I switched from my go-to travel bag to the Minaal Carry-on for a long awaited group trip to Spain and Morocco, that soon came to be referred to as the “Iberian Trek.” The trip itself lasted 12 days and 11 nights, starting in Seville, Spain and ending in Rabat, Morocco. In-between were stints in Granada, Rhonda, Tarifa, Tangiers and Fes. The itinerary itself was ambitious to say the least, with several trains, buses and ferries as our primary modes of transportation. My current bag was your stereotypical bulky 90’s pack that was heavy as a brick, with straps galore and few organizational compartments. On this trip, I wanted something easier to manage. I needed a bag for today’s traveler.
I dove into onebagger forums in search of what I felt would be the perfect bag, not only for this trip, but for countless trips to come. First and foremost it had to be a maximum legal carry-on (MLC) bag since I don’t like wasting time at airport carousels worrying about my possessions being lost, stolen or damaged. I’m also way too frugal spend money on checked luggage. There’s a plethora of MLC bags out there, but so many of them only get a few things right. I was in the market for something water-resistant, lightweight but rugged, and with comfortable shoulder straps that stow-away. It also needed plenty of storage options, a secure area for my tablet and an external beverage pocket.
I compared many and ultimately opted for the Minaal. Although it was a bit smaller (35L) and a little pricier ($299) than many other bags I considered, it checked off all the boxes:
- Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 8" (MLC for most airlines = 22” x 14” x 9”)
- Weight: 3.08 lbs
- Material: Cordura (rugged!)
- Laptop/tablet Compartment
- Zip-away Straps (shoulder and hip)
- Drink Holder
When I received the Minaal carry-on the first thing that jumped out to me was the size; it was compressed like a pancake. After a slight panic I began to open up the compartments to fluff it out so to speak and was happy with what I found. The bag has two main compartments: 1) a fully accessible large compartment for clothes, shoes and other large items with additional mesh and non-mesh organizing pockets, and 2) a partially accessible compartment featuring two protective neoprene sleeves to store a 15” Macbook Pro and a 11” Macbook Air/tablet with several small organizing pockets for keys, a passport, power cords and other small items. Externally, there are two pockets towards the top for easy access to travel documents, books or a camera. At the other end I found a small pocket, a secret stash spot, to store the seam-sealed rain cover. The bag also features two external compression straps with metal buckles and a drink holder with an adjustable cord for extra security.
So, how did it hold up? The first thing I noticed when I strapped up and began making my way through airports was just how comfortable it was. It sat high on my back and close to my shoulders which made for great balance. The thick shoulder straps coupled with the adjustable, clip-away sternum strap did not irritate my shoulders at all and the padded back provided a substantial amount of cushion. When asked to remove my tablet, I found accessing the device compartment quick and easy, and once on a plane, it slipped into each overhead bin like a glove. As for size, I was able to fit everything I had originally planned for this 12-day trip; 1 rain jacket, 5 pairs of shorts, 5 tees, 2 button up shirts, 6 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks, flip flops, 1 book, 1 16” travel tube for storing art purchased on the trip, 1 tablet, 1 toiletry bag, 1 DSLR with two lenses (which I was able to store in one of the top compartments), power converters/adapters and other small odds and ins.
A few criticisms: 1) Being 1” smaller in depth than many other bags may not sound like much, but it could make the world of different between a 2-week and a 3-week excursion. As a result, unless you have a couple opportunities to wash clothes along your route, 10-12 days may likely be your capacity. 2) Even though the Minaal carry-on comes with a hipbelt, it’s thin. This can be a positive for those who prefer to stash it anyway or a negative if you are of a smaller frame and need the extra support. 3) Finally, the one feature that I felt this bag was really lacking was a proper shoulder strap so it can be worn like a messenger when you are waiting in long lines, or standing in cramped buses or trains.
The Minaal Carry-on certainly embodies everything today’s traveler comes to expect in a contemporary travel bag. It’s lightweight, durable, and extremely comfortable. There are ample compartments to keep you organized and it features a lockable protective device compartment which is almost a necessity these days. The adjustable, clip-away sternum strap is a nice touch, especially if you’re like me and hate things that dangle. It also doubles as an emergency whistle! The Minaal’s clean lines and metallic blue hues certainly sets it apart from the competition, as does the removable rain cover for when it pours. If you’re looking for a go-to bag for your next one-bag adventure, you should strongly consider the Minaal Carry-on.
Minaal Carry-on Overall Rating: ★★★★☆