Minaal is a brand that was founded in 2017 to help travelers with their packing needs. The company’s first product, the Carry-on 2.0 Bag, has been met with critical acclaim and is now available for purchase on Amazon.
The minaal carry-on 35l is a bag that has been designed to meet the needs of travelers. It has multiple pockets for organization and is lightweight.
It was only a matter of time until we tried out some Minaal gear on our never-ending quest for the ideal one-bag travel set up—the company’s slogan is “equipment for effective travel.” You can’t get much more on-brand than that. After all, we consider ourselves experts inefficient travel, so we had to check out their products to see whether they lived up to their slogan.
Both the grey and black Minaal Carry-on 2.0 have been tested by two of our most experienced Pack Hacker team members. We’ve been testing the grey one for eight months and the black one for a little over a month—given that it was released just over a month ago.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: this pack has stood up well and can compete with some of the finest one-bag travel packs on the market. Moreover, it has certainly proved itself a reliable instrument for effective travel, at least in the first eight months.
But, since you’ve come to learn more, let’s get started.
Aesthetics & Materials
This pack has a great overall appearance to it. Both the grey and the “Aoraki Black,” named after the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand, have been tested. The name may come from the fact that the founders, Jimmy and Doug, are New Zealanders… But, no, it’s most likely simply a coincidence.
One quick point to remember: the bags are developed in New Zealand but manufactured in Vietnam. However, Minaal did say they were manufactured by a Bluesign-certified partner, which is great. Bluesign is a certification system for textiles that are made sustainably.
As you can see, it has a very clean appearance. They’ve got the minimalist look down. The branding is subtle—there are just a few tiny, basic logos throughout the pack—and there aren’t a lot of straps or other accessories on the exterior. The straps are really difficult to notice on the black version, which is great because everything blends in well. You won’t get the awful mini-fridge-on-your-back look even if this thing is completely packed. Overall, it’s very thin and sleek.
The Carry-on 2.0 holds about 35 liters. So what does “about” mean? Why isn’t it a hard and fast number? Minaal, on the other hand, has a problem with the entire liter-capacity system—they don’t want to claim a certain capacity since there are no established norms in the backpack industry for these measures.
And, to be honest, they’re not entirely incorrect. For example, it’s unusual to discover that a 30L backpack may carry more than a 40L bag from a different brand. However, we’ll stay with the 35L measurement for consistency since we like numbers. To put it another way, this item contains a lot of things and can be used as a carry-on bag on almost all major airlines, much like almost all one-bag travel packs.
Speaking of which, the bag’s exact dimensions are printed on the left shoulder strap! They’re a little harder to see on the black version, but they’re there. Minaal has a great idea—you can just refer to the dimensions when the TSA agent gets all worked up about your luggage not fitting. This is just a heads-up for anyone unfamiliar with the TSA: cranky TSA officers may not like this, and Pack Hacker will not be held responsible for anything that may or may not occur.
The fabric is mainly 600d nylon with some 1000d nylon thrown in for good measure—the bag is made up of two distinct deniers. Because their website doesn’t specify what kind of nylon it is, we contacted them for additional information, as any genuine backpack aficionado would. It turns out that it’s their own proprietary nylon, which they introduced after experiencing quality control problems with Cordura. So what kind of problems do you have? We have no idea. Cordura is fantastic, in our opinion.
We were taken aback when we learned about this “special” nylon. It’s also a little ambiguous. What is the process for making “custom” nylon? Is it really possible for a tiny bag business to design its own bespoke fabrics?
Cordura is regarded as some of the finest nylon available, and we’ve tested a lot of packs that use it effectively. Hence, the news that Minaal was experiencing quality control problems with it is surprising! It only shows how seriously these folks take the quality and durability of their packs.
One more note regarding the fabric: it attracts a lot of dust and hair, which is particularly noticeable in the black version. You’ll have a beautiful collection of dust and hair from all ten countries after your 10-country trip—the most genuine souvenirs you can obtain! You may be able to use the water bottle holder as a lint-roll holder.
Components from Outside
Let’s look at the different components on the pack’s exterior. What better place to begin than with the shoulder straps, which are the bread and butter of backpacks. The Carry-on 2.0 features some excellent shoulder straps, so we have no concerns. They’re constructed with two layers of 5mm EVA foam for added comfort, each with two distinct densities. We’re not sure why the two different densities make such a difference, but these straps have served us well. It’s really comfy, yet it’s not too big.
The sternum strap is attached to a plastic-rail system typical on many packs, so you can use it to change the strap’s positioning—and, of course, the “tightness” of the strap. When not in use, the sternum strap may be clipped to a lovely tiny clip on the right shoulder strap—no hanging! This is a fantastic feature.
However, there are two small jokes here… One, we’ve already seen minor wrinkling on the inside fabric of both bags’ shoulder straps, which no one would notice. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s worth mentioning. Second, the sternum strap is a little thicker than the others we’ve seen. Again, this will not be the be-all and end-all, but we’ve seen worse.
After all, we’re picky about this kind of thing.
Moving up to the top of the shoulder straps, load-lifter straps will assist spread the weight of the pack and relieve some of the pressure on your back. We’ve already highlighted them, but if you haven’t tried them, they’re a game-changer—and something we strongly suggest if you’re carrying a lot of weight.
The magnetic connection of these load-lifter straps is an intriguing feature. We were skeptical at first, but these devices perform very effectively. And they’ve held up quite well—aside from a little patina on the metal; there’s been no damage in eight months of steady usage.
The straps are attached to the shoulder strap at the top and feature a tiny plastic piece at the end with a small magnet inside. On top of the bag itself, there are identical plastic-magnetic bits. Remove the strap and slap it on the other magnetic component if you wish to utilize the load-lifter straps. Doesn’t it seem to be flimsy? We’re pleased to report that these items carry their weight well and seem to keep up over time.
Minaal had a great concept, and these tiny straps really surpassed our expectations.
This pack also comes with a removable hip belt, which is fairly typical and has some cushioning. There isn’t much to write home about. When you remove the hip belt, there’s no specific “hip belt storage pocket” or anything like that; it doesn’t fold nicely into some little gap. You’ll probably want to keep it in your bag or leave it at home if you’re traveling.
The back panel has a lot of cushioning, which is extremely comfy. If it wasn’t obvious previously, this bag carries very well. Thanks to the shoulder straps, load-lifters, hip-belt, and back-pad, we’ve been pleasantly pleased by how comfortable this pack is across long distances.
The fact that you can cover all of the straps and convert them into a suitcase-like package is a great feature of this pack. We’ve seen this on a few other packs, and it’s excellent for traveling since you won’t have to worry about straps getting stuck in overhead compartments or anything like that. Minaal’s approach, on the other hand, is intriguing.
In essence, the bag is covered with a cloth cover that runs the length of the bag. You may have noticed that the shoulder-strap side of the bag also has zippers going around the borders.
The cover is rolled up and placed on the very top of the bag, above the shoulder straps, when you require the straps and use the bag normally. Then, just unroll it and zip everything up when you need to conceal anything. You’re now in possession of a big black or grey box. Cool!
So, yeah, this is effective. It fully covers everything and looks fantastic when completed. However, we’ve discovered a few flaws.
It takes a long time to roll up, and you must be very careful to roll it securely. The cloth on the back of your neck/shoulders may be felt when rolled up, particularly when the load-lifter straps are tightened. We eventually got accustomed to it, although it was strange at first.
The zipped outline is less than ideal when the bag is in use. It doesn’t look great, but more significantly, leaving zippers exposed all the time invites trouble. Dirt and debris may seep inside, causing the zipper track to degrade rapidly, and if any portion of it breaks, the cover will be rendered useless.
So, although this method works, it isn’t the most convenient. We’re interested to see how that zipper holds up over time.
We appreciated how the Aer Travel Pack and the Tortuga Homebase addressed this issue, for example, out of all the backpacks we evaluated. Much easier, quicker, and more practical.
The bag has some excellent cushioned handles on both sides and the top. If you were to carry it like a briefcase, the side handle is really tilted to distribute the weight appropriately. Most people overlook a little detail, but it makes a huge impact if you’re transporting this item through an airport or anything.
The compression strap system is one feature of this pack that we particularly like. Many manufacturers seem to overdo compression straps—there are too many, they don’t look nice, and they’re made of obnoxious materials. That isn’t necessary. Things are not like you’re attempting to catch a wild animal or something, so keep it simple. People, they are travel backpacks—don’t get too excited.
The metal buckle mechanism on these compression straps is very easy. When the buckle is not in use, it is attached to the same side of the pack. Take them off and connect them to the opposite side—right up against that clamshell zipper—when you want to utilize them. You won’t have to worry about durability since the buckles are all metal. They have no-frills, yet they function effectively and keep with Minaal’s basic aesthetic.
We’ll go on to the water bottle holder, which is located on the pack’s right side. It’s not the best water bottle holder. It’s just a piece of cloth with little give or flex, similar to what you’d see on a water bottle holder.
There’s a bungee that goes around the top so you can tighten it to fit different-sized bottles, but (here comes the buts again) it’s much too big and not very sturdy. On both of our bags, the plastic cap at the end of the cable has come off after just a few uses. We went to get it one day, and it simply popped off. When you tighten it up, you’re left with nearly a foot of extra bungee hanging off the back of the pack.
On both bags, the plastic bungee caps have fallen off.
You can see that a lot of the details on this bag have been carefully considered. On the other hand, this water bottle holder seemed to be an afterthought. Is it big enough to carry a water bottle? Yes. Is that truly all that matters? Yes, that’s pretty much it. It might, however, be better.
UPDATE: Minaal responded to our inquiry about the broken water bottle bungee, saying, “The water bottle issue would (is!) 100% covered by support and/or warranty.” Anyone may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have it resolved.” Pack Hacker has not tried this anonymously to see whether it works.
Finally, the PackHacker personal favorite on this bag—the sneaky rain cover pocket—completes the exterior components. There’s a small little hole at the bottom of the pack where you may stuff the rain cover. Did we mention there’s a rain cover included? It does, after all.
We felt the Minaal people did a great job on this—almost it’s invisible, it’s basic, and it retains a rain cover nicely. Isn’t it everything you want from a rain cover pocket?
Okay, that was a lot of ground to cover—hah—jokes about rain covers. Let’s get this party started!
We’ll begin by removing the rear clamshell compartment from the pack. This is where you’ll keep all of your important belongings—passports, papers, gadgets, etc.
There’s a typical tiny zip pocket for pens, pencils, and keys right at the top of this compartment—about it’s the height of a credit card but spans the whole width of the bag. Unfortunately, you can’t put a Pop-Tart in here; it’s tall according to our tried and tested Pop-Tart scale. However, you can fit a lot more things in here.
Below that, there’s a great document holder section with a regular bag for bigger papers (or 4 Pop-Tarts) and a tiny place for a passport. The passport compartment is large enough to hold a passport case, which is a thoughtful addition.
It’s a compression sleeve-style device that keeps computers and tablets safe. Laptops have a big sleeve on the bottom, while tablets have a smaller sleeve so that they may be stacked on top of each other. You slip your gadgets in and then use the velcro straps to secure everything in place.
Why go through all this trouble when a simple laptop sleeve would suffice? It allows you to keep a laptop (up to 15”) and a tablet together while taking up very little room. But it’s how it safeguards your really important gadgets.
Because the gadgets are fastened in the center of the bag, they will remain precisely in place if you drop your bag. So you won’t have to worry about your gadgets’ edges colliding with the ground. AND, as a bonus, your laptop and tablet (typically the heaviest pieces of equipment you’ll have) will always be in the same place, directly against your back. Your backpack will carry more weight, and your back and shoulders will be less stressed.
Who knew a laptop sleeve could fit so much technology? In this instance, it pays off handsomely.
Two quick-grab pockets are located at the top of the pack on the exterior. The top pocket is very big, while the bottom pocket is a little smaller. These are both excellent for tossing in a few random things before going through security or keeping a few important items within easy reach.
A mesh zipper pocket with a plastic key clip is also included in that tiny pocket. We don’t have much to say about this except that it… keep the keys in your hand And a few more minor details. It’s all really exciting. It has a good pocket.
Beefy YKK Zippers are a favorite of ours!
This bag’s zippers are all YKK. YKK zippers are our favorite since they are the worldwide standard for zipper longevity and excellent quality. These ones include hooks on the back to attach a padlock for extra security. Because the loops aren’t very large, you’ll have to use a tiny padlock—better than nothing.
When you fully open this clamshell, you’ll see a lot of space to work with—but not much organization. This location screams for a few packing cubes. We’ve been using four to five packing cubes, which is enough to fill this whole area. You could store rolled-up or folded clothing in it, but it will soon become a mess. One of the best things about this clamshell portion is that you can stuff everything into the “scooped” side of the bag, which means you can easily stuff it to the brim and keep everything contained. Then you turn the bag over and zip everything up.
The Minaal Carry-on 2.0 has “3D” pockets.
Two pockets are located on the other side of this section: a 23% mesh pocket and a 13% conventional pocket. These are “3D” pockets, which means they have additional fabric to extend outwards to accommodate heavier objects. When traveling, this may be used to store a few extra t-shirts or as a dirty laundry ‘hamper.’
There are four separate connection points on this side of the bag where you may add various Minaal accessories, such as their shirt protection. We haven’t tried it yet, so we can’t comment—our packing cubes take care of our clothes requirements just well. However, if your shirts need to be protected, this may be a useful function that works well in the video on Minaal’s website.
Testing & Durability
In general, the Minaal Carry-on 2.0 has performed well. As previously stated, we tried two of these bags, the Aoraki Black Version for approximately 1.5 months and the original grey version for about 8 months. There was some normal wear and tear throughout the 8-month test—patina on the magnets, fraying and wrinkling on several straps. But we lived with this gadget for 8 months and used it every day! It’s held up well-considering everything it’s gone through.
The water bottle holder and the strap cover system are the most common concerns. However, on the grand scale of things, they don’t significantly impact the bag’s total use.
We can’t say enough good things about the Minaal Carry-on 2.0. It has enough space and a few smart features, and it looks great for the digital nomad or frequent traveler. Plus, it’s a comfortable pack to wear for extended amounts of time, and it’s durable enough to last for years—or at least, that’s what we can guess based on what we’ve seen so far.
This pack has to be one of the finest choices if you want to do some pretty typical one-bag travel—a laptop, some clothing, and a few extras. However, suppose you’re a photographer or need to transport a lot of gear. Then, you may want to consider something more organized (the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, for example, is great for photographers on the go).
Finally, the bag’s durability, configuration, appearance, and simplicity of use more than compensate for the bag’s minor flaws.
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