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Troubadour Apex Backpack Explorer Review

Troubadour Apex Backpack Explorer Review

Over the past six weeks, I’ve put the Troubadour Apex Backpack through the type of testing and trials that I’m confident has tested the bag’s usefulness in a wide variety of situations. And while I’m not sure that the average Troubadour Apex Backpack owner will eventually take their backpack on a cross-country road trip, that’s exactly what I did with mine. And the country I chose to do it in happens to be the second-largest in the world, the great true north, Canada.

That said, throughout my review process, I’ve never been under any illusion that the Apex Backpack is designed for some endless outdoor backpacking adventure through rough terrain. Like with all of Troubadour’s products, the Apex Backpack has been designed to fall squarely at the intersection of fashion and performance. It’s the type of product design direction that has resulted in a lineup of items that feel right at home on the back of fashionable executives while they haul-ass on their fancy road bikes on a rainy day through the busy streets of London, Toronto, or New York.

And speaking of London, before we do a head-long dive into our in-depth review of the Apex Backpack, let me tell you about the Troubadour Goods company first.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in London, Troubadour Goods is the brainchild of two colleagues who developed a friendship and, through the process of seeking the perfect overnight bag, started a luxury bags and accessories company. Inspired by the minimalist stylings of designers like Jonathan Ive (formerly of Apple), the company’s products feature a sleek and refined aesthetic that eschews clutter for minimalism and high-end material finishes. 

And it’s no wonder that products like the company’s flagship Adventure Weekender overnight bag have received wide acclaim. Before producing their first bag, the two founders met with over one hundred tanneries and over thirty leather manufacturers throughout Europe before settling on a few providers in Italy that met their exacting demands for material and build quality. Designed for fashionable executives and those seeking a high-end minimalist aesthetic, Troubadours bags and accessories incorporate features you’d commonly expect to find on technical outdoor bags made by companies like Arc’Teryx or Helly Hansen. Troubadour’s entire ethos is neatly summarized in the following phrase: “Refined performance.”

The Troubadour Apex Backpack

This backpack is a beautiful and useful bag ideal for your daily commute, outings to the gym, and day trips to the countryside. And yet, I put it to the test while hopping from Canadian city to city. And practically everything I threw at it – from helping me race across the country in four days to nearly daily photographic explorations of my former home city of Vancouver in wet and dry conditions, it handled with ease. I took it for ten-kilometre walks, fifteen-kilometre bike rides and long electric scooter rides in which I got caught out in heavy rain more than once. The backpack performed nearly flawlessly, and I’m pretty sure I looked pretty good while engaging in all these activities.

Who is the Troubadour Apex Backpack Ideal for?

I’ve already hinted at the various permutations of ideal uses for the Apex Backpack, but in case you’re still not sure if this bag is for you, here are some scenarios under which this bag will thrive.

  • Fashion-forward executives that appreciate amazing design and want a good all-around backpack with plenty of space
  • Those that want a backpack that looks good with a suit or business casual outfit. 
  • Perfect for anyone who wants to exude a premium and minimalist look throughout their carry items
  • Those that commute to work on a bike, scooter, or by transit
  • Those that want to carry a laptop and some gym clothes with a water bottle and accessories
  • Those that want a slim profile bag for public transit, so you’re not constantly bumping into other people 

The Design

The Apex Backpack results from thinking by product designers that form doesn’t have to play second-fiddle to function. The Troubadour Apex has a super-clean and sophisticated aesthetic that won’t scare away the most discerning of buyers. There’s a reason why the manufacturer photography of this backpack is often shown as being worn by a man in a relaxed suit. 

Unlike some of its competitors, Troubadour doesn’t splash its logo across its products haphazardly. The same philosophy is adhered to on the Apex Backpack. The front of the bag only has a small name-mark logo embroidered on the side in moderately contrasting thread colour. This is the kind of logo placement philosophy I can get behind. 

One of my favourite parts of this backpack is that despite its 25 L capacity and enough room for a 16-inch laptop, the bag never feels bulky. Its profile is quite slim, which, as I mentioned earlier, makes it an ideal backpack for travelling in tight quarters like shared transit. 

The Apex also has the advantage of using some neat manufacturing tricks. Using fewer panel pieces and seams also helps give a more luxurious and minimalist aspect to this sophisticated backpack. Finally, the bag comes in four colourways. As you can see from our review photos, I was sent the Marine Blue for this review, but it’s also available in all-black, grey canvas, and khaki green versions. All of which have their charms. In any case, the interplay between the nylon and leather panels and the black zippers makes for some interesting contrast. 

Space and Access

If you know anything about bags or backpacks and how they’re rated, you’ll know that a 25 L capacity makes for a fairly spacious bag. But because of its slim profile, I wouldn’t recommend sticking anything overly bulky in this bag, like a basketball. 

The Troubadour Apex Backpack feels spacious the moment you open it and is a bit taller and wider than a lot of daypacks I’ve owned or tested. I would say that buyers of both the male and female persuasion that happen to be under 5’6 in height may want to steer clear of this bag. That is unless you enjoy having a tall and wide-looking backpack on you. 

The quick stash pocket on the top of the bag is one of my favourite bits. It’s deep enough for keys, wallets, phones (yes, even the large monstrosities we have these days), headphones and other small items. It’s a very handy pocket and feels both secure and safe from the elements through its waterproof zipper. Inside the small stash pocket is an integrated lanyard that you can use to attach your keys or other small items. This lanyard would seem ideal for something you want to connect semi-permanently inside your bag. Perhaps a good use case is attaching something like a Tile tracking device or Apple’s new AirTags. 

The rest of the exterior is marked by two water bottle pockets on each side of the pack. These pockets are nicely integrated into the bag’s design and stretch far enough, and are deep enough that you can fit even ultra-thick and tall water bottles. 

The main bag compartment opens widely through a two-directional lightweight coil zipper that uses metal loops large enough for you to add a small padlock for added protection of your gear while travelling. And finally, because at some point, we’re all going to be getting on planes much more regularly again, the Apex Backpack has a handy trolley sleeve on the back that can easily slide over a suitcase handle. 

Materials

As you can imagine, material choices in any backpack are often what make or break a bag. But the material choice is not the only important consideration when designing a pack. Of paramount importance is how those materials are blended and connected. A perfect example is Troubadour’s judgment to employ rivets when connecting the straps to the body of the bag. This connection method is the strongest way to join two leather pieces, a choice that will likely result in a much longer lifespan for the bag. 

The YKK zippers are covered in a rubberized tape that ensures their waterproof nature, and the thick nylon that makes up the majority of the body is covered in a waterproof coating. I exposed this backpack on several occasions to over two hours of medium-to-heavy rain. While itself relatively wet, the bag didn’t let a single drop of moisture inside the main compartment or even the small exterior zippered pocket. This bag has some serious outdoor pack bona-fides!  

The Apex’s leather top handle feels very nice in hand. It is made of vegetable-tanned leather, a process of leather tanning that is far more environmentally friendly than the alternative process. Every part of the Apex Backpack’s construction feels premium, and so it’s no wonder that the bag comes with a five-year warranty against manufacturer defects. The company even offers a repair program in case your bag gets accidentally damaged. That’s another great service, and it keeps backpacks out of landfills. 

Comfort

Let’s get this out of the way first. The Troubadour Apex Backpack is very comfortable. Is it the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever owned? No. But it’s close. When I saw this backpack in real life for the first time, I recoiled slightly at how narrow and slim the shoulder straps are. I thought there’s no way these straps are going to be comfortable with heavier loads. I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Through some material science wizardry, the makers of this bag have figured out how to make straps that provide the right amount of comfort and stability without making them look absurdly bulky. 

That said, with all backpacks, there is a sweet spot for weight. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I would avoid using this as a backpack for transporting rocks or bricks. And this is where we arrive at the part of the review where I have to mention a minor flaw with this bag’s design. For some reason, they forgot to incorporate a sternum strap. It’s not even an optional add-on. You see, I’m a big fan of sternum straps. They often make a bag far more capable in terms of load-carrying capacity and improve overall comfort. Perhaps Troubadour can make a future update to this pack to include this feature. 

The buckles throughout are made of a nice, high-quality and durable metal, while the webbing on the straps is nice and thick. 

Some reviewers have complained about their backs getting sweaty with this backpack. I found this conclusion surprising. Listen, I’m going to tell you kind of a gross secret. I’m one of those people whose backs get ridiculously sweaty. Like at the drop of a hat, my back perspires. And I know that gross “hot” feeling your back can get with the wrong type of backpack. It’s not a pleasant experience. Yet with the Troubadour, I didn’t experience this even once, even on particularly brisk walks and bike rides in relatively 22 to 23+ degrees Celcius weather. Troubadour says their back panel is breathable, and after using this backpack for the past six weeks, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just marketing nonsense. 

One of my pet peeves with other daypacks is that they often feel too “bouncy” and unsettled when carried on your shoulders while empty. Not so with the Apex Backpack. At 2.2 lbs, it strikes a great balance between being lightweight but not so light that it feels weird being carried around empty. 

Interior

Like the exterior, the Apex Backpack has a relatively simple and straightforward interior design. It features a well-insulated and padded laptop sleeve that will easily accommodate a sixteen-inch laptop. This compartment is also slightly elevated off the ground to ensure that when you place your bag on any hard surface, you’re not smashing the edge of your laptop against that surface. 

The internal mid-sized mesh pocket is a decent size and also uses a waterproof zipper. 

Additionally, you’ll find three slip pockets that offer great organizational options. They’re subdivided into two larger compartments and a smaller one. The main zippered pocket inside the bag is ideal for notebooks, magazines, and books. Finally, like all great luxury backpacks, the interior of the Apex features a variety of smaller organization options for items such as pens, business cards, and a stylus. 

Technical Specifications

  • Width: 12.5” / 32cm
  • Height: 19” / 48cm
  • Depth: 6” / 15cm
  • Capacity: 25L Weight: 1.0 kg / 2.2 lb 

Pros

  • Amazing build quality
  • Great aesthetic
  • A good amount of space
  • Slim profile
  • Very comfortable
  • High water-resistance throughout
  • Versatile for all occasions

Cons

  • Lack of sternum strap
  • More colourway options, please?
Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski

An enthusiast of all things minimalist. I love the simple design and always look for an aesthetic that complements how an item works. Because after all, a design is how a thing works. You can find me on twitter: @sebastian_a