At long last, could this be it… a backpack that isn’t just perfect for long-term travel, but that also doesn’t compromise on design?

As soon as I saw the Salkan Backpacker, I just knew I had to review it. Salkan is a new brand from the UK, whose debut product promises to combine a gorgeous classic look with loads of functionality.

While the Salkan packs could be used for various trips, it seems perfect for a backpacking or adventure trip — exactly the type of travel I write about on Indie Traveller.

The Salkan Backpacker is a 2-in-1 system, with a Main Pack and a Day Pack that work seamlessly together. While the size and weight make the two together a bit impractical for, say, weekend getaway, it seems ideal for longer trips.

This review is based on a sample that was kindly made available by Salkan. As usual, there are no restrictions on what I can write.

Price £250 / $345 / €285

Pros

  • Super stylish design
  • Highly comfortable to wear
  • Fully height adjustable
  • Loads of space and pockets
  • Integrated main pack + day pack system

Cons

  • Relatively heavy

Material & design

The Salkan Backpacker obviously has a beautiful vintage design, but it turns out this backpack isn’t just for looks. I was positively surprised by the durability and rain-resistant qualities of the materials used.

When touching the outer surface, it truly seems a canvas-like fabric. I like how warm and textured it feels compared to the shiny materials used on many other packs. But even though it looks and feels like canvas, the Salkan is in fact made of a highly durable polyester (a thick-threaded 900D Cotna).

While grey is the only base color currently available, you can add a personal touch by choosing one of 9 available strap colors. You can view the color options at Salkan.

I tested this backpack during a month-long island hopping trip in the Canaries. It only rained for a couple of days, but the Salkan performed well in any weather. Furthermore, its rain-resistant features make me confident to recommend it for any kind of adventure trip.

For starters, the outer surface has been treated with a rain-resistant wax coating. When splashing water directly onto the Salkan Backpacker, you can see drops forming immediately — and much of the water just rolls off like it’s a hydrophobic surface.

Inside, there is also an orange-colored inner lining that can be closed with a drawstring, forming a second line of defense against any water or dust. Finally, there is a built-in dedicated rain and flight cover, which will see this backpack through the worst types of weather.

The Salkan has a stylish look to be sure, but its eye-catching design hides that it’s very much a rugged and all-weather backpack.

2-in-1 system

The Salkan Backpacker offers a 2-in-1 system, with a large 45 liter main backpack (expandable to 55 liter) and a 20 liter daypack that can be used separately or together. You can buy just the daypack or main backpack, or you can buy them as a pack.

The daypack can be easily attached to the main bag using four small hooks. You can also attach it to the front using two small hooks (for turtle-shell-style carry).

This system works quite a bit better than 2-in-1’s that use cumbersome zippers, such as the Osprey Farpoint 55. I must admit that using the hooks took me a bit of practice, but after a while it was definitely faster than using zippers.

I believe Salkan realized the point of a 2-in-1 is not that you can seamlessly merge two backpacks into one, it’s that you can quickly carry your daypack between transit stops or to your hostel or hotel. For this, it works very well.

In practice, I’ve found myself attaching the two bags together less often than expected. It’s only when I know I have to walk a long while that I’d bother with it; otherwise, I just carry the daypack by the carry-handle in one hand.

That said, I think traveling with two bags is actually the best set-up, especially for longer trips. Whenever I go backpacking, I travel with a larger main bag as well as a smaller daypack. This way, the main bag with mostly my clothes can live in a luggage compartment, while my daypack with essential items and valuables will always stay with me.

Having this as one integrated system is a nice plus. The two Salkan packs are designed to work alongside each other, without having any unnecessary overlapping functions.

While you can buy the daypack and main pack separately, if you’re going on a big trip I think the 2-in-1 combination is the most compelling.

Comfort

The Salkan Backpacker has a fully-featured suspension system with padded straps, a padded back, and a well-padded hip belt with zippers. I’ve found it comfortable to wear for longer periods of time, such as while navigating a town, or getting to an airport terminal.

The best thing about the harness is that you can fully adjust it to match your torso length. This is absolutely amazing for someone like me who isn’t average height. (I’m 1.94m or 6’4). Backpacks that are designed around an average height never quite fit me well, so I love it when I can adjust it to my liking.

So how does this work? It’s simple: behind the back panel you’ll find some tightly packed velcro, which lets you move the entire shoulder strap element up and down for the most comfortable fit. Luckily, there is no way the velcro can move once it’s in place, as it is tightly sandwiched between the two main elements of the back panel.

The daypack is equally comfortable, with a nicely padded back and good shoulder straps. It also has all the features you’d need in a daypack and it can be used perfectly as a standalone if needed.

When I try to compare the Salkan to other backpacks, one reference point for me is the Osprey Farpoint 55, which also uses a 2-in-1 system. I’ve never been too fond of the Osprey, as its daypack is too small for storing a laptop or camera, and its back panel too flat (it has to be flat in order to zip tightly onto the main pack). By contrast, Salkan’s daypack is far more spacious and has a padded back, making it actually comfortable to carry all day.

Internal organization

So, what is it like to store your items inside the Salkan Backpacker? Firstly, it’s useful to know that you can access it in two ways: either through the top (like a classic backpack) or by opening it on the side (for suitcase-style access).

One clever feature that I’ve not seen anywhere else (at least, not quite in this way) is the laundry bag, which attaches to the top and can be tightly closed. No one likes having their stinky socks in the same compartment as their freshly washed clothes, so this laundry bag is a perfect solution. You can even detach it to hang it up your hostel or hotel room.

There are many nice touches throughout the design, such as a padded compartment for your sunglasses, or side-pockets within the main compartment. Salkan even put a secret compartment in the daypack for storing a passport or credit card.

Salkan also offers its own packing cube accessories which fit exactly within the dimensions of the Salkan Backpacker. I always use packing cubes, as it just keeps everything 10X more organized.

Everything about the internal organization, pockets, or sleeves in both the main and daypack feels just right, and in my time using this backpack I never felt like anything was missing.

Who is this backpack for?

While the Daypack can be used for various types of trops, I think this 2-in-1 backpack combination is best for long trips. Calling this product ‘The Backpacker’ seems quite appropriate!

The Main Pack is not carry-on size, making it less ideal for frequent short-distance flyers, for instance. But if you’re flying long-distance (when checked-in luggage is free) or going on a backpacking trip (using mainly public transport), then carry-on size becomes much less important than space and features.

One minor downside of the Salkan — which may come as a compromise from its looks — is the weight of the materials and sturdy back panel. The pack is a tad heavy, about 600g or 1.3 pounds more than an Osprey Farpoint 70, which has a comparable size. If you’re looking for a super-light backpack for long-distance hiking, or trying to absolutely maximize an airline’s weight allowance, then maybe it wouldn’t be your first pick.

That said, the Salkan Backpacker is 100% the type of pack I would take city-hopping around Europe, or backpacking in Asia or South America. It’s also very well-suited to a round-the-world trip or any other border-crossing adventure. Although it weighs a bit more, it also offers much more space than your typical carry-on size bag.

It’s somewhat of a higher-priced product, though it does also come with numerous features (and, let’s be honest, a great aesthetic) that are lacking in most budget packs. Not to mention, you get two bags for the price of one. So if you’re brewing some big travel plans, this can make for a better investment.

I’d usually be a tad skeptical of a debut product from a newer brand, but I’ve been roundly impressed with what Salkan has put together. If you’re looking for a pack for your next adventure, I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

Where to buy: as a direct-to-consumer brand, the Salkan Backpacker is available exclusively at discoversalkan.com.

 


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