- A good backpack is a necessity, whether you plan to use it every day or bring it on your travels.
- I have strong feelings about Caraa’s $195 Stratus backpack for its extreme versatility, utility, and thoughtfulness in design and construction. I truly think it’s worth the price tag.
- No stone was left unturned in considering the details of the bag. It’s packed with smart features inside like a laptop sleeve and an internal bottle holder, but it just looks like a sleek backpack from the outside.
If you asked me to create a list of the 20 things every person should own, a backpack would be somewhere toward the top, along with a chef’s knife, a good set of sheets, and quality lip balm.
If you asked me which backpack I’d recommend, I’d tell you your best bet was the $195 Stratus by Caraa.
I’m sure others will argue that this is not the most practical choice over, say, one of Patagonia’s hiking backpacks, but I’m not a survivalist, and my list of 20 things is not for a person stuck in the wilderness by themselves. It’s for the average person – someone who travels occasionally and has an annoying commute into work, who often has to lug a laptop around, who goes to the gym or at least tries to run sometimes, who cares about how things look but not so much that they’re willing to sacrifice utility.
That’s the person who should have this backpack.
Caraa was founded as a women’s lifestyle brand, creating thoughtful, multi-purpose bags that could transition seamlessly between everything a day threw in your path – work, social events, the gym, etc.. – but this androgynous backpack, which only comes in a few neutral colors, is meant to serve anyone of any gender.
The Stratus is one of the most intentionally designed backpacks I’ve ever used (and my closet will tell you that I kind of have a thing for backpacks), which is why it tops my list as the best option out there. Every inch of the bag has some sort of thoughtful detail, a brand ethos that extends to everything Caraa makes.
Here’s what you can expect for $195:
Starting with the material, you’ll find that it’s incredibly lightweight (we’re talking nearly unnoticeable), like a handful of feathers. The waterproof nylon essentially guarantees the backpack to be appropriate for all seasons and weather conditions, from rainy summer days to snowy winter evenings. Even the inside is waterproof and antimicrobial, which means your sweaty gym clothes or damp bathing suits won’t leave any trace of moisture or smell.
And it may seem unnecessary to mention, but the zippers have Italian leather pulls, which are both luxurious and actually useful (you’ll understand why this matters a little later).
As for the backpack’s interior features, it’s pretty much impossible to be disappointed. Great for commuters or students, you’ll find a laptop sleeve that fits a computer up to 15 inches, and two stretchy internal pockets on either side for securing upright items like your water bottle and umbrella (don’t worry, it also has bottle pockets on the outside for easy access). There are mesh zip pockets for pens and miscellaneous small necessities, plus a removable zip-up nylon pouch for carrying dirty sneakers or other items you’d prefer to be contained.
As if those features weren’t thorough enough, Caraa added small vents at the bottom of the backpack in case your water bottle leaks, and to let your damp gym clothes breathe.
On the outside of the backpack, you’ll find two exterior side pockets so you can easily grab your umbrella and water bottle (if you didn’t want to keep them inside), and you’ll also have easy access to the smaller front pocket which can hold a wallet, phone, headphones, and keys with room to spare. There’s even a small, inconspicuous pocket on the flat side of the backpack for sensitive travel documents (pictured above), and the base is made from durable leather that won’t wear through.
The last but perhaps best feature is that the backside of the backpack also has a strip of fabric that fits snug over the handle of a suitcase, so you can sit your backpack on a rolling bag without it falling off.
In terms of its capacity, the Stratus is deceitfully large. I recently took it to Montauk and packed two full toiletry bags, a full bag of potato chips (priorities, right?), a makeup bag, a hair straightening iron, two books, two umbrellas, a pair of sandals, and two bathing suits. Pulling the backpack closed after stuffing it full of all this was exactly when the Italian leather zipper pulls came in clutch. I wasn’t kidding when I said they really are useful.
All of this is accomplished even with a super sleek aesthetic that just looks like a completely basic backpack. Maybe it’s my minimalist style talking, but I deeply appreciate that it does not look like it has a ton of bells and whistles, even though it actually does.
The bottom line:
Besides the fact that the bag is $195, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it. Sure, it would be lovely to get it for less, but you’d have to sacrifice a lot of the top-tier features afforded by the higher cost. At least for now, any first-time customer willing to fork over an email address to the brand can save 10% on their purchase, bringing the cost down to about $175.
I think the backpack is worth it even at the full price – whether you’re a student, a busy city-dweller, or just looking for a really good bag that won’t let you down.