With easily the coolest name for a backpack company I’ve ever heard, Pack Animal’s mission is to combine the best of pricy-but-not-always-functional heritage backpacks, cool-but-overbuilt technical backpacks, and trendy-but-not-that-tough fashion backpacks. All of that comes together with their flagship, waxed twill, roll top Rally Pack.
The design is eye catching but their commercials, which lean on the idea that you’ll be using the backpack to get into fistfights and European spy adventures, sealed the deal for me. (I’m very easily marketed at.) I got the bag in December and broke it in on my trip from New York to Tennessee, Oregon, Utah (where I collaborated with Rose Anvil) and West Virginia.
Here’s what we’re discussing about the bag today:
- Who Should Buy the Pack Animal Rally Pack?
- Who Shouldn’t Buy the Pack Animal Rally Pack?
- Pros & Cons
Who should buy the Pack Animal Rally Pack?
- Guys who want heritage style and materials with modern design and functionality; there are more pockets and features than is typical for a canvas or twill backpack.
- People who want a sternum strap on their bag to help distribute load.
- Anyone who needs extra straps for securing jackets/skateboards/showily cool things to the outside of the bag.
- Men who like water resistance; the combination of waxed twill, a roll top closure, and ripstop lining makes this a fully weatherproof bag.
- Guys who want a bag that is eye-catching but not too ostentatious.
- Anyone looking for a well-priced heritage bag; this is much cheaper than most.
Who shouldn’t buy the Pack Animal Rally Pack?
- Folks that find roll tops inconvenient.
- Guys who prefer American made goods; this is made in China.
- Purists who like heritage style backpacks and don’t like the modern details or polyester lining.
- Guys who avoid unnecessary branding on their gear; the patch sewn to the front really bothers me.
Pack Animal Rally Pack Materials
With use, this bag went from cardboard stiff to old jeans soft. Here’s why.
- 18oz thickly woven cotton
- Old fashioned tough
- Softens and patinas with time
This bulk of the bag is made of twill, which is a kind of densely woven cotton. Bags in the 18th century were typically made of waxed twill or canvas, both of which are extremely resistant to tears and abrasion. Denim is actually a kind of twill; you may notice that both this bag and your favorite pair of jeans have the appearance of diagonal lines running down them. Like jeans, your Rally Pack will soften with wear.
Twill is often contrasted with canvas, which is plainer and smoother to look at. Twill is woven into more complex, textured structures, but both are measured by their weight per square yard: the Rally Pack is 18 ounces, almost twice as thick as your average pair of jeans.
[Check out a canvas bag: Jack Ryan’s Backpack: Why I Love the Filson Journeyman (Review)]
- Improves water resistance
Bags, tents, and jackets were often made with waxed twill or canvas back in the pioneering days because waxing it — usually with paraffin wax — helps to enhance its water-resistant properties. (Even without wax, though, twill is quite water resistant because it’s very densely woven.) Waxing a fabric like this also changes the way it ages, producing what many consider a desirable patina.
Ripstop Polyester Lining
- Improves water and tear resistance
But your gear isn’t just encased in twill. If you look inside, you’ll see this is lined with waterproof ripstop polyester.
The bright red lining makes it easier to see what’s inside and, most importantly, makes it more waterproof. Essentially, the outside is “old-fashioned” waterproof and the inside is “modern” waterproof.
The lining is also ripstop, meaning it’s woven with reinforcement threads that stops rips: if you get a hole, it won’t wind up tearing the whole bag apart.
So while it’s not technically a dry bag and you shouldn’t leave it at the bottom of a lake overnight, there’s no storm that’ll get the inside wet.
[For an example of ripstop canvas, check out the Tanner Goods’ Koru Rucksack]
- 3 – 3.5mm vegetable tanned leather
The last material to mention is this thick, vegetable tanned leather. You can tell Pack Animal did their homework with this; veg tanned leather ages better than chrome tanned and is the material of choice for accents on heritage backpacks. It’s more expensive than chrome tanned leather, which is how over 90 percent of all leather on Earth is made, but it’s more durable as well.
But why all these leather buckles? Let’s talk about the design and the features.
Pack Animal Rally Pack Features
This bag is 18’’ tall x 12’’ wide x 7’’ deep; that makes for a volume of about 25 liters or 1,525 cubic inches. It’s a good size for both everyday carry and even an overnight trip.
Roll Top Closure
- Easy-to-open stud closure
- Extra water resistant
The first thing you probably notice is the roll top closure.
Roll tops are more water resistant than zips because you get multiple layers of twill sealing the compartment instead of one row of perforated zipper teeth, plus roll tops offer a little more flexibility with the size in that you can compress the volume down when there’s less to carry. Zippers are also common failure points on backpacks, so the fewer zippers, the fewer breakable parts and the longer the bag should last.
The primary downsides with rolltops are that they stand out more than your standard zippers — something that I’m only pointing out because some guys like their heritage backpacks to be as understated as possible — and that it takes more time to open and close a roll top than a zip.
All that said, Pack Animal addressed that time problem well with two features: the roll top is secured with a stud closure and not a buckle, so it’s easier to open and close fast, and there’s a zipper that lets you easily access the bottom of the bag without unrolling the top.
[More in Roll Tops: Tanner Goods’ Koru Is My Favorite Backpack for Long Trips]
- One large pocket on the front
- Another zipper opening on the front to access the interior of the bag
- One exterior water bottle holder
- No zippered pockets on interior of bag
In addition to the opening that gets you into the interior of the bag, there’s another front pocket about the size of a magazine. I like that although there are two zippers on the front, the openings are barely visible, maintaining that minimalist appearance.
The interior of the bag has a padded laptop sleeve (which fits my large, 16″ laptop) with a few wallet/phone sized pockets as well. (No zippered compartments on the inside, though, if you like that extra security for a passport.)
- Sternum strap helps to distribute the weight of a heavy load
- Extra straps allow you to carry extra gear
There’s a sternum strap, which is great for spreading the weight and making it easier to carry a heavy load, and two extra straps to help you attach gear to the outside. You can see them in action below:
Pack Animal Rally Pack Price
That’s actually quite inexpensive. It might not sound it if you’re used to wearing nylon backpacks, but if you have a little experience in the world of canvas or twill bags, you’re probably pleasantly surprised by that.
For some context, my Filson backpack is the same size, has fewer features, and costs $395. I have an entire article with thirteen other canvas or twill backpacks, and almost all of them are over $300.
Pack Animal Rally Pack Pros
- “Old fashioned tough” twill and leather
- Good balance of features and simplicity
- More pockets than most heritage backpacks
Pack Animal Rally Pack Cons
- Not everyone likes roll tops
- Less understated than other heritage backpacks
- Has branding on front
- Not made in USA
To sum up, Pack Animal does a great job of combining heritage style and materials with modern design and functionality.
They had this excellent line on their site:
Bags fall into three categories, fast fashion bags that fall apart after one or two years, over designed, technical bags with features we don’t need, and heritage bags that look great but haven’t been updated in decades and cost a fortune. Pack Animal bags gives you the perfect blend of old school style and new school features you really want.
Which is a cool approach. It’s nice, thick, waxed twill, the leather is great quality, it’s totally weatherproof, it’s got just the right amount of features and pockets, and it’s made with a keen eye for design. It’s a bag that is eye-catching but not too ostentatious, although I’m happy to admit that’s subjective; I’m sure some guys will decide they’d rather keep their uber-simple heritage bags.
On a related note, I absolutely hate the patch sewn to the front of the bag you can see above. I don’t like spending money on a product and then doing free advertising for them.
Finally, the main complaint I can see people having is that it’s made in China with Chinese twill and leather. I firmly believe that this doesn’t affect quality at all, but this is the main reason why it’s cheaper than other heritage backpacks, which are typically made in the US.
Overall, there’s a heck of a lot more that I like about this bag than I don’t. As far as style, functionality, quality, and price go, this will fit the bill for a lot of guys, especially given how much lower the price is than your average waxed twill bag.
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