Day Owl Slim Backpack Review
Day Owl’s Slim Backpack touts multiple compartments that make it more similar to larger backpacks, though its small capacity makes it feel a bit too crowded.
- Bright liner makes fishing gear out easier
- Comfortable to carry even while fully packed out
- Multiple compartments and pockets despite small volume
- Front pocket feels too tight
- Hard to adjust strap length while wearing
- Internal water bottle pocket eats up space even when unused
2 lb (0.9 kg)
15.5 in x 11 in x 3.5 in (39.4 x 27.9 x 8.9 cm)
Canvas, YKK Zippers, Metal
Laptop Compartment Size
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Day Owl’s Slim Backpack is exactly what its name suggests: a slim backpack. There’s more to it than that, however. Starting with the subjective, notice its stylish exterior that’s super clean-looking and, thankfully, far from being gaudy. Hold the backpack in your hands, and you’ll notice it’s made of waxed canvas. Even better, it’s recycled from post-consumer plastic bottles, so it’s quite guilt-free as well.
Yes, there’s already a lot to like about the Slim Backpack’s exterior. Factor in that there are a lot of organization options by way of secondary pockets and interior liner pockets, and it doesn’t feel short-changed, even when you compare it to bigger backpacks.
So, what’s the catch? Space. We know, big surprise for a pack that’s literally called a “Slim Backpack,” right? Well, there is more to consider when you put a fair amount of features in a small package like this, so let’s take a closer look.
You can usually tell whenever a bag’s designed with certain priorities in mind, whether it’s practicality, aesthetics, costs, etc. In our view, there’s really no single correct choice since each user will have their own preferences. Chances are if someone wants it, there’s something out there for them. As for the Slim Backpack, it’s hard to deny that the styling and the materials take center stage over the rest.
The main material is waxed canvas. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen it on other heritage-style designs. Apart from the very cloth-like appearance, one of the key characteristics of waxed canvas is that it develops patina over time. Indeed, ours has developed its own in short order to give it a more broken-in look. Look close enough, and you can probably see where keys grazed over it. Of course, to some, patina just means “damaged” or “worn-out.” It’s a love-it-or-hate-it aesthetic choice, so we’ll leave that up to you.
Regardless of your taste, you can rest easy knowing that the Slim Backpack is made from recycled materials. The waxed canvas, for example, is made of post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, while the liner is made from recycled polyester. Even the foam is algae-based, so you really get the feeling that the Slim Backpack is as responsible as it is stylish.
Up at the top of the Slim Backpack is a pair of grab handles. Whereas some daypacks settle for a simple nylon loop between the shoulder straps, Day Owl saw it necessary to put two of them here. This is good for a more balanced hand-carrying experience. Is it a bit overkill for a ten-ish liter backpack? Maybe, but the bottom line is that these padded handles are comfortable to hold, so we’re not complaining.
The handles also come with a snap fastener that keeps them together. This should prevent incidents where the handle may graze the back of your neck, like what we see with backpacks like the Mystery Ranch Prizefighter, whose handle is quite loose. It’s also worth noting that using the snap fastener also maintains a much cleaner look for the Slim Backpack.
Admittedly, the Slim Backpack is quite short on external features apart from what we’ve already covered. There are no loops, D-rings, or anything that sticks out. You do get a metal tab with the production number hanging on the right side of the bag. Other than mostly cosmetic features, though, you won’t find much to play around with—which is okay since there’s more to a backpack than just outside extras.
Now for the bread and butter of any backpack: a pair of trusty shoulder straps. Yes, the harness “system” on the Slim Backpack is comprised only of shoulder straps. Well, technically, there’s also the luggage pass-through if you want to count that. Otherwise, you’re only getting the basics here.
Be that as it may, the Slim Backpack’s shoulder straps are more than up to the challenge—the challenge being 10.5 liters of volume. No, it’s not much to lug around, even when you have the Slim Backpack fully packed out. Yet, the shoulder straps curve to fit the wearer better. In terms of padding, there’s actually a relatively generous amount of it, and it’s covered in mesh. Compact backpacks like these often go for less rather than more when it comes to mesh and padding, but the Slim Backpack feels far from lacking, either.
It’s worth noting that the way Day Owl mounts the shoulder straps leaves no parts of them dangling. The slack that would otherwise be left hanging is tucked away, and adjustments are made by moving the metal hardware itself. This is quite tricky to do while you’re wearing the pack, so we recommend taking it off first.
Lastly, the back panel is mostly plain, apart from the luggage pass-through we mentioned earlier. There is some foam padding beneath the fabric, but keep in mind that it also acts as protection for the dedicated laptop compartment adjacent to it.
The Slim Backpack’s harness system (or rather shoulder straps) is well-suited to its 10.5-liter size. The fit is comfortable since it’s well-padded, and the volume won’t push it past its limits. On the other hand, the pack’s relatively small footprint can look and feel awkward on large frames, though that’s purely a subjective matter—you do you.
Since it’s literally a slim backpack, you can expect that it won’t sag backward too badly. That said, we do get a slight sensation that it hangs somewhat low. That’s mostly mitigated by shifting the adjusters more tightly. Just be aware of our earlier disclaimer that you have to take the pack off in order to do so easily.
Something else we noticed about the Slim Backpack is that the padded section of the shoulder straps does feel a bit lacking. Not in terms of thickness or lack thereof. Rather, we think it could be extended further down. As it is, the padded section stops short just around the armpit area, where we think some cushioning would help comfort. It’s the same phenomenon that we experience with ARKTYPE’s Dashpack, whose shoulder straps we also think could use more coverage. All of that said, it’s a relatively minor flaw in the grand scheme of things, and the Slim Backpack largely remains comfortable to carry.
Inside The Backpack
First among the Slim Backpack’s secondary pockets is the one at the front. The zippered opening is stealthily hidden by a fabric welt that goes over like a lower lip that covers the track. It’s a small detail, but it plays a significant role in keeping the pack’s clean looks. Day Owl uses metal pulls for all the zippers. This is perfectly fine for most users, though they can be tricky to grab if you have slippery hands or while wearing thick gloves.
The pocket itself spans most of the front area of the Slim Backpack. That said, while coverage and downward depth is fairly large, horizontal depth is tight. It’s enough for most everyday carry items such as keys, a wallet, and a smartphone. However, once you put really bulky items such as a warden’s set of keys, a millionaire’s wallet, and a cellphone from the 90s, then the pocket starts to get lumpy. In turn, that ruins the Slim Backpack’s profile, which isn’t ideal, at least from an aesthetic point of view.
Accessibility-wise, it can be a bit tricky to get gear out, especially when they’re deep and squeezed in. That can happen once you have the main compartment packed out, which isn’t too hard to achieve since there’s a limited amount of space to work with overall.
If you have everyday carry items that have to be quick and easy to access, there’s also a pocket at the top. It’s located just beneath the grab handles, and it’s meant primarily for sunglasses. The positioning makes sense since it’s high up where there’s less likelihood of other bulky gear jamming next to it. However, if you’re not the type to carry sunglasses, the softly lined pocket works just fine for other small everyday carry items.
We’re glad to see that both of these pockets have bright liners, by the way. This may change based on the colorway you get, but it applies at least to this white variant. It makes all the difference when you’re trying to sift through an assortment of gear looking for that one small accessory.
Next up is the Slim Backpack’s dedicated laptop compartment. Yep, you read that right, a separate top-opening compartment just for a laptop up to 14 inches big. Whereas other backpacks have a laptop sleeve integrated into their main compartment—or have none at all—Day Owl decided that there’s more than enough room in the Slim Backpack.
There is a trade-off, however. There’s no false bottom since there’s not much volume to work with, and a substantial amount of space is taken from the main compartment. That said, this is still a boon for those looking for a small backpack with an emphasis on laptop protection and easier accessibility.
Those who’ve been down in the dumps for the lack of any mention of a bottle pocket thus far will be delighted to know that there is one. It’s a zippered pocket on the left side of the pack, meaning its space eats into the Slim Backpack’s interior—keep that in mind as we look at the main compartment later. There’s enough space for an 18-ounce Hydro Flask inside, so it’s fairly roomy. It’s an all-black neoprene-lined interior, by the way, so while visibility isn’t great, it’s also spill-resistant and easy to clean.
The main compartment opens up horseshoe-style, though you can fold the front portion for a more clamshell-like opening. This way, you have a really great view of the bucket-style space that’s easy to pack. Since the interior also uses a bright white liner, even stray clothing can easily be spotted.
Despite the pack’s slim design, the main compartment isn’t without its own organization options. On the right, there are two loops stacked on top of each other, acting as a single pen loop. At the back are two liner pockets, the right one being the width of a notebook and the left being the width of a passport. These liner pockets look rather stiff and lacking in stretchiness. However, there are built-in elastic gussets at the sides that give them some volume. We’re glad that these options exist, but there is a caveat: the bottle pocket.
With the bottle pocket occupied, the left liner pocket is almost completely blocked. Even when there’s no bottle, you still have to contend with a bunch of fabric in the way. This is just one of the byproducts of the Slim Backpack’s major limitation. At the end of the day, since it’s a slim backpack, a lot of these features fight over space, and you’ll have to pack smartly to balance them out. Take note of how we have only room for one packing cube and a pouch alongside the occupied bottle pocket.
We’ve probably lost count of how many times we’ve mentioned “aesthetic,” “style,” and “looks” in this review. Despite those being core parts of the Slim Backpack’s design, though, it doesn’t feel overly compromised from what it tries to be: a slim backpack. It’s rich in features with plenty to like about it, as long as you don’t have unrealistic expectations when it comes to carrying capacity.
- Digging the waxed canvas material
- Interested to see how well the organization works
- Water bottle pocket cuts significantly into main compartment space
- Material has developed a nice patina
- Pretty comfortable carry even when packed full
- Shoulder straps can be hard to adjust on the fly—you need to take the pack fully off in order to shift the buckle
- Water bottle pocket takes up a large amount of main compartment space even when empty