Aside from looking sharp, a great city backpack can stand up to hard knocks. While it's easy to find heavy-duty outdoor gear that fulfills the latter requirement, you're riding the subway, not scaling a mountain—no need to buy a pack optimized for alpine excursions. Herschel Supply—the Vancouver-based bag and accessories brand—has you covered. Its slick new SealTech line is made from fabric that forgives minor punctures and stops tiny tears from becoming gaping rips.
The secret? Rip-stop fabric, which was originally developed in WWII as a silk replacement for parachutes. Today, you're most likely to encounter it in outdoor gear, like tents and outerwear, and in maritime equipment like sails. Made from nylon, the lightweight textile has a special crosshatch weave of coarse threads interspersed with finer yarns that prevent tears. What's really neat about the textile is that if you do puncture it, you can repair it by simply rubbing your fingers over the fabric—the heat from your body will "heal" the fabric's fibers. I used a Bic pen to stab one of the bags and the hole quickly disappeared after performing the trick.
"We love the fabric because it has a slouch to it and hangs with your body, but it's really minimal," Jamie Cormack, who co-founded the brand with his brother, Lyndon. "It's super strong, prevents tears, and is water resistant."
Lately, the company has been looking to other industries to inform its product development. For example, Herschel adapted a knitted fabric that was typically used in the footwear industry for its ApexKnit line. "For us, materials are a great place to start since we have consistent silhouettes and we want to find ways to modify them," Cormack says. "We're always on the hunt for new fabrics. It comes from an architectural standpoint of how you structure the bag." Cormack says Herschel aspires to design are pieces that are attention-grabbing, but have a balance of features that really benefit users—like SealTech, which offers durability, water resistance, a light weight, and a respectable dose of minimalist style.
"It's so easy to overbuild something, but there's no point in building a bag if it's not on someone's back," Cormack says. "We wanted it to be the bag you go back to year after year." The Sealtech backpack retails for $149 and a duffel bag sells for $100. Find them at shop.herschelsupply.com.