Born out of necessity, the WANDRD brand was created for adventurous souls that want to travel light, efficiently, and take their photography gear along for the ride. If you are a regular on Magnetic and specifically to our Culture and new Project Basscamp section, you probably have seen a lot of my bag reviews - I'm always on the lookout for the perfect bag. Throughout the last four years or so, it's become pretty apparent that there is no one perfect bag, just a lot of amazing ones for different types of travelers. The WANDRD bags, however, come very close to universal perfection for those of us trying to travel light with the most possible gear.
After meeting the WANDRD team at Outdoor Retailer (OR) Iast summer, I got the chance to take their flagship backpack PRVKE and duffel (Hexad) on a couple road trips including Amsterdam and several trips to Miami, needless to say; I was impressed.
Below is a quick interview with one of the companies cofounders Ryan Cope and reviews of both the PRVKE and HEXAD. Head over to WANDRD.com to learn more.
WANDRD was developed out of necessity, can you tell us a little bit about that journey. What are some of the pros and cons of going the indie route?
Ryan Cope: It all started in our parents' kitchen. My brother Spencer and I were complaining about the lack of options for a quality camera bag. He was planning a trip to Paris to shoot pictures at Fashion Week, and I had just booked a small campervan in New Zealand for ten days. At that point, we had done months of research (and purchased many bags), and we realized we had two options — either a camera bag that functioned OK and looked terrible or a bag that looked OK and functioned terribly. So with all the gusto and ignorance of a couple of twenty-something-year-olds, we set off on a mission to create the world's best travel camera bag. We both agreed that we didn’t just want to make and sell bags; we wanted to inspire others to see more of the world. We grew up traveling all over the world, and both consider it to be the best education we, or anyone else, could ever receive, and we wanted to influence and enable others to do the same — to explore, and to live life in the moment. And that’s why we decided to name our company after the people our gear is designed for – the wandered.
We're 100% family owned and operated, and we wouldn't have it any other way. There are definitely the cons of not having the backing of investor money – we've had to bootstrap and work the first couple of years without pay. We've also had to take out decent-sized lines of credit for the business in order to sustain growth. But it sure as hell beats answering to investors or anyone else. We get to the build the business the way that we want to and have the ability to sacrifice profits so that we can focus on relationships and building something truly fulfilling.
Right now you have two bags in the line-up, the PRVKE pack and HEXAD Duffel series, what is next for WANDRD on the bag front?
RC: We've got a couple of bags in the lineup for next year that we're excited about. I'm sworn under oath not to divulge too much information on it, but the next bag drops early next year and has a unique system. We haven't seen anything else like it on the market.
What are some travel tips that you might have for maxing out space in your bag for longer trips?
RC: If you're not already rolling your clothes instead of folding clothes, then prepare to have your life changed. Rolling your clothes not only saves a surprising amount of space but keeps the wrinkles out as well.
If WANDRD had a soundtrack, what would it sound like? What artist would be on it?
RC: As you know, WANDRD was founded by my two brothers, and I. One of the reasons we work well together is because we are all pretty different in our styles, tastes, personalities, etc. So we each bring something different to the table, which adds a lot of value. And as WANDRD is an extension of the people behind the brand, our soundtrack would be pretty eclectic. Also, as a brand that appreciates travel and experiencing different cultures, there would definitely be international music on that soundtrack. Both Allah-Las and Buena Vista Social Club are artists that immediately come to mind.
What are some of the other brands in the outdoor / apparel space that inspire you?
RC: Patagonia has always been an inspiration for the way that they run their business and are involved with important world issues. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) is a must-read, even if you don't run a business. Best Made Co. is another brand that we admire for the way that they've branded themselves. The put out some rad stuff!
The PRVKE - I've tested a lot of photography backpacks over the years, and the PRVKE is probably one of the best bags I've had the opportunity to road test. The size of the smaller bag is perfect for carrying on the plane and around tight spaces like trains, buses, and small European hotel rooms.
Fit / Comfort - The straps and cross latch help keep the weight of the bag manageable while walking long distances. I'm often carrying a tripod, full camera set-up, some hard drives and a laptop with a couple of hard drives. The back section has an excellent material that keeps you comfortable along with raised sections that provide extra ventilation.
Design and Build: The bag has just enough pockets to be functional but not drive you insane with too many hidden zippers. The side flap is great to get quick access to the main compartment and your camera if you are using the optional cube. The PRVKE is versatile - allwoing users to add accessories like the camera cube to customize it for their needs. I also got the rainfly and utility straps which helped to carry my tripod at the bottom when I was a bit overloaded.
The bag is built exceptionally well and features great hardware all around, I never felt the need to pull out the rainfly due to the water-resistant materials, roll top and great zipper seals, but it's nice to have the fly in case you get into a full-on downpour. It comes in both a 21L and 31L model and fits nicely under an airplane seat if you are rocking a carryon.
Materials: Waterproof Tarpaulin and Robic 1680D Ballistic Nylon. Weather Resistant Zippers.
PRVKE 21 - Dimensions: 17"H X 11"W X 6.5"D / Volume: 21 L to 25 L (roll top fully extended) / Weight: 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs)
PRVKE 31 - Dimensions: 19"H X 12.5"W X 7.5"D / Volume: 31 L to 36 L (roll top fully extended) / Weight: 1.5 kg (3.4 lbs)
The HEXAD Access Duffel takes the DNA of the PRVKE and builds it into a larger more functional travel bag. If the PRVKE was a Star Destroyer, then the HEXAD is the Death Star. The 45L model will fit nicely in the overhead compartment and is also extremely versatile with the various accessories you can load in. I used this for a week long trip and was easily able to get all my camera gear, laptop, clothing, and other necessities into the bag.
The HEXAD has a bit more of a learning curve than the PRVKE due to the number of compartments and configurations, so you will need to spend some time with the bag to get it dialed perfectly.
Materials: Waterproof Tarpaulin and 1680D Ballistic Nylon with WR Army Coating. High-Quality Zippers.
Dimensions: 9"H X 14"W X 22"L (carry-on size) / Volume: 45L / Weight: 1.8 kg (3.9 lbs)