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- Price $249 on minaal.com
- Material 600D nylon fabric, with 1000D nylon at high-abrasion areas
- Weight 0.98kg / 2.16lb
- Dimensions 43 x 32 x 16cm / 16.9 x 12.6 x 6.3in (fully packed)
- Capacity 21L
How many daily carry backpack does a man possibly need? If you've found a good one, just one. But to find the right one, others, like me, have to try many to help you navigate these murky waters.
If I have to tackle the conundrum of discovering the holy grail of backpacks, you can sure as hell bet that I'll be looking at the backpacks from Minaal.
Minaal has been raved about ever since they started from a Kickstarter campaign, where their legendary Minaal Carry-On Backpack was born. They've come a long way and is now one of the more well-known brands championing the increasingly-popular lifestyle of one-bag travel.
The Minaal Daily Bag has been on my radar ever since I started reviewing backpacks. Whether it's a backpack with a character like the TOM BIHN Synik 30, or simple and reliable like the Able Carry Daybreaker, or ultra-sleek like the Aer Tech Pack, I've tried it all. With that many great backpacks to choose from, does Minaal have what it takes to stand out from the rest?
The Daily Bag comes in two colors, grey and black. Like every product reviewed on this website, the black version is the one reviewed. The entire bag, down to the straps, hardware, and zippers, is black with the exception of the blue Minaal logo on the top-middle of the backpack.
You know how I am with logos. I don't think that you should pay good dollar for a product only to have to advertise the brand wherever you go. For those who share this belief, you might be glad to know that Minaal has toned down the logo in version 3.0 of the Daily Bag.
The sleek and clean silhouette portrayed by the product images has my expectations set high, especially for a backpack in the mid $200 range. With the bag in hand, I felt a little cheated.
The roughness of the fabric, the unflattering profile of the unpacked bag and how the zippers look, deviates from the impression that was given by the product photos. While it looks minimal, it doesn't look as sleek as bags like the Aer Tech Pack 2 or Black Ember Citadel Minimal Pack. It has a more rugged, industrial look compared to how it was shown in the product photos.
I've seen some reviews out there calling this a professional-looking bag, and it's clear to me that those “reviews” don't have the backpack in hand.
Don't get me wrong. I actually like how the bag looks. The problem was how misleading the product images were. There is a certain old school, rugged, canvas school backpack vibe to it. Kinda like the intersection between retro-style TOM BIHN and military-style GORUCK.
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I wished that they could have brought this out a little more in the product images. Instead, they choose to show a crisp, sleek image of the backpack that lacks character.
While nylon of two different denier-count has been used, a 1000D on high-abrasion areas and 600D for the rest, it's not immediately obvious which parts utilize which denier of nylon.
For a 21L backpack, it's of the expected size. But, on my 6ft frame, it does look a little too small, similar to the proportion of the 19L TOM BIHN Synik. I think part of it has to do with the ratio of the height to the width of the bag. A turtle-shell profile is never a good look, so I thought that the bag would look better and more universally-sized if it was slightly taller.
I know this might be contradictory but I do like how compact the backpack is. There's just enough for what I need and a little more. However, I would consider this too small for a trip of more than two or three days.
The fabric is an unbranded 600D nylon fabric with 1000D fabric on high-abrasion areas. The “D” refers to denier count, and generally speaking, the higher the denier count, the more durable and tear resistant the nylon is.
Industry-leading YKK zippers have been added. 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. The real rainproof-ness comes in the form of a seam-sealed rain cover that is included with the bag.
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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.
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The organization (and the capacity) of a backpack, especially on a daily backpack, is often the deciding factor to know if the bag is for you.
Minaal uses the measurement standard for bags capacity, the ASTM F2153. While this is widely regarded as the official standard, many manufacturers forgo it because it gives a lower volume than marketing wants.
Brands like TOM BIHN uses it, which is why you sometimes get surprised by their bags. For example, the TOM BIHN Synik 30 holds more than it sounds, while other bags claiming a higher capacity can fit less.
The ASTM F2153, despite being the best available standard, is actually as unscientific as it sounds. You stuff the bag with a ton of standardized pellets, then you pour the pellets into a measuring cylinder to get the capacity.
The best way to figure our actual practical capacity is to see what can actually be packed into the backpack.
On the front face of the backpack, a zipper near the top, right below the logo, exposes a quick access pocket. Like most quick access, this pocket lets you hold a few essentials. In my case, I have my Aer Cardholder, 100-yen coin case, office entry card, wet wipes, and my KeySmart Pro.
Within the pocket, there's a mesh zippered pocket on the “flap-side”. This pocket is perfect to stash away things that you don't need as often out of the way. I usually have my wet wipes or the coin case in here.
The main compartment can be opened like a full clamshell. This is a simple space with two zippered slots along the back of the compartment. Both these slots are of approximately the same size. The top one is mesh, which I usually use to stow my Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket.
The bottom slot, which is not mesh, is harder to reach for without fully opening the compartment. So, I tend to keep things that I don't need as often in here.
On the right side of this compartment, there's a slot that's perfect for a water bottle or foldable umbrella. This slot is stretchable, but only by a small amount. While you can hold most water bottles, you can't fit something wide like a Nalgene bottle.
Another thing to note is that the quick-access pocket on the front takes up the space of this compartment. Even so, I found the capacity of this main compartment more generous than it looks. The mainstay items in this compartment are my camera, tripod, water bottle, and rain jacket. Even then, there's ample space to spare.
The last compartment is one found in many similar backpacks—a dedicated compartment for your devices. 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. These slots are not only suspended off the ground but away from the edges as well so as to be not affected by any impact.
There are straps to keep these devices in place. One nice touch is that if you are not using the straps, there are also velcros within the slot so the straps can be secured away when not in use. These slots also come with an interesting system that lets you adjust the length of the straps based on the size of your devices.
On the side across the device slots, there are a few slots for pretty specific purposes.
There are two pockets, sized appropriately for a passport. There's a card-sized slot, as well as a document slot that comes with a clip.
These slots are good for an assortment of electronic accessories, such as mice, cables, or chargers.
These slots, with exception of one, are not zippered. Given the orientation, it's more than likely that these slots are designed for when you are using the bag as a briefcase. While there is a good chance of the contents spilling out if you are in backpack mode, I haven't experienced it so far.
It seems that Minaal is pretty set on being able to use the backpack as a briefcase. They included a side handle as well as loops for you to attach a strap to go full-on briefcase mode.
When you are not using as a briefcase, these loops are pretty nice for holding pens.
Rain Cover Pocket
At the bottom of the bag, there's a zippered pocket for the included rain cover. Within the pocket, there's a clip for you to attach to the clip on the rain cover so that it stays with your bag when you take it out.
This pocket takes up the space of the main compartment but is negligible. At the same time, it provides a bit of padding against any impact onto the bottom of the bag.
The backpack looks compact but packs more than I expected. It was able to contain everything I need for my day. My usual items include:
- 15″ MacBook Pro
- GORUCK Wire Dopp with a bunch of accessories like the NOMAD Powerpack
- Zpacks Vertice Rain Jacket
I don't bring along a lot on a daily basis, so the Daily Bag affords me extra space for spur-of-the-moment grocery shopping. This is especially critical now since all retail outlets in Japan are now required to charge customers for single-use plastic bags.
Despite being oblong in shape, the Minaal Daily Carry does not stand on its own like the Aer Travel Pack. It gets creased easily and you shouldn't expect a smooth, sleek shape most of the time.
As you can see in most of the images in this article, the texture of the nylon catches onto dirt pretty easily. But, at the same time, the dirt comes off very easily with a quick wipe.
While the shoulder straps are relatively thin and have no padding, it was sufficient given the size of the pack. Even with the bag packed full of heavy electronics, the straps felt comfortable throughout the day.
While the Daily Bag is technically packable, it does not compare to “true” packable bags like the Able Carry Daybreaker or the TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack. This means that you wouldn't be able to easily fold it up to pack it into a bigger bag.
The water bottle holder on the inside of the bag helps keep the exterior streamlined. But, I know some of us don't feel safe about having liquid containers inside the bag. I own some pretty good water bottles, like the Matador Packable Water Bottle, and am not too worried about spills. Using the bag as a briefcase would render this pocket useless if it was on the exterior anyway.
Another thing to note about the water bottle slot is that it's pretty difficult to slot a bottle in; definitely a two-handed operation. While it's stretchable, you have to shimmy it to get it all the way through.
As a many-bagger, I like switching between backpacks. The 3D laptop compartment is an understated feature. It lets me transfer my laptop over without having to take out the TOM BIHN Cache.
Minaal Daily Bag 2.0 vs 3.0
Recently, Minaal has released information on the Daily Bag version 3.0. While the 3.0 is only available for preorder in October 2020, I'll try to spot the differences between the two versions by analyzing the product information.
The first and possibly the most obvious change to me is that the obnoxious blue logo on version 2.0 has been replaced by a muted, outlined version of the logo on version 3.0. I look forward to the day that they do without one altogether.
Materials-wise, the differences lie in the new shoulder straps construction and Picton fabric.
The new Picton fabric boasts a 22% increase in tear strength and 7% in abrasion resistance. With a non-toxic DWR treatment, the 3.0 sees a 35% increase in water resistance. Even with the treatment, the rain cover is also included in version 3.0. But this time, it has been upgraded to fit more snugly.
The strap has been re-engineered to contain two layers of EVA foam. Softer foam is used on the body-side of the strap for maximum comfort. Towards the shoulder, a denser, firmer layer is used on the part for better load distribution.
In the Minaal Daily Bag 2.0, there is a slot at the back for you to hide the straps to transition into business mode. In version 3.0, the slot comes with a snap-on button so you can open up the slot. Doing so will let you easily slot the straps instead of trying slowly to ease the straps in through narrow slots.
On the insides, the lining has been switched to microfiber for a more polished look.
The DeviceNest™ shock-proof double device sleeve is wider on the version 3.0 for easier entry. I did find it a little hard to squeeze my 15-inch MacBook Pro into the slot and am glad about this improvement.
The nylon Shirt Protector attachment loops on the version 2.0 have been elasticated on the version 3.0.
While the internal back panel frame weighs less on version 3.0, there is no difference in overall weight on version 2.0 compared to the 3.0.
Price-wise, version 3.0 is $40 more expensive than version 2.0. But if you preorder, you can get it for $209 which is $40 cheaper than version 2.0.
If you are deciding between the 2.0 and 3.0, there's little debate that version 3.0 is the one you should go for. This is especially so during the preorder period when it is cheaper.
If you already have the Daily Bag 2.0 and is considering if you need an upgrade, then I'm inclined to say that you probably don't.
Minaal has outdone themselves with the Daily Bag 2.0 which would likely be more than enough for most users. The improvements, while substantial, are not enough for one to spend another $200+ just for those upgrades.
The Daily Bag 2.0 has a lifetime warranty with defects, so most would be able to enjoy it long enough, likely even after a Daily Bag 4.0 release. So, unless your Daily Bag 2.0 is out of service due to wear and tear which is not covered under the warranty, there is no need to squander on the 3.0.
While unassuming on the first impression, I've grown to like the Minaal Daily Bag more and more. It has a down-to-earth feel, but with so much thought that goes into the organization. A big consideration would be the $249 price tag, which is just $20 cheaper than the better spec-ed GORUCK GR1.
I think it's worth it because it somehow manages to have the exact amount of style, organization, and durability I need for my daily carry. Nothing more, nothing less.