This is a backpack that is designed to carry all of your essentials. The bag has many different compartments, and it’s made with high-quality materials.
The time has finally arrived. We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be looking at the 2nd Aer Travel Pack in this review. Several of our Bag Hacker team members have been using the original Aer Travel Pack for quite some time (and with excellent success), so we’ve been eager to get the second version of an already fantastic travel pack.
Aer has taken their original travel bag, improved it significantly, and considered all of the subtleties involved in transporting a large amount of gear—so let’s get started.
Aesthetics & Materials
The outside of this pack is made of a 1680D CORDURA® ballistic nylon weave, which is very robust. So how do we know it will last? This is the same material as the Aer Travel Pack 1 backpack, which we’ve been testing for over six months across many team members, and we’ve had almost no issues with it.
This material is almost sure to last a long time. The bag has a beautiful black-on-black style comparable to the original—and it’s a pleasing sight to see. There are Duraflex buckles and several kinds of YKK zippers all over the outside and inside of this pack in terms of buckles and zips. Some of the zippers are Aquaguard (ultra water-resistant), and all of the external zippers have storm flaps (the cloth that covers zippers) for further water protection. #Nailedit
Results of the Aer Travel Pack 2 Instagram poll. On the other hand, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We questioned our Instagram followers regarding the Aer Travel Pack 1’s aesthetics, and the results were almost 60/40 in favor of it. We were huge fans of the first pack, and this one seems to take everything off the original’s flair and kick it up a level.
(By the way, if you want to participate in our Instagram polls and see a ton of other travel and gear-related material, follow us on Instagram!)
To round out the ingredients, this pack uses a variety of foams. In places like the mesh back panel, the straps, and the side handles, there’s EVA foam, EPE foam, and sponge foam.
Last but not least! We’re happy to report that there aren’t many hanging straps on this item, contributing to the pack’s overall professional and minimalistic appearance. It also indicates that the Aer Travel Pack 2 is a member of the exclusive #danglefreeexperience club.
Components on the Outside
There are a lot of doo-dads on this pack in terms of external components that give a lot of proper functionality, but Aer has done so while maintaining the box’s minimalistic design. They’ve done a fantastic job with this, in our opinion.
To begin with, the bag has a highly hefty top handle and a less sturdy grab grip on the side. These are perfect for lugging this thing about, grabbing it out of an overhead bin, or getting in and out of a cab—anytime you need to grasp it for a short distance.
These handles are an excellent illustration of Aer’s ongoing efforts to improve and modernize its design. The top handle of the Aer Travel Pack 1 included a Velcro loop that could be attached to the top of a roller bag handle. It was adequate, though touch is clumsy. This top handle is significantly more streamlined, contributing to the bag’s smooth, clean appearance. (Plus, as we’ll see later, they’ve worked out a better method to deal with the rolling baggage situation.)
The side handle has also been updated—the foam density is roughly the same. Still, the shell is constructed of a more delicate weave, making it significantly friendlier to the touch. It’s a little more comfortable to hold than the previous pack.
These are just a handful of the little elements that add together to make this a fantastic set. Not that the previous pack wasn’t good, but Aer seems to understand that there’s always an opportunity for better!
Aer’s iconic stealth water bottle pocket is the next outside component. This is hidden away on the side of the pack—you think there’s a little seam on the side, but then you’re like, “Ooh, what’s that?!?” “It’s a zipper!” exclaims the narrator. BOOM!
When you unzip that bad boy, you’ll find a lengthy pocket that can hold water bottles, umbrellas, and other items. We enjoy how it sits flat against the pack and seems to be well-integrated when not in use. Additional bags may have many meshes hanging out, but this bag does not.
We weren’t sure what the D-ring above the water bottle compartment was for at first, so we questioned Aer and received the following response:
It was designed so you may attach your keys or other tiny objects like a baggage tag, for example. The initial intention was to include a removable shoulder strap, which we had in previous iterations of the bag but which was not a popular feature.
So there you have it—you can attach as many tiny objects as you like. And, kudos to Aer for ditching the shoulder strap! (At least, that’s what we believe.)
There are compression straps on both sides of the bag, and we believe Aer did an excellent job with them for various reasons. You may attach things like a yoga mat or a jacket to the side of your pack here, but these straps also compress the bag.
If you wish to use this backpack as a daypack when traveling, compressing it lowers its profile and helps you appear a bit less foolish. There’s nothing quite like strolling down to the beach with a 35-liter travel pack that protrudes a foot and a half from your back to scream “tourist.”
The only issue we’ve observed is that unbuckling the compression straps to open the main clamshell is a bit of a pain. Many bags have this issue, but we’ve seen several good techniques to avoid it. We wish Aer had given this compression technique more effort to prevent this, but it’s not a significant problem.
Moving on to the harness system, you’ll see that the straps are relatively thick. One of the drawbacks of our Aer Travel Pack 1 review (from approximately a year ago) was that the foam wasn’t firm enough, and the straps weren’t as thick as we’d like. We’re glad to report that they’ve increased the thickness of these! They’ve integrated comments from their consumers and critics like us into their new look. Big ups to Aer; they’re constantly striving to improve, and we applaud them for it!
The sternum strap is adjustable and detachable, which is very typical. It’s also worth noting that it’s firmly linked to the shoulder strap—it won’t slip off on its own as it has in other bags with fancier sternum strap systems.
So, in addition to what we’ve already mentioned, the harness system on this bag differs from the original in a few ways.
- A hip belt is available as an alternative, which is excellent. (It is, however, offered separately!)
- This version does not have the load lifters on the original bag.
Yes, yes, yes. A genuine emotional rollercoaster. As we realized these two shifts, we experienced a high and then a heartbreaking low. We decided to write Aer a brief note once we got over the loss of our beloved load-lifter straps, wondering why they chose to do such a sad thing. What was their reaction?
One of our aims for the load lifters was to simplify the design and decrease hanging straps and weight. Therefore, we eliminated the load lifters since they weren’t as effective as they could be on a bag this size.
We can’t disagree with it. The load lifter straps on the Aer Travel Pack 1 provided an excellent boost to the carry, but they weren’t revolutionary, and you’d only benefit from them if you had a full pack. We can also validate that a #danglefreeexperience was not provided, and this configuration is significantly cleaner.
Do the load-lifters make a difference? In a way. Is it sufficient to chuck this bag out the window? Without a doubt, not.
It’s just a 33-liter bag at the end of the day. Although load-lifters aren’t required, you’ll undoubtedly notice that the bag tends to droop down your back if it’s overstuffed. We believe they made the right decision here—the absence of hanging straps and the clean appearance you get from eliminating them seems well worth the occasional drooping.
But enough of that—not let’s forget that this bag now has a great hip belt! This is, in our opinion, the ideal hip belt for a pack of this size. It’s detachable, has just enough cushioning without being cumbersome, and is about the appropriate size. What more could you ask for?
Aer has nailed it with this one! However, we do have one little gripe. If it’s flying about and not folded correctly, it may poke you in the sides. This is a slight annoyance, and as it breaks in, it should become less of a problem. However, we like nitpicking.
Also, bear in mind that this harness system cannot be hidden. Some people like the ability to cover the straps, but we mainly use our backpacks as backpacks, so we don’t see the need to hide the straps. Your results may vary.
Finally, there is some cushioned mesh and a grab panel on this rear panel that you may use to pick up the bag (albeit at kind of an odd angle). This handle also serves as a baggage pass-through, so if you’re carrying a roller bag, place it on top and slide it through.
If you’ve been following us for any time, you’ll know that we’re big lovers of one-bag travel so this feature will be of little value to us. But if you want it, it’s there.
Check out our merino wool guide for a crash course on the most miraculous fabric on the earth if you want some advice on reducing the amount of gear—a.k.a. clothes—you bring on your vacations. It will save you room and even your life! (if you routinely go to the Arctic or find yourself in circumstances where a lighter pack might be the difference between life and death.) It’s not all that common, but you never know what may happen there!)
Inside the Bundle
There are a lot of beautiful compartments and organizing features within this item, much like the Aer Travel Pack 1. Let’s start with the top pocket for convenient access.
This pocket is quite similar to the former quick-grab bag, with one minor difference is now much broader. It was difficult to put a bigger phone—like an iPhone plus—in the Travel Pack 1, but it now fits perfectly. This is a big gain and a no-brainer.
The laptop compartment is located on the bag’s rear. This is a rather basic, no-frills compartment, but there are a few items worth mentioning. On the bright side, a YKK AquaGuard zipper is included. The Aer Travel Pack 1’s zips were not AquaGuard or weather-resistant, so this is a welcome addition. We tried the previous bag in rainfall and had some water sneak in, so we’re thrilled that Aer included AquaGuard zips on this iteration. It really helps with extra weather protection where you need it most—in your laptop compartment!
However, there is one flaw in the design of this laptop compartment that we would like to point out. Many businesses may use a phony bottom design as one of their tricks. As a result, the laptop compartment would be cut off a few inches above the bag’s bottom, ensuring that your laptop would not come into touch with the ground if you dropped it.
This sounds like a no-brainer in terms of design, yet Aer didn’t do it with the laptop compartment. Although the bottom has some decent cushioning, it isn’t exactly as secure as it may be, which is a little frustrating.
The compartment is also rather large—enough there’s space in here for a variety of laptop sizes—so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. It’s a little quibble, and it’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s worth mentioning. It seems like a fake bottom would have been easy to include here.
A large, hefty YKK #10 Aquaguard zipper system can be found at the front of the pack. This thing is enormous. It’s a touch too much for a pocket like this, but it does match the Aer look well. It truly brings the bag together, and the black stripe across the bottom shouts “AER!” to us. Plus, we won’t complain about the increased durability.
A separate zipper garage has been incorporated as a modest addition, which will aid in the weather resilience of this compartment. There are also two little tabs on the side that you can use to keep the pocket closed while zipping it up, which are pretty useful. Enough so that we felt compelled to include them in our written evaluation.
That zipper leads to a huge pocket on the bag’s bottom side, which provides lots of storage. It’s vital to notice that this outside area’s upper half is not a pocket. We appreciate how they designed it this way since there won’t be anything cutting into the organizer system.
Let’s have a look at several organizer systems while we’re at it.
When you first open the organizer system, you’ll see two half-pockets on the bottom that extend approximately six inches down. Above it is a mesh pocket with some elasticity, followed by a comparable lining pocket behind it, as well as one on the other side. This has a good amount of stretch to it.
With all of these pockets, there’s plenty of room for organizing, plus two locations for a stylus, pen, or pencil. The top of the bag has a zipper pocket with a YKK #5RC zipper. There’s also a keychain ring made of plastic.
Yes, a keychain ring made of plastic. We normally like metal, and because we’re trying to nitpick this bag and find flaws, we’re going to call it a flaw (it isn’t). To us, this is a tremendous issue (it isn’t).
The nicest thing about this organizer section, we think, is that you can utilize it if you want to—and it’s excellent. But that’s OK if you don’t want to utilize it. If you’d rather use packing cubes or pouches, this device just lies flat (much like the Tortuga Setout) and doesn’t encroach on your space or compel you to use it.
Behind the zippered pocket is a divider pocket, which is the last item in this section. We’ve been using it as a catch-all for cables and chargers—bulky MacBook chargers fit perfectly—and it typically simply ends up looking like a mess of cords, for better or worse. INTERESTING FACT: There seems to be a German phrase for this occurrence! Kabelsalat is a Swedish word that means “cable salad.” Yum.
Moving on, the separate shoe pocket on the bottom of this bag is one of our favorites. Another difference between the Aer Travel Pack 1 and 2 is that the ventilation holes have been removed here. Although the venting aids in the ventilation of your stinky shoes, removing them ensures that no further moisture enters the bag when you put it down. The advantages of the ventilation holes are sort of irrelevant when your shoes end up damp and wet, therefore, we believe this was a wise decision by Aer.
Now it’s time for the significant event: the clamshell opening! Remember that you’ll need to unbuckle the compression straps to release the main compartment completely. It might be a minor annoyance—we’ve seen some other bags manage this better—but it’s worth noting. And when you open it, you’ll be greeted with a magnificent, massive bucket compartment.
It’s vital to keep in mind that whatever you put in the shoe compartment or the quick access pocket at the top will reduce the total liter capacity of the main room.
This section is ideal for packing cubes (we’d go so far as to say it’s required). Packing cubes, such as the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes, are always a good idea since they allow you to arrange and personalize the inside of these enormous clamshell compartments. They fit perfectly in this bag, without a doubt.
A mesh pocket at the top of the clamshell’s front side (with a great YKK zipper) is helpful for flatter objects. It isn’t a 3D pocket, so it doesn’t stand out too much, but there is some variation here. Below that, a decent-sized zipped compartment is likely the bag’s most secure pocket. This is ideal for securing more precious goods away from the primary containers and the pack’s outside.
Testing & Durability
We’ve been testing the Aer Travel Pack 2 in Detroit for approximately two and a half weeks at this review. (Although we usually try packs for a more extended period, we received this one ahead of time and wanted to get this review out to you guys on release day!)
In Russia, Aer Travel Pack 1 is being tested. But we put the Aer Travel Pack 1 to the test, making it to Minneapolis, Detroit, Nashville, California, and even Russia, where one of our contributors attended the World Cup. It’s held up quite well and still looks great. After six months of usage, the 1680D ballistic nylon hardly has any markings except for one little flaw. It’s scarcely perceptible. Many of the long-lasting materials have stood up to our rigorous testing.
The Travel Pack 2 has shown to be quite durable over our two-and-a-half weeks of testing, and we don’t expect it to fail anytime soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where are Aer backpacks made?
A: Aer backpacks are made in China.
Which brand is best for a travel backpack?
A: The North Face is a good brand.
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