Backpack Review: Minaal 1.0

The day has come – “travel day”. Time to pack my things, find a bus, and continue on to my next destination. Days like these are part of the backpacker lifestyle, and can either be nothing or a nuisance depending on the bag you have.

Let me tell you about my love/hate relationship with the Minaal 1.0. A bag I researched for months before my RTW trip, and something I invested a heavy $299 for (+$20 shipping). After 4 months, 9 countries and over 20 cities, I offer you my honest review. Read my rants and raves below:

Size

Capacity: 35L
Dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 8″
Weight: 1.4 lbs.

The Minaal 1.0 holds 35 gallons, ~5-10 gallons less than other mainstream recommendations on the market. Throughout my travels, people have gawked it’s the “smallest bag they’ve seen on a backpacker”, and in retrospect, I see why.

I struggle to fit two packing cubes within the main compartment. I have Shacke Pak (set of 4 Packing Cubes), standard dimensions and popular among travelers. And each moving-day I awake one-hour early to prepare for an epic Battle of Backpacks that requires strategic parcel alignment, partial zippering, and occasional foot-cramming. I take a deep breath as I slip my paper-thin MacBook Air into the bulging laptop sleeve, zip things closed, and exhale. I’ve survived another day.

Backpack_06minaal_zipped

Durability

This is where the bag prevails. The Minaal 1.0 is made from high-quality canvas, sturdy harnesses, and durable zippers. Shoulder straps are strong and easily support the weight of gear and electronics. The laptop sleeve is protected by molded foam on one side and two layers of 3mm neoprene on the other, making it near impossible to damage from a drop. You can feel quality in its weight, see quality in its threading, and hear quality in its zippers. It’s overall, one of the finest bags I’ve owned or come across.

Aesthetic

Looks are another winner for the Minaal 1.0; it’s damn sexy. Smooth, black fabric, minimal branding, and clean zip-away option for briefcase use. It’s slick, professional, and trendy.

With that comes the benefit of traveling more discretely. You see backpackers with 4’ bags, strings and buckles everywhere, and a big “foreigner” sign strapped on their forehead. Traveling with the Minaal let’s you look like a visiting business professional (or dare I say, a local), which is an added value when traveling or using your pack ‘round town.

Function

Backpack_03Minaal prides itself on its ingenuity and engineering for the perfect travel bag. It answers cries of cumbersome luggage, broken rollers, and impractical design. They’ve invested a tremendous amount of thought and effort into their product, making them a well-respected name on the market.

The Minaal 1.0 comes with two lay-flat pockets in the main compartment, independent laptop sleeve (with space for papers/credit cards), zip-away should straps, basic hip-strap and rain cover. These features are fun and unique from alternatives, but I find myself rarely using those outside of the laptop sleeve and rain cover. Are they cool? Sure. Worth an extra couple hundred bucks? Maybe not.

Value

Which brings us to our last topic – value – was the Minaal 1.0 worth its $299 price tag. I spent a year consolidating some of the best gear for this trip including months of research for the best bag. And while every part of me wants to love this thing (having already dished out the dough) – it probably wasn’t the best for RTW travel. Something half the price could serve better for practical long-term usage.

Final Thoughts

If you can afford a $299 bag for school or <1 week trips, go for it. But as someone who believes packing for 2 weeks is the same as packing for 2 years, I’d advise finding something more spacious/affordable for RTW travel. There are travelers who use the bag long-term, but having used it personally (and studied sizes of others), it would not be my first pick.

All that aside, I respect the company tremendously having done heavy research on their founders’ vision, purpose, and inspiration. Minaal has since launched Minaal 2.0 which has the same gallon capacity, but a larger laptop sleeve, 3D compartments and added bag accessories. I won’t be purchasing it myself, but should Minaal ever increase their gallon-size and decrease their price tag, I’ll be the first to order.

What are you favorite RTW backpack models?

UPDATE Sept-2016: I contacted Minaal who appreciated my feedback and worked with me to find a solution. Their customer service was stellar, and I’m grateful for their professionalism and understanding.

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