Xactly Oxygen 45 Review
A new player in the backpack game comes with some thoughtful features, but is it enough? Find out in our in-depth review below.
Introduction To The Xactly Oxygen 45 Backpack Review
XACTLY is new to the game. At least, as far as I can see on the bigger scale. They are ramping up Instagram coverage, getting themselves out in front of more people. And, I welcome that. We need more and more indie design companies with their own messages and their own twists - it keeps things fresh and also drives innovation. Which is hard to do in the bag space right now.
This offering is their first foray into the hybrid travel bag space, as you can also carry this like a duffel. For my purposes, I looked at it as a pure backpack for travel. The company comes into the game with a social responsibility aspect as well. They are awaiting approval on being a B Corp company (which I hear can take over a year). They are of the belief that you can do business in a good way, and act in a good way too. I'll mention a bit more about their mission in my final thoughts, but I want to cover the bag first.
I've been able to look at a few bags lately, most recently the NOMATIC Travel Pack review - a bag that was full of features, almost too many. This bag has quite a few to offer as well. Do they work? Are they gimmicks?
This is my review of the Xactly Oxygen 45 backpack. For full disclosure, I personally reached out for a review unit which they were nice enough to send me, and I was also able to speak to them to learn a bit about their company. That said, the opinions in this review are my own and it is not sponsored in any way - nor has Xactly seen this review before it went live. Read on!
While none for Xactly, this page does include affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we may earn a very small commission - this helps to keep the website running. These links in no way influence our reviews or opinions.
Xactly Oxygen 45 Overview
We're continuing to get more and more stabs at reviewing "onebag" bags for our trips, and couldn't be more excited to see all the new possibilities. The Oxygen is a 45L option that's been thrown into the ring.
The backpack is made of heavy duty 900D polyester - which is made from recycled bottles. Always good nowadays. The sides are made from what they are calling XACTknit - their branded name for a recycled jacquard material that adds a nice unique look to their bag. And, these two are STRONG.
Zippers are YKK, and I believe they are made from aluminum or an alloy - they are wicked lightweight which is great since Xactly uses some of the bigger versions, and this prevents the bag from getting too heavy. The other hardware, is made by Woojin, out of Korea.
There are 4 major storage pockets. The main pocket (opened vertically), a top tech pocket, and two full length side pockets (one includes a hidden water bottle pocket). There is also a laptop sleeve, which is false-bottomed, great to see.
They say it fits under most airline seats, but packed out, I think that it's more likely this will go in the bin above your head. I especially don't see it fitting under any that have the little hard drive/computer under there.
The bag retails on their site for $229.00 USD, though they do occasionally have sales like any other company.
Additional Oxygen 45 Backpack Features
There are a lot of features on this backpack that are worth noting - because they are clever and they deserve to be noted. The water bottle pocket is inside the outer bag - which isn't a first for this, but I think their implementation was good. It really doesn't cut too much into the internal volume, which I like. Especially if you have a thinner bottle like my portable French press (let's be honest, no one needs a gallon water bottle unless they are traversing a Great Trail). The pocket on the other side, has great vertical pockets that I found perfect for a power brick and cord (I find very few bags that give you something like this and do it well, I'm forever stuffing my power brick and cord into random places), and the top pocket is fur lined which I think is a great touch for your more delicate electronics (they advertise this for a Switch, which is a good way to think about it). Your phone is good here too. The bag also has 4 beefy handles so you don't have to worry about how the bag goes into a trunk, bin, pick up, bus storage, etc. Not only are they beefy, they aren't TOO beefy. Which is important. If it's too much, then they can actually get in the way (like the NOMATIC Travel Pack).
The main action is going on in their "epicenter" top storage compartment. This can basically take the place of your tech kit - and for many, scenarios, that works great. Plenty of pockets for this and that in your tech, a power bank specific pocket as well, and a connector for that which connects to an on-bag charger (more in a second). There's also a pass through into the main bag for a cord or headphones wire. The main space in this pocket is also fur-lined, so you can place scratch prone items in there (they rest an iPad in there while charging, though I wouldn't store it there for transport).
As I noted, there is an "outlet" on here too. As seen in the picture, there is an external connection with USB-A and USB-C hookups. This plugs into your power bank (can supply your own or purchase one of theirs, though I had some compatibility issues with my Pixel 3 and their power bank; most power banks work well in this feature, so long as you don't need USB-C PD, like I do (see my recommended travel power banks for most people here)). This will not pass through PD level power, which Pixel devices need. Using a USB-A to USB-C on the bag worked, but at slower charging speeds. So if your phone requires USB-C PD for fast charging, this hook up won't provide that. But a USB-A to USB-C will allow you to charge, albeit slower. In general, you just plug your phone or tablet into this, instead of needing to take many things out of the bag, etc. It's really clever as an idea and done well implementation wise - nice job on that part, Xactly. In practice and compatibility however, I think they need to up it to USB-C PD on Version 2.
The straps have features as well! Magnets. Cool magnets. There is a "channel" under a flap to run your ear bud's wire thru if you're using a wired pair. Magnets keep it held down. Lastly, there is an "X marks the spot" kind of thing with another magnet. If your headphones have some metal in them, boom, this will hold them in place. Think about being at the airport, and you need to get that coffee or drink, etc., but you're currently jamming out to whatever the kids are digging these days. Well, now you can pop your ear bud out (the nice ones will even pause for you when you do that), attach it to the bag for safe keeping, and politely make your purchase while not staring at the server and saying, "WUT? Sorry, WUT?". And I say politely, because: be a polite Wanderer. Don't be the dick that can't give the person taking their order the time of day. Treat them like you want to be treated. Be the change. I see way too many people that interact with them like it's an ATM machine and not a person. Don't be rude. Pull your ear buds out for the purchase. Put your phone down for six seconds unless you're sending an emergency SWAT team to your house. OK public service message over.
Build and materials are top notch here. I've no complaints. Big name parts, recycled materials, and magnets. It's got a lot of small features that make big impacts, too. Handles are perfect. Zippers are aluminum to save weight. Hidden magnets to help with a truly modern problem - ear buds and their wires. The power bank integration is done very well for non-USB-C PD devices. I really like how the concealed water bottle pocket doesn't actually steal that much from inside volume. Comfortable straps, too, which I don't often spend a lot of time on, but these felt good in my carry. Also the organization in general is well done here. You can eliminate a tech kit in many cases - but not all. It's not a perfect idea. High marks overall for the bag's features. It's just a well thought out bag with thoughtful touches that frankly, target the modern traveler well. Thinking about power (though some improvement needed). Thinking about ear buds and how a person travels now. Thinking about sustainability. Thinking about your modern accessories like a Switch or your power brick.
While it's an extra accessory, I do want to mention their small liquids bottle. It's the perfect size for a shot of espresso if you're a home brewer and don't want to stop in the airport. It's allowable liquids size, though of course you'll need to take it out with your other liquids. My girlfriend uses it to take a small serving of coffee with her to work, since we make fresh ground at home. I hear another good use for it is transporting your bud (supposedly smell proof, I've not discussed this with any German Shepherds), but that will vary by location and destination. I'm in no way condoning cross-state or cross-country transport where it's not allowed, it's up to you to ensure you're following the laws of both the departing locale and the destination. If you end up on an episode of National Geographic's Locked Up Abroad bartering withered dragon fruit for 10 min of electricity so you can WhatsApp your home embassy, don't blame Always Wander. We're all responsible adults, haha.
I love the magnet latches that secure the main lid on the top of the bag - that hardware and function is awesome. What I don't like about it (and to be fair, I think they look at this as a theft deterrent) is that you need to undo these to get into the main bag. That can be a drag after a few times.
Side pockets count in overall volume. This isn't the end of the world really, but I wanted to note this. Because the top and side pockets have decent volume on their own (good), they actually count towards the overall bag volume so the main compartment is more like 35L (bad, when it's a 45L bag). This isn't a deal breaker for many. 35L is fine for many pro's. What I will say is that if you wanted 45L just for clothing, this will fall short. Again, not a problem for all, but a problem for some, so I want to note these things.
Some small nits: No tablet-specific sleeve here. No aquaguard zippers (perhaps just for the laptop?). Can't stow the straps if you need to check-in. Opening for laptop might be a bit tight for bigger machines. These are tiny problems, but some buyers have a checklist and if you miss one thing, it's a "No". So, these pieces are for you, Mr./Mrs. Checklist M. Aker.
From a form factor, it can lose it's form a bit when on your back. Not too badly, but pictures show it below.
Packing the Xactly Oxygen 45 Backpack and Competitors
I always want to try and list out what I think the bag's nearest competitors are. But frankly, the space is too big now. I would say from a feature standpoint, it's in the same league as NOMATIC bags. There aren't as many, but it's still got more than most bags. It's a bit of a soft sided bag, so from a form perspective you could probably compare it to a semi-stiff bag like an Aer or Tortuga. A bit more form-keeping than a Black Hole MLC. (You can read out Patagonia Black Hole MLC review here).
Next I wanted to show you how you can pack this thing out. I'll note this isn't an optimized list, just a lot of common travel items that average people would pack, plus how I'd physically do it.
Items are as follows: 3 button downs (only one travel focused/weight); packable day pack; oxfords; 1 performance undershirt; 3 daily t-shirts and 1 to sleep in; 4 underwear; 2 socks, one being travel dress socks; toiletry kit; slim tech kit; full-sized headphones, NanoDry towel (read our Matador NanoDry towel review); 13 inch laptop and power brick; Aviator Travel Jeans; travel french press. I want to note that I don't generally travel with a laptop, just the iPad (or previously, a Surface Pro) - but I wanted to include it in order for you to get an idea that it was still zero problem to include it. The bag could clearly fit more if you needed but this shows you 3-5 days for most people. For reference, I'm only 5'6" so don't think this bag is that huge. It's all relative to the wearer!
The Improvement Requests for Xactly Oxygen 45 Backpack
I'd like to see a bit closer to 45L on the inside of the bag, but I get this would take away from the personality of the bag, too. They could re-enforce the laptop compartment a bit more with a harder plastic against your back. Adding a tablet sleeve would be pretty easy.
For me, some of the biggest improvements I'd love to see here are for one - more of the rubberized coating. I love that stuff on all the bags I've used. The back of the bag has this, and I'd suggest to cover more of the bag with that. In fact, anything not XACTknit, I'd use that. It helps with water resistance. I also prefer a clam shell opening to a vertical one for the main bag, but again - that's just my personal view.
And then for me, the way I travel, and again considering this will be in a bin on most flights and not in your immediate possession, I take a tech kit, and often have my headphones case as well. I could use all the pockets for my tech, for sure, but that means it wouldn't be readily available when I'm on my flight. That's where the kit/pouch comes in. So what I'd like to see is a pocket on the front, with a little bit of it's own volume, that you can slide one of these kits into. A mostly flat, minimal kit would fit fine in the top pocket and PROBABLY fit the headphones case as well, but barely. I use a Bellroy Tech Kit when I need to carry more things. It doesn't need to be huge, but can't just be a flat "slash" pocket, it needs a little volume. Aer Travel Bag 2 has a nice one on the bottom half of the bag. The Black Hole MLC has one that allows 3D items to be put in it. This could add to the height of the bag and be used on top, too, since the "front" of the bag is also the bottom. Again, if you don't need access to this en-route, then you don't need an additional kit. There is great organization on here for all your things. I just typically need it in one place, and need access to it. It helps with boarding, and de-planing, and having "my stuff" on me on the flight. Kindle, charger cords, power bank, headphones, etc.
I also think, with a bag this size, load-lifter straps might be a good idea to help you balance the load and the "sag" of the bag.
Final Thoughts On My Xactly Oxygen 45 Backpack Review
There you have it, another travel bag review down the hatch at Always Wander. Right now (Summer 2020) - I'm even more grateful for the small weekend trips to not only get away and remember how charmed we are to be able to travel PERIOD, but also that I get to test out some gear along the way. I won't soon forget that it's a privilege in this world.
So the Xactly Oxygen 45 backpack - I definitely think this is a bag for you to consider. For a Version 1, I think they got a lot right, and frankly got a lot right for any version. Build, materials, thoughtfulness of the features and the organization, they score very well here. Were there some things I'd change? Of course there are. But that's like, my opinion, maaan. And I'd change things about a lot of bags. I do think in practice their set up works very well for most cases.
I think the USB-C connection was a bit of a hiccup, but they can fix that in upcoming versions, I'm sure.
I also wanted to note the company behind the product. I mentioned that they believe that companies have a right to earn money and make a profit, but also be stewards of global citizenship. That's a respectable goal. I get the feeling that if it means they can't grow to the biggest backpack/lifestyle company in the world, they're OK with that. They work with Bluesign manufacturers, they use recycled materials in their bags (I think 25 plastic bottles goes into each Oxygen 45), and they work hard to give back. Their mission of choice is Planet Water, where they've helped deliver clean water to a number of places around the world. That's a worthy mission, since many of us travel to destinations where just under the surface, just out of range of the tourists, people are living in a community with no potable water. Maybe even your guide to that temple, or your moped driver. These lovely people aren't going home to their mansions after. We rarely think of that however while we drink our cold sun downer with expats and backpackers at the over priced dive bar. So, you can make a choice to contribute by choosing this company, even if indirectly. We always have choices. For many people, this is something they want to think about when choosing a small company. Or not! Again, this is why it's great to have choice and options. If social mission is important to you, this company might align with that.
Having said that, I think this bag should appeal to a lot of people. Those who want to align with a company's social views, those that want a lot of features and organization but don't want that hiking bag look. And, those that want a feature set geared towards a more modern traveler's use cases (for instance, a spot for your Switch so you don't need an additional case). I'd recommend seeing if it's for you.
They sell directly from their website so hop on over:
Gear In The Pictures:
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