This new backpack from Baron fig is a great (but not quite perfect) EDC bag
The Baron Fig backpack, messenger and tote bags started as a 2017 Kickstarter project and later were available for purchase from Baron Fig’s website. I purchased the backpack in November and have been using it daily since then. While not quite perfect, it is still an excellent bag and has quickly become my favourite for every day carry.
Baron Fig is a design house based in New York, producing “Products for Thinkers”. Their products are focused on stationery products such as notebooks, pencils and pens. Baron Fig produces very creative and high-quality products, but I had not had an opportunity to try their products for myself; Baron Fig does not have Canadian distribution and the shipping costs to Canada on the products I have had in my cart on their website have been too prohibitive for me.
The History of the Bag
In mid-2017, Baron Fig announced a Kickstarter campaign to develop a series of minimalist-designed bags - including a backpack, messenger and tote bag. The design was very appealing, but I couldn’t afford to back the Kickstarter at that point. However, after the Kickstarter successfully closed and achieved additional funding based rewards for different colour bags, Baron Fig offered these bags for pre-order on their website.
I took advantage of some extra funds and a Baron Fig Black Friday sale to order a Smoke coloured backpack and was surprised to receive a quick response by email confirming the order and shipping - my timing was fortunate as the team at Baron Fig seems to have been just shipping the last of the Kickstarter pre-orders. Shipping was quick, and communication from Baron Fig was impressive. As expected, I got hit with taxes and fees for the bag crossing the Canadian border but was very happy to receive the padded envelope containing the backpack. Shipping costs from Baron Fig were very reasonable for this product, I guess because of the reasonably light weight and the ability to use a soft-pack.
I will address the elephant on the page - there was some backlash in the online stationery community over differences in the colours from the original Kickstarter images that became exacerbated by comments of online influencers. I did appreciate that Joey from Baron Fig went on a stationery podcast to discuss the production challenges and apologize for any disappointment and the ability to admit to mistakes gained much respect from me.
I was pleased with the colour of the bag I chose. I picked the grey “smoke” colour, but the bags also come in Fig Wine (burgundy) and Blue Slate colours as well. I knew that the bag incorporated a minimal design, but was still surprised by how slim and streamlined the bag was in person. The size of the bag is good - I was a little worried about a backpack that wouldn’t fill my back correctly, and this bag lacks only in depth.
The quality of the canvas was very high. Seams, zippers and general construction seem very durable and of good quality. So far, I have had no quality concerns after a solid month of daily use.
I was a little surprised at the lack of padding on the fabric shoulder straps, but after I had filled the bag, I realized that the thick padding on the straps of many backpacks wasn’t required. This is a minimalist bag, and as I couldn’t carry a bunch of unnecessary stuff, it kept the weight down. I don’t have a long commute, which could affect the comfort, but for me, this hasn’t been a problem at all.
The backpack features distinct front and back storage panels. The zipper goes right down to the bottom of the bag, allowing the backpack to fold flat, or, as I use it, hang on a hook at work, making a true clamshell design. The back is slightly padded for comfort and features a large slip-in pocket that nicely fits my 15” MacBook Pro. It also has one smaller bag-width pocket and two smaller pockets. These pockets are tight, and are my only area of complaint about this bag; they are too small to put much in. They do fit a single A5 notebook (in the bag width pocket), and my Kindle fits nicely in one of the smaller pockets. I can wedge my Pilot Pensemble in the other pocket, but it is not the most comfortable and secure fit. Unfortunately, my Makers South pencil case does not fit anywhere. I think this lack of larger storage compartments is an oversight by Baron Fig - they sell products to the online stationery community and, in my experience, most stationery enthusiasts carry more than one pen and pencil, as depicted in Baron Fig’s online imagery. I think Baron Fig designed this bag for people taking a laptop and a minimal amount of supplies to and from work or school.
The front panel section contains four zippered compartments for storing small accoutrements and supplies. I was able to comfortably fill these pockets with some necessary cables, business cards, a USB flash drive, my vintage HP calculator (yes, I am that old!) and a small LED flashlight. The bottom zippered compartment can only be accessed with the bag open all the way, which limits its functionality. When closed, I can slide some extra supplies into the cavity between the front and back panels, and that is how I carefully carry my pencil case. But I have to be very cautious when opening the bag to avoid dropping the case out of the side of the bag. This seems a little contrary to the idea of a full lay-flat bag.
The front of the bag has a large zippered pocket - which I use to store my Leuchtturm A5 Bullet Journal for quick and easy access. There are also two pass-through zippers (swing pockets) to allow for immediate access to two of the four inside pockets. A simple “Baron Fig - New York City” label on the front of the bag is the only branding on the bag and is quite elegant and understated - fitting well with the minimalist design.
Living with the Baron Fig backpack
The minimalist design hit me when I started filling up the backpack. I was using an older Samsonite leather messenger bag/briefcase, and I quickly realized how much stuff I was carrying on a daily basis. I found it difficult to move all of my notebooks to the new bag. I use a separate journal for each project, and having less available storage space in this bag, I found that I had to place my daily carry items in my bag with intentionality; I had to think about what I was going to use each day and build my bag around that. I have my core carry supplies but plan out what I will need each day and pack the few additional items accordingly. This turned out to be less of a challenge than I had thought as I often carried journals that went untouched for days if I wasn’t working on that specific project. Now, I plan my days and needs a little better - focusing on deliverables and deadlines with intentionality. This was an exciting and useful byproduct of a bag choice.
Part of the success of a bag isn’t just how well it performs regarding carrying products but also how it looks. I chose the neutral smoke grey colour as I thought it was closer to my natural style. When not at work, I am a tattooed, bearded, shaved-headed biker……so you can imagine that a bag has to fit my image. The Baron Fig backpack does a good job of matching with my look. It is a little more urban and modern (read trendy) than my usual style, but with the slim design, it doesn’t look like a student bag. I will have to see how secure I feel riding my Harley Davidson in the summer with the bag as it doesn’t have an across chest strap to secure the shoulder straps and this could be a challenge to a spirited ride! But overall, I am happy with the aesthetics of the bag.
I spent a lot of time debating this bag between the missed Kickstarter and the time I got to order it. In daily use, I find this is a very practical bag, especially when used with intention. I would like to see more room in the tight inside pockets to allow for more and better storage and perhaps a ring tab for keys, etc. inside the bag, but overall I am delighted. I have a large selection of bags and backpacks that all have some strengths and weaknesses. Over a month with this bag and it is still my daily carry bag says a lot about how good I think it is. Well done Baron Fig.