Patagonia Atom Tote Pack 20L Review
The Patagonia Atom Tote Pack pairs the open style of a tote with a small backpack, though it lacks organization and the laptop sleeve eats up space.
- Sternum strap helps dial in the fit, even on a small pack
- Water beads off easily
- Shorter profile good for smaller users
- Minimal organization for small gear
- Removable laptop sleeve overkill in padded compartment
- Tote handles can get in the way
1.42 lb (0.6 kg)
16 in x 12 in x 5 in (40.6 x 30.5 x 12.7 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Recycled Nylon, DWR Coating, Spandex, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Polyurethane
Laptop Compartment Size
With elements of a laptop bag, tote, and hydration pack, the Patagonia Atom Tote Pack is a 20L daypack that includes a little something for everyone. From a well-padded harness system to larger carry handles and a removable laptop sleeve, this backpack adapts to different situations depending on your needs at the time.
While that sounds great in theory, how does it all come together? Let’s take a look.
The Patagonia Atom Tote Pack includes nearly all recycled materials. The main body fabric is a 400D recycled polyester with a polyurethane coating and a non-PFC DWR (a durable water-repellent made without perfluorinated chemicals). The back panel and shoulder straps are also recycled polyester spacer mesh, and the webbing on the handles and adjustable straps is recycled nylon. The only materials on this bag that aren’t entirely recycled are the stretchy water bottle pockets, which are 84% recycled nylon and 16% spandex power mesh.
So, suffice it to say, Earth-friendly packers can feel good about the materials used to make this pack. You can also feel good about how the company treats the workers who made it since it’s Fair Trade Certified™ sewn, which Patagonia explains as paying a premium for their labor to the workers who made the bag. Nice!
We’ve got the black colorway here, of course. However, as of this writing, it’s also available in other brighter colorways: Classic Navy with Fresh Teal, Fresh Teal, Sequoia Red, and a native-style print called Wandering Woods: Sound Blue. Each features a reflective Patagonia logo printed vertically along the left side of the pack’s front and a Patagonia patch on the attachment point of the left shoulder strap.
There’s a matching black horizontal attachment point, sans patch, on the right strap and a daisy chain of webbing loops parading down each strap. They’re meant for the sternum strap (more on that shortly), though they also function as more attachment points if you prefer to clip something lower on each strap. There’s one more attachment loop to mention, as well—hidden in the center of the front of the bottom of the pack is a short webbing loop that runs backward. You can attach a bike light or reflector here, should you carry the Patagonia Atom Tote Pack in the dark as you ride home. Safety first!
Patagonia uses Duraflex Hardware for the buckles and slides on the Atom Tote Pack and YKK zippers, which are easier to grab thanks to the knotted cords woven through the metal pulls.
Along with shoulder straps, two carry handles stick up 4 inches from the top of the bag and snap together. These are the “tote” portion of the Patagonia Atom Tote Pack, and it’s easier to carry it when they’re stuck together.
Although there’s tote in the name, there’s also pack, and this is primarily a backpack. For a 20L pack, it has quite a robust harness system. The shoulder straps and back panels are well-padded and covered with spacer mesh for breathability. The back panel padding runs in two vertical panels. They’re each about 3.5 inches wide at the top and taper to be narrower at the bottom. There’s about an inch and a half of ventilation space in between. We always appreciate efforts to avoid a sweaty back, and it’s a nice include here since you may want to take this little pack out on a hike or explore a new place on your summer vacation.
Patagonia also includes a moveable, removable sternum strap on this pack. While you may think it’s a bit overkill for 20L, you can feel a difference when you load it up with a computer and books. The strap connects via a V-shaped clip to the daisy chain on the shoulder straps, so it stays put once you find the best height. The right-side sternum strap has a strap keeper to contain the excess once you adjust it, and the left side has elastic along the strap to hold things tight without being uncomfortable across your chest.
While the chest strap has a keeper, the same is not true of the shoulder straps, so you may have some excess strap flopping around, depending on how tightly you adjust the straps. Of course, you could also add your own VELCRO Brand Cable Ties or other means of containing it if that’s not a look you love.
This pack is quite casual-looking, even in a sleek black colorway. It’s best suited to everyday carry or sightseeing at a new destination, although you can take it on the trail thanks to the water bottle holders and hydration bladder pass-through. At only about a pound and a half, it won’t weigh you down through a day’s adventures, and the substantial padding on the harness system will cushion the weight of everything you carry.
That said, having extra handles sticking out the top is one look, and letting gravity take control by unsnapping them is another, and we’re not particularly fond of either. And if you do that, you’re left with one handle potentially coming between your back and the pack, affecting carry comfort.
And you wouldn’t want to do that because this is a comfortable bag to carry as a backpack. The shoulder straps are flexible to accommodate different size users, and the sternum strap is helpful when carrying heavier gear. Carrying it as a tote is as comfortable as you would expect with two webbing handles; it is not great and not awful. Given a choice, we sling it over at least one shoulder to get gear from one place to the next. Your mileage may vary, though, so Patagonia gives you the option.
Inside The Pack
The interior of the Patagonia Atom Tote Pack is a 200D recycled polyester lining with a polyurethane coating. On the black colorway, the lining is gray, though it tends to mirror the hue of the chosen colorway with the other options. Since those colors are lighter and brighter, that’s fine. However, we appreciate the lighter shade inside the black pack, so we’re not digging through a black hole to find glasses.
There is one secondary compartment in the front of the Atom Tote Pack. It opens with a horizontal zipper adjacent to the bottom of the front carry handle, which can block your access if it’s not snapped to the rear handle. When you unzip this section, you access a large pocket that encompasses the entire front of the bag. While it’s nice to have so much space, you’ll be scrounging at the bottom for any small gear you toss in here since there’s no organization.
Because of this, we toss a phone in one of the side water bottle pockets instead for easier access. These side pockets are a stretchy see-through mesh topped with elastic to accommodate various size water bottles, though slender bottles like a Hydro Flask 21 oz Standard Mouth will slide out when the bag tips.
The main compartment opens across the top with a zipper running between the bottle pockets. You’ll want to unsnap the tote handles to get into it, as they block the zipper when connected. Once that’s done, we have no issue accessing this area.
Along the back is a well-padded laptop sleeve for a 13-inch device. There’s no false bottom, though it doesn’t matter because inside this padded divider is a removable, thickly padded “mobile workstation”—i.e., a removable laptop sleeve. Thread the hook and loop fastener attached to the back of the bag through a webbing loop on the tech caddy to attach it to the pack. This extra padded sleeve has a zippered mesh pocket on the front where you can toss in travel tech gadgets and accessories. You may still want a tech pouch, though, as there are no pockets, slots, or other organization here or in the remainder of the bag.
There is a short key clip in the top left corner, though it isn’t easy to use. If the tech caddy is in the laptop sleeve, it’s like you’re pulling the clip out of a pouch inside of a pocket and then trying to unclip them off the leash, which doesn’t quite reach outside the bag. However, when you’re traveling and don’t want to forget your house keys, this is a good spot to stick them.
If you’d prefer to hike instead, unfasten the laptop sleeve and attach a hydration bladder. Directly behind the hook and loop fastener is a pass-through for a reservoir tube, which can then be fed through one of the horizontal loops on the shoulder strap to keep it in easy reach. Since the bladder slides into the padded sleeve, it will be separate from any gear you stow in the remainder of the backpack. Also, the PU coating on the liner fabric should slow the spread of any accidental leaks or spills.
The remaining space in the main compartment is open to pack as you wish, though the front section eats into this space, so there’s not as much left as we expect. You can put packing cubes and pouches to good use here, though go for brighter colors if you can. We forgot the Aer Split Kit we use to carry tech accessories was even in the bag since it slipped to rest on the bottom and its blackness was hidden in the shadows of the front section expansion. That’s a half hour of searching we won’t ever get back!
Overall, the Patagonia Atom Tote Pack is a nice small backpack, though it could benefit from a few more organizational features to ease you through the day. It could also do without the extra laptop sleeve in an already well-padded space, although the additional protection keeps your device from sliding around in exchange for taking up space. Those minor gripes aside, if you prefer a tote-style bag with the carrying comfort of a backpack—especially if you’re a smaller user—the Atom Tote Pack may be for you.
- Interesting to see elastic on the sternum strap
- A pass-through at the top accommodates a hydration tube
- Handles snap together for tote carry
- A few loose threads are popping up, and the hook and loop fastener is causing wear on the edge of the laptop caddy loop
- Slim bottles can slip out of the bottle pockets
- Knotted zipper cords make it easy to open