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- Price $299 on minaal.com
- Material 600D nylon fabric, with 1000D nylon at high-abrasion areas
- Weight 1.415kg / 3.12lb
- Dimensions 55 x 35 x 20cm / 21.6 x 13.7 x 7.87in (fully packed)
- Capacity 35L
The first version of the Minaal Carry-on begun as a Kickstarter campaign, which at that time was the most funded bag in Kickstarter history. After raising $340,000 in 30 days, Minaal was born. Version 2.0 came out three years later and the rest is history.
Minaal is started by two New Zealanders who are avid travelers themselves. In fact, the team has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles themselves with their own gear. So if I find something not quite right in the course of this review, chances are that Minaal already knows it and is working on it for the Minaal Carry-on 3.0.
Speaking of the Carry-on 3.0, it is actually currently available for pre-sale for Minaal members only. While I don't have the Carry-on 3.0 on hand for this review, I'll try to make some comparisons between the two versions based on the information available online.
The Carry-on was designed together with the Daily Bag, so it's not odd to see that the design language between the two is very similar. With the exact same materials, the Carry-on can be considered as a sized-up version of the Daily Bag for travel.
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Like the Daily Bag, the Carry-on comes in just two colors, grey and black. Like every product reviewed on this site, the black is the one reviewed in this article. The entire backpack is consistent in black, but like the Daily Bag, there's a striking blue Minaal logo on the front of the backpack.
Apart from the striking logo on the front, there is a small tag, as well as some blue stitching, within the main compartment.
Unlike the Minaal Daily Carry, which felt a little too small for my 6ft frame, the Minaal Carry-on is of a perfect size. It's not overly bulky compared to backpacks at around the same capacity like the Tortuga Outbreaker.
Despite being a 35L backpack, it comes with compression straps that help it maintain a slim profile when not fully packed. Unlike huge bags like the Tortuga Outbreaker or GORUCK GR2, I have no problems using this as a daily carry when traveling. For reference, I'm 6ft and 205lbs.
As mentioned in my review of the Minaal Daily Bag, the Carry-on, too, looks much more rugged than the product images make it out to be. This is largely due to the rough, Cordura-like fabric. The fabric has absolutely no sheen.
With the Carry-on being sized for travel, there are immediate differences you will notice. First, of course, is the size. It's approximately one-third larger than the Daily Bag. The front of the pack is less minimalist with a seam that goes right across.
Other details that make it “less minimal” include a water bottle pouch and compression straps.
Unlike the Daily Bag, the Carry-on allows you to fully hide the shoulder straps. There's a flap that can be zipped all around the back to make it look as if there aren't any shoulder straps to begin with; for a full-on professional look.
In backpack mode, you need to unzip and roll up the flap. You can keep the flap secured magnetically with two clasps. These two straps also help adjust the position of the backpack upon your back.
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The downside to this is that when in backpack mode is that the zipper is left open. I don't really like the look of the open zipper as it makes the backpack look incomplete.
Even taking all those extra details into account, the design can still be considered very simple, and distinctively “Minaal”. Like the Daily Bag, I personally like the look of Minaal packs. They exude the ruggedness of GORUCK bags but carries a hint of the old school TOM BIHN charm.
The fabric is an unbranded 600D nylon fabric with 1000D fabric on high-abrasion areas. This is the exact same material used in the Minaal Daily Bag. The “D” refers to denier count. Generally speaking, the higher the denier count, the more durable and tear-resistant the nylon is.
Industry-leading YKK zippers are utilized in this backpack. While most decent backpacks these days use YKK zippers, these are lockable for added security.
While not explicitly stated on the specifications, there seems to be some DWR treatment applied as water beads off upon contact. This kind of DWR treatment wears off with use and you would need product like Nikwax to rejuvenate it. The real rainproof-ness comes in the form of a seam-sealed rain cover that is included with the bag.
The Minaal Carry-on has quite a typical organizational setup. Like most backpacks, it has quick access pockets, the main compartment, and a dedicated laptop compartment. In this section, I will go into detail exactly the kind of organization the backpack affords.
There are two quick-access pockets on the front of the pack near the top. The one with the zipper on top is the size of a waist pouch and more than enough for all your quick-access items.
The one stacked on top of it is less 3D and shorter. Within that pocket is a zippable mesh pocket with a key clip within it. This mesh pocket is perfect for my Keysmart Pro.
Similar, but sized up from the Daily Bag, there are two pockets against the back of this compartment. A flat zippered mesh pocket takes up the top half of the slot, while a “3D” pocket takes up the bottom half.
Below the backpack is a pocket dedicated to the rain cover. There's a clip within it to latch onto the rain cover so it stays with the backpack when you are putting it on.
You might also want to note that the pocket for the rain cover, accessible from the bottom of the backpack, takes up space in this compartment.
The last compartment is one found in many similar backpacks—a dedicated compartment for your electronic devices. Unlike the main compartment, this compartment doesn't open completely in a clamshell-style.
There are two suspended slots within the compartments—one sized for up to 16-inch laptops and another one on top of it for a tablet. Each slot comes with adjustable straps to keep them in place.
These slots are not only suspended off the ground but away from the edges as well. This means your devices will be unlikely to absorb direct impact no matter which way it comes from. While many travel backpacks these days have suspended laptop slots, the Minaal Carry-on has it suspended way off the ground for extra peace of mind.
Across the laptop slots, there is a document slot with an opening that's facing sideways for use in briefcase mode. This slot can be secured by a hook-on mechanism.
Within this slot is a small slot that's perfect for something like an office pass.
Another narrow zippered pocket, on top of the document slot, looks perfect for pens.
The fine balance achieved by the Minaal Carry-on is the most underated part of the pack. It's doesn't have as much organization as bags like the Aer Travel Pack 2 or TOM BIHN Synik 30, but is not as sparse as backpacks with minimal organization like the GORUCK GR2.
As such, packing for a trip is straightforward. Clothes and big items go in the main compartment, electronic devices go into the laptop compartment, and small accessories go into the quick access compartment. While the main compartment comes with some zippered slots, I mainly use the GORUCK Packing Cubes in conjunction with the compartment.
While the main compartment can be opened fully in a clamshell-style, the compartment has no depth. This will cause the contents to spill out the sides when you do so carelessly.
Because there are technically two quick access pockets, sometimes I would open one by mistake when I wanted to open the other. This is because the zippers are similarly sized and placed nearby for both.
The external water bottle compartment, I thought, was a miss. There isn't any elastic around the rim to keep it tight and the compartment is a little too short, even for regular-sized water bottles. I wouldn't feel secure running around with my water bottle in the compartment. There is an adjustable loop to provide another layer of security but it's still insecure. Most of the time, the bottle would be leaning outwards, spoiling the slim profile of the pack.
Putting security aside, the adjustable loop requires a two-handed operation in the first place. I prefer it if they included a zip mechanism like the Aer Travel Pack 2 or just have a really deep pocket like the Tortuga Prelude Backpack.
The “briefcase mode” is one of the more unique features of Minaal bags. Although, I have never personally felt the need to use it as a briefcase. To do so, you would have to fork out an additional $49 as the shoulder sling doesn't come with the Carry-on. With the briefcase mode being such a huge feature, I thought that there should be some way to use the shoulder straps as a shoulder sling or for the shoulder sling to be included.
As with most rugged nylon fabric, it catches lint and dirt pretty easily. While most of it can be dusted off, the texture makes it hard to get the dirt completely off without spot cleaning. Then again, travel backpacks like this are designed to get abused and dirty. You should be comfortable with it in a reasonable state of filth.
One of my favorite features of the bag is the laptop compartment. It opens on two sides instead of just the top to allow easy access. On backpacks like the GORUCK GR2, you have to really fish your laptop out from within the compartment, quite the task when it's packed full. While there are straps within the laptop compartment to keep your devices extra secure, they sometimes hinder you from sliding your laptop in easily.
Even without the straps, I felt the devices stayed in place well and the suspension of the slot gave me assurance that nothing would happen to them even if they moved around within the compartment.
With the travel ban in place, I've not been able to take the Minaal Carry-on on any long trips, but I've had the chance to take it on some trips to other prefectures within Japan. I'll be sure to update this article after extended usage.
The Minaal Carry-on is a great backpack. It has the right balance of organization and large open spaces for packing cube enthusiasts like myself. Minaal is one of the few brands that struck a fine balance between style, utility, durability. It's surprisingly hard to not let one of those factors be more overbearing than another.
I have no big complaints about the Minaal Carry-on and would recommend it as a solid choice when choosing a travel backpack.