By now, you’re likely familiar with Aer – a relative newcomer that’s been designing packs in San Francisco in a distinctly modern and practical way. They’re centered around (as they profess) simplicity, durability, and utility. There are several different styles, but all seem to riff on a similar motif: muted colors, stripped-back design (especially in the exterior), and 21st century features. Perhaps no bag brings together those themes like the Tech Pack 2, a distinctly black backpack that’s so subtle, you might not (were you not a dedicated TPP reader) recognize it as something special.
Oh, but it is! The Tech Pack 2 is the bag for nerds, for geeks, for hustlers who aren’t out to ruck in the backwoods or trek cross-country with a single bag, but instead for those who have a lot of work to get done, and need a lot of gear to do it. It’s a tech pack. For tech.
The Tech Pack 2 is, on (digital?) paper, my dream bag. It’s clean in appearance but has so. many. pockets that even the most dongle-reliant users will have a space for their stuff. At $210, it’s not cheap – but also not exuberantly expensive. Like any good technology accessory, it’s built to last, and built to work with you. So I loaded it up with my iPad (2018), my LG ThinkPad 14″, my Microsoft Surface Book, my iPhone 11, my Kindle (2019), my Logitech mouse, my bag of dongles and chargers, my external battery pack (hey, they said it was for tech, didn’t they?) and headed….. well to the office, once, but also around my block, around my condo, up and down my stairs a bunch, to the grocery store, to Staples, to Walgreen’s, and basically everywhere – even if it as somewhere I wasn’t bringing tech – to get this thing tested.
I’ll add here – writing bag reviews at a time like this must, of course, be put in perspective… especially when discussing a bag that’s meant to travel around town with your mobile office. COVID-19 has a put a damper on all of our EDCs, and while I have been lucky enough to get the Tech Pack 2 safely, and sanitarily, out of the house, I have only limited experience with use on public transit, which is a huge factor for a commuter like me. And, most of all, I cannot express how many compliments of “rad bag!” I received. It’s hard to scope a bag from 6′ away.
|Weight||3.8 lbs.||1.72 kg|
|Capacity||1037.4 cu. in.||17L|
Quality & Comfort
The Tech Pack 2 is a bag that I sort of evaluate “inside out” (figuratively, and in this case, literally). Whereas most packs I start with how it carries on my back and shoulders and then work inwards, my first priority for the Tech Pack 2 was how much stuff I could fit in it, and then how comfortable it was once fully loaded. They aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but this is a workhorse bag, and it better have fit the things I need before I worry about its shoulder straps.
Fortunately, as with my previous Aer experiences, the Tech Pack 2 carries extremely well. Even when fully loaded (including 2 laptops – unnecessary for me, but worth a test), it didn’t feel overly heavy or uncomfortable on my shoulders. I’m a relatively small-framed person (about 69″ and 130 lbs.) and this bag, while sort of wide in shape, didn’t look out of place on my back by any means. My wife (about 63″) did find it a little large – but she’s also much less familiar with daily carrying a backpack, and I imagine some of the comfort comes from familiarity. I would not question recommending this to men or women, as I think it would function well on many body frames.
The 840D nylon face is water-proof, and all the zippers are YKK AquaGuards (as one would expect!) – so this bag isn’t scared of a little drizzle. I’ve had past experiences with AquaGuards “peeling” over time, but no such occurrences with this specific style of AquaGuard. My cursory water-proof test (stick a roll of paper towels inside – flick, then dump, water at it – check paper intermittently) yielded strictly positive results. Don’t worry about a little rain!
Absolutely worth mentioning is that this can be carried sideways via the side-mounted grab handle. I am a huge anti-hybrid bag person. Some of those Topo Designs packs come to mind – really good looking, until you come around back and see an extraneous zipper hiding some backpack flaps, and now suddenly the bag doesn’t know what it wants to be anymore. Fortunately, Aer has successfully implemented a side-mounted grab handle here that not only allows you to carry the bag at your side, but also creates an easy option to throw it up over your roller bag when traveling. It’s a win-win, and an uncommon carry option that I really appreciate.
A place for everything, and everything in its place. Oh, were you not thinking that before? You will be, after loading out the Tech Pack 2. Because this bag has pocketttttssssss. It has the “basics,” of course – a suspended laptop sleeve (for up to 16″ – new Macbook Pro users rejoice), a quick access top pocket for phone and sunglasses, side-carrying water bottle pockets, several organizational pockets lined with a soft woven fabric, a side-carry handle for “briefcase mode” and luggage pass-through, and more. Oh, and it stands up. Even when empty. That’s a win.
But just having pockets for all your junk isn’t necessarily useful if there’s no way to access them, and I’m happy to report that – with very few exceptions – this is a readily accessible bag. This is generally my “CTA Test” (for Chicago Transit Authority – our public transit system). Easiest is the top-mounted quick-access pocket – it’s super accessible and super handy. None of the zippers zip all the way to the bottom of the bag – all are abutted by the exterior side pockets. In some ways, this precludes complete usability, but in practice, with how the pockets were arranged, I didn’t have any issues. Of course, if you chuck all your stuff to the bottom of this compartment, then you’ll have more trouble getting to it. Sticking with the pockets made sense for me, as they’re higher up. There’s even a key ring/lanyard, so you won’t need to go rustling around the bottom of the pack for your keys.
Of course, this allows me to rant a little at what is largely my only negative – there are so many pockets and so many flaps and nooks and crannies that unless you’re really carrying everything… it’s not totally necessary. This is magnified for those of us who have multiple packs, because realistically, I keep my adapters (dongles), chargers, spare batteries, USB-drives, headphones, and more in a separate gear pouch that I can readily transfer for bag-to-bag. So while I loaded out every item I have into its individual pocket for this test… I would naturally just chuck the whole pouch into the front pocket and roll out.
- Not just a lot of pockets, but a lot of useful pockets (and there’s a difference!).
- Clean aesthetic – seriously, Aer nails this just about every time.
- Carries comfortably and can be used as a briefcase without looking like a mashup.
- Even as someone who commutes (or did, pre-COVID-19) with a lot of tech, it can be a bit overkill on the organization.
- Visually, I wish the 840D nylon material carried throughout the entirety of the exterior.
If you’ve made it this far (and even if you haven’t), you’ll know this bag has a ton of good, usable, and well designed features. In fact, it’s biggest flaw is, perhaps, that is has too many of them. It’s really hard to find fault with the Aer Tech Pack 2. Genuinely, it’s only in complaining to myself about the need to un-pack and re-pack my gear pouches, that I’ve been able to write negative things.
This pack is, ultimately, like a well-designed piece of technology itself: it’s expensive, to be sure, but you can tell someone put care into it, thought of every practical carry option and pocket position, and then got down to using it. If you want to take your office with you – or just have a ready bag for your tech-laden daily commute, I don’t think there are many better packs than the Aer Tech Pack 2.
The Tech Pack 2 is available from Aer for $210 USD.
Editor’s Note: The Aer Tech Pack 2 used was provided by Aer for this review. The contents of this review was not shared with Aer before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.