Biking to work brought up some unique challenges to configuring my EDC. I was struggling trying to find a balance between weight, comfort and functionality with my existing backpacks. I was using my old Rush 24 backpack, but it was really just too large for this purpose. The tendency to overpack was always present and many of the bag’s features were overkill for bike commuting. I wanted a bag that was streamlined, smaller and less tactical oriented.
So, I was on the search for a streamlined backpack that would allow me to carry my electronics, gym clothes and basic EDC items. This is when I stumbled upon the Aer Duffel Pack while reading a marketing email from Huckberry. I liked the overall size and aesthetics, plus the integrated shoe compartment was very appealing. So, I decided to pull the trigger and order the bag.
The actual design goal for the Aer Duffel Pack was to build a bag that allows you to carry your gym and office essentials in one bag. Basically, they combined the features of a backpack and duffel bag into a hybrid pack. The result is a very clean, minimalist bag, that looks good and is easy to use.
21.5″ / 12″ / 7″ or 54.6 cm / 30.5 cm / 17.8 cm
The first thing you’ll notice about this bag is the large vertical zipper that runs nearly the entire length of the bag. This waterproof zipper is designed to give you full access to the bag’s main compartment. This proved to be very useful when extracting my gym gear. I could easily find every item, because it was all laid out in front of me. Most traditional backpacks give you a “top down” view, so items at the bottom of your bag are usually covered by other gear and not visible. I think we’ve all experienced how difficult it is to find dark colored items inside a black backpack. It can be downright frustrating! Easy access to your gear is wear the Duffel Pack shines.
Straps & Exterior Features
The “front” side of the Duffel Pack features a padded, spacer mesh back panel for extra comfort and breathability. I found the pack’s back panel to be very comfortable when full loaded. There was plenty of padding and my laptop wasn’t jabbing me in the back when pedaling hard. Ventilation for the back panel was on average with other backpacks, so expect to sweat if you’re exerting yourself or wearing the pack in hot weather.
The shoulder straps are well padded and easy to adjust. The shoulder straps also include an adjustable sternum strap, which does help with stability when bike riding and carrying heavy loads. I did notice that the sternum strap is a bit short. Only the right side buckle of the sternum strap is adjustable for length. I’m six feet tall, weigh 175 pounds and the sternum strap was getting close to being maxed out. A larger mans chest may exceed the adjustment capacity of the strap.
I also noticed the shoulder straps seem to be placed a little narrow near the top of the bag. I experienced some minor rubbing on my neck during a recent bike commute. There wasn’t enough rubbing to cause chaffing, but I feel its worth noting in this review. If you have a large neck, this may be a problem.
Padded carry handles are located at the top and left side of the pack. You can carry the pack in a vertical or horizontal position.
The large zippered side pockets allow you to carry a wide variety of items. There are two fabric dividers inside each side pocket, which can be used to organize your gear. A Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer will fit inside the divider sleeves, but just barely. A Mini Pocket Organizer, EDC Pocket Organizer or similarly sized pouch would be better suited.
The outside side pockets are large enough to carry a nalgene water bottle. However, the exterior pocket’s usefulness is effected by the gear you keep in the interior pockets. So, overstuffing the internal pockets will reduce what you can carry in the outside pocket. I jammed a rather full Fatty Pocket Organizer into an internal pocket and it prevented me from carrying a water bottle on that side.
I was disappointed to learn the bag didn’t have a dedicated admin area. In my opinion this is a major oversight on Aer’s part, especially at this price point. I highly recommend using an aftermarket admin pouch or panel to organize your writing utensils and small EDC items. You don’t want those items rolling around loose and becoming scattered inside the pocket.
The laptop area of the Duffel Pack is very nice. There’s plenty of padding to protect your valuable hardware and two separate sleeves. Both sleeves are secured with a single hook & loop strap. You can fit both a tablet and 15″ Macbook Pro with ease, plus there’s room for additional cords, paper files, etc.
I am surprised and somewhat disappointed Aer didn’t use a waterproof zipper for the laptop compartment. This isn’t a huge issue for me, because I don’t plan on bike commuting during bad weather, but you never know when a random rain shower may pop up. Apparently, keeping your gym clothes dry is more important than keeping your electronics dry. Hopefully, a waterproof zipper will be added in the future.
The bottom, ventilated shoe compartment is an excellent feature. You can keep your stinky sneakers or sweaty clothing separated from the main compartment. Plus the shoe compartment is ventilated, which helps keep the compartment dry and “fresh”. According to Aer you can store up to size 13 shoes in this compartment. Sorry pro basketball players, you’ll have to look for another bag.
Keep in mind the shoe compartment liner actually exists inside the main compartment. So, you will lose main compartment space when carrying shoes. My size 11 Crossfit Nano’s fit nicely and there was some extra room on top of the shoe liner in the main compartment.
I like the Aer Duffel Pack. It’s well built, and the simple, minimalist design is appealing to me. It preforms well for bike commuting, as I have enough room to comfortably carry my EDC essentials, gym clothes and office equipment.
I wish it had a dedicated admin section and a waterproof zipper for the laptop compartment. Plus the shoulder straps and sternum strap are a little too narrow. But these are minor issues to me as the positive aspects of this bag make up for these shortcomings.
What do you think? Do you have questions about this article? Are you an EDC bag addict? Share your questions and experiences in the comments section below.