NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L Review
The NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L carries your daily gear and is an expandable companion for quick trips, though some of the organization is challenging to use.
- Easy to pack since it opens flat
- Bottle pockets lie flush with bag and out of way
- Plentiful organization for small gear
- Expansion zipper can stick on main compartment entry
- Adjustment lost if stowing straps
- Key leash hard to reach in pocket
3.5 lb (1.6 kg)
17.5 in x 11 in x 8 in (44.5 x 27.9 x 20.3 cm)
when expanded; 17.5 in x 11 in x 5.5 in when compressed
Nylon, Polyester, YKK Zippers, Zoom Zippers, Woojin Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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NOMATIC began its travel journey as a Kickstarter campaign to make the “most functional travel bag ever.” Now a mainstream gear company—they’ve even partnered with photographer Peter McKinnon on a line of gear, some of which we’ve already tested
The bag we’re testing here is the NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L, part of the brand’s second iteration of travel bags. The 14L Travel Pack is designed for travelers with a smaller frame (pause while petite people rejoice) and is 1.5 inches shorter and 1 inch narrower than the 20L NOMATIC Travel Pack. It’s not just for everyday carry, though, since it can expand by 50% to 21L. If that isn’t enough for you, or if you’re on the taller side of the spectrum, go ahead and check out that review. We’ll wait.
All set? Great! Shorties everywhere—and everyone else, we’re inclusive—let’s dive in!
Taking a look at the NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L, the first thing you’ll notice is the almost leather-like material. No cows were harmed in the making of this backpack, though. Instead, the 100% vegan bag has a water-resistant tarpaulin exterior that’s three-quarters polyester and the remaining quarter nylon. The coating means it’ll resist much of what Mother Nature throws at you, whether you’re commuting by foot in soggy weather or traveling to Thailand during the rainy season.
While you may typically reach for a separate bag for a trip than what you cart to the office every day, the Travel Pack 14L aims to take you seamlessly from work to short weekend getaways, which we’re guessing is why they put “travel” in the name.
There are a few exterior features to make traveling easier with this pack. For one, a well-padded top carry handle allows you to tote it around that way instead of as a backpack, and there are also two smaller, thinner handles on each side of the bag. They’re padded, just not as much as the top handle. Still, they’re comfortable enough if you want to carry the back briefcase style.
If you want to do that, you can tuck the shoulder straps away through the luggage pass-through on the back panel. The pass-through is a simple webbing strap, though it gets the job done. To tuck away the straps, you must lengthen them completely, then tuck them behind the pass-through. If you don’t feel like readjusting it back to fit on your frame afterward, you may want to leave them loose when carrying it in briefcase mode. This is more applicable to smaller users since they’re more likely to have the fit cinched up tightly. And if it is tighter, there’s less strap to flop around, so you may not need to bother tucking them away. Of course, your mileage may vary, so you do you.
There’s minimal branding on the bag, consisting of the NOMATIC logo printed on the front—slightly south of the center and to the right—and a patch-like tag with the name embroidered on it sewn to the left shoulder strap.
Now to hardware. According to a NOMATIC post, their bags includes industry-standard YKK zippers “where you need ‘em.” On the Travel Pack 14L, that apparently means to open the main compartment and the admin panel on the Travel Pack 14L because most of the remaining zippers—including the expansion/compression zipper—are Zoom. That feels like a bit of a miss since that zipper in particular gets hung up as it travels around corners. Is that due to the zipper itself or the expansion design? We’re not sure. We are certain we’d feel more comfortable tugging a YKK zipper around a tight spot than another brand, though.
Other hardware includes a Woojin buckle on the sternum strap and unbranded adjuster slides on the shoulder straps. We haven’t had a problem with any hardware throughout our testing period.
As for the harness system, let’s start with the shoulder straps we’ve already mentioned a few times. While we don’t think the padding on the Travel Pack 20L’s straps is dense enough for its total capacity (it expands to 30L), the same straps seem adequate with the smaller 14L-21L volume. The harness system appears to get the job done when we pack it with clothing, a laptop and related tech accessories, and two hardcover books for a weekend trip.
A sternum strap along a sliding rail is easy to adjust, although not removable, and includes some elastic on the right side to really dial in the fit. There’s no strap keeper on this or the shoulder straps, though, so you’ll have to deal with dangling straps or lock things down with something else—VELCRO Cable Ties, anyone?
The four distinct sections of structural foam along the back panel—one for each quarter to allow room for air to pass through for breathability—are the same density as the shoulder straps. And while stuffing the bag with clothing, books, and tech stiffens things up quite a bit, it’s still comfier than not, although you may find it too much if you’re hauling this thing across town without a break for a subway or a bus. That’s sometimes the tradeoff for nice aesthetics. If you want it to carry like a well-padded, well-supported hiking backpack, you may have to pick up a bag that looks like one, and the NOMATIC Travel Pack 14L is not that bag.
Instead, the Travel Pack 14L is a posh, modern bag that seems most at home in the city. You’ll feel at home carrying this bag in an airport, restaurant, or boardroom, even when expanded. Since the expansion material is the same sturdy fabric as the rest of the pack, gravity doesn’t pull it down when you open it up, so there’s no saggy-bag syndrome.
It’s easy to find the right fit with the harness system, and aside from feeling stiff when the bag is fully packed, we find it pretty comfortable. This bag has a lot of structure, and there’s little you can do to avoid feeling that, which is to say it’s not a bag that will conform to the curve of your back.
Inside The Pack
All right, enough about how you carry it. Let’s get to why you do so—what it can hold. Each side includes a magnetic travel water bottle pocket with stretch mesh. The exterior of the flap is the same tarpaulin as the remainder of the bag, and when you pull it out, the mesh stretches to accommodate a wide variety of bottle sizes.
We find that it doesn’t always snap back into place on its own when you remove your bottle, so make sure to smooth it down if you prefer the streamlined look. Otherwise, it looks like many other backpacks with the bottle pocket sticking out, which is also OK.
Flipping around to the front, you’ll find a small quick-access pocket lined with soft material, where you can pop your phone without worrying about scratches. There’s space for a wallet and keys, too, although, of course, keys can potentially scratch your phone, so pick and choose what you prefer.
Below that is an admin panel or accessory pocket. It encompasses the lower two-thirds of the front of the bag and opens with a U-shaped zipper so you can see everything easily. Two fabric gussets keep it from flopping completely open on each side, however, they still allow the panel to open halfway, drawbridge-style.
Against the bag’s main compartment are two stretchy mesh pockets that easily accommodate bulkier cords or wall chargers. Four more pockets are on the opposite side, against the front panel. The top one zips shut and features RFID protection, so it’s a good place for your travel wallet and passport to protect them from digital theft. Below is another large zip pocket for a small notebook or other tiny travel essentials, and there’s a pen slot next to it. In front of the zip pocket are two more mesh pouches. They’re perfect for a mouse, your AirPods, or any other small accessory you want to access quickly.
Of course, there’s also room in this section for a slim tech pouch, especially if you don’t fill all the pockets, so if you prefer to move from this Travel Pack to a sling or a different laptop bag without unpacking everything, the organizational features kindly step out of the way.
Heading into the main compartment, it also opens fully with a zipper that runs around the top of the bag, so it’s easy to pack and see everything all at once. At the top, there’s a banked curve like a Hot Wheels track running back toward the carry handle at the top, which makes it so that you can open just this top portion and reach inside to grab a book or your glasses without everything else spilling out.
Speaking of which, there are two side pockets in here, and the one on the left comes with a hard case for your glasses. It also includes a fabric pouch with a cinch top to keep them from scratching on the plastic—nice! If you don’t carry eyewear, this case slides right out so you can stash a travel umbrella or something else slim, like rolls of socks.
The opposite side features a similar pocket. This one has a long retractable leash with a key ring on the end attached to the bottom. While you should have no problem reaching a door with the keys still attached, it’s a little too awkward to access through the main compartment zipper and down in the bottom of the pocket to do so regularly. Plus, it’s a jump ring, so your best bet is to clip a carabiner with your keys onto this or only slide on keys that can stay in your backpack, like those of your gym locker. You won’t want to attach car keys here, that’s for sure. Both these pockets lie flat against the sidewall of the backpack if you’re not using them.
Alongside the front are two large mesh zipper pockets for gear you don’t want falling to the bottom of the bag. With all the pockets in the easier-to-access admin panel, we don’t find much use for these daily. They come in handy when you’re packing for a trip as a place to lock down your toiletries or other small gear. Like the remaining pockets on the Travel Pack 14L, they get out of the way when not in use and protrude into the main compartment when you fill them.
Above the top pocket is a circular piece of plastic you can press open. It’s a cord pass-through to the quick-access pocket, so you can charge your phone from a battery bank stashed in the top mesh pocket.
Against the back side of the bag is a large mesh divider splitting the main compartment in two. You can open it to access a large shoe pocket, so it keeps the dirt away from your clothing and eliminates the need for a separate shoe pouch. A large pair of women’s athletic shoes fit easily here, as will most travel shoes. However, if you’re rocking some men’s extra-wide size 13s, they’ll stick out the top of the pouch and may not fit in this narrow bag. Of course, if your feet are that big, you’ll probably have no problem carrying the 20L pack on a frame that matches your sole, so it’s less likely an issue.
Since you can open the main compartment to pack it like a suitcase, it should come as no surprise that the expansion zipper runs entirely around the bag, like many types of standard luggage. Inside the expansion, though, is a hidden zipper allowing you access to the main compartment behind the mesh panel, so you can pull out your shoes without completely opening the bag if you need to switch from sneakers to flip flops or vice versa while out and about.
There’s a potential for this hidden zipper’s pull tabs to stick out and make it more difficult to unzip the expansion if they are at the top right corner of the bag. Instead, leave them in the middle of a side instead of a corner when you compress the bag.
OK, so if you’ve kept count, we’ve opened four zippers parading across or around this backpack. Now, onto the fifth! It also runs around the top three sides of the bag and turns the bottom corners, too. It opens the laptop compartment, designed to be TSA-ready, so when you go through the security line, you can unzip it and lay it flat without taking your computer out of the bag. Instead, it can slide through the scanner flat since there’s nothing above or below it. However, it’s up to the individual agent whether to allow this, so how helpful this is for you depends on their permissibility. Always follow the instructions of your agents, folks; don’t try to argue with them about bag design! Nevertheless, the feature is there if you can make use of it.
The laptop sleeve is along the back panel in a well-padded pocket topped with a wide tab to hold it in place. It attaches using a hook-and-loop fastener to the front of the pocket, and we’re getting a little nitpicky here, but the loop side of the fastener is slightly off-center, so it folds over a little to the right. Hopefully, this is just an issue with our product sample, and yours is in line! It doesn’t affect functionality, just aesthetics.
On the opposite side is an unpadded slip pocket for a tablet or documents. A bluetooth keyboard works well here, too, and that’s it for the laptop compartment; it’s really straightforward.
Overall, this bag does a good job as an everyday backpack and has the potential to work for a quick trip or personal item bag. There are a few quirks we’re not loving. Yet the other features—like how easy it is to pack with cubes and the pockets that are there if you need them and out of the way if you don’t—combine in a nice, small travel pack that could serve you well, especially if you’re not packing bulky gear or heading out on a very long trip. If you’re bringing a few pairs of jeans and sweatshirts, you may want to upgrade to the next size for more space.
- Laptop compartment opens completely
- Material coating gives a leather-like look to accents
- Hard glasses case quite large, although it’s an interesting include
- Like the ability to access the shoe pouch without having to open the entire main compartment
- Challenging to make use of all the pockets
- Strap adjustment lost when you tucking them behind luggage pass-through