Filson Bags

In preparation for last October’s weekend excursion, I bought my first (and probably my last) “Weekender” – a dressed down bag meant for elective quick turnarounds or as a carry-on for exotic outbounds. Something sturdy that can be easily thrown in the trunk of a Harvard Boy‘s vintage Mercedes station wagon. Enough volume to house a few days worth of his outfits, yet small enough to squeeze between his St.

Bernard’s big ass sleeping cushion and gym bag full of lacrosse gear in the boot. Able to gracefully age over multiple instances of Beethoven’s slobbered antics as he rides with Harvard out of Cambridge for the weekend, or carelessly dropped onto the gravel driveway hours later when the duo arrives at Grandma’s lodge at Cape Cod.

As with all niches that fill up our Trad&Prep Lexicon, there is an undisputed icon that readily comes to mind, as the Americana-rebellious area of my otherwise tradly brain opted for the Filson Small Duffel to fittingly go along with raw selvedge denim and plaid shirts one wears on the weekends to take a break from the workweek buttoned up uniform. All great staples of our beloved style share a common trait, with Filson being exceptionally famous for this battle-worthy quality that propels the stature of all such classic wardrobe items. A Filson bag feels somewhat heavy in hand even when empty, which I like because it confirms the authentic craftsmanship of a solid American made build. The abrasion/water proof oiled twill cotton exterior develops that amazing sought-after patina we love dearly after years of wear, akin to our favorite pair of sh*tkicker pennies. You end up looking forward to your Filson Duffel developing its own persona that serves as a visual storyteller of your past-and-future escapades. I have an ever growing list of domestic and international destinations to lug my Duffel to, and am excited to see our partnership renew – after too many weeks or months of monotonous paper chasing – time and time again. Of which, it is certainly foreseeable for my Filson to reach that Last a Lifetime Prize we aspire for. Always talked about in fashionista masturbation, but still too early in your new friendship to see for yourself. (You can however witness Filson’s testament of enthusiasts who are farther along their journeys in this huge SF thread.) The Seattle-based company is so uncompromising on their promise of delivering top notch quality that they offer a Lifelong Guarantee for each of their bags.

I suspect you may use your Weekender quite often throughout the year, say for upcoming road trips, fraternity formals, professional seminars, romantic overnight outings with the girlfriend, or impromptu weekend layovers. A Duffel is exactly the mobile carry-on you would want for these frequent affairs. You may even find yourself reaching for that Duffel moreso than your bulky luggage set that you paid $500+ for, but has been collecting dust in the attic ever since last June, when you regrettably went on a headache-inducing week long family cruise over summer break. Grandma pestering you the whole boat ride about finding a nice gal to marry, as you tried calmly sipping your watered down $12 Daiquiri, getting a lobster tan beside a top deck swimming pool filled with nasty diseases and some kid’s urine. Hopefully your Weekender sees better days than your American Tourister.

Unlike those annoying Roller bags with collapsible handles that your fellow airport companions trip over in a crowded terminal, a Duffel sings to the whimsical melody of ‘Get up and GO’ that harmonizes your noisy lifestyle. Given you only have 72 or so hours of mental freedom between mindnumbing Excel sheets at work or ten page essays about existentialism in Philosophy 102, would you not want dependable luggage that frees your mood for a relaxing vacation oasis? Why rack up more stress aneurysms with those stupid Rollers that have dozens of interior compartments that only serve to waste precious space, thereby your 2 shirts + 2 pants + jacket exploding the rigid exterior past the limits of those damn tiny overhead airplane bins; forcing you to check-in and then waste ample time on the tarmac, waiting for your dumb Roller to unload by some manhandler in a yellow vest, that you could have spent enjoying those few more extra minutes basking in a warm Miami Sun, before reality bites and forces you back into a fluorescent-lit Chicago cubicle. Get up and Go.

Stash away your Made in Italy Tumi Roller (a favorite of the traveling executive, and one of my top recommendations for your non-Weekender) for the next business trip. Pull out your Made in USA Filson Duffel for everything else. The tough canvas won’t mirror your stiffy power suits and cufflinks the way a Tumi Metallic Hardshell does. Rather, your Filson Duffel embraces a soothing minimalism in complimenting a casual getaway. As if you haphazardly grabbed your most prized possessions and threw them into your Weekender/Emergency Escape Pouch in a mad dash out the door once Friday afternoon strikes 5pm. The decade old Brooks Blue OCBD must-iron with an awesome frayed collar and soft touch. Paired with very familiar Weejuns that has a fourth-replaced sole by your neighborhood Cobbler. A pair of vintage Murray’s Toggery “Nanny Red” chinos that Dad passed down to you; the Coral Pinkish Red having kissed the New England sun and sand every summer since you were born. This is the state of serenity you want for a perfect three day distraction. And the organic texture of your Filson in earthy colors of Tan or Otter Green is what your poor overworked self needs to rehab your colorblind soul, treating a tech-ridden landscape attributed to all other commonplace garment bags, laptop briefcases, and attachés that riddle the airport terminal in boring lifeless Gunmetal and Black.

Trading Manhattan with the Hamptons for the weekend. Sporty Casual Americanwear is what Michael Bastian does best. (Note: He is wearing a military surplus rigger, not a Filson Duffel L/XL, but the utilitarian sentiments of this awesome look remains the same. Also, cool to point out he appears to be wearing the original Nantucket “Nanny” Red Murray’s Toggery for his summer take on The Uniform of OCBD+shorts.)

The minimalist theme again comes into play with simple no-frills construction. Filson Duffels have a single compartment with two interior wall pockets on each end. An outer storm flap and a rust-proof brass zipper. That’s it. No various meshed pockets and zippers that imprison your clothes with separate encasings that theoretically offer up clean organization, but realistically just eat up valuable real estate. It is oddly refreshing to just “pile it all in” into a roomy zipped enclosed abyss. Supported by tanned Bridle leather straps and two-snag grip for easy palm or shoulder carry, you can just whisk away your belongings and be out the airplane easy peasy. While the portly fella in a crumpled three button pinstriped suit a few rows back is still struggling to get his desperately-needed-matter-of-life-or-death Roller handle out before departing the fuselage, creating a backlog of aghast passengers behind him. You’ll brisk away past the food court before he even steps out! Lastly, an undervalued advantage of the pliable Rugged Twill cotton is that it expands or compresses with the needs of the contents.

This means that two day’s worth of clothes actually reflects two day’s worth of feathered physical footprint. Not so with a Hardshell. So while a Duffel is a yellow polka dotted bikini when it can be, carefree and shapeless; a Roller or one of its many cumbersome cousins is more like a beached whale, lunky and sad. A Hardshell keeps its bulky proportions no matter if it is holding one outfit or many.

Capacity:

Because the Filson Duffel comes in size S-M-L-XL, it is natural to think the Medium would be the best option for intermediate space befitting of a few days of holiday. This is actually not the case. I strongly suggest the size Small for your first Filson, as having done the full background research when contemplating between the sizes myself (ex. read this Reddit review), I found disagreeing issues with the Medium that mostly stemmed from its sheer over-capacity. Even though the Small is seemingly *just shy* of being the “Perfect Size” for a couple of days, most owners would rather deal with the Small efficient (18″W x 10″H x 11″D) dimensions as compared to the Medium cavernous ( 24″W x 13″H x 10 1/2″D) dimensions. Again, assuming you need a simple carry-on that is not too bulky, the Medium actually will NOT fit into an airplane overhead bin if inflated to the max. The Small does. And although the latter may not be adequate for a pair of winter puffy coats, six shirts, and four pairs of shoes all at once…think of this confinement as a blessing. The Small’s physical boundaries forces you to consider only the bare essentials that reduces unneeded clutter. As the life lesson goes: Less is More.

How to Pack:

Not that I want to give the false impression that the Small Duffel is barely big enough for a Shih Tzu’s droppings. Remember: the prompt statement for a proper Weekender requires just a compact clothing kit. This given variable is defined within our dressed down problem set and follows assumption that you already know how to pack economically while maximizing versatility (ie utilizing solid colors, layering, etc.) Hence, the Filson Small solves all parts of the equation by offering us a basic unfiltered void for which to practice. Just obey your logical senses. Resist the urge to overpack! Bring 2 pairs of shoes, and flip flops if needed, that will get you through most levels of the formality spectrum. You do not need your heavy Dress Captoes for Saturday night dinner if your Loafers suffice. Passover the Sunday Suit and work in an odd sportcoat instead, (which btw has the added bonus of doubling as your outerwear!) Wear your post-Friday night festivities’ wrinkled OCBD on Monday morning’s coffee run on the way back home. Use athletic gear for sleep on Friday night then get it sweaty at the gym Saturday morning. Pack for the two day recharger, not the month long sabbatical! My protip is to generally pack a shirt for a “day less” than the total time length (ie 2 OCBDs for a three day), then at least 1 pair of tradly chinos for any dressy-ish occasion and 2 or so bottoms that goes with the outing spirit (ie seersucker shorts & nanny red chinos for a Memorial Day beach weekend or raw denim & corduroys for a NYC Thanksgiving break). Also, I always bring a lone sportcoat/blazer that you can layer into outerwear as mentioned before. When done right, you can have multiple pairings at your disposal that easily lasts you through the vacation, with these shortcuts honoring the very high ideals of leaving complicating wardrobe mishaps – along with everything else less trivial haha – behind. To just Get up and Go.

I was able to store three days of clothes into my Small Filson comfortably when I packed for Asheville last autumn. I accounted for the weather forecast and intended outings of social dinners, tours, barhopping, and hiking. Likewise, I want you to consider these factors too. The destination’s climate, each individual outing’s degree of formality, your comfort, and the very type of activity planned for each part of the itinerary will all weigh heavily on what you should pack. Adjust accordingly to the variability by utilizing each clothing item for multiple purposes – your workhorse khaki chinos may be worn for a Tuesday morning affair with blazer+tie, Tuesday afterhours hitting the town with a V Neck, and Thursday red eye back home with that blazer again sans tie. The mission here is to bring out the most of your limited stock.

You may follow my expanded porn stash of ensembles worn in the Asheville post that are based on the raw sources pictured below.

Here is a breakdown of this particular Fall weekend that hopefully adds further insight into my sartorial reasoning.

(1) Raw Denim – Worn for comfort on Friday afternoon car ride. Premium selvedge in “respectable” dresscode for Friday night dinner at a casual setting. Dark Indigo Navy for afternoon-into-night color versatility.

(1) Chinos – Non Iron to reduce wrinkles from travel. Worn all Saturday day and night, so I wanted a darker hue in British Khaki for color versatility, which doubles as a F/W seasonable alternate to a lighter Stone or Khaki. Part of my traddiest outfit for the weekend with cuffs and no-break. Worn to sightseeing tour, dinner at a nice restaurant, and barhopping in the city.

(1) Athletic Hiking Pants – Worn on Sunday hike and evening car ride back.

(1) Athletic Tee – Worn for Friday and Saturday night loungewear. Then for Sunday hike as a base layer afterthefact since it was already dirty. Moisture Wicking for the physical activity. Solid Heather Grey for color versatility.

(1) Pajama pants – Loungewear. Buffalo Check to match Americana vibe of mountains and F/W season.

(1) Shawl Cardigan Sweater – Worn Saturday day solo, night under sportcoat, and worn for Friday and Saturday night loungewear. Dark Navy for color versatility.

(1) Harris Tweed Sportcoat – Herringbone and Tweed Wool for F/W season. Worn Friday night for casual dinner and Saturday night for nice dinner, and as outerwear for city barhopping.

(1) Fleece Vest – Worn for Sunday hike and afternoon car ride back. [Offered to and worn by friend on Saturday night city barhopping.]

(1) Shotgun Belt – Matches Americana vibe of mountains. Worn Friday afternoon car ride with denim, casual dinner, and Saturday all day and night with chinos. **I do not like bringing multiple accessories on short breaks so I try to keep to one item per.

(1) Waxed Canvas Dopp Kit – For toiletries, etc. Matches Americana vibe and mirrors the Duffel. Although not a Filson, it is also manufactured in the USA by Blue Craw Co. Gifted to me from a friend.

(1) Sunglasses & Watch [not pictured] – Single quantity for short stay. Croakies for Sunday hike. Diver sportwatch for casual & athletic versatility. Sunglasses with Polarized Blue lenses and Turquoise Frame for outdoor mountain vibe & fashionable versatility.

(1) Baseball Cap – Worn Sunday hike and evening car ride.

(1) Day Pack – Worn Sunday hike.

(1) Camera Bag & Tripod – Hobbyist custom photos for friends backed by mountain scenery.

(2) OCBDs – Plaid shirt matches Americana vibe for Friday evening car ride and dinner, Mid Outer layer for Sunday hike.

(2) Pairs of Shoes – I consider Camp Mocs typically a F/W shoe. Urbanprep with raw denim for Friday night casual dinner and “dressy” for Saturday tradly outfit. Comfortable supple leather and insole for extended Saturday of sightseeing tour, dinner, and city barhopping. Trail Boots for Friday evening car ride, Sunday hike and evening car ride back. I sacrifice the space and weight to bring cedar wood trees for protecting my leathered shoes, left inside the pair not currently worn during the day, or otherwise in the Camp Mocs overnight. Shoe Bags for Camp Moc protection [not pictured]. **The shoe trees and bags are not urgently required for short excursions so I will leave this suggestion as entirely optional.

(3) Pairs of Socks – Marled Green Camp Socks for Friday afternoon car ride and dinner, matches green accents of paired Plaid Shirt and F/W season. Worn Friday night as loungewear. Navy Hiking Socks for Saturday night loungwear, Sunday hike and evening car ride back. Brown Argyle Socks in Orange and Gold accents to match F/W season, worn Saturday all day and night for tradly outfit.

(3) Pairs of Underwear [not pictured…you perverts] – My only uncompromising need to wear fresh daily, as it should be. Saving Duffel storage space be damned!

Keeping in mind I have an outfit adorned (ie one Shirt, Pants, Shoes, etc.) for the car ride to and from Asheville, there was even some space left over after the rest of the kit was packed.

After closing the Duffel, I situated the Day Pack and Sportcoat under the tabbed handles for simpler mobility. I carried the Camera Bag and Tripod separately. And if it weren’t for the camera equipment, I could have gotten away with carrying one packaged item. Aiming for this effortless fluidity sets the tone for a relaxing getaway.

Side profile of packed Duffel. Another pro for the Small is that it is easier to carry by shoulder or hand even if ballooned up, while the larger sizes tend to be a nuisance over long periods of time. This difference becomes painfully evident when walking down a half mile long airport terminal.

CollegeTrad Recommends:

The Filson Small Duffel runs for $285 MSRP. Many big name retailers collaborate with Filson, such as Nordstrom and JCrew, but rarely will their Filson quantity be largely discounted. Thankfully it is our go-to Trad&Prep outfitter Grandaddy Brooks that has the cheapest solution…or so I’ve heard. Around early December, Brooks Brothers will offer up to 40% off their Accessories, as seen in this 2012 Dappered.com PSA. Their Filson collection is included with the promotion, however when I was shopping for the Small last Fall 2014 a few weeks prior to the road trip, Brooks Brothers had already sold out of their Tan and Navy trims. Only the Otter Green was left which I did not want personally. Furthmore, as of this publishing date it appears there are no plans to replenish their Small Duffel stock for the remaining 2015 S/S season. I also do not remember seeing the fabled 40% Accessories deal this past December 2014 either. But if it pops up again then you can score the Medium Travel Bag (with dimensions close to that of the Small Duffel model) for $195 down from $395 MSRP. If the Small Duffel comes back to BB then it will be a steal at ~$170. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tan is the flagship trim that I own and highly recommend as your first, much like how a virgin Ferrari owner goes for Rosso Corsa. The Navy is handsome but does not exemplify the same amount of rugged undertone that the Tan has, nor will it develop as noticeable of a patina aesthetic in my eyes. The Otter Green comes in as my third choice, reminiscent of military gear. Black and Brown are my least favorites.

The Small Waxed Canvas Duffel version of the classic Cotton Twill is more affordable with a MSRP of $120, but I hesitate to fully recommend it because it may not be as durable as the Cotton Twill in the long run. Caveat emptor!

Since I was in a crunch at the time of my Filson treasure hunt, needing that Weekender for the road trip and subsequent vacations planned intermittently after, I wanted to purchase right away and could not wait for Brooks Brothers to have their winter sales (if they even offered it for Filson anyhow). Which is why I love eBay, ultimately coming through for me once again in scoring a NewWithTags – and presumingly NewOldStock – Filson Small Duffel from a powerseller with only two listings of minimal wholesale inventory. Final bid price was ~$210. Not exactly killer savings, only coming in at around 25% off MSRP, but it is a happy life long investment that will pay for itself. Like the Barbour Beau, the Alden LHS, and the JPress Shaggy; a Filson Bag sits among the elite quintessential artifacts that hold up our beloved style’s lexicon.

There is good reason why Filson is one of our most enduring Heritage Labels and personally my most trusted Americana supplier. Many imitations. Only one original. Made in Seattle since 1897.