Arden Cove MB Packing Backpack Review
The Arden Cove MB Packing Backpack has ample space for your gear and good organization, but the security features aren’t as robust as we’d like for the price.
- Easy to pack for a trip
- Security features don’t get in your way
- Comfortable despite minimal harness system
- Back panel padding to thin to blunt feeling of laptop
- High price point for what you get
- Extremely flexible straps twist easily when bag is full
2.13 lb (1 kg)
15 in x 11 in x 6 in (38.1 x 27.9 x 15.2 cm)
Vegan Leather, Nylon, Microfiber, YKK Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
Do you want to pack for vacation in a backpack but are afraid of looking like a tourist, with your big hiking pack shouting to everyone that you want to go back in time and take a gap year to travel through Europe? Plenty of options put aesthetics at the forefront of their design choices instead, and the Arden Cove MB Packing Backpack seems to fit the bill.
It has a smaller footprint than some other travel backpacks, with a square shape designed to be easy to pack and lockable features to prevent theft. How does it perform when you take it on a trip? Let’s find out.
Looking at the outside of the bag, you’ll find various materials and textures. The exterior is water resistant, with a smooth microfiber faux, or vegan, leather top in a shape that looks like an envelope closing over a triangular design of the same material—this time textured—filling out the remaining height of the bag.
The Arden Cove name and logo are debossed in a silvery gray or gold, depending on your chosen colorway, where the top meets the top of the triangle, and the space left uncovered by faux leather is nylon, which also encompasses the sides of the pack.
There are two carry handles on the backpack: one with a larger webbing loop on the top and a more low-profile one on the left side so you can pull it out from overhead bins on the plane whether you have to slide it in horizontally or vertically. Each handle is wrapped in the same faux leather you see elsewhere around the bag. There is also a pass-through on the back panel if you want to pair it with rolling carry on luggage.
Arden Cove uses AquaGuard-style (water-resistant) YKK zippers on all three exterior openings to the bag. The zipper heads and pulls are shiny metallic, whether you get the Black-Gold colorway or the Black-Gunmetal. The only difference is that the metal color is gold on the former and gunmetal on the latter. The zippers also have locking mechanisms for security. All but the front pocket zipper include hooks that can clip to various points on the bag: a D-ring in the case of the laptop compartment, the other zipper pull in the case of the main compartment, and the bottom of the shoulder strap in the case of a back panel pocket. They also have holes in the heads to slide a luggage lock through them.
The security features continue with a slash-resistant lining throughout the entire bag for security. Although we were able to slash the interior lining with minimal effort using a box cutter (as shown on Arden Cove’s website), there’s a separate layer that stopped the blade. Most thieves will try to get into your bag from the outside, so it’s great to see this security feature doing its job.
The harness system is rather simple, with adjustable shoulder straps, and that’s it. They’re very flexible and seem thin for the amount of gear you can stuff into the bag, yet they’re pretty comfortable. The unbranded adjusters stay in place, and you can unclip the straps and tuck them into two stretchy pockets at the top if you’re carrying the backpack instead of wearing it. Arden Cove sells separate straps that you could hook to D-rings on the left side of the bag to carry it over your shoulder like a duffle bag, but we feel it works best as a backpack.
The back panel itself is similarly padded and lined with breathable mesh. The stretchy upper half (where you tuck the straps) is more like athletic wear, while the bottom half has the same mini-mesh as the undersides of the shoulder straps.
You’ll find the zipper pocket we referenced above on the left side of the back panel. It’s a good place for your passport or phone. Anything you stow inside will be more protected than gear in the front pocket by virtue of being against your back and the fact that you can clip the zipper to the same D-ring as the bottom of the shoulder strap so no one can open it without you knowing while you’re wearing it. Just beware of stowing small yet bulky gear inside, as you’ll feel it against your back.
There’s no way to get around it: with flashy hardware, faux leather, and the potential for a lavender lining, depending on which colorway you choose (that’s the Black-Gold if you like purple), this is a more feminine-looking bag. It’s great for weekend getaways with your friends and a work trip because it can look professional and stylish at the same time. We think the Black-Gunmetal is a little more understated if you prefer to fly more under the radar than you will with flashy gold. Still, they each have an aesthetic that appeals to certain travelers, but probably not everyone.
While it lacks compression, it doesn’t look very bulky if you don’t have it fully packed out, so it works as well as a travel daypack or everyday carry bag as it does to pack for vacation.
Inside The Pack
While the main event is the main compartment, there are several other places to stash your gear without going all the way inside on the MB Packing Backpack.
For starters, a front pocket opens along the left side of the triangular piece of faux leather. The zipper is concealed behind the edge of the material, and it’s still a water-resistant model, so you have extra protection for your AirPods, phone, and whatever else you want to stash inside. The pocket isn’t actually angled on the right side; instead, it stretches from the bottom of the triangle straight up, giving you a smidge more space. If you like carrying a pocket notebook, travel journal, or some tissues and snacks, this is a good place for that type of gear. While you can also stash your travel wallet and passport inside, this is the one place on the bag that can’t lock or secure in some fashion, so you may not want to if you’re heading to a sketchy area.
Instead, pack that gear in the back panel pocket so that you can keep it close to your body and clip it to prevent it from accidentally unzipping. It extends nearly all the way across the back horizontally, so there’s plenty of space for whatever flat gear you want to stash inside, from your phone to your passport and minimalist wallet.
Stretchy mesh pockets on each side of the bag capably hold your travel water bottle in place. While they don’t appear super deep, they stretch to accommodate taller bottles and hold them in place. Plus, because the mesh isn’t super tall, you can also slide in some mugs with handles.
Finally, a laptop compartment is accessible without opening the entire bag. It can hold up to a 15-inch laptop, easily accommodating our 13-inch MacBook Air, even with a trip’s worth of clothing inside. This compartment also has a sleeve for a smaller tablet or e-reader. If you don’t have either of those, we used it for a small tech pouch, like the Aer Split Kit, instead. The entire compartment has a decent amount of padding to protect your device. While there’s no false bottom, there was also no issue when the bag accidentally fell out of the back seat of a car (whoops!), so it’s an adequate amount of protection.
However, you could find all of that in a daypack, so let’s head inside to check out the travel features of this bag. It features a clamshell opening that’s easy to pack, with a large main compartment and organization that may allow you to leave separate kits and pouches at home.
Against the front panel are a few zipper mesh pockets for smaller gear. The top pocket features one zipper, but it is divided into two equal sections. You can use them for tissues, travel size bottles, or a travel mouse, depending on what small gear you need to pack. The pocket below that is the same height, without a divider, so it’s a good place for your toiletry bag or makeup kit, although since it’s at the bottom of the bag, you’ll have to reach pretty deep to grab your 3-1-1 bag if you have to take it out at TSA. If you haven’t stuffed a bunch of gear in front of these pockets, however, it’s easy enough to reach even without completely unzipping the bag.
On the opposite side is more organization, on the zippered divider keeping your clothing separate from this other gear. There are two slip pockets: one that easily fits a phone if you don’t have it in one of the external pockets and one that’s RFID-protected for your wallet or passport. We have to mention that the RFID protection is rather crunchy, so you won’t be able to subtly grab anything out of that pocket without anyone hearing. Arden Cove describes this material as “a woven metal to act like a faraday cage so it blocks electromagnetic fields,” so at least you can hear it doing its job!
To the left of those pockets is a deep pen or stylus pocket, and there’s also a D-ring right above this, where you could attach a key leash. Arden Cove sells that separately, or you can use your own carabiner or keychain. And then, above all of that, is a zipper pocket that runs the length and width of these other areas where you can toss tiny travel accessories. Depending on how you fill these pockets, you will likely have room left over to stash tall yet slender items in between. You can put smaller gear here, too—we slide in glasses in a hard case daily—but they’ll obviously slide to the bottom.
A zipper runs around both sides and the top of this admin panel, and when you open it, you’ll find the spacious main compartment. Due to the structure of the sides of the bag, you can fit quite a bit of clothing inside. Since it’s a small, rectangular space, it’s easy to wedge in your rolled clothing, and if you’re packing for several days or up to a week, everything should stay where you put it because it will fill the available space. You can also use packing cubes to keep things better organized and allow you room to stash a toiletry bag without dislodging carefully folded clothing. The extra depth outside this area is handy if you really want to stuff it full, as the liner is flexible to accommodate a bit of a bulge.
Overall, this could be a good backpack if you’re looking for a bag that emphasizes style with a nod to security. However, it lacks the level of anti-theft features we’d want to see on a backpack that’s placing such a large emphasis on theft resistance, especially in this price range. We think other brands do this better in similarly sized packs that still look pretty nice.
- Nice style for an anti-theft bag
- Seems like a good amount of organization
- Like the look of the faux leather
- Straps slip out of adjustment after a few days
- Holds quite a bit of clothing
- Works well as a daypack or travel backpack