A man’s bag often isn’t just a bag. You can tell a lot about a guy by looking at the bag he hauls around, and even more so by the assortment of gear inside. A quality pack will serve as your companion through life’s obstacles and its adventures. Treat it well, and you’ll find that it’ll always (and quite literally) have your back.
The Buffalo Jackson Dakota Commuter
Buffalo Jackson’s popped up on my Instagram feed a few times in the past. The brand’s image continuously pays homage to classic menswear – capturing a rugged aesthetic and echoing the spirit of adventure. As a big fan of Americana and leather goods, I was eager to take a look at the Buffalo Jackson Dakota Commuter Backpack when the opportunity to review a product came my way.
The Dakota Commuter comes in three colors: navy charcoal, russet brown, and field khaki. The former two are outfitted with saddle tan leather while the latter, which we’ll be reviewing, contrasts with chestnut brown leather.
I wasn’t absolutely thrilled discovering the bag wasn’t made in the United States, but being constructed just south of the border in Mexico isn’t a bad alternative. It also keeps lets it boast a reasonable price tag of $229.
Though the bag’s marketed for being great for both the office and the trail, I knew I’d get the best feel for the Dakota Commuter backpack in the outdoors. Fortunately, a weekend camping/hiking trip with a few buddies awaited me just a few days after the bag arrived. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I carefully packed the essentials and set out for the woods.
Upon receiving the backpack, I was pleasantly surprised at the just how sturdy the bag felt. Constructed from 15 oz. waxed canvas and top-grain, veg tanned leather, the backpack practically breaths the feel of the wilderness.
Buffalo Jackson certainly didn’t skimp out on its use of leather, metal buckles, and copper rivets, though it did add to the overall weight of the bag. The unloaded bag comes in at just over 4 pounds.
The YKK Vislon zippers work phenomenally, sliding open and shut with ease even with a fully-packed bag. Thick leather pull tabs fasten to every zipper, inside and out. Should a zipper break, the main compartment includes a duplicate for redundancy.
The two front straps can be fastened with the two buckles for extra peace of mind. Alternatively, you can use a snap closure to avoid the process of constantly securing the buckles.
My biggest gripe design-wise is definitely the bottle holders. The Commuter would look much better with khaki mesh or even more canvas. I’ll go further into the bottle slots later on.
Canvas, metal hardware, and thick leather adorn nearly every inch of the Buffalo Jackson Dakota Commuter bag.
Good and plentiful materials are always welcome on a product, but some parts of the bag go a bit overboard. For instance, each backstrap has 5 metal buckles and a handful of rivets. Of course, durability is surely a focus here, but affixing too much hardware to a high friction area detracts from overall comfort. I think the bag could benefit from a more streamlined top block of each strap, but it’s a nitpick of a complaint.
The undersides of the top and backstraps feature a sort of felt padding for added comfort. Sewn directly into the back of the bag is a semi-flexible board for back support.
Capable nylon spans most of the Dakota Commuter’s interior storage along with some nice leather detailing. Some pockets, like the laptop sleeve, have additional padding in the case of a tumble or casual bear attack. There’s also a pouch for an iPad, though I don’t know anyone who still uses one or brings it camping.
The top sleeve can accommodate a 15″ laptop with space to spare for a magazine or two. The two leather-brimmed top pockets are great for tucking in small things. Another zippered pocket lets you store things if you still need more space for your gear. Fitting my all essentials in the bag was no sweat and I still had room to spare.
Lifting the top flap of the Dakota Commuter reveals the main zipper compartment as well as a few pockets. The bigger one has space for pens, notebooks, and things of that sort. It’s secured with a single button, so be wary of leaving small valuables here as they may fall out.
The top “hidden” zippered pocket is deep but narrow, making it ideal for books, magazines, or maps. I did have some trouble accessing the zipper compartment once the bag was fully packed. It was pretty fun to discover all the little pockets and slots on the bag.
The flap itself also has a zippered pocket on its underside. I kept my keys, wallet, and sunglass case in here and it’s a great, easily-accessible solution for storing things like that.
Okay, here’s my only real complaint about the Buffalo Jackson Dakota Commuter bag: the bottle holders. Aside from the aforementioned questionable choice in mesh color, my bottles weren’t well secured in the holders.
The leather tightening system doesn’t tighten the top grip a whole lot and my water bottle, though admittedly small, fell out a few times. The leather strings are also too long and wave around with each step.
Fortunately, I killed two bird with one stone by wrapping and securing the water bottle with the extra leather cord. It doesn’t allow the bottle to be super accessible but, hey, it works! I do wish the bottle closure system was able to be tightened more than just pulling the leather strings. A bit of elastic would do wonders here.
- Sturdy waxed canvas construction
- Plenty of top-grain leather components
- Ample pockets and storage for organization
- Suitable for both a daily or weekend bag
- Made in Mexico (could be a con to some, but it’s up to par to my American leather goods)
- Fair price point for the quality + longevity ($229)
- 2-year warranty for defects
- Just looks great
- Bottle holder design could be improved (also a strange color choice for the mesh)
- Excess hardware in some places sacrifice comfort
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
The wide assortment of pockets make organizing and accessing items a breeze without sacrificing space in the main compartment. The bag looks plain great and will be sure to attract some compliments, whether at the office or the campground.
The Buffalo Jackson Dakota Commuter is surely a beast of a bag. Though a weekend camping trip was a piece of cake for the bag, I’m certain it could withstand further abuse on more demanding adventures. I’ll be looking forward to that.
If you’re interested in the bag, check it out here as well as the rest of the Dakota collection at Buffalo Jackson’s website (non-affiliate links).