A bespoke, no-fuss sturdy bag ideal for forest work, bushcraft, day walks, and weekend trips for those looking for something with a more traditional appearance and lifetime of use.
- Cheaper than Frost River or Duluth
- Lack of a waist strap may not suit everyone
- Axe holder is flawed
- Some features may not work for everyone
- No chest strap
Bison Bushcraft are based on the South Downs, in Southern England. They specialise in bespoke apparel and gear designed primarily for bush crafting and forest work. It is all handmade in England using the highest quality locally sourced materials. In the past, they outsourced the manufacture of their bags to Frost River, but more recently they have begun production themselves. As with any high-end product, they are made in small batches and I had a wait a couple of weeks for the order to be completed so if you're in a hurry you'll need to look elsewhere.
Tired of the same old bags that are out there I wanted something a bit more original and would last me a very long time (becoming increasingly concerned about where all our lightweight-last five minutes gear ends up). Originally I was interested in the Frost River Royale, but this was beyond my budget (especially when adding on shipping and duty) so I opted for the Garron. Just like its namesake, it is a small sturdy workhorse designed for moving through the forest (hence no pockets on the sides for a slimmer profile but more on this later). It is made from heavy duty waxed canvas with a reinforced bottom so this bag will take pretty much any sort of abuse you may care to put it through.
It has a generous 35-litre capacity and storm skirt which will allow for more gear, but the lack of a floating lid means that this is limited. There are adjustable side cords to reduce volume and provide extra storage capacity for larger items such as a tent but the issue I have with this is that it affects the balance of the bag. I would have preferred two pockets capable of taking a stainless steel Nalgene bottle etc. I personally have never walked through a forest so dense that pockets got in the way but no doubt someone will correct me here.
The bottom of the bag has slots for straps so that a sleeping mat etc can be strapped on. Between the leather lid straps is an axe sleeve. This is the only real fault in the bag's design. If stowed upside down as shown on the website and not strapped in tightly enough, the axe could potentially slip out and it could be miles before you have even realised. Better to stow it axe head up to guarantee this will not happen.
Inside the bag is a sleeve for a laptop (I am guessing to appeal to urban hipsters) and a closed cell foam mat which gives the bag some rigidity and can also be pulled out and used as a sit mat.
In use the bag is on the heavy side and I do notice the extra weight but it is not a deal breaker for me. It has withstood all weathers with ease and has not minded being scuffed up by the chalk and flint of the South Downs. It is comfortable to wear but the lack of a chest strap, especially when carrying lighter loads, means the bag slips from my shoulders after a while. This is not so much of an issue when carrying heavier loads but, in this instance, the lack of a waist strap means greater fatigue on the shoulders after a day's carry so there's a compromise to be made here.
The material used to make the shoulder straps seems robust enough but I would have added some leather liners for extra comfort and durability such as featured on the Frost River Royale. That being said, I like the ease of simply being able to slip the bag off instead of having to faff about with buckles etc.
In summary, I am pleased with the performance of the bag despite the issues mentioned. It looks great and is significantly cheaper than similar bespoke handmade bags. It happily carries the gear I need for a winter day walk or for working in the forest. I am increasingly drawn to more "heritage" style gear where quality, functionality, durability and environmental impact are the company's priority and I am pleased to say Bison got this right in the main.
Used for winter day walks on the South Downs, in Southern England when full wet weather gear is needed, working in the forest, bush crafting, and shopping trips in my local town.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: £196 plus delivery charge