NOMATIC Travel Pack Review
Another Kickstarter Wonder - this time with the bigger version of their original backpack in a 20-30L. Let's get after it.
Introduction to the NOMATIC Travel Pack
NOMATIC has come a long way. They started with their original backpack on Kickstarter many moons ago, and saw tremendous success with that. They've since gone on to develop quite a few different types of bags, partnered with a famous YouTube photographer for a camera specific one, and even gotten into accessories for all those brand loyal shoppers that want to be fully kitted out with NOMATIC gear (we love their toiletry kit, check out our NOMATIC toiletry bag 2.0 review here).
This backpack is a branch off of the original, vs. being a completely new bag. It takes what was so great about that one, and adds expansion so you can "travel" with this one a bit more. Now how much functionality and travel time that adds remains to be seen. But we'll get to that.
Regardless, this pack offers a lot of promise. A ridiculous amount of functionality and some high quality materials are the norm with this company. Let's see how this travel pack works in practice however.
This is my NOMATIC Travel Pack review. For full transparency, I had no interaction with NOMATIC for this review. I purchased this bag on my own after many hours of personal research into it first.
NOMATIC Travel Pack Product Overview
This pack is predicated on design. On being functional. It's giving you a lot to offer on the face of that. Pockets and organizational bits galore. They are everywhere. SO much so that people might find it hard to put them to use. That said, this part is about covering the product, so let's do it.
It's got a non-traditional main zipper opening on the front that's hard to describe. It comes up both sides and then curves back over the top. Chances are you've seen it in the video. This mostly works. It's got a front tech pocket meant to take the place of a tech pouch. Hypalon zipper pulls. The new version has YKK zippers and no triangle patterns on it (I'm reviewing the original, which does not have YKK).
This bag also has a central zipper around the entire bag, which expands the entire thing an extra 10L. This is a handy feature and allows the bag to be slim enough for an overnight trip, or expand to fit more in it.
Most of the zippers on the outside are lockable.
Quick full shot of the bag.
There's a chest strap that's kind of supposed to be removable, but it's on there pretty good. Multiple handles allow you to grab it out of over heads or carry it briefcase style in situations where maybe a backpack would be clunky (like boarding). The top handle is extra beefy and sturdy - kind of to its detriment.
Though stiff overall, the back has a good air channel on it, and allows for some breathing back there.
The backpack straps are made out of beefy material, but a bit stiff. They don't have a thick, soft padding. They can also be stowed away behind a snap button system that is done really well. The bag is well made, to be sure.
The bag retails for around $260.00 USD, but can occasionally be found on sale, so keep your eyes peeled.
Let's try and cover all the little features on this, OK?
NOMATIC Travel Pack Features List
Nice Touches - These are items that I don't think are critical to the functionality, but still nicely done from a design standpoint. The first being the water bottle pockets on the sides. They have a stretchy material to help them expand a little depending on the bottle, and then they use magnets to lay flat in place when not in use. You can see in the picture how it's flat. Works well, and it's a slick solution to this. I think the snap buttons are also a nice touch that make this bag very "NOMATIC". This has been done many different ways already, but fits with the aesthetics here. The top slash pocket does have a soft lining, which we should expect at this price point. The zipper pulls are premium, too.
The "Functional" Features - This bag bills itself as one of the most functional bags ever. While that may or may not be true, they certainly are within the conversation with this product. With the handles and straps, it's got multiple ways to carry (though backpack is really the only practical one). The main compartment has THREE zippers for each direction. This allows for multiple ways to open the compartment (or, not open it fully). It makes sense when you learn it, but in practice I never really used that. There's a headphone passthrough from the inside to the outside which is nice. The front organization has spaces for most of your stuff if you use this instead of a tech pouch. This also has an RFID protected pocket for your scan-able, sensitive items like a chip passport or debit card.
More Features - As you would expect, this bag comes with a laptop sleeve as well, on the back. The placement is good, and the sleeves are suspended from the ground so as not to let the laptop hit. There is a tablet sleeve, too, and a couple of pockets for additional items (like a cord). Inside the main compartment there is a nice mesh separator, which does come in handy for organizing when you have it expanded. Also worth mentioning is the "shoe" sleeve. But, I honestly hate these and think they mess up the rest of your organization in the pack. You might dig these however, so your call there of course. It's not inherently good or bad, just making sure to report it.
Final Highlights - Inside the main compartment, there are extra mesh sleeves. These can be used for a variety of things. For one, to hold one of the accessories. The bag comes with a sunglasses hard case with pouch (and it fits right into these sleeves), a TSA lock, a retractable key fob made of metal, and two hip belt straps. While I think the hip belt pieces are unnecessary at this size of bag, for the price point I think all these little inclusions is a nice touch. The sunglasses case is nice and a clever idea, but it also takes away from the internal volume or more importantly, the shape. So, keep that in mind for your packing Tetris. You've also got a "secret" pocket behind one of the straps, for whatever you want to hide. It's great for some spare cash. I love when bags use something like this. Lastly, inside the main lid there are two more pouches for additional items (cords, or socks, or whatever).
The Good Parts Of The NOMATIC Travel Pack
Design and materials. The features and thoughtful touches. The flexibility of those features and being able to use them in a million different ways. The quality of this bag is really fantastic, too. NOMATIC has done a great job on all of these things, and I think it's also good value for the money. Yes the starting price is high, but figuring in the build quality, materials, and inclusions (all those little bits we mentioned above that would be extra with some companies) all make this bag a solid pick for many scenarios. I also like the fact that, with the minimal design, it won't be out of place traveling with a more low key down jacket kind of style, or a more dressed up business kind of style. By no means do I think this is a "briefcase for business meetings" like they try and sell you on. But perfectly subdued for business travel in general. It's going to be great for those 1-2 night business trips, or a 1-3 night weekender bag.
The Bad Parts Of The NOMATIC Travel Pack
With all that said, I do have some bones to pick with this pack. Let's start with all those features and bits and bobs on and within it. To be frank, I'm just not sure it's possible to use them all in practice. Now to also be fair, maybe that's not what they meant. It's probably closer to the fact that you have the OPTION to use them if needed, in whatever configuration you want. Fair. But what ends up happening is a bit of that "paralysis of choice." Basically the same problem folks used to have when they walked into a video store and just saw a wall of movies, or the similar problem now with something like Netflix. You almost don't know what to do with all those things. It's a bit of over design to me. I think they could have kept this bag as "the most functional" claim, and maybe cut down on a few things. The internal mesh pockets basically take away from the internal volume and I find them useless in my packing style.
I wish the front pocket had a bit of its own internal volume. For my travel style and needs (that is, mostly airplanes) I need a quick access portion of my bag to hold my tech kit and maybe headphones. It's hard to use that here since it's designed as the tech pouch itself, but has no real internal volume to be able to store something that's more 3D. That's a miss for me.
Lastly, I really didn't find this bag that comfortable in use. That's sometimes subjective - I get that. But here's why I think it's important in this case: I usually barely consider this because I generally find most premium backpacks fine. I'm pretty easy going so if it doesn't really stand out to me, I kind of just breeze through it. Not here. I noticed that the straps, while robust and well made, are stiff and unforgiving. They really aren't very comfortable. And the back panel, while I like how it's got a bit more support and good air channeling, will not fit your back well when packed out (as you can see below).
Lastly, don't get fooled by the slick marketing video with the guy tossing the bag mid-air to pull the straps out. There should be a video montage of all the YouTube reviewers trying to mimic this. Would be hilarious. It's possible sure, but it's also kind of goofy in practice. Don't expect yourself to be walking around doing that. (That said, the strap stowing function works well and is nicely designed. This isn't a criticism of that).
The Improvement Requests for the NOMATIC Travel Pack
For the requests here, I think I can make some specific ones for sure. First, I'd try and add a little bit of volume to the front pocket. I understand they are going with minimal here, and adding volume might take away from it a little, but the designers at NOMATIC are top notch. I think there's some middle ground to be had there.
I would also work on the straps a bit. Making the backpack straps out of the same rigid material probably helps in weatherproofing and durability, but man does it take away from some comfort. I'd look for more balance in the back support, too. It's kind of awkward when packed out how the bag sits on your back with no give. Must be some kind of happy medium there. The top handle could be a little smaller as well. I get that they wanted it nice and robust, but it's overkill on this style of bag - the weight should never need that thing.
Lastly, cut out a few of the small internal features, and just focus on the bigger ones to make them perfect for the long term.
Packing the NOMATIC Travel Pack
For a standard overnighter, this pack is really great with all of it's features. And really, 20l is completely fine for that kind of time away. Or, should be (Looking at you, "Just-in-case'ers"). Pretty standard stuff, with a couple of packing cubes you can more than easily fit two nights worth of clothes in here. It will all be fairly compact and organized. But, how does it hold up when you want to use the expansion and get more like 3-4 nights in here? I'd say 4 nights for most normal packers will be tough. Plus, the bag will start to get a little unwieldy at that point - but still completely serviceable, don't get me wrong. For the way I pack, and for the modern tech carrier - I don't think the front of the bag works for me. Now, if you're someone that does not need a lot of access to your tech kit until you get to your destination, then it's great. The organization in the front pocket is awesome and replaces a "tech pouch". But for those that need the tech pouch, or if you're taking it on the plane and it will be in the over head bin, it's hard to put tech pouches in here without using the internal volume. Here's what it looks like without the expansion used and with a couple of nights clothes in it. Plus a toiletry kit, and a tech pouch. At this level, I can also put my headphones case in the front without too much trouble. So, pretty good. Pay attention to how it rests on your back though.
When you expand this thing, and really put it to the test, is where it starts to get interesting. This bag is rigid, and in most cases that helps it. But when packing it out, well it means it's far less forgiving than other packs. Now, I'll be up front and mention that normally I wouldn't try and pack this much stuff into a bag this size. I'd go up in sizes to a 35l or 40l or 45l (like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L). That said for testing purposes and the benefit of all the Wanderers, we had to go for it. You CAN do it though. We've got the following in there: 3 button downs, 4 t-shirts, 3 performance undershirts, 1 pair of sneakers, 5 pairs underwear, 3 pairs of merino socks, the NOMATIC Toiletry Bag 2.0, full size headphones in case, tech pouch, sunglasses in case, Kindle, iPad Pro 11, and the Mystery Ranch In and Out packable daypack. Again, probably not the bag I'd recommend for this kind of a packing list, just letting you know it's possible if you don't have a choice. I think I might have thrown a pair of jeans on the bottom, too, but honestly can't remember. Dock me a point for that. You can see that with this much stuff in the bag, the front pocket really struggles. That's because it's meant to be your tech pouch, not carry anything additional with too much volume of its own. My headphone case is ready to bust through the bag like the Kool Aid Man. "Ohhhhhh yeeeeaaaahhhhh".
Lastly, you can see that it does not form to your back at all, really. Something to consider if you're going to be packing it pretty full.
Final Thoughts on the NOMATIC Travel Pack Review
This bag is kind of a shining example of design and materials. It truly does show just how much you can do in one bag. However, is it too much? In this case, I'd say yes. I'd say this bag is more design than function. Or more accurately, over designed. There's just too much going on here. I think they were able to speak to all sorts of different people with different feature needs, but in doing so forgot to really think about the usability itself. Does it need to be so "functional"? Why not pick a core group of features and really nail them, instead of trying to fit every feature into it? Hey, it makes for a slick marketing video.
That said, there are a ton of features here and it can really be used in any number of combinations. It's a minimal look, and won't be standing out too much if you don't want it to. For me personally though, the front pocket (since I use a tech pouch) and the carry comfort were deal breakers for me. For you? They might not be. It's not badly made (quite the opposite) and taken on their own, the features aren't useless (they aren't). So it's not all bad.
This bag is still one of the top candidates in the space for a lot of reasons. Minimalist looks and flexibility being the biggest. Coupled with top notch materials and some clever designs, I think it's still worth putting on your list to check out. Though with that, I would make sure to check out a few different types of reviews, and see if the shortcomings I note - are short comings for you. One man's criticisms could be another man's wishes, right?
It IS a good option for overnight trips, and 2 night trips where you won't need access to what's in the bag while in transit.
Here’s the link if you want to grab one (they do go on sale a lot):
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