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The Able Carry Daybreaker is the third backpack I'm reviewing from Able Carry (which means I've tried all their current offerings), and this is my favorite one so far.
- Price $126 from ablecarry.com
Use discount code ALEXKWA during checkout for free shipping.
- Material 210D Ripstop Nylon (black) or XPAC VX21 (grey)
- Weight 580g (1.28lb)
- Capacity 25 liters
- Dimensions Height: 50cm (19.7in) | Width: 26cm (10.2in) | Depth: 19cm (7.5in)
As much as I strive for minimal travel, I'm in a dilemma when it comes to bringing an extra backpack just for daily carry, technically making my one bag travel into a two-bag travel. So while using your main pack as your daily carry is minimal in the sense that it's one less thing to carry.
I've tried these on a few occasions, but never on trips that are more than a couple weeks. When I spent three weeks traveling around Vietnam, the GORUCK GR1 (26 liters) was my only backpack. I simply dump out my packing cubes into the hostel's locker.
But, depending on the size of your main pack, it might not be the best choice when balancing between the size and weight versus the capacity needs. Lugging around a huge backpack all day, especially when you need only about half the capacity, doesn't seem like a minimal way to go about your travel.
Even when I travel, I spend most of the afternoon at a cafe working (that's how I pay for the trip), so I bring along my laptop and accessories every day. I see these as necessities. I've considered tablets and tried even using only my phone to work, but the loss in productivity can't be justified.
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With my style of carry in mind, I wanted my daily carry to be comfortable enough to carry my digital nomad arsenal around, yet light and packable enough to stow into a bigger pack when I don't need it.
I've tried both of Able Carry's other bags, the Thirteen Daybag and Daily Backpack and while both of them are very well made bags, the biggest reason why I don't carry them often is the size. They look like kid's packs on my 6 ft frame, so I was nervous that it would be the case with the Able Carry Daybreaker.
But to my surprise, the size was perfect and even better fitting than the other two packable backpacks I have, the TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack and the Matador Freerain24. It was in the magic “just right” spot when it comes to sizing, which is actually pretty hard to come across.
The bag comes in two colors, grey and black. Since black is the only color I wear, I went for the black one. Interestingly, apart from just the color, different materials are used for each color. The grey version uses XPAC while the black uses Cordura. While grey versions of Cordura do exist, the black is the most common one and likely the one that costs the least. I can only speculate that it was chosen to keep the price affordable.
There are also different patterns across each material. The XPAC has a criss cross pattern, while Cordura has a checkered pattern.
Like most backpacks made for travel, the design of the bag is ultra streamlined and minimalistic. There is an observation within the web design community that websites are slowly beginning to look more and more similar, and the same can be said for these backpacks.
Even though there are details like extra handles, quick access pockets and a water bottle slot on the exterior of the Daybreaker, they maintained the black color consistently across all the details, which makes it look very put together.
I designed a thing.
I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.
or read review
The branding has been kept to the minimum, with a spot UV print on the right shoulder strap and the bottom right of the face of the bag. The branding is black on black and can barely be noticed. They would have to remove the logo altogether if they try to reduce it further.
One of the ten principles of good design by Dieter Rams, the designer whose principles inspired the iPhone's designer, is that “Good design is unobtrusive”. This is why I have a deep respect for brands that practice restrain in their design, instead of trying to plaster branding all over. This is also the basis for my own brand, SHADOWS.
“Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.”Dieter Rams
The padding in the back of the bag gives it a base structure, so it won't crumble down when not filled up, like other packable backpacks.
The face of the backpack is sewn with a slight pleat towards the top to create a more 3D shape, even with nothing inside.
If I were to nitpick, the fabric where the shoulder straps are attached seems to be separated from the padding, which creates a small droop. This makes it a little less sleek compared to ultra-high-end bags like the Veilance Nomin. Although, at that price point, they are clearly not to be compared.
On the upper part of both shoulder straps, there's also a deep stitch looks aesthetical, but could possibly for some reinforcement.
Even though it's designed to be a lightweight backpack, the materials and design really elevated the backpack, making it look premium and ultra-durable (whether it is remains to be tested).
It's interesting to see that the materials differ between color, with the grey using XPAC and the black using Cordura. I've had plenty of experience with both of these materials.
Both materials are durable, water-resistant and beautiful. Unless taken to the extreme, the choice between both of them is honestly down to a matter of preference, or more specifically, a matter of color preference.
The XPAC material used on the Castlerock grey version is the VX21 by Dimension Polyant. While the backpack I have is the Cordura one, I've had the chance to travel backpacks made of XPAC like with the Tortuga Outbreaker, 1733 Side Pack or CODEOFBELL X-PAK.
The material is chosen to withstand the heaviest of rains. As most bags' fabrics are made up of threads woven together, rain will still go through those holes no matter how tightly woven they are.
While most brands combat this with some form of DWR protection, this coating wears off over time, and you'll find yourself with the burden of having to reapply it.
The VX21 was chosen as it is ultra-durable. Rather than a woven fabric with holes, the ultralight PET layer is a film in itself, which means no holes for water to go through. The VX21 specifically is actually not a laminate, but a 4 layer laminate which are;
- 210D nylon with DWR and UV resistant coatings
- Black polyester “X-Ply” (Also what gives the criss-cross pattern)
- 0.25 mil (that's 0.001″) PET film
- 50D polyester taffeta backing
This means it is (almost) completely waterproof, is tough even under stress, and rigid enough to stay in shape. Since rain isn't the only element your bag will be facing, the UV protection quality of the material will also help protect it from the sun.
But, if you are as superficial as I am, you will probably be choosing the XPAC for that rad X grid pattern that lines the entire bag.
Cordura, used on the black version, is arguably the more well-known of the two. Cordura, in case you don't already know, is actually just the name of a brand and they produce an array of materials. The Cordura used on the Able Carry Daybreaker specifically is the 210D ripstop nylon.
Originally developed to replace silk parachutes during World War 2, ripstop nylon is now more commonly found on camping and hiking backpacks, specifically for its lighter weight. Ripstop nylon introduces thicker threads inter sewn into the nylon to the threads from unraveling in the case of a rip, thus the name “rip stop”.
Compared to something like the 1000D Cordura, holes can form easier in case of abrasion the thicker threads and the nylon wears at different rates.
I've used the backpack in a variety of ways since I got it. I mostly use it as a daily carry. Given the virus situation (crazy times we live in), I haven't had the chance to use it on travel, but so far, I've been very satisfied with it as a daily carry.
As a remote worker, my 15-inch MacBook Pro, my GORUCK Wire Dopp that carries my charging accessories are my absolute minimum gear to head out and start working at nearby cafes. The first time I brought this setup out with the Daybreaker, I was surprised how light my kit was. I've been using the TOM BIHN Synik 30 for the past couple of months as my daily carry, and had gotten used to the weight and the difference could be felt.
Upon checking, the weight of the Able Carry Daybreaker is 580g, almost three times lighter compared to the Synik's 1380g. Of course, the lesser weight is a result of the thinner material and sparse organization.
In some ways, I like how little organization it has. More pockets usually mean a more organized pack, but it also means that you'll sometimes forget which pocket you put something in, which results in more time taken to find what you want.
More fixed organization also mean you have less space to play around with. This might require a whole packing style shift for heavy packing cubes users.
While there is considerably less organization on this bag, there are a few basic slots that are pretty nice.
There is a slot within the main compartment for your laptop, and sometimes, the opening of backpacks have an odd angle of entry which makes it hard to easily slot your laptop in. But not the Able Carry Daybreaker. The slot was the perfect position, height, and angle for easy slip in and out of my laptop. However, given how the slot “flares out”, it sometimes catches onto the things I try to put in the main compartment on the way in.
Behind the slot is another zippered slot that goes deep, all the way to the bottom of the bag. This slot is actually where the foam padding sits and you can remove it completely if you like. This looks like a perfect spot for documents or a tablet.
On the opposite side of the interior, there is a zippered mesh pocket that looks perfect for wires or a laptop charger.
On the exterior of the bag, there is also a quick access slot that is relatively deep. The interior is made of mesh which is stretchable should you need more space. There is also a key clip on the inside I used to attach my Keysmart Pro.
Last but not least, is a water bottle pocket on the left side of the bag. The opening uses an elastic band which allows you to expand it if you need to fit larger bottles.
When it comes to capacity, I was actually surprised that the 25 liter Able Carry Daybreaker “felt” like it can hold about the same amount of stuff as the 30 liter TOM BIHN Synik. I was able to bring this backpack for a weekend trip and I was able to fit everything I wanted comfortably.
It comes with removable sternum straps. Even though the shoulder straps are not adjustable, I haven't felt like the straps were slipping off even with heavy loads. I only put use the sternum straps when I have to run with my pack on. The sternum straps can also be adjusted by moving it onto one of the three molle style loops. It looks like there are four loops but the last one is actually sewn shut.
Apart from the handle on top, there is also a handle on each side. I've never gotten around to using side handles with any of my backpacks that have them. I just don't see the need to try to grab onto the handle and would just pull on the fabric of my bag.
I haven't been using the backpack long enough to witness any kind of problems due to abrasion but I don't foresee any problems with regular use in urban environments. If you want to take it into a warzone or a through hike, then maybe consider something like 1000D Cordura or Ballistic Nylon.
Given my experience with other Able Carry backpacks, this one comes as a pleasant surprise. The design is so simple and it doesn't try to do too much. The lightweight and versatile designs are winners for me. Given the virus situation has confined me to pretty much the vicinity of my neighborhood, this looks like a backpack that will see the most use in the coming days.