L.L. Bean Sportman's Rucksack Backpack Review

Should You Buy the L.L. Bean Sportsman’s Rucksack?

Headed off to college in the fall?  Going on a hiking trip for a day or two?  Either way, you’re going to need a backpack to hold all your gear for the enterprise.  Whether you’re toting your notes or hauling a whole lot of trail mix, the Sportsman’s Rucksack will help you out.

I am notorious for causing weaker backpacks to explode.  Not all at once, but over time I tend to overload my bags.  With this in mind, I sought out a bag from L.L. Bean, knowing that their gear is both reliable and under a lifetime warranty.

This is how I stumbled upon the Sportsman’s Rucksack, a backpack that has lived up to its name.  Like me, it survived freshman year of college, albeit with a few bumps and bruises.  

General Features of the L.L. Bean Sportsman’s Rucksack Backpack

Dimensions: 17”H x 12”W x 9”D

Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.

Carrying Capacity: 1,525 cu. in., or 25 L.  This suits most carry-on requirements.

Materials:  Made out of Kodra Nylon, the Rucksack features a leather trim and brass hardware.

Laptop Space: On their website, L.L. Bean lists this bag as capable of carrying a 15” laptop, but my 17.5” Asus fits just fine in the laptop sleeve.

Cost: This bag is listed online for $119.00, which is what I got it for this past August.

Pockets: One main, one internal zip pocket, and two small external pockets.

External Features of the Sportsman’s Rucksack

Style

The Sportsman’s Rucksack is available in both sage green and navy blue.  I have the sage variety, but I have to admit, the brass hardware and tan leather trim give either color an earthy tone that wouldn’t look out of place on any hiker or any other outdoorsman.  

Durability

I recently acquired a Steve Miller Band pin from a local music shop with my latest purchase (score!) and wanted to put it on my bag.  

While I was able to finally get the needle of the pin through the bag and back to where it clipped back in, it definitely took me awhile to do so, as the nylon is stitched together very well.  

Along those lines, there’s not one hole in my bag (aside from where I pinned it) in the nylon.  I’ve had the pack since August of 2016, and the main body doesn’t show a bit of wear.  The buckles and clasps have yet to show much wear between them as well.  

The one spot that I noticed that was showing definite signs of stress was where one of the anchors for the clasps is stitched into the nylon.  The metal has warped slightly due to tugging, and you can see the space between the pocket and the buckle.  

But, like I said, this is the only place where the bag shows any deterioration.

Travel Performance

The Rucksack is remarkably lightweight, which suits walking around during any season.  I especially found this helpful when it warmed back up on campus and the heat and congestion of thousands of students was frustrating enough without the added problems of an overweight backpack.  There is one other handle besides the shoulder straps, located at the top of the bag.  I found that I didn’t use it all that much unless I was just picking up my bag to move it somewhere else in the room.

Beyond walking, I’ve taken the bag on the bus once or twice, and it fits perfectly on your lap when in transit.  My last backpack, due to the amount and weight I was carrying, was a ski boot bag.  It had stuck out like an awkward turtle’s shell when I rode the bus or walked around.  The Rucksack travels and feels much better whether walking or riding around.

Straps and Padding

L-L-bean-rucksack-straps

 The straps of the Sportsman’s Rucksack aren’t lined with memory foam or boasting the number one comfort in carrying vessels, but they are comfortable.  I really hate when I’m out on my feet all day and my shoulders ache just as much as my soles.  This bag hasn’t offered me anything to complain about in this respect.  The shoulder straps are adjustable, as most bags should be.  The backing of the bag shares a similar trait.  The straps and backing offer what I would consider being just enough padding to keep me comfortable.  This, I feel, is good because too much padding usually results in the bag feeling too bulky and too hot.  The current level of support keeps the temperature relatively low against your body and doesn’t make the bag feel like it’s trying to envelop you.

Internal Features of the L.L. Bean Rucksack

Space and Organization

The main pocket offers almost all of the carrying space, which is both good and bad.  In class, this makes finding items easy, as they can only be in one spot.  In addition, the inner zip pocket has room for pencils, pens, a compass, or any other small item you’ll need during your day.  

L-L-bean-backpack-interior

While I find the single large pocket handy in the sense that I know where everything has to be in the bag, there won’t be any separation between your belongings that a more traditional backpack might have.

This means that everything you’re carrying more or less has to go in one pouch, which leads to losing things easily if you’re carrying a lot.  The number of times I lost my calculator in the bottom of my bag might actually require the same calculator to total up.  

sportsmans-rucksack-side-pockets

The twin pockets on the outside each have their own buckles and are perfect for storing more writing tools, a Poland Springs water, or maybe a tin full of mints for any last-minute dates you didn’t have planned.  They won’t hold Larger water bottles, such as the more full-bodied Nalgenes, but I got through the day with my smaller water bottles just fine.  

Long story short, while the amount of space provided by the single pocket was admirable, the lack of other significantly useful pockets was frustrating at times.

Accessibility

For each pocket, there is a flap that can be buckled down to ensure that things do not fall out.  The flaps of the smaller pockets have a buckle each, and the large flap sports two buckles.  The benefit of buckles that clip in as opposed to zippers is that you don’t have to worry about getting anything caught in the teeth a zipper sports.  

I think most of us have fought with zippers that get snagged on the material the bag is made out of.  You don’t have to worry about that with this bag.  Okay, I lied.  There is one zipper, but it serves as a secondary access to the laptop sleeve inside the bag.  Due to the up-and-down nature of the zipper’s straight track, you won’t be concerned with getting the zipper snagged as you close the bag.  

L-L-bean-sportsmans-bag-side-zipper-pocket

And if all of that wasn’t enough to keep your belongings secure, the main pocket also features a drawstring around the top that can be synched shut if you feel you’re going to be leaving a breadcrumb trail of stuff behind you as you go about your day.  If the drawstring wasn’t a good enough hint, the Rucksack is a top-loading backpack.  A drawstring on a front-loading pack would just be…wrong.

FAQs About the Sportsman’s Rucksack Backpack

What happens if the buckles come undone from the straps?

This is perfectly fine.  I picked up my bag one day after class and noticed that one of the buckles had fallen completely off the strap of the bag.  Concerned that I had broken my bag, I took a closer look.  The clasp of the bag was easily put back on the strap, in the same fashion that one would put on a belt and run the tongue through the buckle.

My friends all think that backpacks like this are for hikers, but I’m not a hiker.  Can I still rock it?

Of course!  The Rucksack works well for all sorts of people.  I used it all year for my books, and the laptop pocket protected my computer well.  If your friends think that it makes you look like a hiker, then great.  Hikers are cool!  Own that look.  If you’re utterly against the outdoorsman look, then maybe purchasing a product from outdoor outfitters L.L. Bean isn’t the right choice.

How does the bag hold up against water? Is the rucksack waterproof?

The nylon the Rucksack is made of, like most nylon, is water resistant, meaning a walk across campus in the rain won’t leave your notes a soggy mess.  If you’re forging rivers or going on surprise swims in puddles, you might want to make sure you’re wrapping your stuff in plastic before packing it away.  I said the bag was water resistant, not waterproof.

What happens if I break my bag?

Don’t sweat it.  L.L. Bean knows that sometimes things break, so they’ll replace broken gear if they can.  If what you’ve got is no longer available, they’ll give you in-store credit.  Easy peasy.

What do other people think?

On their website, L.L. Bean lists the Sportsman’s Rucksack as having a 4.2/5 star rating, and the reviews mirror this.  The company is known for having reliable gear.  Some might find them to be a bit pricey, but I think this is a small exchange for the fact that broken gear can be replaced for free most of the time.

On a Scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable is the bag?

Considering how everyone has a different 1 to 10 scale, my three could be your five.  However, for the sake of the question, I’ve found this bag to be a 7.  While the straps and backing are padded enough to be comfortable, and while it breathes okay, I think the bag could be better in both respects.  So yeah, definitely a solid 7.

I’m an avid hiker and want to know if all my gear will fit inside this backpack.

That…that’s not a question.  However, if you had phrased that statement in the form of a question, my answer would be to look at the stats above.  The bag can hold 25 L worth of stuff.  I don’t know how much you carry with you when you hike.  I could see going on a two or three-day trip with this bag being reasonable, but if you’re going for a week or two, maybe reconsider.  Also, don’t go by yourself for that long.  You’ll need human interaction, dude.

Final Thoughts on the L.L. Bean Sportsman’s Rucksack Bag

I really like this bag.  It’s comfortable, not complicated, and has just the right amount of room for my things on campus.  Had I been hiking with it more, especially for trips lasting more than a couple of days, I would recommend a more traditional hiking bag.

As it is, the Sportsman’s Rucksack is a great general-purpose bag for anyone who’s on their feet throughout the day.

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