Pakt is a luggage manufacturer from Brooklyn, NY focused on minimalist travel as well as using sustainable materials for their products.
Their Pakt Travel Backpack is a fully-featured carry-on bag. Designed in collaboration with YouTube personality Chase Reeves, it received a lot of buzz from the moment it came out.
To see if it’s worth the hype, I tested the final production version of the Pakt Travel Backpack for several weeks on a trip in Portugal.
- Superb organizational features
- Great interior design
- Many special features (secret compartment, waterproof pocket, etc.)
- Very comfortable to wear
- Solid but not so remarkable exterior design
Superficially, the Pakt Travel Backpack may not immediately catch your eye. At least… if you’re looking only at its exterior design. I think it looks good, just not necessarily super unique or different.
But what makes this backpack truly compelling is the sheer functionality you’ll find on the inside.
I’ll dive into all that functionality in a moment. But there’s something important about the Pakt that other reviews kind of gloss over.
It’s one thing that I believe really makes it stand out.
And it’s the fact that it’s a hamburger, not a pizza.
Let me explain.
True clamshell design
Like many popular carry-on backpacks, the Pakt has a clamshell design. This means you zip it open along the sides, much like a suitcase, providing super easy access.
Most carry-ons open up through a middle zipper, but then offer essentially one main storage compartment. I think of these backpacks a bit as a pizza; the back panel is the base and your luggage is everything you pile on top.
What’s a bit different is that the Pakt truly has two equal halves. It opens up more like two burger buns, with your luggage in between them.
OK, this analogy isn’t perfect — and I’m probably just hungry right now. But you’ll get what I mean when looking at the image below.
As you can see, one half of the Pakt’s main interior is behind a mesh. The other half is behind a zipped panel. Between them is a pouch, which is in fact the laptop compartment.
I like this a lot. Firstly, it means your laptop will be safely hamburgered between your other luggage. It’s good to have your laptop snugly at the center — for security, load balancing, and comfort. Unlike other packs, the laptop isn’t positioned like a plank right on your back, which is cool.
I also appreciate how the main compartment is subdivided, making it easier to organize. I immediately thought about how I’d use this evenly split space.
I figured I’d use the mesh compartment for clothing I need to access easily, like socks/underwear and my most-used pieces. Other less-frequently used items can live in the other half of the main compartment, behind the laptop. Of course, you may find an entirely different way to organize.
The mesh, by the way, has its own zipper. This means you can stuff some items in the meshed divider, as well as in the compartment behind it. I like how this gives you three separated areas within the main compartment. While packing cubes can still be useful, I can also see how the Pakt can easily do without them.
There is one minor downside to this true clamshell design, which I’ll get to in the conclusion, but overall I think it’s an excellent idea that makes organization a lot easier.
Unique or clever features
The Pakt Travel Backpack has clearly had a lot of thought put into its functionality. It has a plethora of pouches, compartments, and zippers.
There are more of these, perhaps, than you will know what to do with at first. After a few days of using it, I got used to the Pakt and found everything to be within quick easy reach. In fact, I think access is truly where this backpack shines. Everything is just very easy to get to.
The Pakt Travel Backpack has all the usual elements you’d expect. There is a travel organizer with a pen and keychain holder, a water bottle pocket on the side, and so on. But there are also some less conventional features.
One nifty feature is the secret compartment. It’s hidden on the back between the top shoulder straps. It’s really a bit awkward to get into, but that’s the point. It isn’t meant for quick access, but purely to keep bank cards, a passport, or other sensitive items.
The idea is that this can prevent theft if someone is quickly rifling through your bag. When you’re carrying the back is also the most secure place, making pickpocketing from here virtually impossible.
At the lower back is another larger secure pocket. Inside is a mesh pouch, intended for you to put your phone, keys, etc. in when going through airport security. It’s labeled the TSA Pocket.
Now, let’s be honest: how big of a deal is it to place small items in that plastic basket before running them through the X-ray machine? I don’t know. Maybe some people out there really hate doing this.
Personally, I’d say this is only a tiny inconvenience affecting less than 5 seconds of your trip, so this pocket feels a little gimmicky. I can more easily imagine using it simply as another secure storage pouch.
A unique feature that I’m much more into is the detachable waist strap. Some travelers, myself included, love waist straps as they help distribute the load along your body. Others may find waist straps a bit extraneous, especially those who pack light. If that’s you, rest assured you can completely detach the waist strap and not use it at all.
Except there’s a twist: the waist strap can be transformed into a small sling pack!
Giving the waist strap this dual purpose I think is a really fun and creative idea. It lets you leave your main carry backpack at your accommodation, while using the sling as a small day-pack to go out and explore.
Finally, the front quick-access compartment has a waterproof lining. This makes it ideal to use for toiletries, swimming gear, or other wet items. Having once had an incident in Peru involving a leaking shampoo bottle and the entire contents of my backpack, I can definitely see the value in this feature!
Design + conclusion
The Pakt Travel Backpack is a premium and feature-filled backpack. To my mind, it sits in the same category as, say, the Peak Design 45L or the Nomatic 40L Travel Backpack.
That having said, I think its exterior design is perhaps not so distinguished. Its shape and materials remind me a lot of the Aer Travel Pack 2. Solid but maybe not so eye-catching.
Then again, flashy backpacks can easily draw unwanted attention. Ever since my Peak Design Everyday Backpack was stolen (with my Macbook inside, noooooo!), I’ve been more conscious of this fact. From a security sense, I can appreciate the Pakt Travel Backpack’s understated looks.
On the inside, it’s a different story. It has a number of signature design touches; I especially love the quilted look of some of the interior padding. It’s a classy touch that makes the interior feel almost… homely? When packing or unpacking, it feels really nice to use.
One minor issue I’ve had with the clamshell design is that I couldn’t so easily fit larger hiking or walking boots. Sadly, my chonky hiking shoes (for my chonky feet) were a bit too tall to fit so easily into the Pakt. While the divided main space is fine for sneakers, sandals, or canvas shoes, I felt like I was pushing it with my hiking boots. That’s not going to be an issue for everyone, but I mention it anyway.
As far as size goes, this is a 30L pack so it will easily fit virtually any carry-on size restrictions, including stringent airlines in Europe. Nevertheless, it may surprise you how much you can fit inside as the layout makes it feel very spacious.
Personally, I’m more of a 40L or 45L backpack kinda guy, as my job as a travel blogger necessitates bringing more electronics than perhaps the average traveler.
If you are a light or efficient packer, you surely won’t struggle with the 30-liter capacity. If you are going on an epic journey through multiple climates, you may want to look at something a bit bigger.
I’ve found the Pakt backpack comfortable to wear, with good padding on the shoulder straps, and load lifter straps to keep the load distributed fully on your back. The waist straps sit just a tad too high for my rather non-average length (1m94 or 6’5) but I wasn’t too bothered by this.
By the way, this pack does a good job of carrying tech gear. The laptop compartment perfectly fits my Dell XPS 15”, while the water bottle pocket easily fits my Manfrotto Compact Action tripod.
At $299 the Pakt Travel Backpack isn’t the cheapest backpack on the market. That said, Pakt’s ethos is all about sustainability and durability, choosing materials and designs that will last a long time. The pack is made from thick-threaded 900D recycled plastic (ePET) and is fully weather-resistant. Tip of the hat to Pakt for designing this product for the long haul.
21″ inches high, 12.6″ wide, 6.7″ deep
4.5 pounds (2 kg)
In conclusion, I’ve found the Pakt Travel Backpack very comfortable to wear and easy to organize. I would probably put it in my top 5 for premium backpacks. The clamshell configuration is a great design choice that sets it apart from many other backpacks, so if you think you will like this layout, then the Pakt may well be the perfect backpack for you.
The Pakt Travel Backpack is available exclusively through the Pakt online store. I recommend checking out this overview of the Pakt for a visual look at all its features.
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Do you have any recommendations for a budget friendly option for travel backpacks? I don’t feel that the price tag for pakt is worth it for people that do not travel frequently. I am looking for good design features like what pakt has.
Yes, my favorite more affordable backpack is the Farpoint / Fairview 40. I also like the Cotopaxi Allpa. I have an overview here.
Thanks for doing your reviews; they’re great. Between the Pakt and Tropicfeel bags, which one would you prefer for a longer trip? Going to Sweden in the summertime for 5 weeks. I’m a very light packer and like a lot of the Pakt features, but I think I can fit more in the Tropicfeel. That said, I don’t think Tropicfeel has the full kit weight on their website — 1.5kg seems like only the Shell itself (not the wardrobe or toiletry bag). I reached out to them but got no response. Is it very heavy altogether? Would you recommend another bag entirely?
Thanks for your response!
Hey Keelan! Hard to say as there are many bags that will work well for light packing in one climate. I’d say the Shell wardrobe and accessories add at least about 500-700g so the total weight should be similar. They’re very different bags, though personally I quite like the Pakt! The Shell is quite extendible but the Pakt actually feels a little more spacious to me.