Aer Travel Pack 2 Review
Bullet proof? Perfect onebag travel pack? We'll see about that.
Introduction To The Aer Travel Pack 2 Review
Aer has been here before. I mean, you don't get to make a version 2 without a 1, yeah? Captain obvious points aside, Aer had a pretty successful run with their first version of the pack. I think you can consider them another one of the stars of the "onebag" travel scene. On top of that, they specialize in minimal, near bulletproof designs with everything you need, and nothing you don't. That was the version 1 forte. I didn't review that one, but I'm excited to have this one in the Always Wander studios. Yeah by that I mean my apartment. Leave me alone, I've got to start somewhere.
The bag promises top notch materials, good water resistence, and lots of functionality while also not making you stand out too much in the crowd - something a lot of experienced travelers want. Gone are the days of the giant hiking back pack stuffed to the gills (or at least, they should be gone) - unless you're you know, hiking. Does it deliver?
This is my review of the Aer Travel Pack 2. For full disclosure, I purchased this bag on my own so it was not provided by the company as a review unit. In either scenario, the opinions and thoughts would all be my own regardless. I've had no interaction with Aer prior to writing this review. Read on!
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Aer Travel Pack 2 Overview
This bag has been featured by the likes of the New York Times and Wirecutter, and with good reason. There's a lot to offer here. Let's start with the basics.
The total volume is 33 liters, which is just about my wheelhouse range for onebag travel. I tend to like 35-45 liters, depending on the trip (the larger end for something like a wedding or a trip with dinners that will require a jacket and additional shoes).
It's made of 900D fabric that's eco-dyed. You've got brand name hardware like Duraflex clips, and the old standby YKK zippers. This community dings any company not using YKK, so glad to see it there to keep the internet hounds at bay. They use hefty zippers, too. Which I like. Not positive, but I'll guess an 8 or 10 sized. The laptop zipper uses an aquaguard version - nice to see. All but the shoe compartment and top pocket are lockable, but those do not provide access to the internal main compartment. I mean if someone wants to nick your travel shoes, jokes on them.
It's also got plenty of pockets, an external water bottle holder, grab handles, and a nice harness system.
The bag retails on their site for $230.00 USD, though they do occasionally have sales like any other company. The bag comes in black, the gray I have, and navy blue. I don't say this often, but I regret not getting the black. Something about it just looks perfect on this bag.
Additional Aer Travel Pack 2 Features
I mentioned this bag has a lot to offer, and that's true so let's go over that. It's got lots of features, but nothing you really don't need. There is a water bottle holder on the outside. You can see it pictured with my portable French press. I'm not a water bottle pocket guy, so I can take these or leave them. But for you large water bottle people, you might not dig this one. This is going to be better for taller, thinner bottles or even an umbrella. The bag has external compression straps (foreshadow alert - stay tuned), a laptop sleeve for up to a 15.6 incher, and a luggage pass through on the back if you're not using this as your only bag.
The front of the bag is dominated by two nice pockets. The bottom one, takes up half the bag and has its own volume. It's not just a slash pocket with no space. That's important because it means you can put something in there that's 3D. Like a headphones case or tech pouch (I used the Bellroy version). The top portion of the front is going to house your organizational pocket. This one I'd call pretty standard - but everything you need. It's got a lot of options in there to organize how you like. Again, this has its own volume so if you aren't using the internal pockets, it's another good place to store something that might have a little extra chunk. No not your younger sibling that doesn't get outside enough. I mean like the aforementioned tech pouch or headphones case.
On top of the bag, there's a quick access pocket that's good for the usuals: phone, sunglasses case, keys, multi-tool, whatever. Note, it is not fleece lined. On the bottom of the bag, there is a shoe compartment. Now, I tend to not use these because they take up volume inside the bag and I think it wastes space when I'm playing packing Tetris. But in my reader's best interests, I used it while testing and frankly, does what it was supposed to do and I was able to work it into my packing flow so it was just another "cube". The things I do for you guys!
Rounding the feature set out we have two inner pockets on the flap inside the bag. A few sections down you can see that I used these like packing cubes which I would guess is their job. Or, it would be a good place for your cord/power brick to keep it from flopping around in your bag. Nice zipper pulls, some D rings scattered about, and a back panel with both a middle channel for airflow (minimal, but good to see) and an internal plastic frame which I was also happy to see. It's not very common. Lastly, there is a sternum strap which I removed immediately, and there are loops to use hip belts on - I did not have these accessories.
Awesome build quality and materials, right down to the zipper pulls. They even have a special addition version made with some high tech, waterproof sail cloth so be sure to check that out if that's your jam. I really like the decisions they made in general with what to include. The front pockets are just what I like to use when I travel since I use a tech case and often my full size headphones in their case. Not having front pockets with their own volume is a miss for my style of travel. Great job, Aer. I will say though that the organizational pocket, if you don't need to have your tech kit on you while you travel, is really good. It will take the place of a tech pouch just fine, lots of options inside there.
I do also like the pockets inside the front opening. If you want, you can use these like extra packing cubes and that's how I tested it (you can see in the shots in this section). Keep in mind that having stuff in here will affect the pressure being put on the front outside pockets - but I didn't think it was debilitating in any way.
I found the harness system really comfortable, too. Nice wide straps with a good thickness, but not too hard or beefy. Further on that front, the internal plastic frame is a FANTASTIC addition. It gives the bag some structure so it doesn't slouch when it's packed, and helps with standing it up. Since it's plastic, it's not really affecting your weight much. If you don't count ounces that is. I never noticed it.
Lastly, I love the look on this bag. It just looks - regular. It's really minimal, but not so much that there's no character. They really made all the right decisions in terms of how to make this bag look. If you compress it down, it barely looks like a travel bag. But still is. Imagine that.
I had a very hard time coming up with anything bad on this pack, I really did. I don't want to ruin the punchline but it's one of my favorite bags that I've used this year, if not the favorite. But it did have a few flaws.
I think the water bottle pocket was kind of meh. Thinking for my peeps that always travel with them, you might have to downsize your bottle. It's also halfway up the bag, which is kind of odd? I'm not sure it really affects anything, but if it's not in there tight, and you bend over, I could see a full bottle sliding out. Not saying it will! Just a thought.
The one big complaint I did have though was the compression straps combined with the zipper system. To open the bag, you HAVE to unclip them. Now this might not sound that bad, but after a few times, you begin to notice. Also, even when unclipped, the compression straps tend to get in the way of opening the zipper so you're always trying to work around them. I don't have a clear solution to this, but I'm sure these clever designers can try and work on it for version 3.
Packing the Aer Travel Pack 2 and Competitors
While it's getting harder and harder to list out competitors in 2020 due to the sheer number of brands out there making travel bags, I would say Aer belongs to a pretty specific group. Let's call them the minimal black and gray gang. Brands like Tortuga, Minaal, and Arcido coming to mind. They all have similar textures and looks with the same coloring on offer. So if you know and are interested in those kinds of bags, then you'll be interested in this one, too. I've not yet covered those yet, so I cannot compare directly.
As usual, we'll give you an example of a packing list for a short trip, so you can see what can fit easily in the bag. I wouldn't say this is a hardcore "travel clothes" focused list, but a bit mixed. This amount of stuff will last an experienced onebagger for most likely a week or more, and those not quite there yet 3-4 days.
Items are as follows: 2 button downs (normal style and weight); packable day pack; oxfords; 1 performance undershirt; 3 daily t-shirts and 1 to sleep in; 4 underwear; 1 pair merino socks, one pair travel dress socks; toiletry kit; tech kit; full-sized headphones, NanoDry towel (read our Matador NanoDry towel review); Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket pants (review upcoming), 11 inch iPad Pro. The bag could fit more with some additional packing cube optimization, but I don't think you need to. You want to stay comfortable. For reference, I'm only 5'6" so objects in mirror may be smaller than they appear. Like your hands when you hold those tiny bottles of booze. If you're a camera cube person (I am) - then this MIGHT complicate things a little. I'd have to make some changes to fit that for my mirrorless Fuji and a lens or two.
The Improvement Requests for the Aer Travel Pack 2
First thing I'd do here is ditch the water bottle holder. Feels like something they did to check a box so the water bottle mob wouldn't get mad. But as usual, that's just me. Might work for you.
Re-think the strap system for compression. It can be annoying at times.
Anything else? Maybe add load lifter straps back on? I've seen that complaint around but at this size, I think it's debatable if it's necessary. Perhaps add some fleece to the top pocket for your phone? That's all I got, guys.
Final Thoughts On My Aer Travel Pack 2 Review
Without using any hyperbole, this might be the top contender for my first ever Bag of the Year. It's fantastic. It's kind of just the right size for a lot of experienced travelers and those wanting to downsize their packs and get into onebag travel. Or, even just as a weekender for those of you who don't care too much about efficiency and just want a top quality bag that fits your stuff and looks great. I think for both use cases, this one is great.
From the minimal but still slightly travel bag looks, to the design choices and feature inclusions, it's really hard not to like. The internal frame is a brilliant decision. The front pockets allow you to store 3D items. And you've got flexible choices inside the bag with the additional pockets and shoe compartment (which you can roll up and move out of the way if you don't want to use it). It's also kind of bullet-proof. My girlfriend even said that it "looks like a pretty normal backpack when you're wearing it". Success!
At 33 liters, this bag is going to be a great size for the efficient travelers wanting to pack 5 days worth of stuff in here. And, it won't break your back doing so. It also won't make you scream "Traveler" to people. Even more, it's not so big as to give you trouble in the overhead bins on any planes so you shouldn't have to worry about that unless you have it completely packed to the gills. Then the picky Euro lines might take notice, but they'd be hard pressed. It should still fit in the tester cages because it's soft-sided. I don't see it fitting under the seats though unless it's near empty, but your mileage may vary there.
I loved using this bag, and I think it's going to become my go-to for the immediate future - I highly recommend you check it out if you're in the market for a new bag, or even just need to be convinced that you are ;). Especially in black.
They are a small and independent brand that sells directly from their website so hop on over:
Gear In The Pictures:
Gonex Packing Cubes
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