This post was sponsored by grünBAG, all opinions my own.

Travelling home for the holidays is something I’m basically an expert in now. I left home in 2011, and have been faithfully making the trip back North every few months since. While I haven’t lived there in years I still love Newcastle passionately. I can only go a few months before I’m itching for another visit to my home; to be surrounded by geordie accents, to say ‘howay man’ and have people know what you mean, to get a cup of tea at Quilliams, and in December to walk by Fenwicks window Christmas display while Brian Blessed’s voice enthusiastically booms ‘Merry Christmas!’ at you.

If you understand any of the things I just wrote above, we may be best friends now. And if you don’t, I’m sure you can relate. There’s something about coming home that brings out a different side in us, as we visit past spots, catch up with childhood friends and fall into old routines. But amongst this nostalgia and rekindling of friendship, there’s also a more practical side to visiting home, which is amplified tenfold during the holidays and can cause some serious stress.

Luckily for me this year is different, as grünBAG has been helping me stay prepared.

I’ve found travelling during the holidays to be a consistently stressful affair: involving carting a bunch of presents, which for me is often homemade products in heavy glass jars, and a ton of bulky layers because of the cold. It’s honestly a bit of a nightmare every December, and it means that something as simple as having a good backpack really becomes make or break. Because for that train ride (and the time spent dragging my stuff to the station) having a convenient way to have all the essentials on hand and kept safe suddenly becomes a lot more pressing.

I had a feeling this year would be different now that I’ve found grünBAG. Their bags are so hard wearing, versatile and beautiful that I’ve been using my black backpack pretty much non-stop since March. They can survive just about any climate you throw at them, to the extent that they have a specially designed Architect bag, because they can withstand the mess of construction sites and come out completely clean on the other side, and they protect everything inside thoroughly. My backpack has been my roomy everyday choice, my rain resistant friend, and my constant travel companion. In fact I even took a four day trip to Oslo with everything I needed rolled up and packed inside, safe from the outside world. On a design level, they’re a near perfect product.

The ethics behind grünBAG’s pieces are pretty impeccable too. Each bag is ethically hand made in Denmark from recycled industrial materials including old seat belts, lifeboats, vinyl advertisements and big bags. Most of the backpacks are made from material left over from producing truck covers and party tents. It has never been used, but would have been sent to landfill an an offcut regardless. As a material it’s incredibly strong and durable, rip resistant, stain resistant, doesn’t lose much colour or shape, and is completely waterproof. The shoulder straps are made from recycled plastic and lined with a soft fabric created from large thermal suits, sourced from Viking Lifesaving Equipment. In the Alden backpack, pictured, these thermal materials also line the internal computer bag, while the other inside pockets are made from mesh that was once advertising banners in Denmark. Apart from a few small components made from virgin materials, such as velcro, their bags are comprised of 90% recycled materials.

When grünBAG asked if I’d be interested in trying out their new Alden design, which was developed in collaboration with the Ecocult founder herself and is specially designed for travellers/digital nomads, I jumped at the chance. It comes with added practical design elements, including two external pockets for a reusable water bottle and anything else you need at hand, a lined computer pocket inside for 13″ laptop, two internal small pockets and a large A4 pocket, and an external zippered pocket that is hidden underneath the fold down flap, allowing you quicker access to valuables but hiding them from pickpockets. It’s just as strong, durable, lightweight and waterproof as other designs, but with added convenience. Plus it’s still so roomy it’s a little hard to believe. It seemed like the perfect option for getting me home and all the places in between; I’m moving around for a whole month this holiday season, and have a lot of train rides and suitcase dragging ahead of me.

Now you see it, now you don’t: the perfect accessible secret pocket!

My hunch turned out to be right. I took this blue Alden backpack for its first travel this week: a walk to the train station, a 5 hour train journey to London (involving a platform change), and a bus ride. Honestly, it was surprising how convenient this bag made the journey. Having an easily accessible water bottle is so handy when you’re on the go, plus that secret pocket was the perfect place to stash necessities. My laptop was kept safely close at hand, and those extra pockets helped me separate my electronics and essentials to avoid major cable tangling and confusion. Instead of rummaging through a mess of stuff, my things were kept safe, secure and somewhat organised.

I won’t lie, the twenty minute walk from my house to the train was still hard. I was basically dragging my own weight in my suitcase but, as the presents begin to be unloaded in the coming weeks, this was definitely the most difficult the journey will ever be. And I survived it! Once I’d gotten the case on the train everything else was really fuss-free. All my essentials were neatly organised and safely stored in my backpack; while in the past this would have been an extra source of stress, this time it was so much easier and more efficient. grünBAG isn’t just ethical, sustainable, and durable, they genuinely make life easier.

Take it from me, the smallest person dragging the biggest bag around the country for the next month. If they made my journey easier, they’ll certainly make yours simpler too. And with the added features of the Alden backpack, they’re even more useful than they were before. I may still need to take a few more weights classes to get my suitcase up the stairs, but grünBAG will basically sort everything else out for you.