NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Duffle 42L Review
The NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Duffle 42L is spacious and packs down to a small footprint, though it lacks internal organization or structure.
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- Transitions seamlessly between duffel and backpack modes
- Materials are water-resistant enough for travel use in most climates
- Collapsed size is tiny for such a large capacity pack
- No back panel padding or aeration, which isn’t the most comfortable
- Stuff pocket zipper can get caught on the internal materials
- Lots of extra strap when carried in duffel mode
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0.9 lb (0.4 kg)
21 in x 13.5 in x 9 in (53.3 x 34.3 x 22.9 cm)
(expanded) | 12 in x 7 in x 2 in (collapsed)
Nylon, DWR Coating, YKK Buckles, YKK Zippers, Zoom Zippers
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We’ve used a lot of packable bags here at Pack Hacker, but at the time of writing, we haven’t tested anything this large that claims to be packable. Seriously, 42 liters? That’s insane. We’re curious about what sacrifices were made to make such a large duffel packable and whether the packed size is justifiable to bring in anything other than your packed luggage. Let’s find out!
The pack’s exterior is crafted from 210D nylon with a DRW coating. NOMATIC uses this fabric on other products, like the McKinnon Cube Pack 21L. It will hold up in light rain, but anything heavier and you should head for cover.
The zipper for the stuff pocket is from YKK. It’s reversible because it stuffs into itself. In most situations, it works as we would expect it to, but occasionally it will get caught on the interior materials. It’s relatively easy to get unstuck, though.
When packed down, it’s roughly the size of a travel pillow. It can be used as one in a pinch, but it isn’t the most comfortable make-shift pillow we’ve used. The rectangular cube is shockingly tiny for a 42-liter duffel, although it isn’t small enough to fit inside a standard-sized sling. You shouldn’t have an issue sliding it into a daypack or travel backpack, though.
There’s a single external pocket when the duffel is stowed away in what we’ve started calling rectangle mode. It’s a relatively large zippered pocket that can fit your phone, wallet, or passport individually or simultaneously. It’s worth noting that all the zippers, apart from the reversible one, are from Zoom. Typically we prefer YKK zippers considering their reliability, but in this case, the Zoom zippers work better than the YKK due to the sticking issue we mentioned earlier. This pocket is accessible when the pack is in use, but we’ll get there later.
In addition to operating as a duffel bag, you can use it as a backpack, too. The two straps you carry the pack with are shoulder straps and can be used interchangeably without manipulating them. They’re super thin and don’t have any padding; they aren’t for long treks on the trail, but they are comfortable enough for short trips or to relieve your arm from a heavy load. They’re aerated, which helps keep things cool.
The shoulder straps have a sternum strap, a bonus we weren’t expecting. It helps keep things under wraps when the pack is heavy and keeps the straps as close together as you want them to be. It’s on a rail system that is broken up into six sections so that you can make micro-adjustments, but you don’t need to worry about it sliding all over the place.
Each side of the duffel has two compression straps. This is useful in both carry modes, but especially in backpack mode. When it isn’t cinched down, your gear feels like it’s in a blender. After cinching it down, it feels more compact and less soupy. It’s handy to keep things under wraps in duffel mode, too. It helps conform the materials to whatever you have inside the pack, but it can only do so much if it’s super empty.
There’s a top handle above the shoulder straps you’d expect to see on a backpack. There’s an identical one on the bottom, too, so you can grab it from either end. The strap is basic and has no padding, but it does the job. You can hold both to move the duffel while it’s open, which is handy for when you’re moving things around at the hotel or getting something out of the pack right when an outlet opens up at the airport. Get over there and charge up!
The shoulder straps can dig in when the pack is super heavy. This isn’t surprising, as 40+ liter backpacks typically have densely padded and aerated shoulder straps complete with a hip belt and load lifters. Given that this is a packable duffel pack that transitions into a backpack, we aren’t expecting that from it. They offer a great way to rest your arm when it gets tired and are comfortable enough for that.
There isn’t any back panel to speak of. Well, in more precise terms, there is no padding or aeration. It’s just the primary pack material and a zipper. If you pack the bag with this in mind, you can create a reasonably comfortable carry. If you place lots of small rigid items on your backside, it isn’t going to be comfortable. If you put a padded laptop sleeve there, it acts as a back panel and is comfortable. This isn’t always possible, but a little organization goes a long way.
Carrying the pack as a duffel is comfortable and easy enough. Just grab and go! There isn’t a ton of padding for your hand, but there’s enough material to get the job done. There are some leftover straps from the sternum strap and other strap adjustors, but they don’t get in the way of the pack’s function.
Inside The Duffel
There’s just one secondary compartment, and we’ve already mentioned it—the stuff compartment. It’s on the top of the pack when in backpack mode. There isn’t much room here, but it works like a traditional side duffel pocket. It’s a good spot for items you don’t want to get swallowed by the massive main compartment, and there’s a small zippered pocket inside here for even smaller things. It’s the same pocket on the outside of the pack when you compress it—so you already know what it is.
When you’ve got the pack completely stuffed, it’s hard to access this secondary compartment. The materials don’t have much structure, making it easy for the pockets to expand into one another.
The main compartment zipper runs vertically on the pack’s back panel when you have it in backpack mode. This is a handy security feature, as you can only access the zipper when you don’t have the backpack on. There are two zippers, so you can choose which side you want them to rest on when the pack is closed or decide to open a portion of the pack. Plus, if you overstuff the duffel, you can close each side as far as it will close.
Inside there isn’t any organization—it’s a vast open area for gear. You can fit a ton of stuff here, so we recommend packing cubes and other organizers. As we’ve mentioned, the pack material has no structure, so packing inside is difficult without building blocks. Because of the lack of rigidity from the fabric, it’s more like loading a garbage bag than loading a box. You can also use packing cubes to help make a back pane for backpack mode, which adds comfort.
Overall, this pack can fit a ton of gear, as you’d expect from a 42-liter duffel bag. The shocking aspect of this pack is how small it compresses when not in use. In theory, you could pack extremely light on your next trip and take a small daypack with this pack stowed inside. Once you arrive, hit the thrift store and buy a new wardrobe. When it’s time to come home, load it all in your duffel and head home with souvenirs you can use daily. That might not be the most practical use for this pack, but the ratio of packed size to uncompressed capacity is remarkable. It’s free real estate!
- Exterior materials are extraordinarily thin, which gives us durability concerns
- There isn’t any internal organization which might get hectic, but it saves space and weight
- The design is unique, looks professional, and packs a lot into a small package
- Reversible YKK zipper can get stuck on internal materials
- No issues with the materials so far—everything is holding up nicely
- Lack of a back panel can be uncomfortable, but backpack mode is excellent for when your arm gets tired
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