Readers of The Perfect Pack should be no stranger to Bellroy by this point in time. Functional and stylish carry goods are the name of the game, and this time we’re looking at the newly released Transit Backpack. This is Bellroy’s first travel-oriented pack, and in our opinion it was worth the wait.
The Transit is one of the first Bellroy items to be made out of recycled water bottles. Environmentally conscientious buyers can feel good about using a bag that’s taking plastic out of the environment – just make sure the bag doesn’t end up in a landfill some day.
|Capacity||1709 cu. in.||28L|
|Primary Materials||Recycled Venture Weave, Leather, YKK Aquaguard|
Quality and Comfort
The quality, just like with other Bellroy bags we’ve reviewed, is top notch. Every piece of the bag is carefully thought out and you’d be hard pressed to find a single stitch out of place.
The Transit bag has contrasting leather accents wherever you look, including the zippers, shoulder straps, and the front panel. This is typical of most Bellroy bags, giving a nod to their leather-based heritage. Every external zipper on the Transit is a YKK Aquaguard, which tends to be our preferred zipper on any backpack.
The strap adjustment hardware is, in this case, metal. It adds a nice luxe feel to the bag over your typical injection molded plastic harware. Even the strap keepers are metal, and keep the extra strappy bits close to your body well enough while still letting you adjust on the fly.
The sternum strap utilizes a Fidlock Snap buckle, which you’ll see used commonly in the Bellroy lineup. The attachment setup is a nice upgrade from the Shift we reviewed last year, where the strap height wasn’t adjustable without removing the strap. And as always, we have a nice contrasting leather bit with the Bellroy logo adorned across the top of the strap.
The suspension itself is very comfortable. The Transit utilizes a relatively unique back-panel, with molded EVA foam covered in a four-way stretch material. You get all of the breathability of airmesh without any of the abrasiveness. This may be one of my favorite backpanel styles I’ve encountered. There’s also an offset, padded grab handle at the top. At first I thought it would be awkward to use, but it’s actually a more comfortable carry than typical 90* handles, as this balances the weight of the bag a bit better.
The straps, while comfortable and well padded, are a little short. I’m not a large person, at 5’8″, but even I thought the straps could taper off a bit later than they do. Fortunately I didn’t feel any discomfort with the pack loaded up, just a bit of annoyance.
One of my favorite things about this bag is the size and form-factor. It’s perfect for light traveling, and while it feels like it holds more than 28L in practice, it sure doesn’t carry like it. I had no problems carrying this bag around town at my destination without feeling like I looked over-encumbered. This from someone who usually carries a 6L to 15L pack. It solves one of my biggest issues with one-bag travel, where I often still want a separate bag for around town once I arrive at my destination.
As an aside, the fabric is incredibly stain resistant. Through various events of which I will not get into, my very unfortunate Bellroy Transit ended up covered in penne alla vodka one evening. All it needed was a wipe down with some wet rags and now you’d never know.
The organization-obsessed will be relatively happy to hear that the Transit has pockets abound. Around top we have what I would call a sunglasses or quick-grab pocket. It’s relatively shallow, but has some stretch to it and makes up for it with its width. The zipper on top is also a locking zipper, so it won’t slide unless you put pressure on the pull.
The front of the bag has a vertical-zipper pocket with just enough going on inside to keep some loose items organized. There’s a plastic key-leash, two pen sleeves, and a larger sleeve that I couldn’t quite figure out how to use well. I don’t often carry writing utensils, so the pen sleeves were a miss for me. I would have preferred one wider sleeve here so I could have kept my flashlight, multitool, or anything else here. The larger sleeve in this pocket is just a bit too small for me to keep what I wanted here – my Kindle Oasis. For reference, that’s relatively the size of an iPad mini. In this photo I have an A6 size dyborg.gear DCF pouch holding some TPP stickers to hand out to good girls and boys. The width of an A6 pouch is about the exact size of the opening of the sleeve, but the actual size is about an inch or so deeper than the opening.
The laptop compartment is one of my favorite things about this bag. It ticks all of my boxes; it’s raised, padded, snug, and just large enough to be comfortable fitting standard 13″ or 15″ laptops. I do wish this area had just a bit more of it’s own volume though. It’s not uncommon to feel like your laptop is pushing into the suspension. Not enough to be uncomfortable, but maybe enough to want to adjust your straps.
The internal compartment in here is one of the most ingenious parts of the pack. It’s there to hold your laptop-extras, but can easily hold a small tablet like an iPad Mini. The ingenious part is that it’s essentially hinged. When closed, it sits flush, but when it’s open, it opens up like a taco shell letting you pretty easily see what’s in there and what you want to grab out. It’s hard for a pocket to have its own volume in this area of a pack, but this area does just fine. I’d love to see this feature integrated on future packs.
There is a better photograph down below, but you can also see the tiny zipper pulls used in these hidden areas. While I think they’re maybe a little tough to grab, they’re a sign that Bellroy really puts thought into every little detail.
The main compartment has a full clam-shell opening, as is to be expected on any travel oriented bag. It’s one large cavern, save the two stretchy-ish pockets on the front panel. The top front panel pocket is your typical small-items area, and the mesh has some stretch to it, which is nice for those items that might be a bit snug otherwise.
The vertical pocket, instead of taking up the area directly below the former, extends behind it, utilizing the entire real-estate of the front panel. It also has some stretch material built in and that made it really easy to stuff a jacket or even two in there. And while not a complaint, necessarily, do note that this pocket opens on the opposite side as the other vertical pocket on the front of the bag. To me, this is an odd choice, as it requires me to get used to opening the bag from both sides depending on the pocket rather than being able to get at what I need from one side.
The main compartment also has compression straps built in and secured with a fidlock clasp. I was able to easily stack four full size Eagle Creek Spectre packing cubes in here with room to spare. Also to note, I was able to fit an Eagle Creek Spectre garment folder in here, which I honestly didn’t expect to work in a 28L pack. Due to its more rigid nature, it does cut into the entry of the hidden water bottle pockets though.
The hidden water bottle pockets are something you’re either going to love or hate. I fall somewhere in the between; more towards the latter when treating them like water bottle pockets, and more towards the former when treating them like general secure storage.
In my opinion, these pockets are a little over-engineered. They are secure and hidden to a fault. My 27oz Klean Kanteen water bottle, which is slim by most accounts, is tough to get in and out. It’s almost impossible to get in and out when the pack is loaded up. The other downside is that you’re definitely not getting at your bottle while it’s on your back. I’ll often ask my traveling partner to grab my water bottle for me if it’s unreachable. With the Transit, it’s unreachable for everyone.
That said, those above characteristics make it a great pocket to secure your belongings. Passports, wallets, tickets – nobody’s getting at those if you store them here. On future iterations, I’d maybe like to just see a slim stretch water bottle pocket added in lieu of one or both of these compartments, or even just a larger opening.
- Great size and space utilization. Easily used at your destination without looking too large around town.
- Holds way more than you’d initially think for a 28L pack.
- Quality materials and build as always with Bellroy.
- Laptop compartment and internal tech pocket are padded, raised.
- Pocket layout is generally well thought out.
- Harness and back panel are comfortable.
- The hidden water bottle pockets are over-engineered, and work much better as security pockets than water bottle pockets.
- The minimalistic zippers used in the internal areas are maybe just a little too minimalistic, but I’m getting used to them.
- The organization in the front sleeve is a little awkward to use.
- The straps are a little too short, and could do with maybe an extra inch of length.
The Bellroy Transit has been one of the most pleasant travel packs I’ve ever tested out. It looks good, it’s built well, it’s not too large, it has pockets in most of the right places, and it’s comfortable. My usual problem with travel oriented packs is that they’re a great size for traveling but not such a great size for anything else. I’ve already used the Transit for presenting at a conference, hauling four packs of beer around Queens, NY, and everything in between. And unlike many other travel packs, it never looked out of place.
The Bellroy Transit is available in a trio of different colors and recycled materials for $239 direct from Bellroy.
Editor’s Note: the Bellroy Transit was provided as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Bellroy before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never edited to keep brands happy.