From Ethnotek, a great carry on that supports artisans around the world
I’ve never been a backpacker, per se. In fact, I haven’t owned a backpack of any sort since I was in high school. But a few months back I won a contest and promptly received an Ethnotek backpack as the prize. I recently road-tested the Printed-Ghana 3 model on three back-to-back trips assessing its usability as my new carry-on of choice.
The main compartment is spacious with no inside pockets. It proved able to hold all my usual carry-on items with plenty of room to spare, which I didn’t hesitate to fill with some extras. To tighten up the small amount of remaining space, I snapped the top closed, rolled it down and fastened it with the heavy-duty buckle. At 11.5” x 19” x 7” it was easy to stash under the seat in front of me – a middle seat, I might add – on a flight from New York to Mexico City.
The separate laptop compartment is padded with its own zipper. It provided easy access to my computer, which was very helpful when I was waiting for three hours in the Philadelphia airport after my flight was canceled. It was great to not have to dig through everything I had neatly packed in the main compartment.
Additionally, the Ethnotek backpack’s small, zippered pocket located on the outside but close to the body worked perfectly for keeping my passport, iPod, ID, credit cards and cash easily accessible. I also used the two water-bottle pockets, one on each side, for keeping snacks and my cell phone within reach. The padded shoulder straps made for a comfortable fit and the sternum buckle came in handy when I had to run through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
The folks at Ethnotek search the globe for the handmade fabrics used in the creation of what they call the THREAD™, the removable front part of the backpack, which contains a colorful design. They come in printed, woven and embroidered fabrics that are purchased directly from the artisans who make them in villages throughout the world.
Since the fabrics are handmade in small batches, all of Ethnotek’s bags are limited editions and subject to the supply and designs the artisan has available. You can, however, purchase new THREADs individually to change or update the look of your bag as desired.
My only complaint is that the main compartment is somewhat cumbersome to load. Because of its height, I had to reach in up to my armpits to arrange the items in the bottom. For the same reason, it’s also difficult to access things you may need in the middle or on the bottom, once it’s fully packed.
My other concern is the snap closure at the top. If you pack it full, the two snaps might easily pop open and there is no zipper, so you’re better off leaving a little room to fold it down and buckle closed.
My Ethnotek backpack won’t make me into a bona fide backpacker but I continue to use it as a carry-on, especially for trips where I want to avoid checking a bag. And more importantly, the company’s support of indigenous communities around the world is certainly something I can get behind.