Rohan Bags Review
Favourite Rohan gear for me, along with probably a lot of other folk, are Rohan Bags (and their shorter derivatives). I do use a lot of other Rohan kit, partly it works well and partly I seem to be cut a bit like their tailor’s dummy, but with most of the rest I feel I have reasonable alternatives. Bags, on the other hand, do their particular things in a certain way which nothing else quite manages with the emphasis just where I want it.
While much has been made of their merit over the years as hillwalking trousers, I’ve never used them for that, and don’t really rate them for it either. While they are light and keep the weather out reasonably well most of the time one can do better with more freedom of movement and better handling of the inevitable bad weather. Where Bags really score for me is their combination of practicality with a reasonable degree of smartness rounded out with comfort and toughness.
I wear then for work. Work is IT in the NHS and while the weather doesn’t throw much at me in the hospital there’s plenty of crawling about peering at wiring, walking around armfuls of servers or with bulky LTO tapes in the pockets and the like. The large (but neat) pockets don’t protest (plus I can still walk), the fine fabric brushes up very easily and I still look smart to the professional standards required of me.
I wear them for travel. They come out of a day in airports and cattle-class planes looking pretty much as they went in, everything I need is safe and easily to hand and I’m not too hot, not too cold. If I do have to brave rather stern conditions briefly before I’m at my final destination, or even for a few days wondering if my hold-baggage is en-route to the moon, they’ll do it. Maybe not optimally, but they’ll do it.
Nobody else’s “Bag-a-likes” (and alternative offerings from Rohan themselves) have quite the same mix of pockets, useful features and smartness that I really like about the originals. You can get more useful pocket space, but once you’ve got gusseted pockets all down your thighs you can’t cut the mustard for smartness. You can easily get nattier looking trousers, but not ones that’ll take 3 DVD-ROMs and an LTO tape cartridge and still let you walk normally, especially while keeping all your personal money etc. safe and separate from your other cargo. You can get things in nicer fabrics for sitting about, but not that won’t have holes after a while of crawling around dusty floors and slumming around departure lounges. Different folk will have their own compromise points in different places, but for work and travel I’ve not found anything that will quite replace them.
I guess they might have a more fashionable cut… but I’m over 40 and I don’t do fashion. More fashionable cuts in the range turn me off, I feel like I’m wearing flares! One of the great things about Rohan Bags is I know they’ll be just like I like next year, and the year after, whatever the in-crowd are flaunting. So I’d say their lack of fashion friendliness is a Feature, not a Bug.
Stuff I’d change… I never have gone through even the outer fabric on the double knees, so I probably wouldn’t miss the double knees being single. My favourites are an old bright scarlet pair and you can’t get those any more, so I’d like to see the brighter colours back (though to be honest I tended not to have the nerve to wear my yellow pair much, so they’re on the wall at Rohan Keswick blinding shoppers there). And that’s about it… I use all the pockets, but I don’t want any more of them, or for them to be any bigger (or smaller). I use the D-ring, I think the choice of one vertical and one horizontal pocket entrance on the back is inspired. There are belt loops when I want them, they don’t upset things when I don’t. Despite the plethora of zips and the rather complicated construction they appear quite unfussy. Airlight is a great all-round performer and while I like other fabrics for technical jobs, for a jack-of-all-trades it’s hard to beat.
It does take a bit of work to wear them out, but I’ve managed to get through several pairs in the ~ 20 years I’ve been using them. I’ll be getting through several more in time, unless someone (maybe Rohan themselves) manages to create something that does their job better. I’ll not hold my breath for a while though!
Rohan Clothing Review by PJ Clinch