The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack Review

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $189 List
Pros:  Many cool features, hip look
Cons:  Small internal capacity, heavy for its small size
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2
By Amanda Fenn ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 8, 2015
  • Share this article:
59
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Features - 25% 6
  • Ease of Packing - 20% 6
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Weight - 15% 2

The Skinny

The Aviator Travel Backpack is No Longer Available as of 2016
The Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack has an internal capacity of less than 30 liters and we think it's a great option for individuals who plan to check one bag, but still want to carry-on a few critical items that won't quite fit into the personal item. Although you could use this as a personal item, it is a tight fit under the seat in front of you. The Aviator has a super padded built-in laptop sleeve, tuck away backpack straps, and more than enough space for books or magazines, as well as that emergency change of clothes in case your checked bag gets lost in the shuffle.

Our Analysis and Test Results

From its built-in rain fly to its easily accessible pockets, the Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack has lots of well-thought-out features that will help make your next trip a breeze. Although we did not find this to be the easiest bag to use (its zippers are annoyingly difficult to pull), this piece is a great option for the super light packer or the traveler who is checking a bag.

Performance Comparison


The Aviator does not have wheels. It can be carried by the top or side handles or as a backpack.
The Aviator does not have wheels. It can be carried by the top or side handles or as a backpack.

Comfort


The Timbuk2 Aviator can be carried as either a backpack or by one of its burly side handles with the backpack straps tucked away. This bag is super easy to convert, thanks in part to Timbuk2's clipping system; however, user beware, it's much easier to tuck away the backpack straps when the bag is empty. Technically, we think that this bag might just be small enough to go under the seat in front of you and serve as a personal item, but if you do go for this option, you will definitely have no foot room. It's also worth noting here that we biked around with this bag and found it to be a little boxy and difficult to see around. If you are looking for a smaller backpack-style carry-on the Tumi Alpha Bravo Cannon may be a better choice.

The Aviator on two different body types. Our testers found this bag to be relatively comfortable. It does have a hip belt.
The Aviator on two different body types. Our testers found this bag to be relatively comfortable. It does have a hip belt.

Features


If there's one place where this bag excels, it is in its features. It has a built in rain fly, which makes it easier to double this bag as an everyday around town piece as well as a carry-on. Both its vertical zipping pocket on the back of the bag and the pocket on the lid are accessible from the interior and exterior. Additionally, the Aviator features an ultra padded drop-in laptop sleeve that our testers completely trusted. Several other bags, including the daypack on the Osprey Meridian 22 offered this feature, as well.

L: The stylish flaps on the outside disguise the zippers  but also make them hard to access. R: The Aviator has many cool features  including an integrated rainfly.
L: The stylish flaps on the outside disguise the zippers, but also make them hard to access. R: The Aviator has many cool features, including an integrated rainfly.

Ease of Packing


This was one of the smallest bag that we reviewed, but we were actually surprised at how much we could jam in there. When packing this bag, we generally find it easiest to pack up the top pouch first because the bottom of this pocket sits within and takes up space in the main compartment. We did find this to be a bit annoying, especially when trying to fit larger items into the main compartment.

The Aviator in our packing test. This bag held a surprising amount of items (everything except the things on the left)  but it was super.full.
The Aviator in our packing test. This bag held a surprising amount of items (everything except the things on the left), but it was super.full.

Durability


Made of 600D nylon and non-phthalate fabric-backed tarpaulin, the Timbuk2 Aviator held up very well even after months of testing. Our biggest complaint about this piece is that the zippers are quite difficult to use because they are blocked by the bag's stylish flaps. This hides the zipper from plain sight and gives the bag a distinctive look, but the zipper placement just isn't very practical.

The easy-to-use backpack straps are simple to pull out and clip into place.
The easy-to-use backpack straps are simple to pull out and clip into place.

Weight


Even though this bag is fairly light, it earned our lowest weight score because it is the heaviest per liter held. This is likely due to its heavy duty materials and construction.

Although the Aviator was the lightest bag in the review  it seemed heavy for its smaller size.
Although the Aviator was the lightest bag in the review, it seemed heavy for its smaller size.

Best Applications


The Aviator is best saved solely for extreme light packers or used as a complement to a checked bag. From an aesthetic standpoint, we really liked the design of the the Aviator, so if styling is important to you, this is a good choice.

The Aviator fits easily into the overhead bin. It might even fit under your seat as a personal item (not guaranteed  though).
The Aviator fits easily into the overhead bin. It might even fit under your seat as a personal item (not guaranteed, though).

Value


At $179, the Aviator Travel Backpack is much more expensive than your typical backpack. With this bag, you're paying primarily for Timbuk2's quality and style (and getting several travel-friendly features as a nice bonus). This bag does have some everyday applications, but as a carry-on we only think it's a good value if you generally travel with a checked bag or take one-night trips.

Conclusion


A hip bag with some cool features, the Timbuk2 Aviator easily converts into a backpack and can be used as both a carry-on and around town. Unfortunately, the zippers are difficult to use and its applications are limited, but if it suits your needs and style, this bag is well-made and has many features.

The quick release clips are simple to attach and detach when converting in and out of backpack mode.
The quick release clips are simple to attach and detach when converting in and out of backpack mode.


Amanda Fenn