By Sharayah Jung
If you are a student, a traveller, an outdoors enthusiast, or any combination of the three, this review was written specifically for you.
The Indonesia 4 Raja Pack is a 46 L backpack created by Ethnotek. The company’s mission is to keep culture alive by creating high quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles. Ethnotek partners with many artisan villages in Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam to create these bags in a celebration of culture around the world. The specific backpack that I have costs $200, and it is worth every single penny.
I initially began using this backpack a few months ago as a replacement for my previous backpack that had lasted me through two years of grad school, but was not about to make it until graduation. As a self-proclaimed creature of habit, I did not anticipate how quickly I would come to love this backpack. It has a computer case that is softly padded and separate from the rest of the backpack, which is easily accessible and thick enough to protect it from water damage in case of a light rain. There’s a large compartment that will fit a ridiculous number of textbooks, and a sleeve for smaller folders or papers that you don’t want to throw into the mix of textbooks. I even had room for my lunch bag on top of my textbooks in this compartment. There’s a small zipped pouch inside that I use for change, medicine, and personal products. There’s a water bottle holder on the left, and a side compartment for pens and other office supplies on the right. Underneath the water bottle holder is a zipper that allows you side access into the large compartment, to help with fishing out certain objects like a planner or wallet while wearing the backpack. A front zipper compartment is perfect for all of those “extra” things, like computer chargers, calculators, or a pencil case. The backpack closes by snapping the top closed, rolling it like a brown paper bag, and locking it with a clip. I rarely snap it closed unless it’s really full though.
Not only did I use this backpack as a student, but I also found it very useful as a traveler. It is just the right size to maximize the space that is allowed for a personal item on a flight. I have taken this backpack as my personal item on four flights so far, and it fit under all of the seats with only a small amount of tucking it in. I was able to pack my computer, a water bottle, a neck pillow, my toiletries, a change of clothes, Dramamine, a small snack, and a book with room to spare. I have also taken this on many weekend road trips, packing all of my clothes, toiletries, and my computer easily.
Lastly, I used this backpack as an outdoors enthusiast. I’ve only gone backpacking twice since owning it, but both were for very different purposes, and both were wildly successful with this backpack. The first backpacking trip was an overnight trip to a cliff top to watch the sunrise from our hammocks. The hike was short but the weather was hanging around freezing. I was able to pack a below-40 degree sleeping bag, an extra blanket, a hammock, a few Nalgene 32 oz water bottles, food, extra layers, and a sleeping pad strapped onto the top of it. The second trip was more of a day retreat on a riverbank, but the hike itself was much more treacherous, with lots of skirting along ledges and down steep inclines and through creek beds. I packed a two-person tent, a blanket, food, extra layers, a few books, and flashlights with room to spare. The backpack lays close enough to my center of gravity that it didn’t throw off my balance while hiking in these precarious situations. In both cases, this backpack was super convenient and easy to use.
In addition to being a great tool for the student, traveler, and outdoors enthusiast in all of us, it also just looks really cool. I have already had countless compliments on it and inquiries into where to get one. It comes in multiple different colors and patterns, but if you ever get bored with how it looks, you can buy a new interchangeable front for much less than getting a whole new backpack. The pack itself is very durable and will definitely last longer than your next favorite color, so it’s a great solution to an age-old problem.
The only thing that I would change about this backpack is adding a waist strap. This may be only a personal preference, so in no way let it detract from the other positive aspects of this backpack. There is, however, a chest strap that does provide significant relief if you have shoulder problems like me. Before my next backpacking excursion, I plan to rig up my own waist strap on this pack though. That’s how much I love it.