Those who are familiar with the backpack space will know of the legend that is Douglas Davidson. In case you’re not, here’s a quick rundown: Davidson made his start designing bags with stints at both Burton and The North Face, after which he launched his own independent label under the name The Brown Buffalo. As if that wasn’t enough, he now teaches backpack-making classes out of his Costa Mesa workshop whilst also helming projects with the likes of adidas, Nike, Quicksilver, and Vans (among many others).
For these reasons, EDC enthusiasts around the world consider Davidson’s designs to be the cream of the crop — carefully refined pieces that balance a smart aesthetic with superior functionality. Is the ConcealPack such a bag? Does it live up to Davidson’s reputation? One thing’s for certain: it makes for a pricey piece of gear at $395 all said and done, so we sure hope so. In this review, we get hands-on with the 21L model to see whether the ConcealPack can follow through on its promise.
Video Review: The Brown Buffalo ConcealPack 21L
Because of its modular design, this bag isn’t the easiest to explain in words. Check out our accompanying Brown Buffalo ConcealPack video review on the HICONSUMPTION YouTube channel for a 4k rundown of this bag.
Cut From A Different Cloth
The ConcealPack frequently draws comparisons with bags like the GORUCK GR1 and the T.A.D. Axiom, and it’s easy to understand why if you’re going on spec sheets alone. All three options share a tough Cordura body, a flat-lying clamshell closure, and a modular main compartment. However, when you see the ConcealPack in the flesh, it becomes pretty clear that this is a bag of a different caliber — especially insofar as its construction and engineering are concerned.
For starters, the outside of the bag is strikingly simple, without any branding whatsoever save for a small Hypalon label on the front panel. Rather than overwhelming you with tricks or gimmicks, instead, the ConcealPack remains quiet and sophisticated. Accordingly, you won’t find much else around the rest of the bag. There are four latch points located on the sides of the body, and there’s a set of D-rings attached at shoulder straps; otherwise, the ConcealPack is basically a black rectangle.
Size-wise, the ConcealPack is definitely on the taller side – at least compared to some of the other bags we’ve had in for review. Our 21L model measured 19” high by 5.5” deep by 11.5” wide, making it one of the larger TSA-compliant options that we’ve tested. That being said, it’s much more compact than the 30L model, which stretches a further 1-2” in almost every dimension.
Materials and Hardware
A State-Of-The-Art Selection
Being the product of a bag-making pro, the ConcealPack sports some of the most cutting-edge materials available today. The body of the bag is made from 1050D Cordura ballistic nylon, sewn with INVISTA yarns in a 2×2 basket weave pattern. In practice, this makes it highly resistant to rips, scuffs, and other unwanted wear and tear. And, because it’s been coated in a DWR membrane, it has the added benefit of built-in protection from the elements.
It’s inside the ConcealPack, however, where Davidson has really elected to demonstrate his backpack-making prowess. Our 21L test model is made using Dimension-Polyant’s VX25 and VX21 fabrics, a combination that enables exceptionally rugged and completely waterproof performance. It’s worth noting, though, that because The Brown Buffalo manufactures its bags in batches, each round is something of a limited run. Moreover, Davidson is constantly tinkering with his formula, so the colors and materials are almost always different from one batch to the next.
Finally, let’s talk hardware. In keeping with the bag’s rock-solid construction, Davidson has designed the closures and fasteners for consistent, unfailing performance. The zippers are all YKK — chunky, overbuilt, and reversed such that the toughest part faces outward. Elsewhere, the ConcealPack features a set of hypalon attachment points for use with accessories, each reinforced with Berry Complaint bartacks for long-term durability. And, on the back panel, there’s a built-in luggage sleeve for mounting the bag to your roller.
Peel, Place, And Stick As You Please
Open up the ConcealPack, and you’ll see why Davidson remains in high demand — the bag’s organization is out of this world. At the back, it comes with a hidden zippered compartment that stretches just large enough to fit a 15” Macbook Pro. Assuming you’d like to haul heavier loads — say, rucking plates, for instance — it’s also lined with velcro in order to accept a removable frame sheet.
Inside the main compartment is where the ConcealPack keeps most of its pockets. On one side, there’s a full-length velcro sheet for use with the brand’s admin accessory panels. Simply peel, place, and stick the admin accessory panels as you see fit — each one also comes with its own velcro loops, so you can stack them until you find a setup that works for you.
Opposite, the lid of the ConcealPack is built with two large dump pockets that are perfect for packing away everything from pencil pouches to water bottles. We especially like what The Brown Buffalo has done here, as these pockets are incredibly easy to access — even when the bag isn’t completely unzipped. Above, the bag’s lid also comes with a full-width zippered mesh pouch that works as an ideal catch-all for bulkier items like laptop chargers and cables.
Last but not least, there’s a third conceal compartment out front. With its vertical zipper and beefy integrated lanyard attachment point, we found that it worked great for holding frequently-used items like keys, hand sanitizer, and snacks. Despite the pocket’s ample storage capacity, it’s still plenty convenient to zip and unzip on the move.
Soft Yet Supportive
Of course, a tough bag would be of little use if it’s not also comfortable to wear. Accordingly, Davidson designed the ConcealPack with a heavily padded, segmented back panel. Cushioned with APEX 3D Spacer Mesh, it incorporates antimicrobial yarns for odor control and specialty Sorbtek yarn for moisture management. On paper, it promises to be a winning pairing; on-body, it’s an absolute dream. Being based in Los Angeles, we can really appreciate what this addition does for the bag’s breathability — compared to competing packs like the GR1, it boasts considerably more effective ventilation.
However, back padding alone isn’t enough to provide support for your pack. As such, the straps are built to do the hard work, crafted from durable Cordura fabric and lined with some soft APEX 3D Spacer Mesh for an extra dose of comfort. What’s more, they come with a removable, adjustable sternum strap that’s elasticated for an improved fit.
Interestingly, Davidson has also designed the straps with a unique innovation: a set of quick-release buckles. When you’re wearing the bag, these allow you to instantly ditch the ConcealPack from your person in the event of an emergency. So, rather than struggling to get your arms through the openings (or adjust the sliders), just unclip the buckles and down the bag falls.
The Bag Fan's Backpack
Douglas Davidson is one of the bag industry’s all-time greats, so it goes without saying that we had some pretty high expectations heading into this review. The good news is that the ConcealPack more than lives up to Davidson’s name. Granted, it is definitely on the spendier side as far as backpacks come. However, when you consider the refined design, the tough Cordura construction, and the impressive modularity, the ConcealPack’s price tag becomes much easier to justify. If you’re a bag fan with a penchant for premium EDC gear, this is one pack that’s sure to scratch your itch.
The 25 Best Everyday Carry Backpacks
Admittedly, some users may find the ConcealPack a bit overbuilt for a daily carry companion. If you’re looking for something a bit more streamlined, take a peep at our roundup of the the best everyday carry backpacks.