Gear

The Canvas Travel Bag that Replaced my Work & Weekender Bags

by Dustin Christensen

william ross travel bag

The William Ross Travel Bag is built for streamlined travel, so don’t be surprised when it puts your old messenger, briefcase and duffel bag out of a job.

Summers in Phoenix are long and exhausting, so my family’s respite from the heat comes in weekend trips and extended stays on the east coast when possible. This typically involves an unwieldy combination of work and travel bags that’s not easy to manage with two hands (and two toddlers). 

Working at three different offices throughout the week also adds to my daily carry conundrum: working from home barely requires pants, but working from two other locations adds a level of organization I’m usually missing.

The transition between all of this isn’t always pretty, and often the bags I travel with are those I grab at the last minute.

That all changed with the William Ross Travel Bag.

Since last year, it’s become my go-to workhorse for daily commuting, road trips, weekend jaunts and travel with the fam. It’s a unique take on travel luggage that could easily stray into impractical territory, but manages to stay on track with its organized build and impeccable craftsmanship.

The WR Travel Bag

william ross travel bag

What we dig: the WR Travel Bag is a functional hybrid that works just as well for the daily grind as it does for short weekend trips. It’s small enough to use as a messenger bag or work briefcase, but large enough to hold plenty of gear and clothing for basic travel.

After about six months of use, the Travel Bag put a handful of less functional bags in my closet out of commission, and I don’t care who knows it. 

What we’d change: my personal preference is a shoulder strap that’s removable for times when the bag’s light and slim (work, for example). The full-grain leather shoulder strap is a beaut, but you don’t have the option to take it off for a simpler carry experience.

The bottom line: if your schedule includes a lot of short trips for work or pleasure, the William Ross Travel Bag handles the transition from work to play with ease. You won’t find a better-built canvas bag at this size, and its functionality puts the bag in a class all its own.

It’ll hold necessities but force you to travel lean and smart, something that’s more helpful than limiting in my experience.

Durable Versatility

william ross travel bag review

We’re fans of waxed canvas at Territory Supply (check our favorite backpacks, jackets and duffels), but the WR Travel Bag doesn’t fit into conventional bag categories. Larger than a messenger or soft briefcase and smaller than a duffel or weekender, the Travel Bag is a crossover carry option that’s initially difficult to pin down. 

Whatever ambiguity the bag might hold fades quickly when you see how well it adapts to daily use and travel. Founder and CEO Julene Etzenbach created the Travel Bag to work for an “action-planned vacation or to the nearest coffee shop,” and in my experience it does just that. 

leather patina

I primarily use the bag as my work briefcase, holding a 15″ laptop, charger, mouse, Baron Fig notebook, a few books (current read) and odds and ends. It can also fit a water bottle or empty coffee cup at the end of the day, and there’s plenty of room if I decide to hit the used bookstore just down the corner.

When the weekend rolls around and it’s time for a trip into cooler weather north of Phoenix, or a perilous three-day stay at Disneyland, the Travel Bag quickly shifts gears into weekender mode. My normal duffel is a Walker Family Goods States Duffel that’s great for traveling with kids but doesn’t always do well holding boots and heavier gear.

The WR Travel Bag deals with all this and more: the canvas and leather are of noticeably higher quality than you’d expect in a standard messenger, and the stitching, seams and hardware are no joke.

messenger bag brass hardware

The brass zippers and leather trimmings take a beating, and the waxed canvas ages gracefully. Its soft, pliable twill is heavy enough to offer substantial protection for your belongings, but without feeling cumbersome walking through the office or airport. 

Its 14″ x 10″ x 4.5″ dimensions make it ideal for airplane travel (it fits under your seat), and although the added width isn’t always necessary for my work carry, it’s great to have when I throw a pair of shoes and a few shirts in for the weekend.

“I like a bag that stands up on its own for loading yet molds to you while carrying,” says founder Etzenbach. The “mold” is real: put this bag on your lap while traveling and it sinks into your contours, but prop it up on your desk and it’s there to stay. This is especially useful when travelling with our kids, where being able to organize, align and access all our bags at once is a chore in itself. 

The Specs

william ross travel bag

The William Ross Travel Bag comes in four colorways and two waxed canvas colors: olive and charcoal. I love the way the bright leather pops in contrast to the light green canvas, but each colorway has its own appeal and some may work for more formal office settings.

The exterior sports two zippered pockets on the back for quick access to small goods, and the front includes a zippered pocket that’s covered by a uniquely-designed leather flap. It’s a great place to store less-needed things that tend to get lost or misplaced during travel. 

william ross travel bag

Inside, you’ll find a surprisingly spacious main compartment and a sleeve that fits up to 15″ laptops. The interior seams are covered with leather and a small leather flap at the zipper helps keep the contents of your bag out of sight from those around you. 

The canvas may be the main attraction, but full-grain leather details complete the aesthetic of the bag. Small details like a “WR” leather tab on the sides bring some branding without feeling over-the-top, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a part of the bag that’s not built for the long haul.

wr bag features

The leather handle offers a good drop and enough room to get a solid, comfortable grip even when the bag is full. If you get the appeal of a canvas and leather bag, you’ll appreciate the patina both materials develop in time.

A bold leather William Ross label and its simple arrow icon signals the brand’s focus on “power and forward direction of travel,” a testament to the founder’s grandparents and their own stories of trials and travel. 

“Ross was my grandfather on my maternal side,” says Etzenbach. “I can still remember his hunting gear as well as my great grandfathers. Back in those days they waxed the material themselves. That’s what attracted me so closely with the wax cotton fabric.”

william ross bags

Who it’s Best For

Those who switch gears and constantly need to toggle between work and travel will find the WR Travel Bag versatile and easy to use. Its size, organization and simple construction are throwbacks to the days when utility and craftsmanship trumped obnoxious branding, and we’re all about riding that train.

Who Should Skip it 

In a sense, the Travel Bag is a generalist, so if you’re the type that needs to have specialized bags for work, weekend travel and the gym, the WR Travel Bag may be too much of a hybrid for your tastes.

Though I use it for work, it’s on the large side for a strictly work messenger or briefcase, and although it holds a small amount of clothes for the weekend, it may be too small for travelers who want to pack more. Anytime you have a crossover product, you’ll risk having something that works for a lot of situations but isn’t perfect for any one scenario.

So if you need a work briefcase, small weekender and duffel bag, the WR bag might not suit your travel style.

Final Thoughts

In 2017, Americans took more than 2.2 million “bleisure” trips, or travel that included work and leisure. More of us than ever are finding ways to balance work, life and the pursuit of it all in a way that seems healthy and sustainable. William Ross is making bags for this type of traveler, myself included, and I’m okay ditching a few bags in its wake.

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