Despite the work-at-home environment, many of the world’s professionals, code jockeys and keyboard warriors still find themselves in a weird not quite finished with the pandemic period; sometimes, there’s still a need for a high-quality backpack for all of your tech gear. I’ll admit, I’ve gone through more than a dozen backpacks that have fit various permutations of my tech loadout over the years. Sometimes I’ve wanted a bag that would serve as a great daily commute backpack to keep a large laptop and tablet safe and sound.
At other times I’ve found that my needs have changed, and I wanted a hybrid backpack like the Troubadour Apex Backpack Explorer that would still carry my laptop and had space for a full-sized mirrorless camera with a few lenses, card readers and maybe a tablet or two. I suppose what I’m saying is that my needs for toting my technology gadgets have changed and will likely continue to evolve. Maybe that’s why I’ve never quite found the perfect backpack that I can use for all my needs. That is, until now. Enter the AER Tech Pack 2.
And before I delve into my review, I should mention that the company provided this backpack for me to review. Of course, that had no bearing on my experience with it and my opinions of this product, but don’t be surprised if you see a whole lot of praise for it. It’s now become one of my favourite backpacks, nay, one of my favourite PRODUCTS that I’ve ever owned. And that’s high praise, considering the number of product reviews I get to write these days.
The AER Tech Pack 2 is designed by a company in San Francisco that got started in 2014 as a Kickstarter darling with some very successful campaigns for their first Travel Pack and Fit Pack products. Since then, the company has produced backpacks, slings, duffels, briefcases, totes and various accessories. They sell their products via various retail outlets and have managed to work their way into retails like Nordstrom and the Apple Store, which should tell you something about the quality of their products.
The AER Tech Pack 2 is purpose-built to be a mid-to-compact sized bag that can carry, organize and keep all of your tech essentials and gadgets safe and on the move wherever you go.
STYLE & DESIGN
If you’re like me or Mr. MKBHD (famous tech YouTuber), you like products that take the all-black and, more importantly, all-matte-black aesthetic to another level. Considering the AER Tech Pack 2 only comes in an all-black look, I was instantly enamoured with its design. The oblong-shaped body features a front face that is entirely free of visual clutter but still offers a very “techy” look through the use of strategically designed linear creases that make the pack look like something you’d find an innocent bystander wearing on the streets of L.A. in Blade Runner 2049. The official volume rating for this technology-focused backpack is 17L, and while it looks that way on the outside, it honestly feels a touch bigger, given how much gear I could cram into it.
The OBLONG shape fits my back quite nicely, and I enjoyed the fact that this backpack didn’t feel too boxy. Except for some of the zipper pulls and a white logo TAG on the bottom right of the bag, the AER Tech Pack 2 is minimalist in its design in all the right ways. From a purely visual standpoint, I’m happy to give this backpack extremely high marks.
Every part of the AER Tech Pack’s materials has a premium feel. And that’s no mirage. It’s simply because the company has gone out of its way to incorporate some of the best backpack-making materials in constructing this technology-minded sack.
I like to take a magnifying glass to nearly every part of a backpack when reviewing it. I look for loose threads, shoddy stitching, sub-par zipper construction and poorly aligned components. None of that was present with this bag. And frankly, it’s one of the most tightly and well-made backpacks I’ve come across, even ones that are double the price.
The front face of the bag is made from scratch and scuff-resistant 840D ballistic Nylon. This material has been used for over 50 years in some of the toughest military and outdoor goods around and was originally developed by Dupont in WW2. It was, believe it or not, the material used to protect soldiers before Kevlar was invented. It’s highly water-resistant and has a smooth feel and slightly gloss finish. But what does the “D” in the “840D” stand for? In a word, it stands for “Denier,” but in practicality, it stands for Density. The higher the D rating, the denser and more waterproof and tough the fabric will be.
The remaining sides are made from 1680D Cordura, which is a tough and even more abrasion-resistant material. Cordura, a brand name of materials, was also developed by Dupont, even earlier than Ballistic Nylon, all the way back in 1929. So how is Cordura different from Ballistic Nylon? For one, it’s got better abrasion resistance and features a more fuzzy texture. Secondly, it tends to be slightly less water-resistant than ballistic nylon. In practical terms, however, the materials are very close in real-world usage, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a real difference in overall material performance unless you ran stringent laboratory-type tests.
Every exterior compartment is sealed with YKK Aquaguard zippers which are practically waterproof if closed properly. The interior zippers are also of the YKK variety, but not the Aquaguard type. The backpack’s interior features more high-end nylon material with tightly woven mesh pockets and clean and tightly spaced stitching throughout. Each open pocket and divider feels like it has just the right elastic tension throughout the entire bag.
Additionally, the plastic clips and adjustment loops on the shoulder and sternum straps are sourced from a company named Duraflex who produces some of the highest-end plastic buckles in the world. These buckles are often used in military applications as well. Finally, the laptop compartment features an extremely soft material to keep your gear cozy.
COMPARTMENTS AND POCKETS
This Tech Pack 2 from AER has no shortage of compartments and pockets. And that’s the way it should be. After all, the primary purpose of a backpack, specifically designed for digital nomads and vagabonds, is how much of their precious gear it can carry. But not just how much, with what level of thoughtful organization can it carry these items without turning your gear into a rats nest of disorganized things.
This backpack features three primary compartments:
Front Compartment – primarily designed for EDC items such as pens, notebooks, charging cables, knives, headphones, dongles, and other small items.
Middle / Main Compartments – designed for larger documents, magazines, books, and bulky items.
Back Compartment – A heavily padded compartment designed for laptops, iPads and large and flat objects like large notebooks or magazines.
The front compartment is accessed through a half-bag zipper that allows you to pull down the front cover as a flap. Smartly, the designers of this backpack decided not to add any pockets or compartments on the opposite side of the flap. I’ve often had items fall out of containers like this on other backpacks whose designers didn’t think of that use case nearly enough.
The top of this compartment features a zippered pocket deep enough to fit a 5 x 7” notebook. It includes an attached metal key loop on the inside for securing especially important items like keys.
Next is a layer of open pocket slots, with the top left slot large enough to fit my iPhone 12 Pro Max with just enough room to let you zip up the entirety of the compartment. On top of that pocket is a layered mesh pocket large enough to hold an Air Pods case or a series of small dongles. I happened to use it to store my UBS-A to USB-C dongles from Aukey. Next are two fairly standard size pen slots followed by the right-most pocket, which is similar in size and depth to the top-left most pocket, with the only difference being it doesn’t have a mesh layer pocket in front of it.
Below this layer of organization is two larger open pockets that big enough for charging bricks and other tech gear. Additionally, the open body compartment below is big enough and deep enough to store at least three to four charging cables without creating too much of a tangled mess of wires.
As I’ve mentioned already, the front compartment doesn’t open all the way, allowing you to zip it down about halfway down the bag’s body. It makes it easy to open while still giving quick access to all your EDC and tech accessory essentials.
The main compartment of this backpack is where you’ll be holding most of your bulky items. It’s large enough that I managed to squeeze in a pair of size ten sneakers, a Large size hoodie, a t-shirt and my iPad.
Three slots, layered on top of each other, with each slot being successively more shallow, make up the various dividing components of this main compartment. The back slot is ideal for documents or an iPad. You might even want to store your Laptop in this compartment if you’re particularly worried about the potential for exterior damage, as this first slot is also moderately padded.
The middle slot inside the main compartment is large enough for a couple of A5-sized notebooks. In addition to the already mentioned items, I also managed to get my Sony A7 RIII mirrorless camera with a 24-105mm Sony lens.
Featuring a heavily padded slot for laptops or tablets, this compartment is smartly suspended from the bottom to avoid accidental damage to your precious laptops when setting the bag down on a hard surface. It’s large enough to fit a 16” MacBook Pro, and in front of the padded slot is another slot layered, large enough to fit a 10” sized tablet. Between those slots is more space, albeit fairly narrow, you can use to fit some more thin items like documents or magazines and a charging cable or two.
QUICK-ACCESS TOP POCKET
As the name suggests, this exterior pocket is secured with a waterproof zipper located at the top of the backpack providing quick access to various small-to-mid-sized items. It’s about seven inches across and about five inches deep and is extremely well padded. It’s the type of pocket where I’d store my AirPods, and maybe even my iPhone as well. It’s an extremely handy pocket that has enough space to give you near-instant access to items you still want to protect from the elements but want convenient access to without having to open any of the three primary backpack compartments mentioned above.
EXTERIOR BOTTLE POCKET
One side of the AER Tech Pack 2 features a large and expandable by way of elastic water bottle pocket. It’s large enough to carry a pretty thick 32 oz bottle and features a diagonal cut, which adds to the pack’s functionality and overall futuristic aesthetic. While I did wind up using this backpack for various water bottles and found it easy to use, I did find myself wanting the pocket to have a bit more tension to keep smaller items a bit more snug and secure.
EXTERIOR SIDE POCKET
One of the many standout features of this backpack is the exterior side pocket. It’s small, yes, but unlike most backpacks with open pockets, this one is zippered. Just another nice attention-to-detail sort of thing that I enjoyed seeing in this premium pack. And while the Cordura 1680D material covers the zipper, I was a little surprised to see that it didn’t feature the YKK Aquaguard zipper as with all the other exterior zippers on the Tech Pack 2.
Nearly every aspect of this backpack performed beyond my expectations. I’ve been testing and wearing this pack for about two months now, and I’ve exposed it to weather conditions from scorching hot direct sun to hours-long downpours. I’ve taken it on my local version of the subway, on photo-walk outings around the city and electric-bike commutes. I’ve taken it to the coffee-shop patio to work and to the cottage to do some work while on vacation (yes, I know, how lame of me?!). Every venue and every use I’ve thrown against it, this backpack has passed with flying colours.
The AER Tech Pack 2 has enough structure built into its frame that it’s essentially a self-standing backpack which is a lovely feature. Its premium YKK zippers are smooth and easy to operate with no snags, and the straps are incredibly comfortable. So let’s talk a bit more about those straps. Sometimes backpack manufacturers, particularly higher-end brands, tend to get a little carried away with overbuilding their shoulder straps. They wind up adding so much unnecessary bulk that it upsets the balance of the bag and aesthetics. I’m happy to report that’s not the case with this pack. The shoulder straps are comfortable with just the right amount of cushioning.
Attached to the shoulder straps is the sternum strap, which is nothing overly fancy but can be slid up and down to provide optimal positioning and comfort. There are about 8 inches of up-and-down adjustability here, which should prove ideal for shorter and taller users of this pack. The shoulder straps also feature a sturdy yet plastic D ring that serves as a nice attachment point for external accessories or carabiners.
The back of the bag also features a dedicated luggage pass-through strap. It’s designed so that your backpack will be turned on its side while residing on top of your rolling luggage. I’m not entirely sure about this design choice, as I think I would have preferred the pass-through luggage strap to be mounted in a horizontal orientation instead of a vertical one, as the designers have opted for. Nevertheless, it serves as a handy handle if you find your backpack face-down on the floor.
Finally, worth a mention is the top and side handles for lifting the backpack. They feel extremely premium with almost gel-like padding that feels better than your typical style of cheap foam padding you’ll find in less premium backpacks. The top handle is wide enough so that it can double as a pass-through luggage strap. Both straps are double-stitched and feel strong enough to handle even the heaviest of loads for years to come.
- Length: 18” Width: 12” Depth: 7”
- Volume: 17L
- Weight: 3.8 lbs
While the AER Tech Pack 2 is only available in one colour (Black), that is perhaps its only real fault. Everything else about this terrific EDC backpack designed for carrying all of your heavy tech gear is nearly flawless. It’s fantastic for all-weather commuting, biking, walking and working remotely. Each compartment is thoughtfully laid out and offers enough space for all your tech essentials. Simply put, this backpack feels comfortable and more than capable of getting the job done in nearly any situation. I highly recommend it for anyone who lives the digital lifestyle and depends on their gear for their livelihood and doesn’t necessarily want to be stuck at home all the time while getting that work done. Bravo, AER, you’ve made one hell of a tech backpack.