Waterfield Designs' Staad review: A beautifully practical bag
Before passing judgment on Waterfield Designs’ Staad BackPack it’s only fair to reveal my biases: I’ve long been a fan of the company’s work because I like its sense of design and solid workmanship. And when I lug gear around, I prefer to do so in a backpack. So, in all honesty, my recommendation of the Staad depends almost entirely on whether it aligns with my preconceptions of what such a bag should be.
It hits the mark in every way.
Made of canvas or ballistic nylon with large leather flap and accents, the Staad comes in two sizes—Slim ($319) and Stout ($329). The exterior body material comes in black or brown and the leather flap can be had in black, dark brown, or lighter brown. Each bag has two zippered accessory pockets on either side of a longer center zipper that allows you easier access to the pack’s interior.
Within that interior you’ll spy two pockets large enough to hold a Kindle e-reader, one of the larger variety of mobile phones, or a smallish water bottle. Outside of these pockets is the yellow ballistic nylon-lined internal storage area for packing the kinds of things you’d normally toss into a gadget backpack—chargers, accessory bags, cables, and maybe a spare shirt.
The rest of the interior is reserved for two pockets—one for a full-sized tablet and another for a 13-inch (Slim) or 15-inch (Stout) laptop. Each of these pockets is padded and faced with a soft black material that won’t scratch your precious cargo.
The side of the bag that rests against your back is nicely padded, as are the solidly attached straps. At the top of the bag is a leather handle for easily lifting the thing in preparation for swinging it over your shoulder.
It’s a beautiful backpack that harkens back to the old west or the days of propellered aviation. You could easily see the Staad dangling from a saddle or jammed into the cockpit of a F6F Hellcat. And yes, the leather scuffs just as easily as you’d imagine such a vintage piece of luggage would. If you’re finicky you can apply some variety of leather treatment to keep it looking like new, but I found the occasional scuffs gave the bag some personality.
So, in regard to the design of the bag, I’m all for it. It’s not showy but it definitely catches the eye.
Then there’s its utility. If, like me, you’re accustomed to carrying a very large backpack—one that accommodates not only your gear but a weekend’s worth of clothing and a bottle of wine—you’ll have to reset you expectations. Even the Stout is slim by the standards of the three-compartment daypack you carried in junior high.
But as I packed the Stout for a couple of outings I realized that my storage expectations might be the tiniest bit outdated. I now carry a 13-inch MacBook Air and iPad Air rather than a much bulkier 2010-vintage 15-inch MacBook Pro. My books are on my iPad and so I don’t need space for that bulky paperback. Hydration is all well and good, but do I really need to carry quart bottles? It turned out that if I packed what I really needed rather than what I was accustomed to carrying, the Stout served my needs perfectly.
It’s not inexpensive but in this case you get what you pay for—a domestically made backpack that’s as beautiful as it is practical.