Gear Box: Keen Newport Backpack

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I recently got my hands on the Newport backpack from Keen, who are more famous for their light hiking and water shoes than their packs. None the less, the Newport immediately gave a good impression, that would end up being a lasting one, albeit with a few caveats.

The first thing that struck me when I began using this backpack was the great build quality. The materials are all solid and wear well, and the zippers are thick and solid in every regard. The fabrics are water resistant and tough, and there are lots of nice little touches, such as a rubber bottom that will help keep the contents of the pack dry and an easy to use draw system that keeps your gear in place. The fact that the bag is made out of nearly 100% recycled materials, including the aluminum frame and interior lining, makes it even more impressive. This bag is both environmentally friendly and well constructed.

The Newport is definitely a versatile pack, trying to offer a little something for everyone. The inside has both a laptop sleeve and a hydration bladder pocket, showing Keen’s commitment to making a pack that is both urban and trail friendly. There is also plenty of space, both in the main compartment, and a nice, large exterior pocket that is lined with soft cloth to protect what ever items you put inside of it. A small mesh pocket on the inside rounds out the storage options, although there is also a nice exterior space for carrying shoes or a bike helmet as well.

Personally, I found the Newport to make a better commuter pack than one designed for the trail. Make no mistake, it can straddle the line between the two quite nicely, but I wasn’t overly fond of the hydration tube port, nor the way that you could integrate that tube into the shoulder strap. That’s a minor thing when you’re using the pack around town, but can make for an annoyance when out on the trail all day. It felt a bit like hydration pack integration was a bit of an after thought.

The styling of the pack is one of the things that set it apart, and one look at it, and you can tell that it has been designed by Keen. The Newport closely resembles the Keen sandals that share its name, and while some find the design a bit off putting, I personally liked it and the way that it fit in with Keen’s other designs across its product line.

Overall, the Newport backpack is very nice, and I recommend it highly. Especially for anyone looking for a new urban/commuter pack or a travel pack for carrying on an airplane. I do think there are a few better options out there for the trail, but if you’re looking for a single, versatile pack that can be used in multiple environments, this pack will pull double duty reasonably well too. I love the fact that it is an Earth-friendly piece of gear too, which makes it even easier to recommend. The MSRP on the Newport is $100, which is a reasonable price to pay for such a well built and designed pack that will last you for years.

All of the above said, the highest compliment I can give this backpack is that it ha snow replaced my usual urban pack that I’ve had for years, and was long overdue for retirement. I’ve finally found a worthy successor. Thanks Keen!

Kraig Becker

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