Côte&Ciel is a relatively young French brand that’s been cranking out some fascinating work. Their product portfolio centers around carrying and protecting high-tech products with a tasteful, modern aesthetic that I find refreshing. I was in search of a good backpack when I fell in love with the Isar Rucksack during a business trip to Seoul. I've been using it daily for over a month now, and it's been one of my best discoveries of the year.
The Côte&Ciel Isar Rucksack comes in two sizes: medium ($238) and large ($254). I went with large, which supports laptops up to 17” in size. If you’re relatively petit, I would stay away from large; the bulbous shape is easy to look out of place on smaller wearers.
My bag's color is called “Silver” – an accurate description. The canvas is a bright grey and all the straps have almost a metallic appearance. I must really stress how beautiful the canvas looks in person. It’s a brilliant shade of grey complimented with a light texture that makes it looks surprisingly sophisticated. If you're not a fan of my pick, Côte&Ciel offers plenty of other choices.
Despite what the light color may suggest, the rucksack hasn’t been a pain in the ass to keep clean. Water will eventually seep through but the immediate surface of the bag is slippery and water-proof, keeping everyday stains to a minimum.
The Isar Rucksack has an appearance like no other. I’ve had many compliments during my time with the bag, particularly from my design colleagues. The design is clean with an emphasis on creating an iconic form using modern looking fabrics. This is a solid approach making the Isar unisex and timeless. The unusual shape has a functional story and reasoning, which makes me like it even more.
You can think of the bag as being divided in half. The front half is the main compartment and constructed almost like a duffle bag. It offers a massive volume and is ideal for loose items.
The main compartment is big enough for a weekend trip and is easy to access thanks to its massive opening. It’s the perfect place to throw your camera and headphones or soft, scrunchable items like clothing.
To keep the profile of the bag slim, the loose ends are kept tidy using a massive seat-belt-like strap up top and a smaller strap bellow. The zipper is positioned deeper than most bags to keep away unwanted hands.
The unexpected shape is precisely what makes this bag so usable - it’s essentially a backpack with a duffle bag sewn to the back. I have traditionally used carryall bags but they’ve always sacrificed a proper laptop compartment and travel comfort. The Isar Rucksack offers the best of both worlds without compromise. It's a sports car with massive luggage capacity.
Photographers: the simple vertical zipper makes it easy to access your camera on the go. Little touches like this are evidence of the care that has gone into designing the bag.
The rear half is designed in a more traditional fashion. There's a generously padded slot for your laptop and plenty of pockets for various flat items like magazines or an iPad. Keeping these sensitive items separate from the irregularly shaped items out front also prevents any chance of denting.
The laptop compartment is much harder to open than the front. The straps get in the way so they need to be peeled back prior to unzipping.
The custom Côte&Ciel zippers have holes allowing them to rest on top of each other with minimum abrasion. Notice the light wearing on the sharp edges though.
The Isar Rucksack has light, squishy padding on the back panel and the shoulder straps. The straps hug my body snuggly and I've never had comfort issues, even with the bag fully loaded.
The canvas used on the rucksack isn't too thick, making it reasonably light to carry. As someone coming from a leather bag, this thing feels like air.
I’m a big fan of the soft and substantial straps Côte&Ciel has used but it’s a source of one big design flaw. The straps are so smooth* that they tend to slip when you're being active. I ended up fixing this problem by making a few stitches hidden under the metal strap buckle.
* This could be a problem exclusive to the silver model, I haven't seen people experience this with some other colors.
The general build quality of the bag is better than most though. The fabrics all feel of nice quality, the stitching is neat and the custom hardware is relatively well executed. They're in a different league from brands like Incase - as they should be, considering the price tag.
I’m convinced that Côte&Ciel are currently producing some of the best bags in the industry. The Isar Rucksack's two compartment layout is perfect if you’re like me and have frequent short trips with both a laptop and camera. It's beautifully, and more importantly, tastefully designed and is also a consortium of details that makes it seem like something that was created with care. Most products in its category are designed with consideration of just style and function. The Isar Rucksack is a product designed with also a lifestyle in mind. If your lifestyle fits the bag, you'll absolutely love it.