I recently had the opportunity to one-bag travel with the Aer Travel Pack 2.0 and wanted to contribute my opinion to the bagosphere.This is a 33L pack geared toward those want to travel with only one bag and usually carry a laptop or other tech gear. Check out the video below or keep reading for my full written review.
Before we get to my impressions, let’s highlight some of the bag’s features.
Features and Tech Specs
- $230 USD
- Comes in black, grey and camouflage
- YKK zippers
- Duraflex buckles
- 3.7 pounds (without the hip belt which can be purchased separately)
- “Practical Lifetime Warranty”
- Company established in 2014
- Dimensions: 21.5″ tall, 13.5″ wide, 8.5″ deep
- Small enough to satisfy most airlines carry-on restrictions
- Fits up to a 17″ laptop
- Constructed from a very durable 1680 Cordura Ballistic Nylon
- Manufactured in China
- Available online and select stores
How Does it Feel?
The exterior material is a very sturdy Cordura. The tight weave resists stains, pet hair and water. Seriously, this thing repels just about anything that touches feels very soft to the touch. This was a surprise since my last travel bag was the GoRuck GR2 which, while also being very water resistant, attracted pet hair and was very rough against my skin and clothes.
When the pack is loaded up and on your back you’ll notice some light noise from the zippers swaying but due to some sort of powder coating or anodization on the zipper pulls it’s not very loud. There is ample padding on the back of the pack which feels lovely while carrying a heavy load.
The straps are extremely well padded and easy to adjust on-the-go. The pack has a high profile and comes with an adjustable (and removable) sternum strap and if you usually pack heavy you can purchase the add-on hip belt for $20.00. Although I try to pack as light as possible I still think the hip belt is a worthy accessory. I have a messed up back and try to keep as much of my carry weight on my hips as possible.
What is it Like to Use?
It’s great! Not only does it carry everything I need for a week (and if I’m going to wash my clothes then forever) it handles the weight well and fits under the seat in front of me on a domestic flight. I haven’t had a chance to test it on smaller or international flights but due to the moderate squish factor I don’t think it would be an issue.
From the outside of the bag, you can access the water bottle holder pocket. It’s a decent size and holds a thick and tall bottle easily. I never had any concern about my 17oz stainless steel bottle falling out. When you’re not using the water bottle holder, you can easily zip it up and the bag maintains its slim profile. The only annoying thing about the water bottle holder is that one of the compression straps sits just above it. It doesn’t hamper the holder’s usability but it might irk you sometimes. If, however, you choose to use the outside pocket to hold an umbrella or tripod, you can slip it under the compression strap and be assured that sucker isn’t going anywhere.
There are two carry handles – one large and padded on top of the bag and the other slightly less padded but still very soft and comfortable on the side of the bag. I used both during my travels found them to be easy to grab, comfortable against my palm and fingers, and well constructed. My only nitpick is I wish the top handle was tapered to accommodate the curvature of my hand while I grasped it. All in all, that’s a very small complaint.
The pack is lined with a ripstop nylon. On the black version of the bag (which is the only color I tested), the nylon is a charcoal grey and being a lighter color than the outside of the bag is nice for easily seeing your gear. The nylon isn’t quite as soft as I would have liked but it’s not too rough. I traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East with a Briggs and Riley roller bag and they really nailed it with their silky nylon fabric so I know AER could make this inner lining softer while maintaining durability.
On the outside of the pack there are three notable pockets – the outside pocket on the front of the pack, the quick access pocket on top of the pack, and the shoe compartment on the bottom of the pack.
The outside pocket has the beefiest zipper I have ever seen on such a small pocket. It’s certainly large enough to fit some snacks, socks, and travel papers but I’m still confused as to why this outside pocket has such a thick YKK zipper. Rest assured – it will not fail and it, along with the rest of the bag, has enough water proofing to stay dry during a massive down-pour.
I adore the quick access pocket. When I had the pack on the floor under the seat in front of me I was still able to easily access this upper pocket. When I sat the pack down next to me (and yes, it stands up on its own which is a bonus!), the quick access pocket was there waiting for me every time.
The shoe compartment sits on the bottom of the pack and keeps your kicks separate from your main gear. AER says it is large enough to fit men’s size 13 shoes and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration – this thing is huge. It’s lined with the same ripstop nylon which folds down in case you don’t want to use this pocket.
The AER has two main sections: an organizational area, and the main packing area.
The organizational area is a dream. There are tons of pockets to slip your baubles, dongles and pogey-bait. If you’re an organizational nut, this bag is like manna from heaven. I was able to fit my toiletry kit in the bottom area of this section but it could just as easily have a packable jacket or large noise-cancelling headphones stuffed down there.
The main packing area opens in a full clamshell which is ah-maz-ing for travel. If you haven’t had a chance to travel with a clamshell opening one-bag you owe it to yourself to try. The pack opens to lay flat and you can stuff all sorts of things into the main compartment. I travel with a medium and small packing cube and even with a full-sized pair of boots, the AER took it all in stride. Side-note: the shoe compartment on the bottom of the bag does take away from the space in the main compartment so if you’re putting your bulky boots in there you’ll have less space for your packing cubes. I traveled during the rainy season and while I don’t usually make use of shoe compartments I was grateful to have it when packing my dirty boots.
Within the main compartment there are two flat pockets, one with mesh and one without. They don’t have much dimension so they’re only suitable for flatter items. The mesh is absurdly rough and felt abrasive on my knuckles when I tried to use this pocket to the point that I never tried again. It’s so stiff that it actually bends and makes a pop / click noise when you apply pressure to it. Who knows, maybe I’m a wuss? See my video review above and you tell me.
The laptop compartment is placed so that your laptop rests flat against your bag. I have a 15″ MacBook Pro which the AER Travel Pack 2.0 practically swallowed. If you have a 17″ laptop, have no fears – that monster will easily fit in this pack. The big downside to the laptop compartment is that it doesn’t have a false bottom. Really, AER?! There is more than enough room for AER to have included a 1-2″ false bottom which practically guarantees that your expensive laptop is protected but they chose not to include it. Instead there is a small padded flap that sits on the bottom of the compartment and is designed to catch the bottom of the laptop and protect it from the floor if you need to quickly set your bag on the hard floor. Rather than have faith in the padded flap catching the bottom of the laptop as it should, I found myself being extra careful not to toss my bag on the floor. For a bag that has a 10 gauge zipper on what is arguably the least important pocket on the entire pack, I’m surprised they didn’t choose to beef up the laptop compartment.
It is worth noting that the bag is 21.5″ tall and so it might not meet the strict free personal item dimension for some of the stricter airlines (looking at you AirAsia and Spirit) but, again, if it’s not packed out fully you might be able to wrestle it in their demonic-boxes. Another consideration is that the bag weighs 3.7 pounds all by itself so if you’re flying on an airline that is known for weighing your carry-on luggage this might necessitate you learn the ways of the ultralight community.
Is it a Good Value?
Although this bag retails at $230 it is a wise investment. The AER Travel Pack 2.0 is an overbuilt bag and will stand the test of time. AER designers went a little nuts and built this bag the same way that Germans built their homes when they settled in North America. Not only is it a high-quality bag, but AER offers a killer warranty with a lot of happy customers. When traveling I was never concerned about a busted zipper or broken buckle and that peace of mind is priceless.
I recommend this bag to those who are looking for an affordable well-built bag.
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