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Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Review

If business travel is your gig, this is an excellent travel backpack
Minaal Carry-on 2.0
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Price:  $299 List
Pros:  Sleek, comfortable, durable, thoughtful travel specific features
Cons:  Expensive, business travel specific
Manufacturer:   Minaal
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 11
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Packing & Accessibility - 20% 6
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Minaal Carry-On 2.0 is an excellent travel specific backpack. The features are very streamlined for airport travel, and even more so for the business traveler. This is an outstanding bag for a business professional looking for a travel backpack that can be dressed up for meetings without compromising comfort in transit. It is a very thoughtful backpack, though less versatile than several of the other packs in this review. However, if business travel and spiffing up is a frequent routine in your life, this is an excellent pack. It is pricey, but if it fits your needs, you'll be stoked. The Minaal is advertised for office, trail, and urban use. We concur, though the features are not optimized for daily office use, nor for hiking.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Minaal was born of a Kickstarter campaign by two Kiwis who wanted to design the perfect travel backpack. As with most things from New Zealand, the clever humor comes without extra charge, mate.

Performance Comparison


The Minaal Carry On 2.0
The Minaal Carry On 2.0

Comfort


This pack is a strong performer in the comfort category, stemming largely from its sleek fit and very clever design. It is important to note that we were not able to fit all of our "test load" of gear into it: our foam sleeping pad was too bulky to go inside, and also too large to be strapped to the outside of the pack. But this is not by any stretch of the imagination a travel pack that you would take on an overnight backpacking trip. That said, this pack scored very highly in the comfort category with roughly the same weight as the rest of the packs (because that foam pad weighs hardly anything).

Minaal Carry On 2.0 travel backpack
Minaal Carry On 2.0 travel backpack

When we measured the comfort range of this pack, we found that it maxed out around 25 pounds: a proud achievement for such a streamlined travel pack with no hip belt. The "four-point harness adjustment system" of the Minaal, along with a stiff but moldable back panel, make this pack contour to your body, This helps keep the load close to your center of gravity by careful design rather than forcing it to happen with elaborate suspension including load lifter straps on the shoulders.

The Minaal is not the most versatile pack in this review, but it shines in its intelligent design: it is the fast-and-light travelers' dream, running with the concept that sometimes comfort means trimming down and focusing on simplicity. Their attention to pack shape, light weight, and a simple suspension system add up to make this a surprisingly comfortable pack despite its seeming simplicity.

Features


The Minaal 2.0 is a very sleek and streamlined travel backpack. It excels especially on business trips, due to the professional and sophisticated look. You can zip the shoulder straps behind a flap of fabric to make it look like a soft briefcase. This also doubles to protect the straps if you had to check it in at the airport, but we doubt this is a pack you will be checking — it is very compact and makes the most sense as a carry-on (hence its name!)

The Minaal has a flap to zip over the backpack straps  making it briefcase-like for a business meeting.
The Minaal has a flap to zip over the backpack straps, making it briefcase-like for a business meeting.

This pack has an easy-to-access rain cover zipped in the bottom of the bag. This is a very fitting feature, as it allows you to brave the weather and arrive at the office looking pro, with your pack and all its contents dry.

The Minaal comes with a rain cover zipped in the bottom.
The Minaal comes with a rain cover zipped in the bottom.

There are a few pockets inside the main compartment, best used for shoes and socks, and perhaps toiletries, with clothing layered on top. There is a separate and easily accessed laptop sleeve which has a very clever adjustment system, so you can size it to keep your electronics secure. It also has excellent padding to protect your laptop during transit.

This pack has excellent travel-specific features for the techy traveler.
This pack has excellent travel-specific features for the techy traveler.

The only downfall of the features is that they are fairly specific to business travel. If you have a computer, some clothes, a pair of shoes, and you're headed out for a long weekend and want to look presentable (and have your clothing and shoes arrive presentable, as well), this is your bag.

This pack offers great features for the business-savvy traveler.
This pack offers great features for the business-savvy traveler.

Packing & Accessibility


The Minaal is a champion of accessibility for a carry on pack. The laptop sleeve is separate from the main compartment, with its own zippered access panel. It's very easy to remove and send through security. There are also a couple of smallish external pockets to carry valuables and things you might need to access (or stow) quickly (or frequently), like a passport or phone.

The compartment theme of this pack is definitely more plane/office/hotel-ready than outdoor-ready. The main compartment opens wide like a soft suitcase, so you can lay the contents out easily, but that main compartment is not the easiest to get in and out of, say, for a visit to the gym after work.

The capacity of the Minaal: the water bottle and sleeping pad didn't fit in the pack  and the sleeping pad could not be strapped to the outside - the straps were too short. (The standard set of gear  top  was packed into each bag to compare capacities with an actual load rather than relying on the company's reported volume numbers.)
The capacity of the Minaal: the water bottle and sleeping pad didn't fit in the pack, and the sleeping pad could not be strapped to the outside - the straps were too short. (The standard set of gear, top, was packed into each bag to compare capacities with an actual load rather than relying on the company's reported volume numbers.)

Durability


This pack is simple and streamlined, with little to fail. The buckles and straps are very strong, and the materials rugged and durable. The zippers and pockets open with ease, and even when jam-packed, we did not find any areas of obvious strain to zippers or seams. This is a bag that can easily last a long time.

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Minaal has a capacity of 35 liters and weighs in at 3.25 pounds. This isn't a great ratio compared to others in our review, but it's decent. That said, this pack has been criticized for losing volume because of its rounded shape. This is certainly true; however, the benefits from the contoured design and simplicity add to its lighter weight and carrying comfort. So: trade-offs.

It's worth it to also mention at the advertised liters are only nominally helpful. Many companies advertise a capacity that, when you have the bag in hand, may not carry as you think it will. It's a great starting point, but ultimately you will have to try it out for yourself.

Value


The high price point of the Minaal demands that you be absolutely sure this is the best pack for your needs; otherwise, you'll be out quite a bit for a pack you hardly use. Minaal offers a 90-day no-stress return policy though — they want you to try their pack with your belongings and truly see if it's a good fit before you commit.

A busy night at the airport: you'll be stoked you picked the Minaal as your companion.
A busy night at the airport: you'll be stoked you picked the Minaal as your companion.

Conclusion


The success of this travel pack is easy to miss at first glance: it is so thoughtfully designed that it slides effortlessly into your travel life, and you might never notice how much thought was put into it. But the Kiwis who designed the Minaal Carry-On 2.0 insist that it has been a long and at times painful ordeal perfecting this bag, and we appreciate their effort. This is a thoughtful pack backed by a company that cares, and that takes a lot of pride in what they do.

Lyra Pierotti