Shopping for leather backpacks can get overwhelming when weighing the benefits of the look versus the added weight of choosing leather. Most of the time, a well-constructed full or top grain leather backpack is going to weigh considerably more than its canvas or nylon counterparts. Joe Floto from Floto Imports very generously sent in the Floto Roma Backpack for review, which provides a solid middle ground by using beautiful leather and overall relatively lightweight construction.
We have previously reviewed other products from Floto Imports, and have learned that they are a very budget-friendly way to get into Italian leather goods while also getting great quality and customer service.
The bag is constructed of full grain calfskin leather that has been vegetable tanned and polished in Tuscany. This particular color is their Olive Honey Brown, but the backpack is also available in a deep red, black, and dark brown colors. The interior is raw, leaving the suede finish of the underside of the calfskin hide. There are sections such as the backing of the side and front pocket flaps which appear to be covered with pigskin suede, that has a nice soft feel. The backpack is complete with metal nickel-plated hardware in the form of buckles, snap buttons, d-rings, and rivets. The top handle is constructed substantially with hardware and rivets, while also holding an appealing appearance. The bag dimensions are listed as 14″ H x 14″ W x 9 ” L.
As primarily a satchel/messenger guy, I typically don’t carry backpacks. Switching to the Roma Backpack did not include any frustrations in terms of what my usual bag capacity is. Having carried heavier leather backpacks before, I found joy in knowing that the leather itself did not compromise the weight, driving me to run home and change for a lighter pack. I appreciated the fact that the side pockets can hold full size 16-20oz bottles, or a smaller umbrella while being able to close. The website states they are fit for most 16oz water bottles, but I experienced a bit more size. For reference, a common 23oz Ice Mountain plastic water bottle had no problem fitting in the pocket, nor did a 16oz Stanley Coffee mug or 27oz Kleen Canteen Reflect bottle.
The front pocket is easily the most convenient storage method on the bag, as like the side pockets, it is secured with button snaps. I used this pocket for pens, a small camera, and pocket notebook. The main compartment sports a drawstring closure that is easy to cinch down and opened up wide. I was able to carry an iPad, a few school books and an extra jacket, with room to spare despite the bags overall smaller size. I am not particularly enamored with the closure for the main compartment – the small buckle does not seem robust and does not allow as fast of access as it would with a snap button or glide buckle.The backpack back straps are adjustable and did not dig into my shoulder blades when wearing t-shirts and sweaters. However, if one is choosing to wear a tank top or sleeveless shirt, the edges of the straps may take time to break in and soften up. The carry handle was useful for easily picking the back up to put on, but I did not carry the bag with the handle for extended periods of time.
Now on to the main reason some will choose a leather backpack: its pure beauty. I have to admit at first I did not think I would enjoy the polished leather look, but over my use I have definitely learned to love it. The tanning process along with the polishing of this bag makes a very soft, luxurious feel. The white thread creates a high-contrast stitch that pops in the sunlight.While they do use a semi-gloss coating to finish the bag, I had to remember that it was vegetable tanned, thus not as resistant to water stains without treatment. A small water stain happened from water droplets on the top flap, but had I used a proper leather protection prior to element exposure, I don’t think it would have left a mark.
Coming in at a price of about $280, it’s more expensive than your typical nylon or canvas pack, but the look and feel of the leather makes up for it. Floto bags come with limited lifetime warranties while the company also has a repair service for situations in which the bag would not be covered, such as airline damage. Being lightweight for full grain, the Floto Roma Backpack is certainly a good option for those wanting the look of a leather backpack unaccompanied by the usual added weight.