Able Carry is a bag company based in Hong Kong. I find their design carries that Hong Kong city on the go vibe, balancing functions and speed. They started with the 20L Daily Backpack with a signature “A Frame” design, then a smaller version called the Thirteen Daybag (both reviewed here). Today we are previewing their largest bag to date, a travel and EDC friendly pack called the Max Backpack that they are releasing on Kickstarter.
|Height||520 mm||20.5 in.|
|Width||320 mm||12.5 in.|
|Depth||200 mm||8 in.|
|Weight||1.7 Kg||3.7 lbs|
|Volume||30L||1831 cu. in.|
Quality and Comfort
While I am reviewing a pre-production sample, the build quality of the bag is still excellent. No exposed edges anywhere. All zippers and buckles work smoothly. The spacing on the two daisy chains in the main compartment of this bag do not lined up perfectly but this is one of the areas that is undergoing design changes for the production release.
The bag is made from XPAC VX21 fabric, light weight, strong and water resistant. The bottom and back of the bag is made with Cordura 1000D fabric to help with wear and tear. It is a good use of both fabrics. The stretchy mesh materials used on some of the pockets are made of a very tight mesh that feels soft but strong.
The Max has a hard EVA frame sheet to make sure the load is distributed more along your back. The back has two channels of closed-cell foam and the straps are thick. I took the pack on a 2.5 mile hike loaded up with my work gear for testing and it feels great.
Behind the primary top carry handle, there’s also a smaller webbing loop that you can use to hang the bag to keep it off of any undesirable ground.
The main compartment is 22L in capacity. It is designed with a almost full clamshell opening. With the angled bottom and without zippers going all the way to the end, there is a sizable area in the bottom that is good for items you do not want falling out of the bag by mistake.
For travel, the main compartment fits my medium size packing cube and my dopp kit with room to spare for some loose clothing. Getting a pair of shoes in there will be tight but doable. As a light traveller my normal 4 day business trip gear can fit into this bag.
The bag is shallower at the top. Near the bottom the pack is 5.5 inches deep, as seen with my dopp kit. For taking the bag to the office, I can easily put all my pouches and a extra light jacket in the compartment. If you have a second large laptop, you can place it here, preferably with a case.
There is more than meets the eye here in the main compartment. On one side, a small internal pocket is perfect for something like a small bottle, short umbrella or a small gimbal. Look closer and you will see a daisy chain ladder in the back wall, and some loops along the front edge of the bag. I have added some shock cord through the daisy chain to hold down my jacket. Using a strap from another bag, I attached an Able Carry Joey Pouch onto one of the loops to make retrieval quicker and secure. I would love to see Able Carry come out with new accessories that make use of these loops and straps.
Note that the final production model will have smaller loops and fewer of them.
The work/laptop compartment in the back has room for a 16 inch laptop carried in a padded and suspended pocket. My 15 inch MBP fits easily with room to spare. Note that according to Able Carry, the final production version interior fabric will be a warmer oat color.
The front side of this work area has a small zippered pocket up top. I put my mouse and my charger in there. With this backpack standing on the floor, I can open the top zipper and reach in to get to my essentials to start working, perhaps in an airport lounge.
The front side of the main compartment also serves a similar purpose. I can partially open the zipper and access the front top pocket. The idea is great but I wish the pocket was slightly larger. My Sony XM4 headphones do not fit into that pocket even when folded.
The Max has an asymmetric design. The left side has a water bottle pocket that can be left open or zipped up to streamline the look. I like this design because more than once my metal insulated water bottle flew out of the side of my bags as I was removing the bag from overhead bin on planes.
The other side of the bag has a carry handle cleverly integrated into the A Frame webbing. It is a comfortable, padded strap. You can carry the Max briefcase style. There is also a zipper pocket just back of the handle with a double zipper opening. This pocket is quite tall and is a good stash pocket for random items.
If you look carefully you will realized that the zipper of the work/laptop compartment is also asymmetric. The zipper goes down further on the handle side. If you are carrying the Max briefcase style, you can access almost the entire work compartment using the longer zipper opening on this side.
The front of the bag also has a compartment that opens diagonally. It has a little bit of depth to it. There is a key leash and a small stretch pocket inside. I find the best use of this pocket is to stuff a small hoodie or other soft items inside.
- As with the other Able Carry bags, the Max looks smaller than its actual size. As bags get larger this is more important.
- The dual use design actually works. I have other travel backpacks that are around 30L but they do not work well for daily work type use. The Max can work as a travel bag, but also as a large EDC bag due to the organization and design.
- The side carry mode is very well executed. The handle, the small stash pocket, the asymmetric laptop area zipper makes it all work if you have to carry or access the bag from the side.
- The beefy main zipper jingles a lot. This is easily solved by swapping or threading in some paracord.
- I really wish the top pocket on the front of the main compartment was slightly larger because it will be perfect for a pair of folded full size headphones.
This bag is feature rich and visually appealing. It has packed a lot of functions into a bag without a single hook-and-loop field or PALS row in sight; The loops and daisy chains on the back of the main compartment, all the little webbing loops that you can use to hook additional things onto the bag as needed, the hook and the secret compartment in the back, and other visual elements that are delightful to discover. I feel like they took all of the learning from their first three bags and put them here. Now, I find myself wanting them to revise the original Daily Backpack with all these new designs.
I think the most debatable point from potential users will be the size. Is the bag too small for a one week travel? Is it too large for EDC use? I think Able Carry managed to strike a delicate balance between the two ends. I look forward to getting back onto a plane with this bag.
You can find the Able Carry Max on Kickstarter for the time being, here.
Note: The final production version of the Max will be different from the one reviewed here. Some differences according to Able Carry as of the time of publishing are:
- The internal fabric will be a warmer Oat color
- Internal zipper pulls will be color matched to the same color
- The daisy chain and most materials will be dark grey
- External zippers colors will be color matched to the bag’s external XPAC color
- The Cordura fabric on the bottom and back will be color matched to the main XPAC color
- The top two loops in the main compartment will be removed, the others will be shorter
- The loop at the back of the pack will be longer
Disclaimer: The Max was provided by Able Carry as a review sample. The final production version will be slightly different. The contents of this review was not shared with Able Carry before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.