CROWDFUNDING REVIEW – If you’re going to be on a trip for a few days, you might plan to bring a small suitcase for all your clothes and other items. But what if it’s one of those trips where you spend most of your time walking from place to place—maybe you’re sightseeing a big city like Washington DC, London, or Hong Kong—and you plan to stay wherever you find yourself. It isn’t really practical to drag a suitcase around all day; what you really need is a good travel backpack instead. Is the new IndieGoGo-funded travel backpack from Pakt the right gadget for a trip like this? Read on to find out.
What is it?
The Pakt Travel Backpack is a travel bag designed for carrying everything with you while you go. Pakt’s tagline for this bag is that it has “the portability of a backpack, the organization of a suitcase.” It comes with a lot of features and is designed for anyone who loves to be organized. Pakt is a small company that was “founded in 2018 to make refined, responsibly-sourced travel goods.”
What’s in the box?
- The backpack
- A short guide that highlights its features
- Dimensions: 21 inches high, 12.6 wide, 6.7 deep
- Capacity: 30 liters (1 cubic foot)
- Weight: 4.5 pounds
- Laptop Pocket: Up to 16 inches
- External Materials: 900D rPET
- Internal Lining: 150d polyester
Design and features
The Pakt is a rectangular, block-shaped backpack. My first impression was that it is large and has a lot of compartments for organizing everything. It’s not an elegant or a beautiful design, but clearly there’s a lot of functionality here. I’m a bit on the OCD-side of things when it comes to being organized, so when I counted 15 distinct storage locations (not including things like the pencil holders), I was in a happy place. My review sample is a drab, olive-green color that looks like it belongs in the Army. It would be nice to have the option for more attractive colors, but the only other choice is black. The bag itself appears to be very durable; there’s lots of extra stitching around the handles and other places that get wear and tear.
Installation and setup
One of the goals of the company is to be ecologically responsible, which is why their packaging is plastic-free. The backpack came in a cardboard box and was thoughtfully wrapped in brown paper. It’s also why the external fabric of the backpack itself is made of rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), a polymer that is created from recycled plastic, like that from used water bottles or peanut butter jars.
The Pakt has “the organization of a suitcase,” so let’s look inside first. The main pair of zippers run from the top of the bag, down one side, and to the bottom. They allow the Pakt to be fully opened from the left side, just like a suitcase. Within are three main storage compartments. The front is behind a zippered mesh divider, and it contains two smaller compartments. The back is behind a zippered and padded divider that doubles as the laptop sleeve. Between them is the center compartment. There’s a lot of space in these three compartments. As a guy, I’m thinking that I could easily pack three to five days’ worth of clothes, depending upon the season. The multitude of compartments makes it easy to separate my clothes any way I want: clean vs dirty, formal vs casual, jeans vs tshirts vs unmentionables. I highly approve of all this organization.
The padding on the laptop sleeve isn’t the thickest ever, but as it’s literally right in the center of the Pakt, all my other clothes will be protecting it. The sleeve does not extend all the way to the bottom, so it won’t be hitting the floor when I set the backpack down next to a table in a café. I think this design is more than sufficient protection. Pakt says that it should hold most 15- or 16-inch laptops, and it easily held my 15-inch MacBookPro.
The Pakt also has “the portability of a backpack,” so let’s take a look at the outside. There are four handles, one on top, one on bottom, and two on the left side. No matter how I set this bag down, it will always be easy to pick up. It also has a hook on top, in case I need to hang it on a peg.
There are two compartments in front, which are perfect for storing smaller items that I need to grab quickly, like a map, a subway card, a pack of gum, or a cellphone. Both have multiple places within to store even smaller things, like keys, a pen, or coins.
On one side is a stretchy pouch for holding a water bottle or possibly a small umbrella. It’s surprisingly big, so even an oversized bottle will fit comfortably. Both sides have a pair of accessory straps that can be used to strap on awkward items that won’t fit inside, such as a camera tripod, a medium umbrella, or a rolled-up sweatshirt or coat. The cool part is that all of these straps can be unhooked when I’m not using them; this keeps them from flapping around and getting in my way. Removing these straps is one of the first things I did, as I think that it’s rare that I’ll use them.
The top of the bag has three pairs of zippers. The center one is the main storage compartment, which I described above. The back one is an alternate way to access the back compartment and the laptop sleeve. This makes it easy to quickly pull out an item of clothing, such as a light coat when the sun sets and it gets chilly or my laptop when I stop at a Starbucks, without having to open up the main compartment.
The front zipper is for a small, waterproof pouch. The idea is to provide a place to store anything that might leak, thus preventing the liquid from getting all over my clothes. I plan to put things like saline solution, shaving cream, toothpaste, and other toiletry items in it. By now, I’m hoping you can see that a lot of attention to detail was put into the design of this bag.
Even with all the descriptions and pictures I’ve given you so far, I’ve missed some of the smaller hidey-holes that the Pakt has. This backpack really is an organizer’s dream-come-true.
The Pakt has a harness system that is designed to be comfortable even when wearing the backpack all day. It has padded shoulder straps, load lifters, sternum straps, and a hip belt. Unfortunately, despite endlessly fiddling with the straps, I never got to the point where I felt the bag was really comfortable on my shoulders. It feels like the shoulder straps are too close together, and they tend to pinch into my neck.
I pressed my daughter into Gadgeteer Review Service—she’s home from college due to COVID-19—but we couldn’t get it to be really comfortable on her either. As a point of comparison, she brought down her Osprey Tropos everyday backpack, which I reviewed with her last year. We took all the clothes and toiletries that I had packed into the Pakt, as well as my laptop, and put them into the Tropos in order to provide a fair comparison. After walking around for a while and taking a few mini-hikes on the country roads around our neighborhood, we agreed that the Tropos is a lot more comfortable. As I look at the designs side-by-side, the big difference that I see is that the shoulder straps on the Pakt are closer together and go straight down, whereas the straps on the Tropos are further apart and are angled outward. While I think Pakt’s travel bag will be just fine for hiking to a hotel and dropping it off, I don’t think I would find it comfortable for wearing all day, especially if it was really loaded down with a lot of stuff. I’m 6’1” and of medium build; perhaps the Pakt would be more comfortable on a smaller person.
As with the accessory straps, both the sternum straps and the hip belt can be removed, if they are in my way. Additionally, the shoulder straps can be unclipped and tucked in. I suppose this could be handy for airplane flights where I don’t want them getting caught while putting the backpack under my seat or in an overhead compartment, but honestly, I don’t see myself ever using this feature.
The Pakt has a 30-liter capacity, which is almost as much as a small travel suitcase, such as the OGIO Alpha Convoy 522, which has a 33-liter capacity. I really can load it down like a suitcase, which makes the exceptional organizational features of the Pakt even more important.
The Pakt has several safety features. On the back, just under the shoulder straps, is a small, secret pocket where I can put valuables like a passport, international driver’s license, or traveler’s checks. The main pair of zippers can be locked together, though a lock is not included with the bag. There’s a light loop on the lower back for clipping on a bike tail light. There’s also a TSA pocket on the back, which I can pull out and slip my phone and wallet into it while going through the security scanners at an airport instead of dropping them into those white plastic bins.
One of the backpack’s unique features is the hip belt. It’s velcroed into place, and when the velcro is pulled apart on either side, the entire belt slides out and is transformed into a day pack. This is perfect for those trips where I plan to drop the backpack off at the hotel and put a few snacks and valuables into the day pack for sightseeing for the rest of the day.
The Pakt also has a luggage pass-through, so I can slip it on my suitcase and not worry about it falling off while walking through the airport or catching a shuttle to the car rental lot. While the Pakt is water-resistant, it’s not waterproof. If I’m going to be walking in the rain a lot, I can pick up a rain cover from Pakt for an extra $25. Last but not least, Pakt has a wonderful return policy: “If you’re not 100% satisfied with the design or quality simply send it back for a full refund of the purchase price (shipping and handling fees are non-refundable).”
What I like
- The portability of a backpack, the organization of a suitcase
- So many pockets and compartments
- Eco-friendly material
- Many safety features
What I’d change
- More color choices
- A different shoulder strap design
The designers at Pakt have carefully thought through how to build a useful, highly organized travel backpack. I believe it has a spot for everything I’d ever want to bring on a short trip. I love its efficient use of space and many compartments and pouches. I think Pakt has absolutely delivered on their tagline, “the portability of a backpack, the organization of a suitcase.” The only thing that concerns me is the comfort of the bag. I think I could wear it for an hour or two, but I doubt I could wear it all day without significant pain in my shoulders. If you’re looking for a travel backpack, especially if you don’t plan to carry it all day, you should definitely take a look at the Pakt Travel Backpack. And if you are a bit concerned about comfort, it’s great to know they have a wonderful return policy.
Note: I was informed that the sample backpack that I received is not exactly identical to the final design. The changes include only two accessory straps instead of four, no small cord keeper in the upper front pocket, a mesh pocket on the interior mesh dividers, no organization in the lower front pocket, and no mesh pocket on the right-hand side inner compartment. I suggest keeping an eye on Pakt’s website and their IndieGoGo page to see the final design.