Aer Travel Pack 3 Review

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is tough, compact, and packed with pockets and features. It’s ideal for anyone who travels with a laptop or other tech.

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is a durable, streamlined, and compact carry-on backpack for those who need to keep devices and tech organized and protected.

At 35L, it’s larger than a daypack but smaller than many other travel bags which can range from 40-45L. It fits all US domestic carry-on size requirements and most international requirements.

The Aer Travel Pack 3 has a well-designed laptop sleeve and a ton of pockets that make carrying smaller devices, tech, and accessories really easy. Plus, the professional aesthetic is right at home in the office, or on city streets.

After testing and reviewing backpacks for nearly 15 years, we’ve learned there’s no such thing as the perfect bag for everyone. After all, what works for me may not work at all for you.

In this Aer Travel Pack 3 review, I’ll talk about everything I loved, the things I didn’t, and where I feel it really differentiates itself. I personally love this bag and have a hard time not recommending it, but ultimately, that’s a decision you’ll need to make for yourself.

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We did this because we weren’t satisfied with making recommendations purely on personal preference and gut reactions. We wanted to understand what makes a great backpack and help travelers like you make truly informed purchasing decisions.

We have a soft spot in our hearts for a great backpack. Most members of our team have lived out of a backpack at one time or another, whether doing one-bag travel around the globe or long-distance thru-hiking.

We’ve been testing backpacks and travel gear for the better part of the last 15 years, and we’ve tested and rated over 200 bags from many of the best backpack brands.

In actuality, we don’t believe the perfect backpack exists, but we do believe that some backpacks are better than others—for certain people. We want to make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting and the exact trade-offs you’re making. If you’re happy with the gear you buy, we’ve done our job well.

How We Tested (Sources and Methodology)

I traveled with this bag as a single carry-on item for a two-week trip to Costa Rica to test it out. Yes, I lived out of just this bag for two weeks, which included a couple of long airport days, hopping between hotels, and lots of packing and unpacking.

I loaded this bag up with enough clothes for a week, sandals, shoes, a packable daypack, my laptop, toiletries, chargers, and a total of eight chocolate bars.

I’m usually pretty hard on gear, and while testing this pack, I made sure not to take it easy. I dragged it across concrete, left it on sandy beaches, and packed it to the bursting point with pokey gear.

Living out of this bag for a week or more won’t be for everyone, but it worked for me. I am a textbook minimalist traveler so if you tend to overpack, the 35L capacity will be more limiting.

I scored this bag using our proprietary backpack scoring methodology which includes both objective and subjective assessments for 39 different metrics across 9 different categories. We use this methodology to rate and score every backpack we test in order to create the most objective comparisons and reviews possible.

We incorporate subjective scores that include our personal experiences while incorporating primarily objective data points based on features and functionality.

Aer Travel Pack 3

Type: Carry-On Backpack

Use: Travel

The Aer Travel Pack is one of our highest-rated backpacks with an outstanding score of 9.5. The Aer Travel Pack 3 is an incredible backpack purpose-built for carry-on travel, finding the perfect intersection of durability, functionality and value.

Aer Travel Pack 3
9.5/10
Best in CLass
Scoring Categories

9.7Build Quality

8.5Comfort

9.2Ease of Use

9.5Functionality

6.1Water Resistance

4.6Brand Impact

6.4Buying Experience

7.0Warranty

9.1Price-to-Performance

Pros
  • It functions well for one-bag travel
  • Durable material brings peace of mind that the bag will not fail you when traveling
  • Functional smart compartments that keep you well organized
  • Lay-flat main compartment makes accessing your belongings easy
  • Sleek design and minimal design
  • Attachment points for extra gear on the outside
Cons
  • The lack of hip straps limits comfort. I’m not a fan of add on options for features that I deem necessary 
  • No rain-fly. Probably not the biggest worry but a little extra rain protection wouldn’t hurt
  • Lack of larger size options. I'd love to see a 45L version of this bag as well
Product Specs
  • Capacity

    35 L

  • Weight

    4.1 lbs

  • Dimensions

    21.5" x 13.0" x 9.0"

  • Material

    800D+ Cordura or ballistic nylon

  • MSRP

    $249 (USD)

  • Expand to view all specs
  • Zippers

    YKK #10 coil zipper

  • Shoulder Strap Shape

    contoured S-shape

  • Frame

    flexible frame sheet

  • Hip Belt

    removable with light padding

  • Sternum Strap

  • Load Lifters

  • Breathability

    spacer mesh with air channels

  • Main Opening Style

    panel loader

  • Number of Grab Handles

    3

  • Luggage Handle Pass-Through

  • Water Bottle Pockets

    2

  • Front Pocket

  • Laptop Protection

    suspended and padded sleeve

  • Water-Resistant Fabric

    thinner internal PU coating

  • Water-Resitant Zippers

    uncoated zippers

  • Shipping

    free

  • Return Cost

    pay for shipping

  • Return Window

    <30 days

  • Warranty

    limited lifetime warranty

  • Collapse specs

Why It Got This Score

Aer is known and well-loved because they use incredibly high quality materials in all their bags. The 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon exterior is super tough—it’s one of the most heavy-duty fabrics I’ve ever seen in a carry-on backpack. Because of this, the Aer Travel Pack 3 has one of the highest scores we’ve seen in the Build Quality category—an impressive 9.7 out of 10.

It’s an incredibly functional bag, too. The laptop sleeve is well-padded and easy to access, the pockets make it easy to stay organized, and the compression straps let you adjust the size to whatever you’re carrying. Because of its versatility, this bag scored another impressive score of 9.4 in the Functionality category.

One of my favorite parts about this bag is how intuitive it is to use, which is why it scored a 9.2 in the Ease of Use category. The backpack opens flat, which means packing is like filling a dresser drawer rather than stuffing a tube. It has handles on multiple sides, so grabbing it from any angle is easy, and the zippers slide smoothly, making access on the go hassle-free.

It’s not perfect though. The internally-coated fabric and unsealed zippers resulted in a Water Resistance score of 6.1. Still, it’s rarely been an issue in my travels. It handles a light drizzle just fine, which is enough for dashing into hotels or airports.

The price-to-performance ratio, where this bag scored an almost unbelievable 9.9, makes this backpack a seriously smart buy. It’s not a cheap bag but it’s a heavy-hitter that delivers serious value for what you get.

Scoring a 9.5 overall, the Aer Travel Pack 3 is one of the best carry-on backpacks our team has ever tested.

First Impressions

When I first got my hands on the Aer Travel Pack 3 I let out an audible “whoa!” I’ve never touched a bag that felt so extremely well-made. The 1680D Cordura nylon felt heavy-duty, and the chunky YKK zippers felt extremely secure. These are the best zippers on the market, so I was glad that Aer didn’t skimp.

The quality of this bag is something you have to feel in person to appreciate. It feels tough and almost overbuilt, yet the details are all very refined. I didn’t find loose threads or crooked stitches anywhere.

The bag did feel quite heavy even when empty. This could be a downside if you prefer ultra-lightweight travel options, but it’s a trade-off for the durable materials and extensive features. I personally prefer well-built packs, so the weight didn’t bother me.

I immediately loved the sheer number of pockets and compartments on this bag. There are pockets for phones, pens, headphones, sunglasses, travel documents, and more.

I’ve used other backpacks with lots of pockets that seemed randomly scattered around the bag, and I kept forgetting where I put stuff. The Aer Travel Pack was nothing like that. The organization system of this bag just makes sense, and as I started packing the backpack, I noticed how everything I wanted to pack seemed to fit just perfectly. Many bags have oddly shaped pockets, but it’s clear that Aer paid very close attention here.

There are a few well-placed external pockets, and the rest are laid out in a sort of grid pattern in the front admin panel. Because of this, even though there are many pockets, I didn’t ever feel overwhelmed or confused. It’s a smart design.

When I put the pack on my back, the S-shaped straps curved comfortably around my shoulders, and I love the thick, plush padding. It felt comfy, but I was pretty disappointed that this pack doesn’t come with a hip belt. You can buy it separately, but I really think it should be included.

I also tried sliding my laptop into the laptop sleeve and was very happy with how easy it was. Some backpacks have a simple straight zipper for the laptop sleeve, but the Travel Pack has a big, curved zipper that wraps around both corners. This made it so much easier to pull the laptop sleeve wide open and slide my device in and out.

Aesthetically, the Aer Travel Pack is pretty understated. It is very professional-looking (especially in black) and isn’t going to stand out in a crowd. If you like more classic or adventurous backpacks, this isn’t the one for you, but if you like a sleek, modern, techy vibe, you’ll love the look.

Check Price on Aer

Who It's For

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is a Swiss Army Knife carry-on bag for people on the go who need something large enough for multi-day trips, but compact enough for business travel or short jaunts.

  • Weekend Warriors: This bag is a champion of short trips. It’s sized just right to skip the check-in lines and head straight to the gate.
  • Business Travelers: This Aer Travel Pack is ideal for traveling for work. It looks professional enough to wear with a suit, and compartments for tech ensure that your laptop and tablet are always ready for the next Zoom call.
  • Digital Nomads: If you travel with your office on your back, the Aer Travel Pack is a perfect tool for carrying your gear. It fits everything you need for working on the go and has room to pack clothes and travel essentials.

Who It’s Not For

While the Aer Travel Pack 3 is a fantastic bag, it definitely won’t be ideal for everyone. Here’s who might want to pass on this one:

  • Ultralight Backpackers: If you like to keep the weight on your back to a minimum, this bag might feel like a bit of an anchor. It’s built tough, which means it’s also a bit heavier than more featherweight packs.
  • Long-Term One-Bag Nomads: If you’re living out of your backpack, wandering from one country to another, this bag’s 35L capacity might feel cramped after a few weeks. If you’re traveling for longer, consider a 45L bag like the Matador GlobeRider 45 or the WANDRD TRANSIT.
  • Outdoor Adventurers: If your travels take you off the beaten path—think hiking in the Himalayas or camping in the Rockies—you’ll probably need a hiking backpack that’s built specifically for the outdoors.

What We Liked

For me, the Aer Travel Pack 3 was perfect as a carry-on backpack for air travel. Its design ticks all the boxes for managing the hustle of the airport. The dimensions fit comfortably within most airline carry-on standards, which means I could breeze past the check-in lines straight to security. Plus, I could easily slide out my laptop without having to unpack anything else, speeding up the whole TSA process (unless you’re a Pre-Check junkie, like me).

The handles on the top and both sides made it simple to pull the pack from overhead bins or squeeze it under the seat in front. Its robust build meant I wasn’t worried about it getting damaged by the lady trying to forcibly stuff a guitar case into the overhead bin.

The Aer Travel Pack 3 also made my inner OCD organizer very happy. There are plenty of pockets inside and out, and the organization panel is awesome for keeping small items from getting lost in the bottom of the bag. I typically travel with a small tech pouch for my cables, earbuds, adapters, and USB battery bank, but I didn’t even need it with this bag—there were enough built-in pockets to keep my stuff plenty organized.

The comfort level was another pleasant surprise. The padded straps and back panel made it feel like I was carrying less than I actually was. I’m glad Aer included load lifters in this version of the Travel Pack. These little adjusters definitely helped me dial in the fit and reduce the strain on my shoulders and neck.

Durability-wise, the bag passed with flying colors. Despite brushes against rough surfaces and many trips through bag-shredding security conveyors, it looks as good as new; not something I can say about some other carry-on backpacks I’ve tested.

What We Didn’t Like

One afternoon, I was caught in a sudden downpour. While the pack handled light rain well in the past, this heavier exposure allowed some moisture to seep through the zippers and fabric. This pack is still decently water-resistant, just know that it isn’t as waterproof as something like the Tortuga Travel Backpack.

I know that I mentioned comfort as an upside of this bag, but that’s only true as long as you aren’t overloading it. On a particularly heavy packing day, I could feel the shoulder straps digging in more than usual, despite the padding.

The hip belt goes a long way toward making this bag more comfortable, but you have to buy it separately! I’m not a fan when companies make near-necessary features cost extra. I get that not everyone wants a hip belt, but I really think they should just include it!

The 35L capacity was just right for my two-week trip to Costa Rica, but it would’ve been a tight squeeze to fit any more stuff. I like the compact form factor, but I definitely had to be conscious to avoid overpacking.

Check Price on Aer

Our Favorite Features and Specs

Just like most carry-on backpacks, the Aer has plenty of features to make it well-suited for travel: a wrap-around zipper opening, lots of pockets, and multiple handles. None of that is very special in and of itself.

What is special, though, is the way in which they built and executed key features of the bag. A backpack can’t really have too mind-blowing innovations these days—a bag is just a bag, right? But while the Aer Travel Pack’s features look fairly typical on paper, the way those features work in the real world is not typical at all.

The burly Cordura nylon fabric is much thicker and tougher than what you typically find in a travel pack. The organization panel and laptop compartment are very well designed and make this pack awesome for tech-heavy travelers. The shoulder straps are well-padded and comfy. Even the expanding bottle pocket is unique and very functional.

When you’re picking between high-end travel backpacks, the details make all the difference. The Aer Travel Pack nails it on the details, which is why it’s one of our most recommended carry-on backpacks.

1680D Cordura Nylon Construction

Cordura nylon

The 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon on the Aer Travel Pack 3 is probably the most durable fabric I’ve ever seen on a carry-on backpack. This material has faced rough airport conveyors and gritty city streets without showing any signs of wear. It’s tough enough to resist scuffs and tears, and I don’t go easy on my gear. This beefy material is one of the reasons the Travel Pack scored an impressive 9.7 for build quality in our rating system.

Yet, despite its durability, it doesn’t sacrifice style or comfort; the fabric is surprisingly sleek and manages a professional look that fits in seamlessly from airports to business meetings. Despite the “ballistic” name, it doesn’t look tactical or military at all.

External Compression Straps

Aer Travel Pack 3 Compression

The external compression straps on the Aer Travel Pack 3 are essentially adjustable straps on the sides of the backpack that you can tighten or loosen depending on how much you’re carrying.

On shorter trips, I packed light and there was plenty of empty space inside. By tightening these straps, I could pull the contents together, preventing them from shifting around while I’m on the move. This proved especially handy when I was rushing through crowded stations or navigating busy streets—it keeps the load stable and easy to manage.

They’re also great for slimming down the bag. I’ve used the Aer Travel Pack a few times for daily commutes, and cranking the compression straps all the way down made it less bulky and cumbersome.

Organization Panel

Aer Travel Pack 3 Organization

Nestled in the front compartment, the organization/admin panel is outfitted with a variety of pockets and slots that each seem perfectly designed for passports, notebooks, pens, chargers, headphones, and more.

I’ve found it incredibly handy, especially during the hustle of airport security or when I need to quickly stash everything inside my bag. Everything has its place, so I never have to second-guess where I’ve stored essential items. This setup not only saves me time but also a lot of travel stress.

Even though there are a lot of pockets here, it never felt excessive or overwhelming to me. Since they’re all laid out in a neat, orderly way, I can see right where my stuff is.

Expanding Water Bottle Pocket

Aer Travel Pack 3 Water Bottle Pocket

Unlike the fixed water bottle pockets on other backpacks that can stick out or sag, the Aer’s expandable bottle pocket zips up tight when not in use, keeping the pack’s sleek silhouette intact. When I need it, it stretches generously to snugly fit my water bottle, whether I was using a slender, small bottle for a quick outing or a bulkier one for longer excursions.

It’s secure too; I can jog to catch a train or hop onto a bus, confident that my water bottle isn’t going anywhere.

This is a pretty small detail, but this bag is loaded with well-designed details that make it very intuitive to use. This kind of intelligent design played a big role in earning this bag a 9.4 functionality score. Seriously, not many travel packs compete with that.

External Laptop Sleeve

Aer Travel Pack 3 Laptop Compartment

Having an external laptop sleeve isn’t that unique in travel backpacks anymore—so many people travel with a laptop these days. The Aer’s laptop sleeve isn’t wildly different from anything that other bags are doing, but there are a few small details that make it really functional.

First, the massive curved zipper at the top makes it easy to pull out my laptop. I’ve used plenty of bags that have shorter, restrictive zippers that make it hard to get a laptop in and out, and this one blows those out of the water. The sleeve can fit a 16” laptop, and the curved zipper makes that realistic.

There is also a small stretchy compartment inside the laptop sleeve that’s perfect for a charging cable and a mouse. I honestly wish more bags would take a cue from this design. One of my least favorite things about carrying a laptop in a backpack is figuring out where to put the cable. This little pocket gave me an easy-to-remember designated spot for my laptop charger. It sounds stupidly simple, but it made a big difference in my user experience.

Check Price on Aer

Aer Travel Pack 3 Accessories

If you’re gearing up for a trip, a few accessories can go a long way toward making your packing even more streamlined. These add-ons work perfectly with the Aer Travel Pack.

Aer Dopp Kit

The Aer Dopp Kit is a small toiletry bag that pairs perfectly with the Aer Travel Pack 3. I personally like having my gear match as much as possible, and this little bag mirrors the aesthetic of the Travel Pack perfectly. It’s even made of the exact same materials!

The smartly arranged pockets keep my toiletries tidy and easy to access. Plus, the waterproof lining shields my other essentials from any leaks or spills, which, let’s face it, are almost a given when you’re on the move.

Peak Design Tech Pouch

The Peak Design Tech Pouch is another excellent accessory for the Aer Travel Pack 3. It’s the kind of accessory that makes you wonder how you managed without it—every cable, charger, and gadget has its own spot, making it a breeze to grab what I need without any digging or untangling.

The Travel Pack has enough pockets that many people won’t need a separate tech pouch, but maybe you have a device obsession and need to carry all the associated cables, dongles, and batteries for your devices. That’s what this Tech Pouch was designed for.

Eagle Creek PACK-IT Reveal Cubes

The Eagle Creek PACK-IT Reveal Cubes streamlined how I pack with my Aer Travel Pack 3. Slipping these cubes into the main compartment lets me sort everything neatly—socks in one cube, shirts in another, and so on. It’s a practical way to keep things organized and accessible, especially since I can see everything at a glance through their mesh tops.

These cubes don’t just sort my stuff; they also compress it slightly, helping me make the most of the space inside my backpack. They fit snugly within the Aer Travel Pack, and they add almost no extra weight.

Aer Travel Pack 3 Alternatives

While I love the Aer Travel Pack, it isn’t perfect for everyone. Depending on your preferences, a different bag may be a better choice. These alternatives each excel in different areas.

1

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L

Tortuga Travel Backpack

The Tortuga Travel Backpack earned our top pick for the best carry-on backpack overall, so it is the main competition for the Aer Travel Pack. It definitely has some advantages, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t also reasons to go with the Aer.

If you often need just a bit more room for that extra outfit or pair of shoes, the Tortuga’s 40L capacity has the edge over the Aer’s 35L. It’s designed to pack a bit more, which is fantastic for those extended stays or cool-weather trips where you need to pack warmer, bulkier clothes.

Both bags open wide and flat for easy packing—the Aer has a full panel-opening design on the front. The Tortuga opts for a clamshell design, which is straightforward and feels familiar if you’re used to packing in a suitcase. Both designs work well, but I personally like the Aer’s panel opening better since I can get into either side of the backpack without laying it down or opening it completely.

If your travels often have you on the move, carrying your backpack for long periods of time, the Tortuga Travel Backpack is going to be much more comfortable and make heavy loads easier to manage. This bag has ultra-thick shoulder straps, load lifters, a plush hip belt, and an adjustable torso size. All these features make this one of the most comfortable carry-on bags I’ve ever tested.

Price-wise, the Tortuga is steeper, but that investment pays off in carrying comfort, making it a solid choice if you’re a heavy packer or a frequent flier. On the other hand, the Aer Travel Pack is more compact and is ideal if you’re carrying a lot of tech.

2

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Peak Design Travel Backpack

If you’re a photographer, carry lots of tech gear, or just like to be ultra-organized, the Peak Design Travel Backpack may be a better choice than the Aer Travel Pack.

This bag from Peak Design is loaded with bells and whistles that make it incredibly functional. There are zip-away dividers, side access zippers, hidden compartments, stow-away shoulder straps, and attachment points for accessories. The best part is that Peak Design put a lot of thought into these details, so they feel intuitive.

You can load this pack up with Peak Design’s Packing Cubes, Camera Cubes, and Tech Pouches to have the ultimate travel organization. It’s a no-brainer if you ever travel with camera equipment.

It feels more refined and detailed than the Aer Travel Pack, but it’s also more complicated to use. If you prefer simplicity, this bag may be too much.

The Aer Travel Pack is also made with more durable materials and costs noticeably less.

3

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

If you’re in the market for a travel backpack that balances functionality with distinctive style, the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L presents a compelling alternative to the Aer Travel Pack 3. It is a very different backpack for a very different type of traveler.

This bag screams adventure with its vibrant colors and robust build. It’s much simpler than the Aer Travel Pack and has fewer pockets and zippers. This setup makes it better for adventurous, outdoorsy-type travel, but it certainly isn’t as good if you carry lots of tech and gadgets.

Here’s how I see the difference between the Allpa and the Aer Travel Pack:

If you want to get into the outdoors on your travels, prefer a simpler travel setup, and like colorful designs, the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L is probably a better bag for you.’

On the other hand, if your travels will mainly be to urban destinations and you need pockets to keep devices and tech organized, you’ll be better off with the Aer.

Aer Travel Pack 3 FAQs

Is the Aer travel pack worth it?

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is absolutely worth it. It has a durable build and a smart layout, and it scored an impressive 9.9 for price-to-performance.

Is Aer Travel Pack 3 waterproof?

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is water-resistant but not fully waterproof.

Does the Aer Travel Pack 3 fit under an airplane seat?

The Aer Travel Pack 3 is too big to fit under many airplane seats, but the Small version fits perfectly.

Does Aer Travel Pack 3 come with a hip belt?

The Aer Travel Pack 3 does not come with a hip belt; you have to buy it separately.

Is Aer Made in China?

Yes, Aer products, including the Travel Pack 3, are manufactured in China.

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
1 comment
  1. Thanks for the great review. I’ve had this bag as my EDC work bag for 6 months and I’m very impressed with it.

    This pack comes in 2 sizes. Any more sizes than that would be completely impractical in the business sense. Every extra size means an enormous extra production cost.

    The hip strap and rain fly are sold separately, it’s reasonable to pay extra for these, especially when most customers don’t want it need them.

    The 1680d ballistic nylon is extremely strong. You could easily roll it down a granite cliff many times and it won’t tear (sure it will scuff like any material would).

    My biggest gripe is not being able to replace the framesheet. I like stiff framesheet so it would be nice to be able to swap it.

    I’d also appreciate some anchor zip pull tabs for when I zip up the main compartment (especially when it’s empty).

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