Thinking of making a dorsal equipment-carrying purchase, but wondering which exactly are the best surf backpacks out there?
Un-furrow that troubled brow, sunshine. Coz we've reviewed the latest and greatest for you.
But backpacks are a slightly less obvious proposition. In fact, whether or not you use a surf backpack, or even believe in their existence, is probably more the defining characteristic on this topic.
I'll level with yas... I used to be one of those folk who thought the best surf backpack was not having one.
"Seriously, just throw your wetty over your board and walk, one foot in front of the other, FFS," I'd probably have said in a dismissive tone. "If it's a long walk, the focker'll be half dry by the time you get back to the car/base camp."
How so very wrong I was.
The leading surf packs these days will nuzzle your tech lovingly, they'll caress your eyewear, they'll organise your fins, wax, sunscreen, even keep your beer -- I mean sandwich -- cool. But with so much on offer, how to chose?
Allow us to help.
Billabong Surf Trek
Billabong's Adventure Division have gone all out on the Surf Trek, packing in a bunch of features that make it a do-all surf backpack of note. one of the few surf packs to features a wet/dry bag with roll-top, changing mat, accessories compartment and a padded laptop compartment, the Surf Trek has you covered whether you shredding, geeking, or all of the above.
Billabong Surf Trek
Size: 35L / 21.5 x 12 x 10cm
With a generous 35L capacity it's big enough to throw your full winter gimp suit n rubber accessories in, and having been tested by the Bong Adventure Div nutters like Sancho, Shane-o & pals, you know it's built to handle whatever the ocean throws at it.
Dakine Jetty Wet/Dry
Featuring waterproof roll top wetsuit pocket, insulated cooler pocket, fleece lined sunglasses pocket adjustable sternum strap and side access, the Jetty Wet/Dry has everything you need to hike in and out of a radical surf scenario. It also boasts a laptop sleeve for when you need to get studious/productive.
Dakine Jetty Wet/Dry
Size: 32L / 48 x 33 x 25cm
Materials: 600D Polyester Ripstop
Hard to argue with the classic understated styling which even tips the fedora to alpinist rucksack tradition of yesteryear, including lash tag detail (to hang your ice pick... obvs), the Jetty Wet/Dry looks smart enough for the urban commute, and rugged enough for the unblazed trail.
"Smart enough for the urban commute, and rugged enough for the unblazed trail"
The Surfer Elite is another surf back that focuses on simplicity and functionality over omnipotency. We're talking a large 40 litre main compartment with roll top closure, and a simple velcro sealed front pocket for accessories. That's what she's offering. There's no bespoke pouch for your coffee grinder, or custom built flap for your Apple TV. We looked long and hard but simply couldn't find the patented calligraphy set compartment.
"There's no bespoke pouch for your coffee grinder, or custom built flap for your Apple TV. We looked long and hard but simply couldn't find the patented calligraphy set compartment"
Vissla Surfer Elite
Size: 40L / 73cm x 35cm x 16cm
Material: 300D Polyester
It's all about throwing in your wet surf shit and keeping it safe and sealed while you travel... if you're one of those people that believes less (shit to go wrong/break) is more (lifespan, fun, better), the Surfer Elite could well be the pack you've always dreamed of.
Koraloc Board Bag
In this crowded world, as John Severson once famously wrote in Surfer mag, “the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with his thoughts.”
What was true in 1960 is still true today. Today though, with ever more of us looking to ride waves, almost everywhere land touches sea all over the world, you might need to go that extra mile to enjoy that bit of you time, to escape the madding crowd, to immerse yourself in mother nature.
Fortunately, going the extra mile isn’t something everyone is willing or able to do. A lot of crew want a quick hit of stoke, a lunchtime rinse, an after school shred before it gets dark. And more power to them. Get it anyway you can, we say.
“With the journey being part of the adventure at the very essence of the Koraloc brand value, they’ve come up with a solution to surfers hiking, biking, skating or even SUPing to the surf”
But what that also means is that there are still a whole load of lesser-surfed breaks and stretches of coast out there, that may require a little time/effort to reach them, but in the process offer a whole different surfing experience to those willing to reach out.
With the journey being part of the adventure at the very essence of the Koraloc brand values, they’ve come up with a solution to surfers hiking, biking, skating or even SUPing to the surf.
Founded at Trestles (which, as you’ve probably heard, has both the hike and the crowd), the concept was to come up with a way of carrying all your surf gear easily, keeping both hands free, and most importantly keeping your energy and flow for the waves themselves.
Capable of carrying up to three boards up between 5’6” and 8ft in length, there’s also plenty of room for a wetsuits, wax, fins and lunch, even a laptop compartment, inside. Nose and tail wraps loop over your boards to secure them above and below, straps clip around laterally, and you’re ready to go in seconds. Adjustable waist and chest straps ensure an even, unstrained load.
We tested the Koraloc Board Bag around the rugged terrain of Fuerteventura this spring, a place with breathtaking scenery and serious surf payoffs too for those willing to get away from the main spots. Rugged, untrailed lava terrain, wild sandy beaches, rough dirt tracks, asphalted bike or skate paths, the Koraloc Board Bag allowed us to carry everything we needed.
But most of all, it also lets you slow down, take it all in, make the search around that next corner as much part of the story as the waves you scored when you got there.
The build quality is excellent, made with super durable materials and fixtures, the bag is as rugged as the terrain it was intended for. With the abuse we put our gear through as surfers in quest to search out waves in mind, Koraloc have made the bag as hard-wearing as it is functional and innovative.
Koraloc Board Bag
Size: 45 x 35 x 26cm / 32L
Materials: 1680D Poly ballistic PU3
So where to, then, on that next adventure? It's really up to you. In Europe, most of our coasts have main breaks at bigger beaches with car parks, then a whole loads of lesser explored areas, accessed by paths used by hikers, farmers or fishermen. Around here in SW France for example there’re about 200km of forest north of the world famous breaks at Hossegor, and so plenty of opportunity to find some elbow room.
Koraloc have just made it that bit easier to do.
Germans had a lot to do with the genesis of the rucksack, (rucken is Deutsch for back) and have historically had solid hiking credentials, so it's cool to see Finisterre keep it traditional in the process of going tech, having this waterproof pack developed by Ortlieb and made in Germany.
Simplicity and quality are the keys to the success of the Ortlieb, which basically comprises a single main pocket with a small inner compartment and very small external non waterproof pocket with drainage holes. While you'll get your tablet or rather, Moleskin, in the inner pocket, this aint the multi-purpose pack you'd use for Sixth Form College. It's meant for use carrying wet stuff on your back. And that it does very very well. It also feels like it'll survive eons, and given the relatively destroy-all nature of seawater, that can only be a very good thing.
Materials: PU coated ballistic nylon
Btw, if you have a hundred and sixty plus bucks to spend on a backpack to go surfing with, well, we should like to know what you do (forward slash Daddy does) for a living. Bet it ain't surf journalism...
"Simplicity and quality are the keys to the success of the Ortlieb... it feels like it'll survive eons"
Nixon Waterlock III
Multi-purpose is the name of the Waterlock III's game, and while it doesn't feature specific waterproof spec, it makes up for it by having pretty much everything else under the sun.
Nixon Waterlock III
Size: 28L / 43 x 38 x 17cm
Padded side entry laptop compartment, two side zipper pockets, small media port pocket and sunglass pocket lined with micro suede, zippered watch pocket, adjustable skate straps, PU coated front and bottom and a wetsuit changing mat all feature in this smart backpack that features the attention to detail you'd expect from Nixon.
Rip Curl F-Light 40
"Comfort is at a premium whether you're searching the back end of beyond, or simply just day tripping your local"
Rip Curl have gone next level with the F-Light 40, packing in a bunch of surf specific features to help organise a multitude of shred paraphernalia. Not only does she pack a sizey roll trop wet-dry compartment, surf specific pockets store fins, sunblock, wax (they're all labelled just in case) as well as a large insulated side pocket to keep food and drink cold. Your laptop and tablet have padded storage, there's even a cable organiser.
Rip Curl F-Light 40
Material: 450D ripstop
With all the tech and spec you'd expect in the shoulder straps and padding, comfort is at a premium whether you're searching the back end of beyond, or simply just day tripping your local.
Picture Organic Clothing Lunaire
Picture have come with a completely different vibe for the Lunaire backpack, shunning claimed multi-functionality for admirable what-it-says-on-the-tin style objectives. The Lunaire is 100% waterproof, for lugging wet gear, and keeping yourself dry, and that's all, and that's it. Featuring a simple yet sophisticated design with a single main roll top compartment and small front pocket, the Lunaire believes wet wetsuits and MacBook Airs are not happy bedfellows, and never the twain shall meet... a logic that's kinda hard to refute.
Materials: Eco PVC
The Lunaire will take care of your soaking wet gear in comfort and style, but will probably not help you do your homework. And it's not sorry about that.
Poler outdoor Stuff Classic Rolltop
They don't come much simpler than the Classic Rolltop from Poler. Rather than bamboozle you with a load of features, this one's all about back to basics, with a lil' bit of Moonrise Kingdom boy scout styling chic. It's got one wee zip pocket on the front, one main rolltop compartment with a basic laptop pouch, two straps for your shoulder, and that's about it.
"Back to basics, with a lil' bit of Moonrise Kingdom boy scout styling chic"
Poler Classic Rolltop
Materials: Heavy Duty Campdura fabric
Size: 28L / 27" x 16" x 4"
If you're looking for a surf pack that won't have you going through endless secret flaps and folds looking for your flick knife, and this potentially missing low tide in the process, this'n could be for you. It's analog backpack vibes, in a crazy mixed up digital world, baby.