Brooks offer quite a range of luggage for portaging your daily life while trying to remain effortlessly cool and, dare I say it, trendy. We have chosen the larger of the two Pickwick’s to review as it is a good size for daily use and was designed specifically for carrying work type things around London, by someone who lives here. It also happened to be the one I own just for this use.
The Pickwick Basics
The Pickwick is a 24 liter, top loading rucksack with a roll top closure. The bag itself is made in Italy by people Brooks artisans and is available in several colours, a few neutral and a couple of brighter options. There is also a small 15 liter version available in a slightly more basic design.
The main fabric used is coated canvas and it is finished with canvas straps, leather accents and a metal hook closure on the roll-top main section. There are two press-studs which hold the edges of the main pocket together to make the roll neater. In my version from last year there are two slip pockets inside for small things such as sunglasses, tissues etc. but in the new version there is a padded laptop sleeve. The Pickwick reviewed here is the large version and has a small zippered slip pocket on the outside and a separate zippered compartment at the bottom. Both of these pockets can be accessed while the bag is on your back, although some degree of arm contortionist action is required to get into the bottom section.
The bag is fairly minimalist on the outside with basic, adjustable webbing straps and no padding in the back panel. A chest strap does come with the bag although I no longer have it as I never used it and lost it. The bag is still plenty stable without it though.
Initial impressions of the Brooks Pickwick
This is a very sleek and smart looking bag. I personally like the dark colour with contrasting straps, although I think it probably is a little more ‘masculine’ than some of the options available. I think it is the kind of colour that is unassuming and can be worn with a variety of outfits and in lots of different situations, although the red one does look pretty awesome as well!
As the bag completely opens up at the top it is easy to use all of the 24 liters, making it quite a sizable bag if need be. I have carried general mobile office stuff around, but also enough clothes for 4 days as well as a laptop, charger and some toiletries (no shoes). The bag holds its shape well when full and as long as it is packed right it is surprisingly agreeable to carry with a heavy load, even though there is no padded back or straps. The inside of the bag is a light cream colour so it is easy to find things. You can also write your name in it if you so wish, providing a kind of retro primary school feel. However, the size is perfect when on my back, so I don’t look like a primary school kid while wearing it, which is nice.
The roll top, combined with the fabric makes the bag pretty water repellent, as long as it is rolled over properly. Sometimes the bag does come slightly unrolled when it is not full, or when it is overly full, but it still tucks under so would be fine in all but the worst weather when the seams would be susceptible too.
The little side pocket is pretty useful for phone and wallet, the pocket feels pretty secure and I can get to my things without taking the pack off. I had originally put my keys in there as well but found that they dug into the small of my back. I now stow those in the pocket at the bottom. This is a true pocket and it is really easy to get things in and out even when the bag is full. This pocket also means that a laptop stored in the main compartment cant hit the ground unless you are having a particularly careless moment. Handy.
The negatives of the Brooks Pickwick
My main complaint about my version of the bag has been fixed by Brooks this season – the lack of a laptop sleeve. I tend to use a separate sleeve any way, but when the bag doesn’t have much in it, the laptop falls forward and digs in my back – this wont happen on a new one.
I think this bag will end up looking a little less classy with use. The colouring on the canvas seems to wear in places. It will add a nice vintage, lived in look over time I imagine but it will be somewhat detrimental to its ‘classy’ credentials. I think it will still look pretty cool though, and maybe it wont happen much, we shall see.
The closure is a little insecure, it could do with having more of a distinct hook to it. I feel a bit nervous standing in crowds with this with my laptop in it. I keep my wallet, phone and keys in the zip pockets and am happy with these. I am probably just being paranoid, but so far in life paranoia has worked out for me so I will probably keep this up!
I do think that this bag might be a smidgen overpriced. I really appreciate the aesthetics and quality, but it is not truly beautiful and well made like the Trakke, so I am not sure it can demand the really pretty huge price tag. There are similar bags, such as one made by Alban that have very similar features but are significantly cheaper, I have not tried one out longterm, but short term wear seems fairly similar, they look just as smart and the closure is better.
Brooks Pickwick Review Conclusion
I really like this bag and have found myself using it a lot more than I thought I would. It is great for urban environments and I feel that I blend in better with it than I do with some of my more technical hiking backpacks. It will take a lot to make me cool on a day to day basis but I feel a little closer to cool carrying this bag around town.