Backpack review: Harris tweed by Kara Keddie

Backpacks come in many shapes and forms, materials and details, intended for one use or another. I have backpacks that are great for stuffing a weekends worth of hiking gear in, backpacks that are brilliant for the daily year-round cycle to work with an expensive laptop inside, even a backpack that does a sterling job of carrying a library book and a banana, but not much else. I didn’t really have a nice backpack though. One that wouldn’t look out of place when heading to town on a Saturday morning. You know, like a well dressed lady will prefer to be augmented by a nice handbag, rather than a plastic carrier bag from the local grocer, so we chaps might appreciate something nice as well.

To set the ground rules first though, what might a chap be looking for in a nice pack for a Saturday trip to town? For starters, ultimate load carrying and absolute level of ruggedness aren’t factors I consider most important in this case. Unless you’re carrying 6 bottles of fizzy wine and get caught in a biblical downpour, it’s not the scenario I’m seeing. I’m thinking more along the lines of reasonable load carrying, nicely implemented design details and a strong look.

Which brings us neatly round to this recently released backpack by Scottish designer Kara Keddie, the “Roberto”. To start with, if we were to hold an impromptu box-ticking session, we’d immediately put check marks against handmade in Scotland and Harris tweed. Which is a fine start to the proceedings. The lushness of the Harris Tweed is the first thing you really notice, and the mainstay of the backpack. Unusually for Harris Tweed, it’s not a multi-coloured pattern, but a solid charcoal colour. Like all tweed though, the closer you get, the more complex the colours become, or maybe in this case the shades, as this tweed is mainly monochrome in it’s glory. It’s black, grey and white, and even some tiny brown and red speckles in there. It’s kind of a given though that Harris Tweed will always be great.

Apart from the tweed front and sides, the rest of the outside is a sturdy, black cotton canvas. And the shoulder straps are a sturdy cotton webbing with a range of adjustment. The hardware is all chromed steel, including the sprung clash for holding the lid down. Apart from that there is a carrying handle at the top and a wool tartan badge with Kara Keddies unicorn logo patch on it. No external pockets, no fussiness, just the necessary details. Oh, and the official Harris Tweed logo. The bag is closed using a drawstring and flap.

Inside the space is basically one large compartment and a single quite small zipped pocket.  The pocket is large enough for a phone and a wallet, but not much more, though there is a magnetic attachment for a key ring as well. The rest of what you are carrying will take it’s chance in the large compartment, which I’d estimate at around 25 litres effective space. The compartment is lined with w soft woven polyester, so both practical and hard wearing. Craftsmanship throughout is superb. I was trying to find some seams to see if they were nicely done, but all seams are hidden and the actual method of assembly of the backpack remains something of a mystery. This is an indicator of quality craft though, or possibly sorcery, if you’re so inclined.

Pluses and minuses? It looks great and is unlike anything else I see being used, so fills the roles of being both a useful device for carrying stuff, and a piece of peacockery, if that can be said, adding interest to your garment game. I wouldn’t use it for rough use though, as although Harris Tweed is a fairly sturdy wool fabric, it would not hold up well compared to waxed cotton or a nylon canvas. This is one to save for special use, not on a hike through the woods in the rain.

Note, this is the large version of the Roberto pack, there is also a small version available.

  • Available from: Direct from Kara Keddie
  • Price: 199 pounds + shipping
  • Capacity: Around 25 litres
  • Made in Scotland

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