Minaal Carry-on 2.0: a practical one-bag-traveler's review

Mon Sep 18, 2017 · 6 min read

gear review

I decided to try the Minaal Carry-on 2.0 after traveling a few dozen times through airport security. I wanted to find a backpack that fit certain criteria and would be ideally suited for long term, one-bag travel.

For those of you just tuning in, I don’t want to go rambling on and give you the wrong impression. I don’t think everyone who’s interested in a one-bag weekend/trip/gap year/lifestyle should rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on the newest and greatest nomad-developed-successful-Kickstarter-with-every-feature-you-never-knew-you-needed pack. One-bagging isn’t about consumerist culture, EDC on Instagram, or having the priciest multi-tool that does it all. It’s about lightening your load such that you free yourself to get out there and do super awesome things, whatever those things may be. (Backpacking the alps, touring China by train, wrestling sub-saharran alligators, eating a Big Mac in every country on Earth… I don’t judge.)

All right then. Well… that being said.

I recently dropped a couple hundred dollars on the Minaal Carry-on 2.0. It’s the second version of a very successful Kickstarter campaign developed by two nomadic travelers, and, I think, happens to include every design feature I never knew I needed.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here’s what drew me in

In a previous post I detail my search thus far for the perfect-for-me pack. I’ve experienced enough transits through airport security, planes, trains, and various states of shuffling forward in lines that I’m able to say which features would generally be helpful. Unfortunately I’ve never had all of those features on the same bag at the same time. I hoped to achieve that with the next pack I tried, and this bag checked all the boxes:

Most of what drew me in besides the checklist was the fact that it doesn’t look like a big bag. I watched a lot of review and packing videos for various bags including the Minaal Carry-on 2.0, and repeatedly saw a comparable amount of stuff being packed into bags that looked bulky, and the Minaal, which looks - well, here’s a pic:

Looking slim.

And here’s what’s in the bag, in the above pic:

All my stuff

So yeah.

The design features I actually use all the time

The walk through video for the Minaal Carry-on 2.0 (on their page) does a good job of highlighting all the thoughtful features that have gone into this bag. Here are the ones I actually use.

The design features I don’t use, and why

The parts I don’t like

The color. In every photo I can find of this bag, it’s a beautiful silvery grey, and ranges from light to dark depending on the photo’s ambient lighting. Every photo I’ve taken has produced the same result. Inexplicably, in person, certain lighting (mostly indoor halogen) makes the bag look kind of army green. Thankfully, a black version of the bag is available to pre-order. I would definitely recommend it.

The rough texture of the fabric. It tends to pick up sandy dust and fluff very easily, and though it’s billed as water-resistant and the back side of the fabric (inside the bag) is obviously coated, I’m still reluctant to test this. I can generally choose not to travel through a downpour, so it’s not a dealbreaker, and there is an included raincover, in case I need it. A smoother outer surface would have been my preference though, and I think it would have made the bag look that much more sleek and beautiful.

The parts I do like, in gifs

Here’s how I unpack.

Unpacking gif

Here’s how I pack.

Packing gif

(I’m only half jesting.)

Some random and hopefully helpful observations

It does fit under the seat in front of me on airplanes, just barely. It’s a bit tricky to put there and retrieve on some smaller planes, and there’s not much legroom left afterwards, though. I prefer to take my laptop out and heft it up into the overhead, and I usually place it with the top pockets facing out so I can easily stand up and grab whatever I need. General travel note: if the flight time is 3 or more hours, I typically choose the aisle seat.

When lifting the bag into the overhead, I hold the top handle and the bottom of the bag. The side handle doesn’t help me in this function. I heft the bag upside down, put the bottom end in first, then slide it in holding the top handle.

I confuse the zippers of the top pockets a lot when the bag’s laid open. I put a keychain/zipper pull on the uppermost one to help tell them apart.

Tl;dr

I recently went through pre-clearance for USA customs. After standing in a long snaking line for security for half an hour, I got pulled aside for a random bag check. “Sorry,” the agent says, “I’m gonna have to ask you to unpack so I can take a look inside your bag.”

I laid my pack down on the steel table on the scoop side, unzipped the black zipper all the way, and opened it up to lay flat with all my stuff neatly and completely on display. The agent poked around, stuck his gloved hand inside the bottom 3D packing cube (the only container he can’t see through) and after all of thirty seconds said, “Okay, you’re good to go.”

I grabbed the top carry handle, folded the pack closed, did up the black zipper all the way and shouldered the pack again.

“Nice bag.” Said the agent, as he waved me through to the pre-cleared priority line.

Pretty bag.

Did I mention that it’s pretty?