Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Review

The Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 backpack is a versatile daily driver that can double as a travel bag for short trips—just be sure to invest in packing cubes.

Our Verdict

7.6 /10
Good info

Form

80/100

Design

73/100

Value

77/100
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Pros

  • Minimal design is sleek and unobtrusive
  • Roomy main compartment offers organization versatility
  • Durable, easy-to-clean TPU shell

Cons

  • Bag cannot stand on its own and tumbles over
  • Thin TPU shell with sparse padding for protecting electronics
  • Removable laptop sleeve lacks security and is clunky to attach and detach

Technical Details

39 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 56/145 Airlines

58 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    28l

  • Weight (lb)

    1.88 lb (0.9 kg)

  • Dimensions

    22 in x 12.5 in x 6.5 in (55.9 x 31.8 x 16.5 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Nylon, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), YKK Zippers

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Mountain Hardwear Warranty

Buying Options

Brand
Price
Deal
Mountain Hardwear Logo
$180.00 
Amazon Logo
$113.98 

Full Review

The Simcoe 28, in the current lineup of Mountain Hardwear backpacks, is a versatile, cavernous 28-liter travel bag that would be a good fit for those willing to invest in packing cubes and pouches. It’s great as both a daily driver and even works well as a small travel backpack if you pack efficiently.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Side
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | We dig the backpack’s sleek profile.

From working in local Detroit coffee shops to a 3,500-mile round trip to Colorado, this bag has proved its ability to withstand pretty much any terrain. So, let’s get into the details.

External Components

This bag’s minimalist, unassuming, and sleek design helps it fly under the radar. It trades visual distractions such as bold colors and high contrast accents for a monolithic style in the same vein of Acronym, Arc’Teryx, and Veilance—at a fraction of the price.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Backpack In Use
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | The quick access pocket can make passing through TSA checkpoints less painful.

After spending a moment with the backpack, you’ll notice that the dark TPU waterproof shell we have in Dark Storm is actually a black-ish blue colorway similar to the Midnight colorway Apple offers for their current MacBook Air and Apple Watch. Black piping accents the bag, which we think adds dimension to the look. At the top is a black nylon grab handle and an inconspicuous quick access pocket big enough to store an iPhone Pro Max, wallet, inhaler or other quick-grab medications, and car keys while voyaging through TSA.

Many of the YKK zippers on this bag have a green marl paracord attached, which is a color that we grew to appreciate halfway through testing for its uniqueness.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Zipper
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | The paracord is a refreshing splash of color.

Apart from the quick access pocket that we just mentioned, this bag only has one other place to store your gear: the main compartment. Its clamshell opening uses low-profile YKK AquaGuard zippers that give it an added element of weatherproofing on top of the already weatherproof Kiss-Coated TPU Nylon shell.

The two zippers of the main compartment have plastic zipper pulls that have exposed center cores revealing the paracord. The pulls are about the length of a safety pin and thin enough that they feel like they could easily snap in half if caught in the overhead bin of a plane or a car door. While we haven’t had any issues, it’s something worth noting.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Handle
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | The top handle.

The back of the bag features aerated padding that does a decent job of not overheating your back during prolonged carry. The padding starts off broader at the shoulders then gradually tapers to rest along the curvature of your spine.

The shoulder straps are thin and firm but still comfortable, like the spongy part of football shoulder pads that are in contact with your body. While we didn’t experience discomfort during long days of carry, your mileage may vary. The bag does a good job at placing the brunt of the weight load to the lower back as opposed to the top of the shoulders. And, if you’d like a little extra support, you can utilize the sternum strap. The height-adjustable, non-elastic strap is on the thinner side, about the width of a nickel. The equally-small plastic buckles were consistently reliable and never accidentally unbuckled during six weeks of daily testing.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Back Full
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | The sternum strap is small but mighty.

It’s very important to note that this bag cannot stand up on its own, though it’s up to you to decide if that’s a deal breaker. During testing, the bag fell over on numerous occasions, sometimes taking dramatic swan dives off the tables and chairs it was propped up on. We found laying the bag flat on its back to be the best practice for reducing the chance of tumbles—especially if there are fragile electronics inside.

Besides that, there are two inconspicuous elastic openings for water bottles on both sides of the hip. It’s easy to miss these bonus compartments because they flow so seamlessly into the side of the bag when empty. The water bottle compartments are surprisingly tall enough to stow a compact umbrella or travel desktop tripod.

Fit Notes

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Side By Side
Left: Michael Wheeler, Height: 6’3” (190 cm), Torso: 21” (53 cm) | Right: Kristyne Defever, Height: 5’5” (165 cm), Torso: 17” (43 cm)

The Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 backpack offers a sleek, minimal design. The bag’s basic silhouette gives it the versatility to blend in at work conference rooms, classrooms, and everywhere in between. The bag’s muted colorway of blueish-black body, black zippers, and earthy green paracords, are anything but garish.

The sensibly-padded shoulder straps and back panel keeps the Simcoe 28 cool and comfortable even during long days of wear. The harness system naturally diverts the pressure of the bag’s weight from the shoulders to the lower back making it a suitable daypack for travel.

Inside The Pack

As mentioned earlier, this bag sports only two compartments. We’ve already covered the quick-grab compartment at the top, so we’ll now focus on the main compartment. When laying flat, it fully opens clamshell-style to reveal a spacious 28-liter interior.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Packing Cubes
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | Behold the packing potential thanks to the bag’s clamshell design.

You won’t find much internal organization here—it’s a hollow white shell. This type of bag is great for someone who likes to customize their carry using packing cubes and pouches. However, those who prefer granular organization may want to look elsewhere. Along the inside lid is is a low-profile zippered sleeve suitable for small, flat items such as a passport. However, be mindful that the outline of the sleeve’s contents will be visible from the outside given how thin the TPU shell is.

This bag features a dual laptop sleeve with thin padding about the same thickness as three credit cards. The manufacturer states that the sleeves can support laptops up to 15”, but we were able to fit a 16” laptop and zip the bag closed without issue.

Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack Detail
Mountain Hardwear Simcoe 28 Backpack | We dig the backpack’s sleek profile.

The laptop sleeve is detachable via a single strip of VELCRO anchored to the inside of the back panel. While it’s easy to detach, re-attaching requires relatively more effort since a suspended pen pouch that also has a VELCRO back tends to get in the way. We found it best to lay the bag flat, use one hand to hold the fixed pen pouch out of the way, then use the other hand to align the inch-wide VELCRO strips to each other.

The sleeve has one external full-width mesh zip sleeve and two half-width mesh sleeves with elastic openings on the inside compartment. These could come in handy for storing smaller accessories such as pens, shorter cables, and USB drives. Since the sleeves are tight mesh, we have concerns that over-packing them could possibly stretch out the mesh permanently. Plus, we would have liked to see a VELCRO or buckled strap cover the laptop sleeve openings to secure our electronics better.

Suspended from the ceiling of the interior is another zippered mesh pocket for pens and small accessories. Inside is a non-elastic nylon ribbon capped by a plastic hook that acts as a key leash. While it’s nice to have a dedicated spot for them, it’s only accessible after opening the main compartment, which requires two hands and prolongs retrieval time. We think this feature would be better served in the quick access pouch found at the top of the bag.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Digging the sleek design
  • Interested to see how the detachable laptop sleeve will function
  • Pretty minimal harness system
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Doesn’t stand up on its own
  • Materials holding up well
1 Month of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Nothing new to report—still in great condition!
By Pack Hacker Team
Created March 15, 2023 • Updated March 12, 2024
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