Pakt Travel Backpack V2 (35L) Review
The Pakt Travel Backpack V2 (35L) has a very organized layout but is not overly compartmentalized to the point of sacrificing spaciousness and ease of packing.
- Spacious and easy to pack despite relatively compartmentalized layout
- Laptop sleeve better protected between the rest of your gear
- Simple yet secure water bottle pocket
- Shoulder straps’s width makes them feel tight
- Compartmentalized layout takes some getting used to
- Twin side handles can feel off-balance if only using one
4.1 lb (1.9 kg)
21.5 in x 12.5 in x 8 in (54.6 x 31.8 x 20.3 cm)
Recycled Nylon, Paracord, PFC-free DWR Coating, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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Based on our experience with many travel backpacks, subdividing the main compartment runs the risk of sacrificing spaciousness. Think about it: you can no longer pack bulky gear as you please since compartmentalization dictates what goes where. On one hand, this is a very organized way to pack that doesn’t require you to freestyle or strategize. On the other hand, this limits flexibility, not only in gear size but also in accessibility.
Pakt’s Travel Backpack V2 (35L) seems unfazed by such limitations despite its very compartmentalized layout. Both internal bucket spaces feel large enough to store packing cubes. Meanwhile, the clamshell opening is complimented by two quick-access zippered openings, helping solve any accessibility woes. So what’s the catch? The harness system, specifically its very wide shoulder straps, which really impact long-term comfort.
The colorway we’re testing is called Ocean, and it’s a fitting name. Pakt notes that the rNylon they’re using (recycled nylon) is recyclable indefinitely, which should mean less waste ending up in the oceans somewhere along the way. It’s a 500-denier fabric that feels fittingly robust for the Travel Backpack V2’s size (at least for the 35-liter version we’re sampling). The structure it provides isn’t at the same level as ballistic nylon fabrics with heavier denier counts, but it’s not flimsy either.
On that note, we are sampling a pre-production unit, so some imperfections are to be expected. Most notable of which are a few loose threads in the pockets. These should not be an issue in the retail version. However, we’d be remiss not to point them out..
The fabric and the colorway themselves really help clean up the bag’s aesthetic. Maybe it’s the calming blueness, but the visual clutter of the many zippers and straps gets muted. Of course, there’s more than one way to slice a pizza; in this case, you can opt for the Black colorway for a completely stealthy style. Alternatively, there’s also Forest, though it’s a bit too dark and gray for those itching for an olive colorway.
Topping off the rest of the Travel Backpack V2’s materials are zippers from YKK and hardware from Duraflex. Both brands are well-regarded for the reliable components they make, so we weren’t too worried about their performance. We’re not ones to take reputation at face value, so we’re happy to report that neither the zippers nor the many clips, buckles, and adjusters broke or jammed in any significant way.
No self-respecting travel backpack should be without a few grab handles, and Pakt surely doesn’t disappoint here. There’s one at the top, one at the bottom, and a pair on the right side. We like having two on one side for a more balanced carry. However, these particular ones are too low-profile and can feel a bit cumbersome to use together if you have small hands. On the bright side, all of the handles are decently padded, making them relatively comfortable to pull the bag in and out of tight spaces.
While the top handle is too centered (read: recessed), Pakt was considerate enough to put a loop between the shoulder straps so you can easily hang the bag. Yep, it’s a similar one you’d typically find on most backpacks, which usually acts as the main handle. Here, though, it’s mostly for hanging the bag behind restroom stalls. Airport restroom floors can be sketchy at times, after all.
Compression straps are another typical feature of travel backpacks, and this one has four, with two on each side. What we dig about Pakt’s implementation is how easy they are to stow away. They’re not completely removable (they’re stitched on one end), but they have clips on the other side. Simply unhook these clips, and you can stow each strap into respective slip pockets.
Why would you want to stow the compression straps? Mainly because they go over the main compartment’s opening, plus that minimizes the amount of dangling straps. In case you’re wondering, none of the compression straps have elastic keepers or any of the sort.
On the right side is a raised water bottle pocket. Pakt keeps the design simple—mostly. It’s a fabric pocket with gussets on both sides. Grip comes courtesy of built-in elastics and a small bungee loop that you can use to secure your bottle’s neck. That said, we don’t find bungee necessary since the pocket is fairly deep, and even slender bottles fit snuggly. We also tried inserting a 33-ounce bottle, and it also fits well.
The Travel Backpack V2’s harness system has all the ingredients we usually look for. The first ones to catch our attention are the load lifters. These are very easy to adjust without being so loose that they lose their adjustment while you wear them.
The shoulder straps are reassuringly thick, befitting the bag’s travel backpack designation. That said, the padding itself feels too stiff for our liking, and that has implications in terms of comfort, which we’ll go into more detail in the next section. To Pakt’s credit, the shoulder straps’ top ends connect to the bag via thin sections. These allow the straps to move more freely than if the padded section directly joined the back panel. We’ve seen this implemented on a few daypacks, but it makes a ton more sense for travel backpacks like these that usually have thick straps. However, even this neat little feature introduces a caveat, namely, it makes the straps flip around while you shove your arms through. It happened to us too often, so it merits a mention.
Along the shoulder straps are loops, one on each. You can use these to hang accessories like key organizers or cute souvenir keychains (yes, we do this too) or keep the load lifter adjustment strap in check. More important, though, is the sternum strap. It’s not the sliding type, which we find ideal due to the fine granular adjustments you can make with it. Instead, it’s the hook-on-loops kind. To be fair, it gets the job done, but those who get very particular with their fit may find this less than optimal.
Another feature the Pakt Travel Backpack V2 shares with other travel backpacks is stowable shoulder straps. The bottom ends detach via clips, so you can slip them behind the back panel as needed. This prevents them from snagging on other people’s luggage and gear when you store the bag in a shared overhead bin. Thankfully, the clips Pakt’s using here are fairly easy to work with, and we generally didn’t have trouble re-attaching them on the go.
The back panel is simply ribbed, with a fair amount of segmentation that should contour well with users’ backs. Features-wise, you get a luggage pass-through poking sideways across the back panel. One neat detail is the embedded magnets that help keep the pass-through shut when you’re not using it.
Lastly, there’s also a waist strap. It’s nothing substantial like a hip belt, so don’t expect it to offload any kind of weight from the shoulder straps. This is really more for stability as it helps keep the bag’s lower half centered and close to you. It’s also completely detachable via gatekeeper clips if you don’t need it.
For the most part, the Travel Backpack V2’s harness system does a good job in terms of comfort and the actual support of the bag. However, the shoulder straps’ width really stuck out to us. Even the large framed among the Pack Hacker crew could feel the straps dig near and around the neck and “overflow” beyond the shoulders. The pictures really don’t do it much justice since the straps look fairly normal in size, but trust us, they feel relatively huge.
As you can expect, that feeling is shared by those with smaller frames here at HQ. You may be wondering if the shoulder straps’ flexible joints help. They spread them apart easily, but not enough to completely eliminate the tight sensation. Again, the padding itself is also on the firm side, adding to the issue, so while it’s reasonably comfortable to wear for short periods, it can feel fatiguing on longer ones. Think walking to a hilltop hotel or running around trying to catch trains, that sort of thing.
If that’s the case, why say that the harness system “does a good job”? That’s because we can tell it has effective individual components. The load lifters and sternum straps, for example, shift a lot of the weight up to prevent sagging. The back panel is also cushiony enough to rest against. Even the waist strap shifts some of the weight, in addition to keeping the bag close and center. In other words, it’s just the shoulder straps’ size that bothers us, to the detriment of other parts.
Inside The Backpack
Underneath the back panel’s bottom section is a hidden compartment. Pakt calls this a TSA pocket, and the idea is to put all the items on your person in here when you go through security. It’s a more convenient alternative to putting all of it in another bin. No more of that awkward “pocket-it-like-you-stole-it” moment after your gear goes through the scanner; this is more civilized than that.
It’s a fairly clever system, too. Part of the back panel folds up to reveal the TSA pocket, itself folded away neatly. Just like the luggage pass-through, magnets hold the back panel in place to keep the TSA pocket hidden when it’s not in use. The fabric is a semi-see-through fine mesh to make life easier for the TSA officers. There’s enough space inside the pocket for most everyday carry accessories, though nothing too bulky like a high-capacity power bank.
The Travel Backpack V2 has two front pockets, and we like how Pakt splits its approaches here. The bottom pocket is just an empty dump area for any gear you can fit inside. It doesn’t look particularly impressive, but the simplest features are usually the ones we take for granted. Put another way, you can use a dump pocket like this for quickly storing most gear like a packable jacket, a high-capacity power bank, or a half-eaten sandwich from a food cart you suddenly can’t finish because it started raining; you get the idea. For a more nuanced organization, let’s defer to the pocket upstairs.
The top pocket has a much wider horseshoe-style opening and, more importantly, smaller pockets inside. On the left is a zippered mesh pocket where we keep AirPods, and on the right is a passport-sized pocket. The latter also has a hidden slot for an AirTag in case you want to use one. Behind all of that is a slip pocket wide enough for a tablet, topped by a key leash and a horizontal pen slot, which is too wide for most of the travel pens we usually travel with. Though the previous bottom pocket has a ton of space, we still use this top one to store a toiletry bag, mostly because it’s much easier to reach in most cases.
The Travel Backpack V2 has a lot of compartments, so we’ll start with the front-most one. Yes, it’s a compartment, but by default, it’s compressed by an outer zipper. What is it? It’s a compartment mainly used to store Pakt’s Everyday 15L Backpack, though you can also use it for other gear like a laptop sleeve. You might think the outer zipper is a compression system, but you can’t really close the zipper once it’s packed out. All of that said, this effectively adds around two inches of depth, affecting how the bag carries.
This leaves us with three remaining zippers, which all lead to the main compartment—technically. Pakt’s setup here is quite different from what we’re used to seeing on more typical travel backpacks. Yes, the main compartment still opens like a clamshell through that middle zipper, but they also give you two extra openings. Why? Because both halves of that clamshell are effectively sub-compartments.
A large mesh compartment covers the front half. It’s mostly flat, so you’re ideally not going to pack hastily bundled-up layers here. In our case, we use it to store smaller pieces of clothing like beanies, gloves, and underwear. Unzip the whole mesh bag, and you’ll find a huge bucket space underneath. This is the real packing space, or at least half of it. Packing cubes fit with no problem, as demonstrated by our setup, which includes a medium-sized Peak Design packing cube flanked by a smaller one and a sweater. Note that there are two vertical daisy chains here, which you can use to attach pouches. Doing so will prevent your pouch from sinking to the bottom, making it easier to access it from the front-most quick-access opening we’ve mentioned earlier.
The rear half of the main compartment is similar to the one earlier. The key distinguishing feature here is instead of a mesh bag, you get a laptop sleeve. It features relatively thick padding, which feels similar to memory foam. Additionally, the entire sleeve is centrally located, sandwiched between all of your gear, so there’s a ton of protection there. It’s also elevated over two inches off the base of the bag.
Behind the laptop sleeve is another bucket space where you can fit a similar packing cube setup to the one mentioned above. In general, both bucket spaces have so much space that our initial apprehension about trading space for compartmentalization is completely dispelled. You can have clothing in one bucket space and a jacket, shoes, and a sizable tech pouch in the other. Note that this is “only” the 35-liter version and the 45-liter version will be even more spacious if you still want more.
- Zippered divider feels like a sleeping pad (in a good way)
- Lots of compartments for gear organization
- Material feels durable and soft
- Material still in great shape, though it picks up pet hair and lint very easily
- Shoulder straps are wide and stiff, which impacts carry comfort
- Organization is great for those who aren’t a huge fan of packing cubes/pouches