NOMATIC Navigator Lite Backpack 15L Review
NOMATIC’s Navigator Lite Backpack 15L keeps the original’s structured design and comfortable straps—it doesn’t feel compromised despite losing a little weight.
- Very structured even when empty
- Structure and harness system add carry comfort
- Feels spacious for 15 liters
- Flexing the fabric when getting into the compartments can feel awkward
- Difficult to utilize internal organization with bulky gear
- Doesn’t feel that much lighter than the original
2.4 lb (1.1 kg)
19 in x 12 in x 5.5 in (48.3 x 30.5 x 14 cm)
Nylon, Polyester, EVA Foam
Laptop Compartment Size
Get up to 20% off NOMATIC • Join Pack Hacker Pro
NOMATIC’s Navigator Lite series of gear is exactly what it sounds like: a lighter version of their existing designs. 20% lighter, in fact. It’s like being offered a choice of regular and diet coke. There’s some perceptible difference for sure, but not enough that it feels thoroughly compromised in any meaningful way.
The Navigator Lite Backpack 15L feels exactly that. It features the same structuredness and style we’ve grown accustomed to with the brand’s gear. It carries comfortably thanks to these characteristics, and though its space and organization isn’t perfect, it’s just as capable. Also, while the non-YKK zippers are a cause for concern, we haven’t seen them fail during our time with the bag, so its solid impression remains intact.
On that note, let’s see what exactly makes the Navigator Lite Backpack feel so—and prepare yourself because you’ll be reading this word a lot—structured.
Materials & Aesthetic
The Navigator Lite Backpack has a rounded rectangle profile that fits NOMATIC’s urban aesthetic. The color scheme isn’t dramatically different from what we’ve seen so far, even compared to other brands that emphasize their city-centric philosophy. There’s nothing wrong with the style per se, and we honestly like the sleekness of the design, even if it doesn’t stand out too much.
In case you’re not up to speed, we here at Pack Hacker are huge fans of black-on-black colorways. The Navigator Lite Backpack’s gray and black accents aren’t that far behind either. Why do we like it so much? Simple: because it’s super easy to match with different colored clothes, and they don’t draw attention even in most formal functions.
The fabric has a heathered look because it’s 400-denier nylon by 330 polyester melange, which is to say it’s a mix. It’s not a super heavy denier compared to something like 1680D ballistic nylon, but it’s durable enough for city use. That said, the Navigator Lite Backpack makes a great impression in durability, thanks to how structured it feels. A quick squeeze of the bag’s shell shows how there’s foam just underneath the fabric to achieve this level of structuredness.
One of the lesser confidence-inspiring aspects of the Navigator Lite Backpack is the zippers. To be fair, these do appear to be Zoom-branded zippers. They’re not explicitly branded as such, but they appear similar to the ones Peak Design uses, which we’ve found to be okay in most cases. We’re still a bit skeptical about their longevity because we’ve had our fair share of trouble with non-YKK zippers before.
Thankfully there are no major issues to report regarding the zippers here. We also dig that the pulls are not jingly; something that’s often overlooked and might only get noticed once you start walking around with a bag.
“Solid and structured” would be our two-word summary for the Navigator Lite Backpack’s build quality. Even with our reservations about the zippers, the bag impresses with its clean looks and how uncompromised it feels. Despite being the Lite version of the original, the bag still retains the structuredness and characteristics we expect from NOMATIC’s bags. They could’ve doubled down on the whole idea of weight shedding by going for a lighter material like ripstop nylon and no padding, but that’s not the case, and we’re happy with what we see.
The harness system on the Navigator Lite Backpack feels equally robust as the rest of the bag’s construction. The straps have thick padding, and they feel quite dense, which really emphasizes the structured nature of the bag. That sounds like a con since “structuredness” can easily be interpreted as “stiffness.” In our case, it’s not really an issue because—combined with the slim profile—it makes the bag wear closer to the body.
Each of the shoulder straps has a set of seven daisy-chained Hypalon loops where the included sternum strap can attach. This style isn’t our favorite since the height adjustment is not as granular as an on-rails sliding kind. However, since the Navigator Lite isn’t that big to begin with, we’re not going to nitpick too much here. The sternum strap itself uses a simple yet effective YKK buckle and has a built-in elastic strap keeper.
As comfortable as the shoulder straps are, the back panel plays as much of a role in that department as well. Like the shoulder straps, it’s densely padded and divided into large panels by a deep star-shaped air channel. This allows hot air to vent out in multiple directions, keeping the heat build-up relatively minimal during long periods of carrying.
Embedded along one of the air channels is the luggage pass-through. It sits the bag vertically oriented on rolling luggage, which is ideal for a backpack such as this one. There are backpacks that come with pass-throughs that sit the bag horizontally, and those can make accessibility tricky since it puts the opening on its side.
There are also handles as secondary means of carrying the bag. There’s one at the top and one on each side. They have a soft seat belt-like material and have enough thickness for comfort as well. Despite the lack of a metal stay, the bag’s solid structure keeps any sagging to a minimum when using these handles.
In case you were wondering, there’s also a small loop situated between the top of the shoulder straps. This loop is designed to hang the bag onto hooks, such as those found in restroom stalls. Those hooks are typically too short to reach top handles since they’re located too far toward the center of the bag, so we’re glad to see a loop specifically added for this purpose.
On the right side of the Navigator Lite Backpack is a water bottle pocket hidden beneath a zippered opening. Inside is the stretchy mesh pocket itself, able to fit a bottle as big as our 32-ounce Hydro Flask Lightweight Wide Mouth Trail Series. However, the mesh has trouble getting a grip on the smooth finish of the bottle, so it ends up slipping out whenever the bag falls over. Fortunately, we found a quick fix by using a carabiner to anchor the cap to the bag’s side handle.
Inside The Backpack
Up at the top front of the Navigator Lite Backpack is a quick-grab pocket. There’s enough space for most everyday carry items, including fragile gear like a pair of sunglasses, since the interior liner is soft. However, the fabric itself is pitch black, so dumping small tech accessories (which usually come in black) may not be ideal.
We have encountered a bit of awkwardness in trying to access items located deeper inside. It’s not a very deep pocket by any means, but it’s deep enough that when we have the bag lying down, we have to fold the front to get better access. The awkward part is that it doesn’t feel right to fold it down because of how structured the foam is. It almost-but-not-really feels like it’s going to deform if we do it too much.
Next up is the main compartment. NOMATIC is technically correct that this is a ¾ zippered opening. However, gussets at the sides prevent it from fully unfolding like a regular clamshell-style opening. The result is an opening that’s wider than a typical daypack’s but not so wide that it feels like you’re daily carrying a travel backpack.
Inside there are two liner pockets at the back, with two additional stretchy mesh pockets above. Towards the front are two pen pockets, one on each side of the opening, plus a zippered pocket near the top. The pen pockets are integrated well and don’t interfere with any of the other parts of the bag. That said, we prefer to keep our pens in easier-to-reach places like the top quick-grab pocket.
Organization can feel a bit crowded since putting bulky items in the pockets can cause them to stack. We’re more comfortable dumping pouches and packing cubes into the bucket-style space rather than relying on the built-in organization. On the other hand, if you’re packing more lightly with less bulk, the internal pockets are nice to have so that you don’t have to fuss around with additional organizers.
In situations where you find the 15-liter capacity lacking, the main compartment can expand through the bag’s zippered compression system.
A zipper outside goes from the top corner, along the sides and bottom, then to the opposite top corner. This loosens a hidden gusset underneath, which lets the bag wedge out from the bottom. Since the compression (or the expansion) doesn’t cover the top side, the bag’s structure isn’t compromised while netting the user an extra six liters of capacity.
Conversely, you can use the compression system to tighten down the bag when it’s fully loaded. We’re not quite sure if we’d recommend doing this in the long term since we’re not as confident with the Zoom zipper compared to a YKK zip.
Last but not least is the laptop compartment. It’s rated for up to 16-inch laptops, and our 16-inch MacBook Pro fits just fine. If the main compartment has a ¾ opening, this one has a sort of 2/4 opening, meaning the zipper goes along the top and just to one side. This is enough for easy access since you don’t really need a fully unraveling clamshell.
There are no additional separators or pockets inside, so we recommend using a sleeve if you’re planning to put a tablet alongside your laptop. There’s also a cable pass-through if you want to use your laptop to charge your phone while it’s inside the main compartment or, reversely, charge your laptop using a power bank.
We’ve probably mentioned it a hundred times by this point, but we really do like how structured the Navigator Lite Backpack is. Sure, the minimal difference in perceived lightness doesn’t exactly reflect the “Lite” in the name, but we’re glad there is still some improvement in that regard. After all, it is, by all accounts, as solid-feeling as any other NOMATIC bag.
While we do like that the bag stays structured even when it’s empty, it can feel awkward at times. We can’t avoid flexing some parts like the quick-grab pocket, so we think there’s room for some softness in the design. All in all, though, that’s overshadowed by the bag’s carrying comfort, thanks to the bag’s lighter design and struc—you already know what we’re going to say here.
- Interior is decked out with pockets for organization
- Very structured, as expected of NOMATIC’s gear
- Wears relatively comfortably despite the rigid-looking design
- Really like the way the bag stays structured, even when empty
- Comfortable harness system with just-right structure and comfort for size
- Not too much lighter than the original Navigator but still offers a lot of features.
- Wary of the non-YKK zippers, but they appear to be Zoom, similar to what Peak Design has been using as of late