Margate and exploring deserted islands in Scilly. I've also used him to cart books, notes and magazines to various cafes around Bristol when I got too restless to work at my desk.

Smith's versatile design makes him ideal for this sort of trip. There’s a concealed 15” padded laptop pocket on one side and a notebook-sized pocket on the other, with space for your phone and pens. The main belly of the bag has more pockets (for magazines, iPad and other important things), but mainly a large expandable space, which was really handy when I needed to stuff in another layer, or chuck in a station-bought supper on the last train home. However, my favourite thing about Smith is the grab handle on top of the bag, which is reinforced with leather and handy for picking the bag up like a pannier when hopping on and off trains. All in all, this is a cracking bag and well recommend for those of you who like to mix work and adventure. 

Millican's Smith The Roll Pack comes as a 18 litre pack for £95 and 25 litre for £110. We tested 18 litre in Rust. For more information, visit the Millican website.