Lander Commuter Backpack 25L Review
The Lander Commuter Backpack 25L’s excellent device protection ensures confidence during outdoor trips, though it’s better to leave the unreliable sternum strap at home.
- The laptop compartment is well-protected
- The harness system is comfortable to use
- Plenty of space for pouches and packing cubes
- The sternum strap easily comes loose
- The built-in key clip has little to no length
- Large front pocket’s black interior can be hard to see into
2.75 lb (1.2 kg)
20.87 in x 12.99 in x 7.09 in (53 x 33 x 18 cm)
CORDURA®, Nylon, Polyester, DWR Coating, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
This is our first review of a Lander product, but not our first of a commuter backpack. In past reviews of other commuter backpacks, the category has straddled the line between a daypack and a travel backpack, emphasizing weather-resistance, a good harness system, and overall durability, all at a commuter-friendly size. It’s a convenient solution for those looking for a little bit of both in one bag.
Lander’s Commuter Backpack ticks all the right boxes at an above-average capacity to boot. While we haven’t gone crazy and spent a week outside city limits to push the backpack to its limits, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t thoroughly put it through its paces. So please sit back, grab a refreshing drink, and find out our thoughts on the Commuter Backpack.
Materials & Aesthetic
For the weekend adventurer, the look absolutely fits the bill. The Commuter Backpack’s name might conjure up some preconceived notions of a bag that’s more straightforward and even professional-looking to fit a home-to-office or home-to-university environment. However, that’s not really the case here, as the aesthetic is more of a compromise between an outdoor travel backpack and an urban lifestyle one.
This backpack is buzzing with features. Straps, zippers, and handles are scattered around the body. With the Commuter Backpack, you leave no doubts in the minds of others that you love the occasional out-of-town adventure. Of course, you only go once your vacation leave has been approved. Until then, you appreciate the amenities included in this bag, ones that we’ll get to in a minute.
There’s currently only one colorway available: Smoke. To translate, that’s gray with black features. In other words, discreet, which we have no complaints about. With a combination like that, the Commuter Backpack doesn’t stick out from the crowd when you take the subway or when you’re power walking amidst the morning and afternoon rush.
It’s all about getting the job done for the most part. With a spec list that includes tough-as-nails CORDURA EcoMade Nylon, DWR Coating—that’s water-resistant coating—, YKK Zippers, and Woojin Hardware, Lander’ Commuter Backpack is equipped with the right stuff. Consider the lone branding on the front; even that has a function thanks to the loop just below it.
Aside from that small loop your carabiner or keychain will call home; there’s also a pair of straps underneath. Yoga enthusiasts and track athletes both love these kinds of straps because they can just chuck their yoga mat or pair of dirty sneakers on there instead of holding it all the way home.
Speaking of straps, Lander has also opted to go down the same route for their side bottle pockets. Instead of the usual elastic or bungee cord setup most other backpacks employ, an adjustable strap holds down the fort for both pockets. It’s an unusual solution, but it does the job, and it has the added benefit of remaining effective even after a long time of wear and tear. We’ve seen our fair share of elastics losing their potency after a few years, so this seems like a practical alternative.
In addition to the usual handle between the shoulder straps commonly found amongst backpacks, Lander saw it fit to add another top handle as well. This one’s very low-profile, sitting almost flush against the top of the bag. It’s a good implement since the Commuter Backpack has a bit of a gut and another forward handle serves to better balance the load during hand carry. It almost makes us wish Lander threw in some low-profile side handles as well.
Regardless, you will only use those handles about a quarter of the time compared to a backpack’s main staple: the harness system. And the Commuter Backpack has some very thickly-padded shoulder straps that felt comfortable on our shoulders. The underside has a breathable mesh material, and it didn’t make any unpleasant creases.
To top it off, Lander has an interesting washboard-like design for the back panel. We initially had reservations about this since it had this felt-like texture that might not do well with heat. But the ribbed pattern did aid in getting air through the surface and flexibility, so it works as intended.
But the Commuter Backpack doesn’t come away unscathed here as the harness system has a troubling issue with its sternum strap. Simply put, it can go loose too easily due to the way it’s anchored. A “T” shaped metal piece threads through one of the loops on the left shoulder strap. Ideally, the T’s head stops it from going back out, but since the T’s head is almost as broad as the loop, it can do so anyway.
It’s led to a few instances of the sternum strap coming off during our time with the backpack. We’re not alone in this, as a few verified purchasers on the Commuter Backpack’s product page have shared similar experiences with the sternum strap. We’d forgo the sternum strap altogether to avoid losing it. At 25 liters, it’s not necessary for day-to-day use, and it’s best reserved for when you really load up the pack to the gills.
Inside The Pack
With a rated capacity of 25L, you’d expect the Commuter Backpack to be one spacious backpack—and you’d be right. Starting with the front pocket, we’re already struggling whether to call this a pocket or a compartment. The sheer space inside is nothing short of impressive and has more than enough depth to swallow a sizable tech pouch, as you’ll be able to see in our video above.
It’s quite deep as well, so we’d be careful not to drop anything too small to find in there. Fortunately, there is a built-in key clip, albeit a short one, so your keys stay near the mouth of the pocket. For other small items you would want to keep near the top, there are also three liner pockets, of which the middle one can fit a medium-sized power bank, while the two flanking pockets are more for wireless earbuds cases.
There’s also a quick-grab pocket at the top of the bag with very soft interior fabric that’s perfect for easily-scratched items like your sunglasses or smartphone. But before you put your smartphone in there, consider that there’s not one but two security pockets behind the back panel. These kinds of back panel pockets are always best suited for flat-shaped items of high importance like a passport, wallet, or that well-timed vacation photo you just got developed.
Now to the main compartment. As most backpacks of this nature do, the main compartment opens up horse shoe-style with a very wide opening so you can tuck in your packing cubes very easily. An elastic pocket to the rear takes care of any documents or folders you might have or anything that needs separation from the other contents of the compartment. The interior fabric here is also dark, but since the opening is so wide, visibility wasn’t an issue whatsoever.
Last, but certainly not least, is the laptop compartment. While well-padded laptop compartments aren’t anything new to us, the Commuter Backpack surprises us still by incorporating padding on the front side of the sleeve, as well as a big false bottom. First, you typically don’t see much padding in front of a laptop compartment since this side faces the other compartments of the bag, which provide adequate cushioning. Second, here we have more than an inch of buffer zone between the bottom of the sleeve and the floor of the backpack. Factor in the water-resistant zipper at the top, and you have above-average protection in all directions. They even named it the “Crash Pad” Interpret that as you will, but for us, that just screams confidence.
One last thing, there’s a cable passthrough between the top security pocket and the laptop compartment, which Lander intends for you to use for charging your devices. If you have a laptop that supports charging via a power bank, this can be a good solution, granted that the power bank is slim enough that it doesn’t create discomfort when it’s inside the security pocket. Alternatively, if your laptop supports power delivery during sleep or hibernate mode, you can top up your smartphone while it’s in the security pocket.
The name on the package can be misleading. The first time we read “Commuter” in the Commuter Backpack’s name, we expected something that’s purely an urban-centric bag, perhaps more in the daypack category, if anything, like the Heimplanet Commuter Pack. But everything we found here is far from catering to just intercity travel.
Ruggedized large capacity backpacks like this often have a well-padded floating laptop sleeve in the main compartment and call it a day. On the other hand, Lander put considerable thought into the techier side of things for the Commuter Backpack, ensuring users that their devices are safe from harm even if they take a trip outdoors.
- Large laptop compartment is floating, soft, and well padded
- Plenty of great tech organization all over this bag
- Harness system is well-padded and very comfortable to wear
This bag has been a solid commuter bag overall, it offers great laptop protection, but there are a few features that aren’t quite up to par. The harness system is well padded and feels great even with heavy loads. However, the sternum strap is not great. The attachment hardware is almost the same size as the attachment points, so it falls off all the time. At 25L, a sternum strap isn’t essential, so it’ll be up to you if it’s a dealbreaker or not. We’ve enjoyed the amount of organization this bag offers, and it’s pretty wide open, so it’s great for adding in pouches and packing cubes. The best part is the laptop compartment. It has everything you could want in a laptop compartment. It’s well-padded, has a soft liner, and a substantial false-bottom. We’ve felt safe putting our laptop in with no case. We’ve found ourselves skipping the two hidden pockets behind the back panel. They are thin pockets, so they would be a great spot to store a passport or extra cash, but we haven’t had a real use in our day-to-day travels. There is also a cord passthrough between the laptop compartment and the back pockets, which has us scratching our heads. Unless you have a very thin charger that can charge a laptop, we’re not sure how to best utilize this passthrough.