I've been using the Côte&Ciel Isar Twin Touch Rucksack for about a year now. That's long enough to discover that it's the best backpack I've ever owned.
After a series of fairly underwhelming backpacks in the past, it's taken me until recently to work out just what I appreciate in a bag. So, by the time I purchased the Isar, my requirements were clear:
To securely carry my 13" MacBook Pro, that I take everywhere.
To have enough room for my gym kit and an overnight-stay's worth of clothes.
To be sufficiently weather resistant to withstand exposure to the London elements.
To not require much cleaning.
It excels at all of these, with some unexpected benefits too.
1. Carrying a 13" MacBook Pro
Inside the main compartment there is a dedicated laptop pocket that can accommodate up to a 15" laptop. I have not tried a laptop this size, but my 13" MacBook Pro has ample room and is well protected due to the soft material and padding used for the pocket.
The rear and bottom of the bag are also well-padded, providing protection from all sides, which has reassured me on the occasions where I have dropped the bag.
2. Carrying gym kit and enough clothes for an overnight stay
I find that most backpacks capable of carrying enough for my needs, often appear physically large even when not full to capacity. The Isar avoids this by giving the impression it can hold less than it actually can. It has the capacity to carry an impressive amount, but maintains a deceptively slim appearance which gives the impression it's a smaller bag than it really is.
This is accomplished by the rather striking folded front section which, not only provides an intriguing form, but unfolds to provide the majority of the bag's carrying volume.
The bag comfortably carries my gym kit (usually: shorts, t-shirt, socks and trainers), a change of clothes and a full wash bag, without looking packed full or bloated.
3. Weather resistant
Water runs smoothly off the "Grid-Tech" technical fabric used for the front section of bag, which is most exposed when you are wearing it.
On several occasions I've been caught in torrential rain and I have never once detected any damp inside the bag, which has always been bone dry and, thankfully, so have any papers I've been carrying at the time.
4. Easy to clean
Previous bags I've owned look great initially but quickly show signs of wear and dirt. Not the Isar. It still looks as good as new and I have never cleaned it.
The only exception is that the soft leather on the straps is more prone to staining than any other part, and this area has picked up some minor marks.
It's an unusual looking bag, and definitely a design that grows on you. When I first saw this bag in the flesh my split-second, instinctive reaction was that it was ugly, but that quickly subsided, and I now find it aesthetically appealing. At first, the €285 price tag feels high, but becomes more palatable as you come to appreciate the high-quality materials used and attention to detail.
The only issue I've had with the Isar is, due to its length, the bottom of the bag sometimes feels too low down on my back, even when I've adjusted the straps to their minimum. This problem is emphasised when cycling and ideally I would like to be able to tighten the straps a few centimetres more in order to pull the bag higher up my back, but this is a minor complaint.
Perhaps a good measure of its appeal, is that I've never had a compliment on a backpack until wearing the Isar, when I've had several! People seem genuinely fascinated by its functional shape and clever design. I know I am. When the time comes to replace it, the first place I will turn to is Cote&Ciel.