Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Review
Cons: Expensive, business travel specific
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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.
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).
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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