Is traveling one of your biggest passions? Or are you on the road constantly for work? Then the Nomatic 40L Travel Bag could be just what you are looking for.
This premium backpack is advertised as “the most functional bag ever”, and the promo videos are simply bursting with demonstrations of smart features and clever compartments.
But is it as good as the videos make it seem?
In my opinion, more features is not always better.
I think you can only get a real sense of how useful features really are by testing them in real-life situations. This is exactly what I did, taking the Nomatic on two weeklong trips.
As you may have noticed from my blog, I’m an adventure traveler and a digital nomad. But before I became a blogger, I worked as an executive in London, often having to travel for work. In this review, I’ll look at the Nomatic backpack from the perspective of general travel as well as business travel.
- Brimming with clever features and accessories
- Tarpaulin material is strong and highly weather resistant
- Works perfectly with roller bag using pass-through sleeve
- Material is quite stiff and heavy
- Ideal for business travelers, but less so for budget or holiday travelers
- Some travelers may prefer larger general spaces vs. many smaller compartments with specific functions
Compartments and pockets
A backpack’s quality really stands or falls by its storage capabilities, so let’s take a look at this first.
Nomatic has designed the bag to include small pockets for many specific items, such as a Valuables Pocket, Book Compartment, Underwear Compartment, and Cord Management pocket. They are all very functional and useful.
Shoe Compartment – This is a relatively rare feature on a travel bag. I know the Aer Travel Pack 2 has it, but not many others. At first, I was sceptical as to whether I really needed this, as I normally just keep my shoes in a tote bag in the main compartment. But it’s actually pretty neat to be able to store them separately, and when it’s not in use it doesn’t take up any of the main compartment’s space. I think this feature is ideal for business travelers who want to keep their shoes in perfect shape.
Water Bottle Pocket – This is something I see in a lot of bags, but usually on the outside on the side. Nomatic has chosen to make this an internal pouch for some reason, lined with water-proof material. I think this helps the overall aesthetic of the backpack, though it is a bit less practical. I would personally prefer to keep a water bottle on the outside, as it somewhat reduced the available space in the main compartment.
Laptop and Tablet Pockets – The Nomatic 40L has a separate and well-padded laptop or tablet sleeve that keeps your electronics secure. It fit my Dell XPS 13 very easily. In fact, the laptop compartment will fit any laptop up to 15″.
Material and design
If you like your backpacks to be sturdy and durable, then this is just the type of backpack for you.
It’s made of very durable tarpaulin material, easily able to withstand water, rain, snow, or harsh conditions. The material is not just water-resistant but waterproof. It feels very rugged and strong. Even the zippers are water- and rust-resistant, so you don’t to worry about your things getting wet.
This does come with some trade-offs, though. The thick and sturdy material can make some pockets a bit harder to access and can make the backpack as a whole feel a bit less spacious. In my adventure travels, I’ve often preferred lighter materials such as those on the Osprey Farpoint 40 or Tortuga Setout, as these lend themselves better to trips where you’re highly mobile and often have to tuck your backpack into tight storage spaces on old buses or trains.
For work travel, weekend trips, or for international air travel, this is much less of a concern. I think in this case it’s preferable to have a material that’s as sturdy and reliable as it can be.
I like that Nomatic kept the color choices to shades to black only. Nothing too bright and too dull, which makes the bag look stylish and professional. Note that I reviewed an early v 1.0 of the Nomatic backpack; the current version did away with the triangular patterns and the more overt branding, which is a very nice improvement in my book.
By the way, the Nomatic 40L has a Roller Bag Sleeve, meaning you can fit the handles of a roller bag through a sleeve in the backpack’s back, so you can use them both in combination. For example, you can store your more specific items and a day’s worth of clothing in the backpack, and keep the rest of your wardrobe in your roller bag at the hotel. It can be also carried as a duffel bag.
Overall, the sleek minimalist but functional design gets a thumbs up from me.
Weight and size
The one thing that travelers always want to know is if a backpack is really carry-on size.
By far, the Nomatic 40L Bag is the largest of all Nomatic packs. They also have 20L Nomatic Backpack and the 30L Nomatic Travel Pack. So the important question is, “Does the 40L travel bag qualify as a carry on?”
With dimensions of 21″ x 14″ x 9″ it will definitely pass as carry-on luggage. So, YES, it is a carry on bag! It will fit in the overhead compartment as well as the under seat as storage in flight as long as you don’t overfill it. On my two trips with the Nomatic 40L, I had no problems using it as carry-on luggage on my flights.
As far as the weight goes, this is a minor weakness of this bag. The durable materials and plethora of pockets and accessories make it weigh at least 4 lb or almost 2 kg. Given that some airlines restrict carry-on luggage to as little as 8kg, this really eats into your carry-on weight budget.
There are always trade-offs in backpack designs, and the overall weight definitely supports from the huge number of features on this backpack. If you plan to use the Nomatic 40L as your only luggage and to take on longer trips, then the weight may be an issue for you. If you plan to use it in conjunction with rolling luggage or for shorter trips, this is less much likely to be an issue.
One area where the Nomatic 40L excels compared to other backpacks is the number of accessories available. These are all designed to fit exclusively with the Nomatic 40L and really expand the functionality in some important ways.
Laundry Bag (view at Nomatic) – this expandable laundry bag can be attached to a doorknob in your hotel room. This is ideal for business travelers or digital nomads wanting to keep their hotel room nice and tidy. I often find that my hotel rooms look like an explosion went off in them before I check out, with clothing items everywhere, so having a laundry bag makes those situations a lot easier to avoid.
Shirt Organizer (view at Nomatic) – this is a fantastic shirt folder that fits perfectly in the main compartment of the Nomatic 40L. It can fit up to 5 shirts and will help to prevent wrinkles.
Vacuum bag (view at Nomatic) – this lets you vacuum seal some clothes to increase available space. This is one accessory I didn’t get a chance to test, but I recommend taking a look at this if you intend to use the backpack for longer trips, such as more than a week, as you’ll be easily able to fit in several day’s worth of additional clothes.
Waist strap (view at Nomatic) – While the Nomatic 40L is reasonably comfortable to wear, the suspension system is pretty basic with just two straps connected by a sternum strap. A detachable waist strap is available but comes as an add-on accessory. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary unless you perhaps intend to carry the backpack for longer than 30 or 60 minutes at a time.
You can view a complete overview of all the available accessories on Nomatic’s product site, which include a fantastic toiletry bag and various types of packign cubes.
As you can tell, this backpack does come with a remarkable range of features and accessories, all designed to work as one integrated system.
But I have to say: more features isn’t always better! Usually, there are trade-offs at play. For example, sturdier backpack materials also tend to be heavier. And having more storage spaces can also make the organization more complex or items harder to find.
And that makes me think this backpack is amazing for some, but not ideal for others.
Firstly, the more features you add, the more cramped a backpack becomes. I think that’s sometimes the case with the Nomatic 40L. Although it has 40 liters of internal space, it feels a bit less spacious to me than some 40L budget backpacks I’ve reviewed that have fewer features and lighter materials. The positioning of features such as the water bottle pocket in the Nomatic also somewhat eats into the available space.
That’s why I think it’s most suitable for trips up to perhaps a week, or to be used in conjunction with rolling luggage. (By the way, if you’re always going to use it together with rolling luggage, consider getting the Nomatic 30L backpack, which is one size down.)
Secondly, I think all the detailed features make this an ideal backpack for frequent travelers such as those who travel for work. If that’s you, then you can really hone your personal packing system over many trips, making the best use of all the bells and whistles that the Nomatic 40L has to offer. Soon you’ll know exactly where to put every item and behind which zipper is exactly what.
If you’re only going on a leisure trip every now, you probably don’t need a separate ‘book compartment’ or a dedicated ‘underwear compartment’. For this, it is overkill. But if you are any kind of professional traveler, then all the tech organization, the super sturdy materials, and the whole Swiss Army Knife worth of features will be perfect for you.
Where to buy: you can buy it directly from Nomatic’s store, which ships internationally to (almost) every country.
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Thanks for the review!
Do you happen to know anything about Nomatic’s materials sourcing? In terms of environmental sustainability and labor practices?
Don’t have details on this, sorry!
My family – myself, wife and 2 teenage daughters will be traveling Italy next year for three weeks. We will be staying in each location multiple days with some Airbnb with laundry service. What backpack would you recommend for each of us to carry for three weeks? No rolling luggage not practical. Any help appreciated.
I like Nomatic more for business travel. I’m a fan of Tortuga Setout, Pakt, or Peak Design for vacation trips (35L to 45L size is great for adults, and perfect for about 1 week worth of clothing). You can find reviews on this blog. For the kids maybe something colorful and simpler is nice, like CabinZero Classic.