Return of the Cafe Racers - Gear Review – Jack Stillman Bag

Gear Review – Jack Stillman Bag

Finding a good motorcycle bag is tricky. I tend to be the sort who uses one bag for everything – so it’s got to be hardwearing for trips on the bike, stylish enough to carry me through the working week, and versatile enough to lug home groceries or load with gear for a weekend escape.

I’d been following the gear from Western Australian outfit ‘Jack Stillman’ with interest ever since their first motorcycle pannier, so when Jarrod Stillman, owner operator of Jack Stillman reached out with a prototype backpack for us to put through its paces, I jumped at the opportunity.

Jack Stillman was Jarrod’s Grandfather, an ex-Navy man who saw heavy action off the coast of North Africa during World War II before taking up the life of a travelling missionary after the war. Jack’s remarkable life of strength, adventure and quiet peace obviously resonated with Jarrod and show through in the robust products that bear his name.

The bag in question is a classic take on the roll top mail/duffle bag; a flexible sort of set up that can pack down slim or fill right up for when space is at a premium. The main body of the bag is a heavy off-white cotton canvas with leather used judiciously for the straps and base. All of the rivets, buckles and other assorted hardware are heavy duty brass. There’s a touch of fun to be had too – the inside liner is tricked out with pages from Jarrod’s own post-apocalyptic outback comic featuring Zombies and a badass custom Triumph.

The bag arrived having already been put through it’s paces with some adventures through SE Asia, with a few scuffs and marks to show it had earned it’s keep. After a couple of days of light duty carting my gear back and forth to the office, it was time to load up for a weekend away – (this was the same trip in which I reviewed the Exposed Motorcycle Bivouac previously featured here).

With more than 900km to be covered over 3 days/2 nights on the road, the bag was hastily crammed with all the essentials. My packing list included:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sufficient t-shirts, socks, jocks and thermals
  • Abasic Tool roll
  • 2 x battery banks for my phone
  • A bottle of Taliskers 10
  • A flask of St Remy VSOP Cognac

A quick check of the weather report showed we were in for some very nasty weather. While the bag’s canvas is thick and hard wearing it is not waterproof, but luckily the backpack’s simple top-opening meant that a 25L kayaking dry bag slipped inside like a glove and could be opened and closed in situ. This meant that while the bag itself would inevitably soak through the contents inside stayed tidy and dry.

Through 3 days of foul weather and everything a set of knobby tires and a short rear guard could throw at me the Jack Stillman backpack remained one of the most comfortable bags I’ve ever ridden with. The straps fit snugly over my jacket and adjusted to carry the bag close to the body without needing sternum or waist straps to keep it in place. That’s not to say it wasn’t showing signs of it’s cruel abuse when I arrived home – The white canvas was now a dark road-crud-grey, the leather thoroughly soaked and bleeding colour.

A quick hand wash restored the canvas mostly to it’s original state, however the leather dyes had bled into the white fabric in parts to create coffee-brown stains on hems and around the leather brand patch on the front of the bag. It’s subjective but I think it fair to say that for the intended buyer, the genuine patina that this bag has developed with time is likely a selling point rather than a liability.  A few weeks later the backpack accompanied me on the Distinguished Gentleman’s ride and looked right at home with the Tweed jacket and moustache wax. “Box fresh” types might be less pleased.

Whether this bag makes it to production or not remains to be seen, but it speaks to the robust, no-nonsense style of the Jack Stillman range, which is constantly changing and evolving. This is gear from a simpler time of adventure and masculine style – I reckon modern men could learn a thing or two from Jack Stillman.

  • Not waterproof
  • Leather and canvas will age and patina (not for everyone)
  • Flexible design holds a lot of stuff
  • Straps are super comfortable, even over long rides
  • will look better with age


Words by Mik

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