Mafia Deep Blue Bag Review: A Nifty Day Pack Made From Recycled Boat Sails
The San Francisco company Mafia Bags has been making beautiful and functional bags out of recycled materials for years. The brand’s trademark medium is sailcloth, the remnants of spent boating sails and kites that would otherwise end up in the trash. Last month, Mafia teamed up with Adam Savage to make the EDC One, an all-white sailcloth utility bag. Now, the company has teamed with noted designer Yves Béhar to make a backpack called the Deep Blue Bag.
The day bag, which seems designed for beachy adventures, is doubly eco-conscious. It’s made largely out of recycled materials, including boat sails, kite sails, climbing ropes, seatbelts, and strips of neoprene from used wetsuits. Also, it was developed in collaboration with the non-profit Sustainable Surf, which runs a program called Waste to Waves that collects throwaway EPS foam chunks and recycles them into surfboard blanks shapers can use to make eco-friendlier sleds. Proceeds from sales of the Deep Blue Bag will go toward funding Waste to Waves. So buying one promotes ocean health, which is just keen.
Béhar, a busy designer who seemingly never turns down a commission, is a surfer, and his love of ocean sports informs the design of the Deep Blue. The defining visual characteristic is the diagonal swoop of blue material over a pillowy white bed of sailcloth. On the website of his firm, Fuse Project, Béhar says this flap of blue is meant to evoke a breaking wave. Sure. Under the lip of the wave, there’s a zipper which leads to a waterproof compartment. It’s a bag-inside-the-bag for storing a wet swimsuit, sandy sandals, or your damp beach towel. This interior waterproof pocket, like all good interior waterproof pockets, flips inside-out so it can be hosed off. There’s even a hook on the bottom of the Deep Blue so you can hang the whole thing upside-down while it dries. Design touches like these suggest Béhar has spent many a day at the beach.
A second zipper reveals a larger main compartment. It has a lightly padded backing, so while there’s no laptop sleeve built into the bag, the dongles on your 15-incher won’t dig into your back. On the pack’s rear interior wall, there’s also a small zipper pocket and a D-ring for clipping your whatever. Around the side, at the base of the right-hand strap, there’s a hidden stash pocket big enough for a phone, and there’s a carabiner on a leash where you can clip your keys. There’s also a pocket on the front made to fit a water bottle, and it’s lined with grippy recycled wetsuit material that keeps the bottle in there.
Bring the Noise
When you get the chance to touch a Deep Blue Bag, you’ll notice two things right away. One: It’s very light, just about one pound. Two: It’s noisy. The white and blue sailcloth crinkles emphatically, sounding not unlike a big bag of tortilla chips. So loud was the crinkling that when I wore the bag around town, it turned heads. On the bus, passengers craned their necks. At the grocery co-op, I got questions and double-takes. At the office, co-workers asked if deliberately making so much noise was really necessary. It’s easily the loudest backpack I’ve ever worn. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.)
Marcos Mafia, the bag company’s co-founder, tells me in an email that this crinkly material is upcycled spinnaker sailcloth from sailboats. “This is the big rounded sail that is used to go downwind and looks like a big balloon,” he says. The lightweight nylon ripstop material was specifically chosen by Béhar because of its strength and its papery feel. Mafia has been using spinnaker sails on his company’s Native Series bags for a while as well.
It’s a choice that will turn off some buyers, and will no doubt surprise many customers who receive their backpack in the mail and lay their hands on it for the first time. But the spinnaker sailcloth gives the bag a nice structural quality. The material has enough rigidity to retain its puffy shape, and it adds a unique visual touch. I grew to appreciate it after telling myself the noise closely mimicked the roar of crashing waves.
One feature that did turn me off is the padding on the bottom of the bag, which is too thin to be effective. I used the Deep Blue to carry my camera and laptop for a couple of days and reliably cringed at the clunking noise I heard every time I set the bag down. Fragile packables will need their own padded cases.
When the bag goes on sale on Mafia’s website (which is soon), it’ll be priced at $200. But if you want to buy one early, you can get a discount by backing the bag on Kickstarter. Normally, I would be reluctant to recommend a product that’s being launched on Kickstarter—the crowdfunding landscape is littered with countless sketchy products that will likely never ship. But Mafia is a well-established company that’s been delivering hand-made bags for years, so trust shouldn’t be an issue. The three parties—Mafia, Béhar, and Sustainable Surf—are using the Kickstarter platform to move the first 500 bags before Mafia ramps up production. The Kickstarter campaign ends Tuesday, December 26, but you can just wait for the retail version if crowdfunding gives you hives.
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