Aer is a relatively new player in the bag game, getting their start in 2014 through crowdfunding, like many other makers nowadays. They focus on simple, functional bags that lend themselves well to travel, whether it’s to and from work or through airport security. Their styling is unique and has an obvious West Coast influence, so it’s no surprise that they call San Francisco home. Aer’s bags all fall into one of two categories: work or travel. This bag falls into the latter, being the second iteration of this specific pack.
Since I have not used the previous version of this pack, the Travel Pack 2 will be reviewed based on how it stands alone rather than what was changed or improved upon. The Travel Pack 2 was designed with one-bag flyers in mind, focusing on offering convenience and ample space for both short and long trips. This pack, like the rest of Aer’s lineup, was designed in San Francisco and manufactured in China.
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Quality and Comfort
Aer has gone all in on quality materials for the Travel Pack 2, which is necessary when you think about how much wear and tear travel gear goes through. The entire exterior is 1680D Cordura which is light but durable and will shed light rain just fine. Zippers are a mix of YKK AquaGuard and what looks like a YKK #8. The zippers themselves have custom, oversized Aer zipper pulls, which are nice and easy to grab, but were a little too slick for my liking. I’d suggest that future iterations add a bit of texturing.
The harness is well padded and all human-facing sides are lined with a soft airmesh that unlike many other packs doesn’t seem like it will eat up the back of my shirts. The harness itself is basic but contours nicely to your upper body and does well under load. The only thing noticeably missing is a set of load-lifters. Load lifters would position the pack a little better, especially when loaded up.
Both the top and side of the pack have a nicely padded handle – the top being a little heftier and made of the same Cordura material, while the side is a little slimmer, made of seat-belt material. The side handle sits next to the integrated water bottle pocket which we’ll talk about in a latter section.
The belt for the Travel Pack 2 is a necessary addition when loaded up, but it’s a $20 extra accessory. At $230 MSRP, I think it should have been included, but $20 is a decent price for a belt that I feel is made well and comfortable. The inside, like the harness, is also airmesh.
The belt attaches via Woojin plastic hooks and are easy enough to take off and store in the bag when not in use. I’m a huge fan of removable belts, as I tend to only use them when my bags are under heavy load. Other times they’re an annoyance that I just want stowed away.
The front of the Travel Pack 2 consists of a lower half-pocket with an AquaGuard zipper, and a larger accessory compartment that utilizes the entire front panel of the pack. The top of the accessory compartment contains more than enough organization for your chargers, e-readers, keys and travel-friendly tools.
Behind the top carry-handle is a stash pocket for quick-access items like your boarding pass, passport, or sunglasses. However, this is only one of two external pockets that doesn’t have locking zippers. I wouldn’t take points away for this, but it’s at least worth noting if you’re going to keep valuables in it. I do think this pocket should have been lined with something soft though. It’s common to throw things like sunglasses or phones in this pocket. The only other complaint I have about this pocket is that it should have been on the side of the pack. This would have allowed access to these items by just slinging it around to the front, over one shoulder.
The Travel Pack 2 has a great shoe compartment – something I wish more bags of this type would adopt. I wouldn’t expect to fit a large pair of hiking or work boots in here, but a pair of running or trail shoes will do just fine.
The side of the pack has an integrated water bottle pouch that zips up and out of the way when not in use. It holds a 27oz bottle with ease, but I wouldn’t stuff anything larger in there. I was also able to still easily carry the bag with the side handle even with the water bottle in the pouch.
When zipped away, the water bottle pocket slims up against the pack. However, I think Aer could have saved on some moving parts and kept a more streamlined profile by using a 4-way stretch material here instead.
The laptop compartment lacks the fore-thought of many other features on this pack. It’s a black hole style compartment with foam padding on all sides, but without any way to secure your laptop from sliding around. Personally, I wouldn’t keep my laptop in here during travel without it already being in a padded case. Thankfully the compartment is large enough to make that possible.
Lacking a raised laptop compartment is something I’ve taken points away for on other packs, and the Travel Pack 2 suffers in the same way as those do. The thin padding at the bottom of the pack doesn’t do anything to improve my confidence that a laptop won’t smack the floor when putting the bag down. The A19 Evade has a laptop compartment by which all others shall be judged, and I hope more makers take note of it.
The main compartment has a standard clam-shell opening which helps when packing and gives a slight organizational edge over most other styles. The front panel of the main compartment has two pockets that each take up half of the panel respectively. The mesh is extra stiff, so you shouldn’t have to worry about anything with a hard edge ripping through.
The accessory pocket and shoe compartment, as one would expect, intrude into the main compartment. Just something to be wary of as you’re planning out your packing list.
Swinging back to the harness side of things, we have a luggage strap between the airmesh panels. I really love this feature, and it’s something I’ve found myself wishing that other bags have had while traveling. While this pack is a great one-bag, you sometimes need more than a single bag can carry. And in those cases, being able to throw the bag over your luggage’s handle provides a welcome break when standing in security lines or walking between gates.
The top and bottom compression straps are essential for keeping your bag to a manageable size and keeping everything in place. However, they could use a little re-positioning. The attachment points of the straps are stitched in behind the front panel compartment and in front of the laptop compartment. This essentially only allows compression of the main compartment which is nice but not quite enough. Moving the attachment points further towards the front and back would really help in both cases of the pack being fully loaded, and when slimming it down for day-pack duty at your destination.
The hardware and materials on this pack are all top notch, there isn’t much here that makes me worry about durability and I always like adding a point or two for weatherproofing. Aer has really nailed the one-bag concept here while offering features important to both in-flight and in-city uses, like a shoe compartment, ample organization, and a padded laptop compartment.
As with anything, there’s always room for improvement. The laptop compartment might be my biggest issue, as it seems like an afterthought on an otherwise well thought out pack. I’d suggest that future versions at the very least raise the compartment. More so, I’d like to see better stitching of the padding and some further organization in here.
The zipper pulls, while oversized and easy to grab, get a bit slippery in both wet or humid weather, not to mention just under normal use. Some simple texturing would raise the pulls from a B- to an A+. Another issue that we talked about earlier is the lack of compression available on the Travel Pack 2. Some simple placement tweaks of the straps would easily add another 1.5″-2″ of compression, reducing the pack a more in-city friendly size. And on a pack this size, a set of load lifters would help with long treks down the tarmac.
The Aer Travel Pack 2 is a worthy addition to your travel bag collection. If you don’t find yourself traveling very often, this may not be the pack for you. It’s not a daily use pack by any means, being a bit too large for most peoples’ daily needs. The Aer Travel Pack 2 comes in black, gray, and MultiCam Black and retails for $230 USD with the additional belt retailing for $20 USD, which I think is a worthwhile extra. If you’re doing multi-day trips via air, bus, or train with any frequency throughout the year, the Travel Pack 2 should be right up your alley, and definitely on your radar for your next purchase.