For the minimalist travelers looking to cut luggage costs and squeeze their life into one bag for their adventures abroad, a solid travel backpack may be all you need.
Finding the right pack can be a challenge, though. You need something that is big enough to carry everything for your trip, supportive enough to let you carry all that weight in comfort, and durable enough to survive the abuse of travel.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 fits the bill, allowing you to store and organize all of your travel gear in one functional backpack. It’s tough, compact, and has plenty of features to keep you organized on your trip.
But it’s definitely not for everyone. Light packers will love it, but those who tend to overpack might struggle with this smaller travel bag.
I put this bag to the test and bring it along as a single carry-on item for a two-week trip to Costa Rica.
Yes, I lived out of just this bag (and the WANDRD 9L Roam Sling for my camera gear) for two weeks and—to my surprise—I made it work!
But is this the right bag for you? In this review of the Aer Travel Pack 3, I’ll dive into my experience with this bag, what it excels at, and the things I wished were different.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Summary
The Aer Travel Pack is streamlined for carry-on travel. Living up to their slogan, “Travel Every Day,” they are specialized in constructing a backpack that can be used “from the office to the gym, or from San Francisco to Tokyo.”
Living out of this bag for a week or more won’t be for everyone. I am a textbook minimalist traveler so if you’re the type of traveler who likes “options,” there is no chance this pack will be able to fit all of your excessiveness (I mean that in the kindest way possible).
If the idea of packing less and carrying less gets you excited, you’ll probably love this bag. It’s for light packers or short trips, not for people who like to bring everything but the kitchen sink.
To give you an idea of the capacity of this bag, here’s what I packed:
- A LowePro Camera Cube that I packed with clothes
- A pair of sandals
- A pair of shoes
- Lowepro RunAbout BP 18L Collapsible Backpack
- My laptop
- Enough clothes for a week of no laundry
- A water bottle
- Chargers & cables
- A little extra space for some souvenirs (8 chocolate bars if you need to know).
The clothes I packed were mainly made of synthetic materials, able to be rolled up and compacted down to a smaller size. If you plan on packing jeans and big sweatshirts, don’t expect to be able to fit a week’s worth of clothes in this pack.
My Canon R5 body and 2 lenses fit nicely into my WANDRD 9L Roam Sling, so with the pack on my back, and the sling on my hips, I was set for two weeks in Costa Rica!
Aer Travel Pack 3 Pros and Cons
Before diving into the pros and cons, it’s important to address what this bag is and who it is for.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is really too big to be used as a daily carry, and it isn’t really well-suited for hiking. As the name implies, this pack is truly built for travel. Its smart design helps utilize space efficiently and is easy to keep organized.
The Aer Travel Pack is really meant as a carry-on backpack for one-bag travel, and that’s where it shines.
I dont like to check a bag when I travel abroad, I normally carry a larger pack as my carry item. This pack is a bit smaller than ones I’ve used in the past, but it works well as a carry-on bag if you’re a light packer. It has its limits, though.
Here’s a short list of some of the other pros and cons of the Aer Travel Pack 3.
- 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
- The lack of hip straps limits comfort. I’m not a fan of add on options for features that seem necessary
- No rain-fly. Probably not the biggest worry but a little extra rain protection wouldn’t hurt
- Lack of size options limits usage. It would be cool to see a few different size options that suits every type of traveler
Who is Aer?
Aer is run by a small team based in San Francisco, California. Founded in 2014, Aer began as a crowdfunded project whose goal was to combine a gym bag and an office bag into one simplified backpack. Since their initial start, they have grown to create award-winning products to help their customers travel better.
Their products are inspired by the city and strive to integrate smart features and minimalist style with an emphasis on simplicity, utility, and durability.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Review
Now that you have a general idea of what the Travel Pack 3 has to offer, let’s take a more thorough look at the design and functionality.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is made with 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon exterior (bluesign approved), YKK zippers, and Duraflex plastic hardware.
As I mentioned, this pack is meant for travel, not for rugged adventures, though if coupled with the optional hip straps, it could be easily used for some easy day hikes. As long as you’re not tossing the pack down a slab of granite or intend on testing its water resistance to the extreme, the materials will hold up well throughout your travels.
That being said, I love the overall felt strength of this pack. Aer definitely didn’t cheap out on the materials and it shows.
I suspect the materials on this pack will hold up for many years to come.
One may suspect a bag with as many features as the Travel Pack 3 to look a bit excessive, but Aer was able to pull off both functionality and clean aesthetics.
The pack lives up to Aer’s minimalist pursuit, offering a sleek look that is a perfect fit for on-the-go travel.
Its low-profile look gives it the versatility of a travel bag, a hiking bag or a work bag without drawing any unneeded attention to it.
One thing to note is that the Aer Travel Pack doesn’t have many colors to choose from. You can get black, grey, olive green, or black X-Pack (a lighter, fully-waterproof fabric).
I personally love black, but for anyone who likes a splash of color in their travel gear, the selection here is a bit disappointing.
The amount of black travel backpacks you see in an airport is abundant, making it easy to confuse which bag is yours. Having the option to stand out from the pack (see what I did there?) could come in handy.
The pack is built for comfort with well-padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap, and an internal framesheet to distribute the load. When it’s packed to the brim, though, it starts weighing on your shoulders, especially if you don’t have the upgraded removable hip belt (I did not).
With no hip straps, I had a tremendous amount of weight on my shoulders which can make a 20-minute wait in line for customs pretty arduous. Walking from terminal to terminal, even more so.
If you pack light with only a few of your belongings, the padded shoulder straps may be able to manage the weight to some extent, but for me, hip straps are a must on any pack bigger than a small daypack.
I don’t care if it’s two weeks of items or a laptop and a jacket. If you’re wearing it for long enough, the pack is going to cause discomfort if all the weight is only distributed on your shoulders. Weight tolerance will vary from person to person, so experiment with what feels best for you and find out what your body can and cannot handle.
The good news is that you can get a padded hipbelt to attach to this bag. The bad news is that it will be an extra cost.
I’m naturally pretty cluttered and disorganized, so I was impressed with how the overall functionality of this bag helped me tame the chaos while packing for my trip.
Some bags have too many pockets, to the point where I can’t remember which pocket I put things in. Other bags have too few, and all my belongings come pouring out as soon as I open a zipper.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 really hit the Goldilocks zone for pockets and felt “just right” for me. It has smart organization features designed to give you a place for everything without being overly complicated.
The lay-flat main compartment allowed me to pack and access my clothes efficiently, the padded laptop compartment felt safe and secure, and the outside mesh pocket made accessing items on the go, quick and as the name implies, “easy”.
The Aer Travel 3 is certainly a sturdy pack. Even before testing it out, I noticed how durable this pack felt. This is definitely not the case with all packs.
There was never a point in my trip that I felt like my bag was at risk of injury.
The zippers on the back get the most wear in my opinion, especially with a bag that’s nearly bursting at the seams, and never once did I feel like my zippers were about to fail.
I would be wary of putting it to the test against anything too rugged but the 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon exterior feels strong and water-resistant enough to hold up against an unexpected rainstorm or some light abrasion.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Features
The Aer Travel Pack 3 comes with an abundance of thoughtful features. There’s a compartment for everything—and nothing more—which adds to the ease of daily use.
Lay-Flat Main Compartment
In my opinion, the lay-flat main compartment is a must-have feature on travel bags. Everyone has had to unpack and repack their bag just to find that one item. The lay-flat zipper makes it super easy to pack and find items without having to dig ferociously to the bottom.
Looking at the bag, I don’t know how I fit two week’s worth of clothes in there but I did! The ability to unzip the pack fully and carefully place your items definitely increases the functionality of the available space.
I stored a packing cube in this compartment that helped keep my clothes organized. My camera equipment was carried in the WANDRD 9L Roam Sling so the cube was used only for clothing and a few other random items.
What I felt was lacking were internal compression straps to keep everything in place.
So much is getting placed in this main compartment and though the lay-flat zipper makes it easy to open and access, items tend to fall out when there are no side walls holding them in.
Some compression straps to secure my clothes and other items would have been a helpful feature to have and would have brought some added peace of mind when opening my pack.
Padded Suspended Laptop Compartment
The laptop pocket can fit laptops up to 16” and there’s plenty more room for other electronic accessories or documents in the divided compartment.
With an ample amount of space, padding, and a soft fabric lining, I never felt like my laptop was at risk of damage.
A lay-flat zipper on this compartment would make it easier to access my cables and hard drives that I stored in there.
Also, a few added compartments back here for hard drives or a tablet would make it easier to stay organized.
The amount of cables, dongles and tech accessories that come with traveling with a laptop can feel overwhelming. There is plenty of space in the suspended laptop compartment for all of that so to have some added organization would have helped a ton.
The load lifters were a nice feature to see on a travel pack, as they are most common on backpacking bags. It definitely helped with adjusting the load for a more comfortable fit.
What are load lifters? Load lifters are two small straps that are attached to the shoulder straps and back of your pack. Tightening and loosening them adjusts the closeness of the bag to your body, allowing for greater comfort and stabilization by decreasing the sway of the pack.
Load lifters may not be a necessity for everyone but they are definitely a nice feature for added comfort, especially if you are traveling with a fully loaded single-carry backpack.
The compression straps on the side can come in handy if your pack is filled to the brim and you’re looking to save an inch or two of space.
I used the compression straps to secure a tripod which ended up working out really well.
To improve functionality and diversify the use, I would’ve liked to see these straps expand just a little bit more as they became pretty tight when I tried to secure my tripod.
Yes, I realize these straps are not specifically designed to carry things, but I can’t imagine I am the first and only person to use these straps for this.
There are so many traveling creators out there so to have these compression straps perform as a dual functioning tripod straps would definitely up the appeal for a lot of people. An added sleeve for the tripod legs on one of the sides of the bag would be a pretty awesome improvement to see too.
It’s a small detail, but the fact that you can lock the main zippers can be a big deal for some. If you’re carrying valuable items like a laptop, camera, or other electronics, it can add a lot of peace of mind knowing you can secure your bag from unwanted intrusion.
Be aware that it is still possible for thieves to rip through zippers, so it definitely isn’t a fool-proof solution. Locking the zippers of your pack does provide som deterrence for casual thieves though.
Bottom Shoe Pocket
I love this feature on travel bags. This pocket is accessed from the bottom of the bag, extending into the main compartment.
The pocket is relatively spacious as I was able to fit a pair of running shoes and a Lowepro RunAbout BP 18L Collapsible Backpack in here. A couple of pairs of flip-flops or sandals would also be a reasonable fit.
In normal suitcases, shoes are often placed in with everything else which may be okay at the start of the trip when your shoes are clean, but after hikes and sandy walks on the beach it may not be so ideal.
The ability to separate your dirty shoes from your clean clothes is an awesome feature to have and somewhat of an unexpected luxury in a bag of this size.
What should be noted is that not all shoes will be able to fit in here. As I mentioned, I had a pair of compact running shoes in this pocket but a set of high heels or chunky hiking boots would make it a tight squeeze.
Easy Access Front Pocket
Easy access is the name of the game when traveling with a solo carry-on bag. Regardless of whether you’re in the airport, or caught in a rainstorm waiting for an Uber, quick access to your daily travel necessities is key to staying organized and keeping your items safe.
I really enjoyed the functionality of this front pocket. It was large enough to stow a pair of sandals and organized enough to keep my daily items readily available.
There are various different pockets and compartments within this front access pocket that are suitable for everything from a pen and journal, to a toothbrush and toiletries.
The zipper folds three-quarters of the way down to provide that easy access so you don’t have to blindly dig around to find some of the smaller items you may have stowed in there.
Expandable Water Bottle Side Pocket
The expandable water bottle pocket on the side of the backpack was deceptively large.
Following Aer’s minimalist approach, the compartment seems pretty stealthy, with a vertical zipper that allows it to expand and give you more space for larger bottles.
At first sight, I didn’t think my wide-mouthed water bottle would fit in there but to my surprise, it did with ease.
Though the expandable option adds the minimalist look, I don’t find it all that necessary as it is a topless compartment that smaller items could easily fall out of rendering it only useful for a water bottle.
My other complaint with the compartment is the overall placement.
It is located in the upper middle of the bag which a) makes it harder to reach when it is on your back and b) throws off the weight distribution.
Heavier items should be stored near the bottom of your pack to allow the weight to be distributed on your hips, not your back or shoulders. Water is typically one of the heaviest things you carry, so to have it placed higher up on the pack is less than ideal.
Quick-Access Top Pocket
The quick access top pocket is a great feature to have on any backpack, particularly one designed for travel.
Throughout your long travel days in the airport, you are constantly transitioning from being on the move to long periods of down time whether it be on a long flight or a layover.
Throughout your day there are several items that will be going in and out of use and the potential to lose or misplace them relatively high.
All too often I am getting ready to board or deboard the plane while doing the “where’s my shit” dance, grabbing for my back pocket to check for my wallet, feeling my seat for my phone, rubbing my hip for my keys, patting down my jacket for my headphones, and bending down low for anything else that may have fallen out while I was in a daze.
A single pocket to keep these items safe and secure would surely help to eliminate that worry and the anxious scrambling to gather my belongings.
Removable Hip Belt (sold separately)
I was not able to test the hip belt but this truly would’ve made a world of difference. I highly recommend getting one for increased comfort and functionality no matter how much you are carrying.
As I mentioned before, the weight of your pack should be distributed on your hips, not your back or shoulders. I can’t help but feel like I am getting taken advantage of when backpack companies are offering hip straps as an add-on option sold separately, as, to me, they are a necessity.
Hip strips not only add comfortability, but also versatility. Some may argue that a city or travel pack doesn’t need hip straps (though I would strongly disagree) but a hiking pack simply cannot go without them.
Not only is it incredibly uncomfortable to hike without hip straps, it is terrible for the body.
With the amount of walking that can go into a day of travel, hip straps are a much needed feature if you don’t want a sore back and shoulders the next day.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Dimensions and Specifications
The Travel Pack 3 measures in at a height of 21.5″ (54.5 cm), a width of 13” (33 cm), and a depth of 9” (21.5 cm). By dimensions, it is a fairly small pack. Most people who I showed this bag to and told them that this was all I was bringing, called me crazy.
The compact size allows it to pass any airline’s carry-on restrictions
Though light in weight weighing in at 4.2 lbs, it can store up to 35 L, allowing plenty of room for what you need.
|Dimensions||Length: 21.5″ x 13″ x 9″|
Aer Travel Pack 3 Alternatives
The Aer Travel Pack 3 won’t be for everyone but there’s definitely a pack out there for you. Here are a few more options that you may prefer.
If the Travel Pack 3’s 35L capacity isn’t enough, Nomatic’s 40L Travel Bag might be a better option. Though 5L isn’t a huge difference, it could just be enough space to squeeze in those few extra items that you were going to have to leave behind.
It’s loaded with 20+ innovative features like a laundry bag, shoe compartment, and an underwear and sock pocket.
It’s made with a waterproof material, not water resistant, so this bag can definitely handle a bit more ruggedness if necessary.
It measures in at 21″ x 14″ x 9″ so it is very comparable in size to the Travel Pack 3 and functions both as a backpack and a duffle bag.
It comes with a waist and sternum strap which is nice to see as not an add on.
Honestly, this pack sounds awesome and may be a potential solution to the Travel Bag 3’s shortcomings.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L offers a rugged, durable and expandable daypack that is ideal for shorter travel and everyday carry.
It works seamlessly with Peak Designs camera cubes so if you are a digital creator, this might be the pack you need.
It meets international carry-on requirements in the expanded 33L form and the collapsed 27L form.
The Travel Backpack 30L comes with expansive side pockets for tripods, water bottles and other accessories, a padded laptop sleeve, and an enlarged top pocket designed for passports, wallets, and glasses.
Tuck-away shoulder straps and optional hip strap attachments make this pack a winner in my eyes.
The Able Carry Max Backpack is a 30L pack that is built for work, play and travel.
Maybe you’re not looking to utilize your backpack as a single carry-on item and just need it for some extra belongings. With a little bit less room and many of the same features as the Travel Pack 3, The Max Backpack could be a good option for you.
It fits up to 17” devices and is made with a strong and durable X-Pac fabric and Cordura 1000D nylon.
It provides a 25L main compartment and external pockets that allow for peak organization and the flexibility to “arrange your day, your way.”
It comes with thick shoulder support and ventilated pads to keep your back cool but it does not come with a hip straps, nor do I see an option to add one on.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Final Thoughts
There’s a lot that goes into traveling abroad, most of which can go overlooked in preparation. Having the right backpack and the right compartments not only helps you stay organized but helps you to remember the items you may be forgetting.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 really checked a lot of the boxes for me. As someone who is notoriously disorganized, I felt not only well-organized but also well-prepared to travel with this bag.
For me, what’s more important than functionality, organization, and comfort, is the reliability of the bag. All of these features become less important and the adventure can become much more taxing if a zipper breaks or a strap rips etc.
I felt safe using the Aer Travel Pack 3. I really put this bag to the test by packing more than I probably should have but it was able to hold up exceptionally well. Shoot, maybe I am one of those “excessive,” packers after all?
Though it wasn’t always easy living out of this bag for two weeks, that’s just the game with one-bag travel! Sacrifices are made to travel minimally and to have the safety and security of carrying all that you need in a single carry-on item.
Single carry-on travel isn’t for everyone, but for those who see themselves as a minimal traveler, I would absolutely suggest this bag, hip straps included.
With that being said, the Aer Travel Pack 3 can surely be used for more than just a travel pack. I can see it being a great day carrier for city or on-campus use.
The price is certainly reasonable and the surplus of features packed into a minimal and aesthetic bag makes this backpack a winner for me.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a perfect backpack. Though the Aer Travel Pack 3 is no exception, it certainly has a lot to offer.