Testing the Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Backpack

So a few years back, Minaal debuted with a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, funding a carry-on sized backpack designed for digital nomads and other lightweight travelers who only ever bring one bag. It’s been on my list of favorite travel backpacks ever since.

But competition has heated up since then, as more and more people realize that hauling a coffin-sized suitcase up a flight of stairs is a terrible idea. So Minaal has been hard at work on version 2.0, building on the original design with a number of seemingly-tiny details that add up to some major conveniences. It was already good, but now it’s even better. The video of them frolicking with their bag on the Kickstarter page was pretty fun too.

I’ve had my eye on this one for a long time, due to the size, features, and the professional appearance, and they sent me an early sample before the final production phase for testing and feedback (meaning there might be tiny differences between this one and the final version, but probably nothing noticeable). But enough about me. Let’s just get to it.

Minaal Carry-on Backpack 2.0

Here it is:

Minaal backpack overall view
Grey is my favorite color.

Stats

Stupid American numbers:

  • Height: 21.65″
  • Width: 13.77″
  • Depth: 7.87″
  • Weight: 3 lbs, 10 oz (including rain cover and hip belt)
  • Capacity: 35 liters (yes, Americans sometimes use liters too)

Civilized metric units:

  • Height: 55 cm
  • Width: 35 cm
  • Depth: 20 cm
  • Weight: 1.64 kg (including rain cover and hip belt)
  • Capacity: 35 liters

Price: $300

(The rain cover is included, but I think the hip belt will be sold separately. You’ll probably want it, though.)

The first thing you might notice is that it’s smaller than other maximum-sized carry-ons, which is deliberate; certain budget airlines in Europe have smaller luggage allowances than most North American airlines, making this a global carry-on, rather than just a North American one. If you can get by with less gear, you’ll gain the convenience of never having to check a bag. Also, the dimension that’s reduced most significantly is depth, meaning the weight will stay close to your back, just as it should.

What it looks like

Here’s the front:

Minaal backpack front view
I adore quiet logos.

This is the side that’s most likely going to end up flat on the ground, so it’s nice that it’s clean and unadorned.

Here’s the back panel:

Minaal backpack back panel view
I find these straps super comfortable, by the way.

Details worth noticing here include the cutouts in the back panel foam, which allow a bit of air circulation, and the clip to keep the sternum strap out of the way when you’re not using it. You can also clip things onto that strap that says “Minaal” on the left shoulder strap. It’s a good place for sunglasses, for example.

Here’s a view from the side (which is the top, when carried like a suitcase).

Minaal backpack handle side view
Sorry for how irritatingly dark this photo is.

Here’s the other side (or the bottom, when carried like a suitcase, so there’s no pocket on this side):

Minaal backpack blank side view
Nice and clean.

While we’re over here, you might notice one of the major changes to this version of the pack, which is how the side compression straps no longer use a quick-release buckle (the type used on the sternum and waist strap), but instead use a metal hook, which attaches to a small loop of nylon webbing. This not only allows for more compression, but the hook can be fixed in two positions; over the zippers, or out of their way:

Minaal backpack side hook
Notice how the two zippers are subtly color-coded.

While the original version required you to unclip the buckles to open up the pack, this version does not. The only time you might want to hook it all the way over is if you’ve overpacked, and you want to take some of the stress off the zippers. Aside from that, you can just leave the hooks clipped on that side forever, and never deal with them ever again. Despite being a simple clip update, it’s a major simplification.

What’s inside

Before we open things up, notice how the main compartment and laptop compartment both have locking zippers, and they’re close enough together to use the same lock:

Minaal Carry-on locking zippers
Because no one wants their socks to get stolen.

And yes, there’s a technique that allows thieves to open a zipper, even if it’s locked. It’s very annoying. But if you loop the lock through that grab handle, at least they won’t be able to hide the evidence. Just remember that nothing is ever 100% secure, but locking zippers are such an easy feature to include that I think it’s good to have them available.

Okay, moving on. Here’s one of the defining features of any good travel backpack: The ability to open up like a suitcase. If you’ve ever needed to dig something out of the bottom of a top-loading mountaineering pack, you’ll know how big a deal this is.

Minaal backpack opened up
You’ll have no excuses for being disorganized.

Speaking of organization, another major change with this version is that the two zippered pockets on the right are now three-dimensional, making them much more spacious than before. They’re basically built-in packing cubes now.

Minaal backpack organizer pockets packed
3-D: Good for bags, bad for movies.

This is actually even more helpful than you might imagine, because it mitigates one of the only potential issues with the overall design; because the main compartment is just one giant pocket with soft-sided walls, it has a tendency to collapse. It can be tricky to zip shut without small items falling out, whereas a backpack with more rigid walls wouldn’t do that. You can solve this problem with packing cubes, but with these are built right in, the overall design is now a lot more functional.

Since they have straight zippers instead of U-shaped zippers, I’d say they’re better at storing a few medium-sized items, rather than lots of little things. It can be difficult digging to the bottom of each pocket if all you pack in there is a bunch of socks, for example. It’s not a bad idea to use at least one “real” packing cube for smaller items in addition to the built-in pockets, and they’ve announced custom-sized packing cubes that’ll be available for this.

Moving on to the laptop compartment:

Minaal backpack laptop compartment
Your “office.”

It might be hard to see them all, but there are actually five compartments in there. On the bottom of the photo, you’ll see both a laptop sleeve and a tablet sleeve (both of which can be accessed either from the top or the side of the bag, which is a nice new feature). On the opposite side, there’s a document sleeve, for holding papers and notebooks, with a separate passport pocket inside. Lastly, there’s a zippered compartment just to the right, which is long and skinny, for pens, pencils, and maybe some cables.

A couple dedicated pen and pencil slots would have been useful, though you can use the passport pocket or the zippered compartment for those pretty easily. Also, I thought it might be good to have this compartment open up with a U-shaped zipper as well, but apparently testers said it was too big and floppy, so they stuck with the L-shaped one.

Transforming from suitcase to backpack

One of the major features of the bag is how the straps can be zipped away, so they’re better protected in case you need to send it through as a checked bag:

Minaal backpack strap protector
Safe and sound.

That panel is made of the same tough Cordura nylon as the rest of the bag, so the shoulder and hip straps won’t get snagged during transit.

When you convert it back to a backpack, you roll that panel up and tuck it back just above the shoulder straps, then clip these straps over it, which in this version are now magnetized:

Minaal backpack load lifter strap view
“Magnets, how do they work?”

Not only do the magnetized clips snap themselves into place, but the clips are also directional, kind of like hooks; with the straps pulling them tightly in one direction, they’ll stay in place, but all you have to do to detach them is push them the other way. This is a dorky thing to get excited about, but if you have to convert it back and forth from a backpack to a suitcase over and over again, you’re going to love this. It literally could not be simpler.

While we’re on the subject of straps, another major addition is the optional padded hip belt. It clips into an unobtrusive loop of nylon webbing, like this:

Minaal backpack hip belt attachment
Notice how the dangly end of the hip belt is trapped behind an elastic band, where it won’t annoy you.

It definitely feels like a “real” hip belt, and I expect for users of the original version (which had a non-padded hip belt), it’ll be a welcome change. It feels comfortable, and the clips are really easy to operate, while still feeling secure. And if you decide not to use the hip belt, all that’s left behind is a tiny loop of fabric that won’t get in the way.

Outside pockets

Not counting the main compartment or the laptop compartment, this bag features three pockets accessible from the outside (unless you count the rain cover compartment, which would be a fourth), which are helpful for storing small items that you need to grab quickly.

Along the side is the water bottle pocket, made of a tough fabric instead of mesh, so it’ll last longer. It also has an adjustable, elastic cord to hold things snugly, regardless of size:

Minaal backpack water bottle pocket
Mesh is always the first thing to deteriorate. Fabric is better.

At first I thought that a conventional pocket with an elastic band sewn across the top would have worked better, but then I was informed of this little trick:

Minaal water bottle pocket trick
Tricksy.

This allows you to hold bottles securely, even when the pack is lying horizontally in a cargo hold. As you can probably guess, it works best with tapered water bottles, like that one.

But I like storing the water bottle up here too:

Minaal backpack exterior pocket with water bottle
Every pocket is a water bottle pocket if you just stick a water bottle in there.

Sure, it’ll take up some internal space, but it’ll keep the weight balanced, and it won’t fall out. I like using that side pockets for even smaller things, like maybe an umbrella.

There’s also a second pocket across the top, with a key clip:

Minaal backpack exterior pockets
I also like how wide these zipper openings are.

If you look closely, there’s also a hidden, zippered pocket inside this one. I’d be willing to bet half the users of this pack don’t even know it’s there, because it’s hiding so well.

There’s also a hidden compartment along the bottom of the pack, which includes a detachable rain cover:

Minaal backpack rain cover
Never let rain ruin your day. Or your computer.

When it’s packed up inside, it forms a cushion along the bottom of the pack. It also has a tiny stuff sack built into itself, so you can store it elsewhere, or leave it at home.

(Oddly, the rain cover elastic on mine was incredibly tight; I actually switched it with the rain cover from the new Minaal Daily backpack, which was bigger for some reason. I expect this may have been a random error, and I only just noticed it…but if you get one that seems really tight, maybe send them an email about it.)

Conclusions

There was a moment a few years ago when more and more carry-on sized backpacks started showing up, and Minaal was a big part of that, with the winning combination of carry-on dimensions, suitcase-style entry, laptop protection, and rugged good looks. With this update, they’ve enhanced the functionality, by adding the padded hip belt, the 3-D organizer pockets in the main compartment, the document sleeve, and all the new clips, which make using the bag a lot simpler. Despite looking like minor tweaks, I think they’re great improvements to an already-great design.

The only things I might change would be to use a more conventional water bottle pocket with sewn-in elastic (although now that I’ve seen that elastic loop trick, I’m coming around to it), and I’d probably add a few pen or pencil slots somewhere. I might also test out U-shaped zippers on those 3-D compartments, to make them even more like packing cubes. As mentioned, the walls of the main compartment have a tendency to collapse, so you’ll want to make use of those 3-D compartments to mitigate this problem, or use a few packing cubes to keep things together. And sooner or later they should probably add more colors, because this has been doing so well that someday there’ll be six people in the same hostel with the same bag.

Certain people out there might want a larger bag, or a cheaper one; but this was designed for digital nomads who travel with a single carry-on. As such, it’s sized to accommodate the strict requirements of budget carriers, and is densely packed with lots of built-in features, which is reflected in the price. It’s easy to see why it’s been such a consistent Kickstarter success. I really like it.

So if you like what you see, get it here.

And enjoy a bonus kitty:

Kitty loves backpack
He’s pretty good too.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

View all posts by SnarkyNomad

89 Comments on “Testing the Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Backpack”

  1. Any thoughts against the Tom Bihn Aeronaut (smaller one, not the 45)? At first glance, it seems this is better if you prefer the backpack more and the Aeronaut if you like a duffle more?

    1. Yeah, that’s what I would say is the major difference. This is optimized to be a backpack first, whereas the Aeronaut is optimized to be a shoulder bag first; it has a non-padded hip belt (at least for now), a regular fabric back panel instead of mesh or something like that, and it just looks like a shoulder bag. I do like the fact that it’s convertible, though. Another strength of the Aeronaut is that you can open up all the pockets, and its footprint isn’t any bigger, whereas the Minaal requires you to unfold it, and it’s pretty long (though propping it up against a wall is helpful). Also, the Aeronaut is much more rigid and structured, so it’s easier to pack without any walls collapsing. No dedicated laptop pocket though. I don’t necessary think one design is better, as they’re both optimized with a specific purpose in mind, and they both do it quite well.

    1. Yeah. If you want a max-sized backpack for North American airlines, go with Tortuga. Pretty much no question. The Minaal is good if you want to go a little smaller and use it as a carry-on on the more strict airlines, but if you want the maximum available space on the more lenient carriers, I think Tortuga is probably the way to go. You can also conceal its straps to use it as a checked bag in case you do run into those budget airlines. I think the Rick Steves Convertible Carry-On has a similar set of features, and it’s half the price, although I think Tortuga uses a tougher fabric, so I expect it might hold up better over time. The only other option would be if you want something that you’re going to use as a shoulder bag, in which case I like the Tom Bihn Aeronaut.

        1. I like the overall design, but it’s missing a hip belt. That was deliberate, so that people of any torso size could use it, and it’s smaller, so you’re not going to be carrying heavy loads. But even if it’s just 25 liters (and it expands to 37), it can still get pretty heavy if it’s full. Bigger people will be able to handle it just fine, but I’m small enough that I wish it had a detachable hip belt just like this one. But aside from that, I think it’s great.

        1. For certain budget airlines, yes, but that’s why it was designed to store its backpack straps behind a panel, just like the Minaal. Occasionally you might be able to squish it into the measuring device anyway (it’s only a matter of inches or half inches), but it’s worth thinking about. Tortuga built the smaller Tortuga Air for this and other reasons, although that one doesn’t have a hip belt, so it might get tiring to carry it around all the time, especially when it’s full.

          1. My partner Simon has been travelling with the Tortuga full-time for about 18 months and has had no problems on budget airlines including Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe and Air Asia, Tiger, and Jetstar in Asia. He definitely recommends it.

          2. I saw that post, and I definitely like the Tortuga. If you’re going to get a 45 liter pack, there’s not much reason to get anything else. I’ve also heard of people traveling with the REI Vagabond 40, which for some inexplicable reason is 2″ longer than regular North American airline limits, and they seem to get away with it just fine. Under-packing it just a bit is a good way to be able to squish it into the carry-on measurement requirements in case an overzealous ticket agent wants to check the size.

  2. Eytan, Thanks for yet another detailed review. Have you ever looked at the Patagonia Transport MLC Travel Backpack? It is another less than max size backpack, carry-on. I travel more on business than pleasure and have been eyeing it for my next bag.

    1. There’s a lot that I like about the overall design, but I couldn’t live without a hip belt. If you want it to be a shoulder bag, or you’re big enough to use just the backpack straps, then I think it great. Another one to look at would be the Tom Bihn Aeronaut, which is lacking the laptop compartment, but some people like to use a separate smaller backpack anyway.

  3. Great review of this, Eytan! I ordered one (along with all the optional straps, belts, and packing cubes they offered in their most recent Kickstarter at the end of 2015) and am glad your review reinforced a number of the things that led me to purchase this. While I have more one-bag travel gear from more brands than I could ever use (a hobby?), this latest Minaal seems a good addition.

    Any thoughts to the weight / quality / strength / hair stickiness of the fabric or how the laptop compartment may help maintain its shape so things placed inside it do not get crushed?

    Thanks!

    1. Pet hair does stick to it, but I don’t find it to be a big deal. Maybe if you have dogs that shed light-colored hair all over, it might be a nuisance, but otherwise, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. When you’re on the road it’s going to get dusty sooner or later anyway. If there’s something else out there that fixes it, great, but in the meantime, it’s not going to ruin my day. It’s a tough fabric with a soft feel, without the shiny synthetic appearance of some other types.

      The laptop compartment does give it some extra structure, although the foam back padding is fairly stiff already. I think the use of packing cubes is a good way to keep things from getting squished, since packing cubes basically nudge you into pre-packing inside little boxes, so you don’t get so many unsightly bulges sticking out, and it also provides more structure.

  4. I was an early Kickstarter backer thanks to your earlier review of their first bag, and this makes me even more excited for when my carry arrives! Would love to see any feedback you get from Doug & Jimmy from your early preview.

    1. I’ve handled it in a store, and it definitely has great security features, especially with those theft-proof zippers. I usually like a few more pockets on the outside, for small things like sunglasses, an umbrella, a book, and so on, and this doesn’t have that. I can see why they chose to do things that way, as they were trying to make the pack as secure as possible, without having to put multiple locks all over the place. I suppose you only need to lock it when you leave it back in your room, so maybe while you’re walking around you can just leave it unlocked, and then it’s easy. I think it’s a solid design, aside from the relatively small number of pockets, but it’s a pros and cons thing which gains you lock simplicity.

      The only other one I know of that has theft-proof zippers would be Numinous Packs, although at the moment they don’t have one in this size range.

      By the way, theft-proof zippers work by having teeth on both sides. They’re basically just regular “coil” zippers, which you’ve probably seen before (they’re found on almost all good outdoor gear and backpacks), but with coils on both sides. It’s neat how it works.

  5. This is the first in-depth look at the Carry-On 2.0 that I’ve seen. Congratulations on being able to break the news.

    Will you be reviewing the Daily as well?

    1. Maybe. I like it a lot, but it’s fairly simple and self-explanatory, so I don’t know if a full review would be all that useful. The only thing that’s missing is a water bottle pocket, but there’s a grab handle on that side, and full-length zippers, so there’s no room for it. It would have required removing one of those other features to free up the space. Got any questions on it?

      1. So besides the lack of water bottle pocket, is it identical to the 2.0? How much does it weigh?

        I like that it can be converted to a appropiately-sized, nice-looking briefcase for work and am thinking of using it for travel too (I’m a light traveler).

        1. It’s very similar; aside from the lack of water bottle pocket, it has no hip belt (which I think is fine for a pack that size), and it has one outside zip pocket instead of two, though it does add some pen slots and small pockets for credit cards and other small items on the inside of one of the zippered slots in the main compartment (which are 2D instead of 3D, though that’s fine for something this size, too). It also uses a different method to stow the shoulder straps, but it works just fine. It weighs 2 lbs, 6 oz. I like it a lot. Very simple, professional-looking, functional, and convertible into a briefcase. It’s a good daypack size, and maybe an overnighter or a weekend trip size if you’re packing light.

          1. wish the daily had molle / attachments points for umbrella / tripods or a place to hang things off the bag like a towel.

            are you aware of any workarounds ?

          2. Yeah, the grab handle on the side. It’s not much, but it should work well enough for one or two things.

          3. oh well, Heimplanet monolith is the other bag i’ve come across with daily’s backpack /briefcase mode. but Minaal looks a lot more professional.

  6. Any thoughts on the Timbukt2 Aviator Convertible Travel Backpack http://www.timbuk2.com/aviator-travel-backpack/522.html It seems like it would fall into a similar category as the Minimal. The look is understated. It built with quality materials. It has a decent looking hip belt. It is heavier, which seems to be an issue for some people based off of internet reviews. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I like the overall design a lot, but I wish it were lighter, and bigger. I tried it out in a store, and it just feels so heavy for a pack that size, and since it can’t carry that much, it’s better for lighter loads…but it’s not that great for lighter loads, since it’s heavier. It has a lot of extra straps and decorative elements stitched in that look like they’re adding some weight here and there. So I think the layout is good, but I’d like to see a 35 liter version that’s only 3 pounds.

  7. Thoughts on the GORUCK?
    http://www.goruck.com/gr1-black-/p/GEAR-000574

    Trying to decide between the new Minaal and a GORUCK — needs to work on European discount airlines, do a good job protecting a laptop, look good in meetings and still be a comfortable backpack with padded waist belt to hike around with for an under 5’5″ human. I have an older Rick Steves backpack and it’s been good, but think more structure would be welcome.

    Thanks.

    1. There’s a lot that I like about it, but it’s expensive, heavy, and has a weird hip belt. Aside from that, I like the overall design, and plenty of people like it. The hip belt might work fine, but it’s clear that it wasn’t designed with one to begin with, and they had to figure out a way to attach a hip belt using the existing straps. They don’t even list the weight on the site, but the 40 liter version is over 5 pounds, which is 2 pounds heavier than anything else that size. They’re using super-tough materials, but that’s still really heavy.

      A lot of this comes down to personal preference, but those are the biggest issues for me with the design. It also doesn’t have too many options for pockets that are easily accessible from the outside, although it does have some internal pockets, so that helps.

      By the way, check back here in a day or two and there’ll be a review for something you might like.

      1. Good for me to consider the weight more carefully, especially as my Rick Steves is very light and my other point of reference is a Gregory daypack which weighs almost nothing until I fill up the 3L water bladder. Will look for the new review!

  8. Thank you for this review! I’m really liking a lot of the improvements they’ve made.

    I’ve been considering this pack for a while, but being on the smaller side it’s hard to find something that would fit with the hip strap at the right place and not tower over my shoulders. If it’s not too much trouble would you mind appending the review with modeling views of the Minaal 2.0 worn on people of different height? Preferably including someone towards the 5-foot end of the spectrum? Thank you!

    1. Hmm…I actually don’t have any easily-accessible friends who are that size, though I wear a men’s size small, and I think the straps work quite nicely for somewhat smaller people. One of the things this pack does differently is that its backpack straps don’t emerge from the very top; they attach a few inches lower, and they use those stabilizer straps to pull the very top of the pack closer to your back. This means they won’t tower over your shoulders as much as others.

      The distance from where the straps attach to the pack to the top of the hip belt is 15 inches, and the distance all the way to the very base of the pack is 18.75 inches, so hopefully you’ll be able to compare something you’ve got at home to those numbers.

  9. Hi Eytan,

    I’m glad i found your website, such a good detailed reviews and advices. Thank you for all of these. Actually, i have found you when i tried to find a good 25-30(max) liter backpack and light packers blogs. But Your “top” list is above of all these liter options -maybe I didn’t found it yet, sorry if you post them already. This will be my first long term travel and due the nature of my job this one month Korea – Japanese is already mindblowingly long for me and it will be a budget travel. I have herniated disks and i afraid to carry backpack so long but I have to do this for one month fast pace travel and i need ergonomic designes for a 165 cm woman. I read countless of good packpack articles, advices yet i simply have no chance to try any of them because I live in Turkey and here is people think i probably ask some 50+ liter outdoor backbacks for hiking or camping. I’m hopeless.

    Minaal Caary on is huge for me, looks like it’s usefull as a laptop case and such. I wont put any of these heavy electronics in my back and i prefer a two pair of good dress for a high satisfaction. And I don’t think i can fit this any small Japan train station lockers -which is almost everywhere in japan, it’s a good idea to be free of your bag when you land in a station- Arg. Please help me, i really lost my way. I’m pretty sure you already know or heard of them. thank you.

    1. Take a look at the Tortuga Air, the Gregory Border 25, and anything from Tom Bihn, and Ivar Packs. Not all of those options will open up all the way like a suitcase, but they open more fully than a lot of other backpacks that size.

      The reason I don’t talk much about backpacks this size is that most people can’t go that small, so that’s why I recommend backpacks from 35 to 45 liters for most people. Even 45 is a challenge for people who are used to bringing a big suitcase, and sometimes it requires buying different clothes, so I don’t try to convince them to go all the way down to 25.

  10. Have you looked at the new Patagonia headway MLC 45L. I know you like the hip belt feature and this doesn’t provide one, but other than that what do you think?

    1. I think it’s great. They currently have two options; the MLC and the Headway MLC, though it looks like differences are very minor, and not super important.

  11. I like the 3D packing cubes, but as you say, they gotta make the zippers U shaped.

    They also lack a few more compartments. Where do you put your adapter and charger?

    1. Yeah, they don’t have a dedicated charger pocket, but I think that has to do with the laptop compartment being relatively flat, and a charger would have to bulge in one direction or another. Plus the laptop and tablet sleeves also need empty space above and to the side, so laptops can slide in and out, so it would be tricky to put the pockets there. And since the document sleeve is on the opposite side, taking up most of the space on that wall, there wasn’t a whole lot of extra room in that area. So into the other compartment it goes.

  12. Appreciate your detailed review. Looking to buy a couple for my wife and I. She is only 5′ tall…is this bag going to be too big for her? If so, any recommendations for the smaller folk amongst us?

    Thanks!

    1. I’ve heard from small people that it’s too big, but I think it has an advantage over other designs, since the backpack straps don’t emerge from the very top of the bag, but rather just a couple inches lower. I’m fairly small (I wear a men’s size small), and this works quite nicely for me. Osprey makes several of its bags in multiple sizes, so that’s another option if this one doesn’t work.

  13. Hi Eytan, great review!

    I’ve been researching a few backpacks that look to be right on par with all the features of this new Minaal 2.0. I also read your review of the Slicks Backpack (nice features btw). My favorites based on research alone are:

    – Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Bag | 35L | 3.625 lbs | Padded Hip-Belt (Removable) | Rear Laptpop Suspension (17″)
    Lowepro HighLine BP 400 AW | 36L | 3.74 lbs | Hide-Away Webbing Hip Belt | Rear Laptpop Suspension (15″)
    – Pacsafe Venturesafe™ 45L GII Anti-theft | 45L | 3.46 lbs | Hide-Away Padded Hip | Front Laptpop Pocket (15″)
    – Osprey Ozone Convertible 50L/22″ | 50L | 6.33 lbs | Full Suspension System | Daypack Laptpop Pocket (15″)
    – Alchemy-Equipment AEL008 Carry-on | 45L | 3.63 lbs | Removable Padded Hip-Belt | Rear Laptpop Suspension
    – Goruck GR2 | 40L | 5.30 lbs | Removable Padded Hip-Belt | Rear Laptpop Suspension (17″)

    1) I would love to get your opinion on these and
    2) which one would you pick for a year long journey all over Southeast Asia?

    Thanks!

    1. Let’s see…I think the Lowepro looks nice, although the non-padded hip belt might not be cushioned enough for a pack this size; the Pacsafe is great for its safety features, although it would be nice to have some easily-accessible exterior pockets (so you could just leave one compartment unlocked); the Osprey Ozone actually avoids some of Osprey’s usual annoyances (the side pockets on the backpack don’t have straps going right over them); I’m not seeing a hip belt on the Alchemy Equipment AEL008; the Goruck is heavy, and expensive, although I do like how they added the optional hip belt.

      A lot of this just comes down to personal preference, but I like a mix of interior and exterior pockets, suitcase-style opening, and a padded hip belt (unless the pack is really small). Most of these have great organization, but when it’s fully packed and you’re stuck walking for 3 hours in the middle of nowhere, the ones with padded hip belts are probably the ones that you’ll like the most. And I generally avoid rolling suitcases, but there’s nothing objectively wrong with them, until you get to staircases, or cobblestones. They’re better for hotel travel than “backpacking,” since you’ll more likely be in hotels with elevators, rather than hostels with awkward spiral staircases. So for all those reasons, I’d personally narrow that list down to the Minaal, the Pacsafe, and the Goruck, and pick the one with the layout you think will keep you best organized.

      1. SnarkyNomad,

        I appreciate your reply. Since the Minaal is on a discounted pre-order, I bit the bullet and bought it so that I can try it out. I can always sell it on eBay if it’s not for me.

        Companion Bag
        So I’m not a seasoned traveler and don’t know what the ultralight life is like. I know that I shouldn’t be preparing myself to take more than what can fit in the Minaal, but if I do need to take more, what would you recommend as a companion? I’ve been looking at shoulder bags like the Pacsafe Z400 Shoulder Bag. The downside to this mentality is that on travel days I will always have to carry the companion bag with me, so it defeats the purpose of being mobile.

        Daypack
        Finally, what packable daypack would you recommend me to take with the Minaal setup? I’ve read your other articles but it seems that every year they come up with an incredible pack. I’ve been checking these 2016 products out from Patagonia and Eddie Bauer.

        Thanks again for the response. Let me know what you think.

        1. No problem. As for the shoulder bag or daypack issue, it just comes down to personal preference. I tend to prefer backpacks, but it’s not because of some objectively better reason. I like Patagonia, but the tote bag backpack just seems weird-looking to me; the Eddie Bauer one looks fine, and they have good products and a good warranty, as far as I can recall. Looks like it has a good mix of pockets and features, so I think it’ll work as well as can be expected from something tiny and packable like that.

  14. Any thoughts on the SOLO carry-on backpack? Trying to decide between minaal, patagonia mlc and standard’s luggage (SOLO) backpacks for a 3 week trip to Patagonia (from buenos aires to ushuaia) in december.
    Thanks!

    1. I like the Standard Luggage design quite a bit, although I wish it had a hip belt. If you’re fine without it, then I expect it’s a solid choice (though I haven’t tried it out in person, so I don’t know about fine details or durability or other details). I like the fact that it has that expansion zipper to modify it from budget carry-on requirements up to regular carry-on requirements, so you can switch back and forth if necessary. Between that and the Patagonia MLC, I’d say it’s just a matter of personal preference as to the overall layout. But I still need that hip belt, so out of those three, I’d personally take the Minaal.

      1. Thanks for the reply! Loved your complete review on the minaal. One more question though, what carry-on/backpack would you recommend for traveling without a laptop?
        Thanks in advance.

        1. I’d probably still consider all the same options, because they have everything else going for them, and the only downside is they have an extra layer of cushioning where a laptop was supposed to go, which usually just ends up as extra back padding anyway.

          1. Actually I just ordered the Minaal backpack. Even though I wanted something in the 40-45L range I truly like the minaal 2.0 version. Now my husband has to decide between the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45, Patagonia Headway MLC, and the SOLO bag (hope he decides for the SOLO).
            Thanks again for your advise! Looking forward to your next review.

  15. Thanks for this review! I’m disappointed it won’t be available until May.

    I’ll be backpacking in Southeast Asia for just over two months in April, do you think these types of backpacks are suitable for such trips? I’ve been researching bags for a couple of hours and I’m still no closer to making a decision. Do you have any specific recommendations?

    Here are my carry on allowances: 55 x 40 x 23 cm

    Thanks

    1. Yeah, the Gregory Border 35 is actually pretty similar to this, with a lower price, but fewer features. If your question about whether this type of bag is suitable for traveling through Southeast Asia, the answer is yes; there are plenty of people who bring hiking packs, but if you’re not going hiking, you won’t be making use of the extra features like the ice axe loops and so on, so there isn’t much point. If you’re traveling more so than hiking, then suitcase-style openings and other travel-friendly features are more likely to come in handy than hiking features.

      1. Thanks for getting back to me, I agree with what you say about hiking backpacks, I’m only going for just over 2 months, and I won’t be out in the wild at all.

        The Gregory Border 35 looks great, but unfortunatly I can’t seem to find it being sold in the UK. I could get it shipped over here, I’d just be wary of the custom charges. Do you know of any similar packs manufactured in the EU?

        I may take the hit and just go with the Gregory Border 35 if not.

        1. I’m able to find the Osprey Farpoint 40 avaliable over here, do you have experience of this one? wondering how it would stack up against the Gregory Border 35. Thanks again.

          1. The Farpoint does a few things that annoy me, but I can’t really say it’s objectively “bad.” Just maybe not as conveniently organized as the others I prefer.

        2. Slicks is based in Switzerland and if you go as fast as you can I think you can get in before the Kickstarter ends. Not sure how quickly it’ll ship, though. Aside from that…I’m based in the US, so I don’t know nearly as many European alternatives, but I kind of expect there just aren’t quite as many (and they’re pretty rare for us, too).

          1. Hi Snarky,

            Just wanted to let you know I managed to source a Gregory Border 35 from Germany before my trip, luckily I knew someone there who could post it over for me, as all the companies where declining due to licensing issues.

            So glad I spent the time reading sites like yours and took your recommendation before I set off travelling for the first time with a 60L bag or something crazy. Everyone commented on the size of my bag compared to their’s, but I could not have imagine having anything bigger, what a farce that would of been.

            True to another one of your articles, next time I’ll be taking even less with me, so will have plenty of room in the 35L backpack :D

            Cheers dude.

          2. Glad to know you were happy with it. I’m sad to see it go, as I thought it was a pretty solid design, and fairly budget-friendly as well.

  16. Hey there, great review (and adorable kitty)!
    I’ll be wanting to replace my Kelty in the summer and the Minaal is looking like an amazing option.

    Would you mind if I added some of your pros about the Minaal carry-on to Slant.co (http://www.slant.co/topics/5458/~carry-on-travel-backpacks-with-a-separate-laptop-compartment)? I’ll attach references that link back to your blog/review.
    You’re welcome to contribute the pros/cons yourself of course if you’d prefer.

    Thanks so much!

  17. Hi. I got myself a Lowe Alpine AT Carry-On 45. Liked the size at 55 x 35 x 20-25, convertible backpack and carry bag, security zippers and durable nylon fabric

    Am looking at a second travel backpack. How do you think the above compares to the Minaal 2.0

    Elmer

    1. Looks like it has enough features on the outside, but I don’t see a hip belt. That’s a deal breaker for me, but otherwise it seems to have some of the features I look for. I’m having trouble finding pictures of the inside, but I expect it’s one big pocket so it’s probably fine.

  18. Do you have a good discussion of travel backpacks versus roller bags? I used a Victorinox, which could be used both as a backpack or as a roller bag. In my travels, I’ve used it as a backpack only a couple of times (mainly during really rainy times where I needed to get the luggage off the ground). I’ve since shifted to a Briggs and Riley, which allows me to cinch my Kendal Satchel. The combo allows me to go through airports very quickly—and never check a bag. That bag stays in the hotel, BnB, and I have a smaller bag for adventuring about.

    So, it’s not clear to me the motivation for restricting oneself to only 1 bag and no wheels. Maybe my travel is too European-focused?

    1. I think if you travel through countries with cobblestone streets, or no streets at all, so they’re filled with mud, or if you have to walk up 5 flights of stairs in a building where there’s no elevator, backpacks start to make more sense. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using a small backpack and a rolling bag, and it’s often much more comfortable, but in certain situations you’ll run into trouble.

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