The Travel Tester is (finally) back with an in-depth review of one of our most favourite pieces of travel gear of all time: the Carry On Backpack by Standard Luggage.
If you’ve read our blogs in the past, we did an ‘unboxing’ of this carry on luggage of the and updated you about the features of the second version of this carry on bag, but now that their latest version is out, and we’ve tested this bag on multiple occasions over the last few years, it’s time for a full review, right?!
We will be putting the backpack through the 5-senses test, as we always do with gear we test, and will share all the ins and outs of the product, from materials to practical use and from clever features to look & feel of the bag on the road.
STANDARD LUGGAGE CARRY ON BACKPACK REVIEW
The Standard Luggage Story
Standard Luggage Co. is a Canadian luggage and travel gear company that launched their first version of their carry on backpack on Kickstarter in March 2015.
The company has a mission to help people be happier and more productive and their innovative travel products provide modern, versatile and durable gear for the global traveler. All the products in their “Nomad Collection” are designed to work together as the ultimate travel system.
Whether you’re a leisure traveler or a digital nomad, Standard Luggage develops a versatile carry-all system that adapts to any situation while keeping you organized and productive so you can journey freely and stay happy.
I have been in touch with the people over at Standard Luggage since they released their first version of the carry-on luggage, and have since received version 2 (left photo below) and version 3 (right photo below), which is their latest release.
If you’re curious about their latest bag, then keep on reading!
THE TRAVEL TESTER IN ACTION
It’s finally time to put the Carry On Backpack from Standard Luggage through our 5-senses test. Enjoy.
1. What does it SOUND like?
According to their website, The Standard Luggage’s carry-on-sized travel backpack “helps people save time and money without the need to check a bag and pay excess airline fees. With versatile carry options, use our bag like a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag.”
To me, this sounds like a bag that is perfect for short-haul flights where getting somewhere as cheap and fast as possible is most important. As a frequent business traveller in Europe and expat that often visits family in Amsterdam from London, this bag has already proven to be invaluable over the last years.
This bag allows me to bring everything I need on board of the airplane and have ease of travel using it as a backpack, but I can also stow away the straps and check the bag in if I need more space or am carrying bigger liquids (usually on the way back from conferences).
This is what the bag looks like when it first gets delivered from Hong Kong after you order from the website (the Standard Luggage items are currently not for sale in retail shops):
There is free world-wide shipping for all products, which includes a tracking number and takes about 5 business days + 1 day for order processing (US/Canada) or 4 – 10 business days + 1 day for order processing (International). Please note that for international shipping, you might have to pay additional import fees, levies and/or taxes that may be charged through the import process in your country.
What is nice, is that Standard Luggage offers 100% satisfaction guarantee and lifetime warranty, so if you buy it online and there is something wrong with the product (which we find hard to believe will ever happen), you can have the piece of mind that you can always send it back.
Depending on the nature of the defect and product availability, you can get the bag replaced, the money refunded or you can get store credit within 30 days of purchasing the product and in original packaging. Check the website for all the terms & conditions!
Different Ways to Use the Bag
As the website mentions, the bag can be used as a backpack, but also as a duffel bag (messenger bag) and suitcase. It is about the same size as a trolley, but then of course without the space of the handle taking away from you packing space, which is great!
The messenger strap is fully removable, as you attach it to the sides of the bag using snap hooks. So when you’re not planning on using the bag with the strap, you can just leave it at home and shave a bit more weight off the bag.
To use the bag as a suitcase, simply hold on to one of the two grips on the top and side of the bag. These handles are also super handy when you’re sliding the bag/backpack into the overhead lockers on the plane. We have one trolley at home for example that doesn’t have a grip on the side and it’s very hard to lift when it’s full and heavy. This bag having two grips is therefore perfect for us.
Turning the Backpack into a Suitcase
On the photos below, you can see the process of turning the backpack into a suitcase. In my experience, this really only takes about half a minute (or less!). You open the clips at the bottom and hide them away in the little slots right next to them and then you tuck in the straps at the top and close the zipper, that’s all.
For me personally, this feature is my absolute favourite of the bag. I use it a lot!
2. What does it LOOK like?
I’ll be honest here, the bag does look a bit like a massive brick on your bag. While I personally don’t care too much about how my backpacks look in general, as I’m all about practicality, I do think that there are more good-looking backpacks out there. I do like the black colour of this backpack and the coloured accents are nice, but because the shape of the bag is so square, there isn’t really a stylish, streamlined element to this bag that you can see in some other carry on bags.
But again, I am all about practicality, especially when it comes to carry-on luggage, so in this case I would say that this bag is 100% practical because it has the exact shape of the maximum allowed size of airplane overhead lockers. So if you’re using it just to take on the airplane, this is pretty much the best bag out there to max out the space you are allowed to bring on board.
If you’re looking for a more stylish backpack that might have less space inside, but looks a bit slicker, then I suggest you keep looking for other options.
Below, you can see a bit more of the different features of this backpack and I think what stands out most on first sight are the coloured accents. When you get the back in the mail, the orange accents are already on the bag, and you get the teal accents (which I personally like a bit more) as a second option. They are easy to replace.
Because we already had version 1 and 2 of this backpack at home, we were able to see that the coloured tags that are attached to the zippers have changed a bit over the years, but this is not something that we feel has improved over time, unfortunately.
The first versions of the bags had strips of leather as you can see on the top right image of the picture below, and sure, they were a bit thick and hard to get into the little loops of the zippers (and they came undone every now and then), but I feel that they were a lot sturdier than the tags that are included with their latest version (you can see them on the picture left of the one with the water bottle on it below). I’ve already ripped a few of them into bits, because they are a lot thinner than the previous tags and you really need them to move the zippers.
So in general I would say it’s nice that they give you two colour options, but apart from the handle-bar covers (as you can see below on the top right picture as well) that work perfectly, I would personally find something else to attach to the zippers that is of a bit better quality. Adding something unique to your bag is always a good idea, especially when you’re checking in your bag at the airport and want to easily spot it on the luggage belt.
They also include two colour options for the luggage tag (which I don’t really use) and the logo (with Velcro on the back) that you can see below on the top-left image. This also can easily be replaced by something else, like the flag of your country, perhaps?
All. The. Pockets.
I am not a pocket-person. I am always so dis-organized, that I can put something in a pocket and then can’t find it about it three minutes later. That’s why I love how in this latest version of the bag, Standard Luggage has actually REDUCED the amount of pockets in this bag, to only the ones that you actually use.
First of all, you’ll see that the front has two big pockets, which I always use to store the rain cover, my reading book and my notebook & pens. I do find that when I stuff the bag too much from the inside, these pockets are hard to reach into, so I only tend to store flat items like books in here. The bottom pocket would also fit any full-sized documents.
On the back of the bag, you can find the pocket to store the straps when turning the backpack into a suitcase, and behind it, you can find the laptop compartiment. There used to be a couple of pockets here, including a build-in laptop pouch, but I really like how there are only two big mesh pockets here (to store any cables) and one big open space, with a laptop cover you can easily take out of the bag. There is a bit of a system where you can strap the laptop bag to the backpack, but I find the clasps too hard to open, so I personally never use this.
The laptop cover is really simple, with a slot for your laptop and one on top for a table (or as I use it: for a notebook). I use this laptop cover all the time and find it perfect to slide out of the bag for security checks and then to take out inside the airplane. Really great feature of this bag (just ditch those clasps, guys). The cover fits any laptop up to 15 inches.
I usually keep my little see-through bag of liquids on top of the laptop in this compartiment, so at customs, it’s easy for me to quickly get both the liquids as the laptop out. This, or I put it at the top of the main compartiment.
Finally, when you open the bag (with a handy U-zip, so it opens all around and can lay flat), you will find that the main compartiment makes it really easy to use packing cubes. Standard Luggage sells their own, but I already had some, so I just use those. I find that when the bag is not expanded, you can fit one large packing cube and two small packing cubes + a few loose items in here.
When you expand the bag, it’s even possible to add two large and 2 x 2 small packing cubes on top of each other!
Because the bag opens like a clam, it very easy to get to everything you need without having to take things out, so during your trip you can stay pretty organised. There are two straps inside to keep everything in place, but I must say that I hardly use them, because I find the straps too short to go around my packing cubes.
At the bottom of the main compartiment, there is a hidden pocket for your valuables (I use this when I leave things like keys from home in my hotel room and there is no safe, I would keep money and passport on you in that case).
In the flap of the bag, you can find three more pockets, one large one where guys can store buttoned shirts (I use it to store things like magazines, etc.), one mesh pocket (which I use for small laundry such as socks and underwear) and one normal pocket, which I barely use. I wish this part of the bag was just one big mesh pocket, so I can use it as a laundry ‘bag’ instead!
More Cool Features
Something I do feel has been a great upgrade from backpack version 1 and 2, is that all backpacks now have a pocket on the side to store your water bottle. You can open and close the pocket with a zipper and it can fit pretty much any type of drinking bottle. Really useful!
Another little detail of the bag that I love (but haven’t had to use myself luckily) is the safety whistle that you can find on the clip of the chest-straps of this bag. It’s a nice extra that might come in handy when you’re travelling alone and are in need of help, but of course let’s hope that you never have to use it!
Finally, another small feature that you can spot on the outside of the bag is the little cable pocket for your headphones or battery charger. I have never used this myself, but it’s a nice option for those that find it useful.
And finally, all zippers are TSA compliant, as they are lockable with a small padlock.
The Standard Luggage carry-on backpack has been design to be water resistant, but for extra protection, you also get an additional nylon elastic rain cover. It comes in its own pocket and you simply slide it over the top, sides, and front of the bag when worn as a backpack. Super easy and I always bring the cover with me in the front pocket of the bag, in case of sudden downpours.
3. What does it TASTE like?
One of the main reasons that this backpack is such to my taste, is (as I already mentioned above) the incredible amount of space that you have inside of it. I always feel a bit like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series when packing, because the amount of things that I can bring as carry-on seems to be (almost) endless.
What I usually do when packing (read how I use the KonMari folding method), is packing everything with the backpack laying flat, then zipping it almost up and turning it upright. When all the items inside have shifted a little bit, somehow there appears more space at the top of the bag, so I can top it up with some small extra items. BOOM!
If you didn’t know yet, Standard’s carry-on backpack conforms to international airline standards for carry on luggage. Yes, it even can be carried on board by budget airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair.
The sizes of this bag are 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inch [54.61 x 34.29 x 19.05 cm], which comes to 35 Liters.
The real secret in packing your Standard Luggage bag however, lies in the fact that the zippers can expand, turning the 35 Liter backpack into a 45 Liter backpack, with sizes of 21.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 inch [54.61 x 34.29 x 24.13 cm].
Now, only when zipped-up is the size small enough to be carried on-board, so I only expand the bag when I’m checking it in. This is usually at the end of my trip, when I’ve packed the bag to the max with everything I needed on the way over, then get souvenirs or gifts from an event or trip… which I can then take home because I magically create another 10 Liter in space inside.
That said, be aware when flying Ryanair in Europe though. I used to bring this backpack to The Netherlands A LOT when visiting family on a weekend. We usually flew Ryanair, so taking this bag meant that I could take it on board with no problems and have everything I needed on me. Even when they started to get people to check in their trolleys at the gate, often staff would skip me because it was a backpack (or we would just rip off the label on our walk to the airplane and take it on board anyway, to be real honest here).
Unfortunately Ryanair has a new rule now where you always have to pay for hand luggage, so that sucks a lot and we try and avoid flying with them now. With Easyjet you can bring one piece on board, so this backpack is still perfect for that!
4. What does it FEEL like?
One of the things I think I love most about this bag is just how light it is. It’s just 3.7 lbs / 1.68 kg, because it doesn’t have the weight of construction materials such as metal frames, rolling wheels, and retractable handles that you’d have on a trolley.
Most airlines have a limit of 7 kilos for cabin luggage, so having a lightweight backpack is really maximizing that weight limit.
The Standard Luggage backpack is made with 1680 denier high tenacity ballistic nylon fabric. Ballistic Nylon is a thick nylon fabric that was developed as a material for jackets to be worn by World War II airmen, protecting them from flying debris and fragmentation caused by bullet and shell impacts. These days, ballistic nylon is used in a lot of luggage and backpacks, but also in shoes, belts and jackets. They even use it in skin-on-frame kayaks!
The so-called “ballistic weave” is made done by weaving nylon yarns of various denier such as 840 denier, 1050 denier and 1680 denier. The denier refers to the weight of the fabric. The 1680 denier that is used in this backpack has a similar strength but lighter weight than the 1050, and it resists abrasion and tearing. Because it is hard to dye, you will mostly find it in black or other dark colours.
Furthermore, this bag has tight stitching, sealed polyurethane (a plastic material) backs, YKK brand (the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, from Japan) zips, buckles & clips and ITW Nexus brand (a Fortune 500 company from Illinois in the US) buckles & clips for the sternum strap (the one across your breast).
Over the years, Standard Luggage has been adding more padding on the backpack straps, so carrying the backpack has become super comfortable. In the latest version, the backpanel of the bag has also received an upgrade and has a soft padding that makes carrying this bag really nice. One thing though is that because they changed the material of the back, they also changed the direction of the slot that was on it (that you can slide over the handlebar of a trolley). This is something we often used, but now the bag faces vertical instead of horizontal, I don’t see how we’re able to use this feature anymore (see pictures below). Too bad!
Another upgrade that is included in the latest version, is that you get two extra straps that turn into a hip belt, so when packing the bag to the max (like I always do), you have some extra support along the way as the weight gets better distributed. The strap along the breast has remained the same and is something that I often use when my bag is a bit heavy for extra support.
5. What does it SMELL like?
After the heavy use that my Standard Luggage bag has been through, I can say that I haven’t found any strange smells or terrible stains happen so far. That said, when you’re checking in your bag and don’t use a flight bag, chances are the bag will see a little wear and tear from transporting over the luggage belts and being thrown into the hold. I once got my bag back with text written on it with a white marker/chalk pen! Ugh!
Luckily, cleaning is very easy with this bag, as you can just use water and a diluted mild detergent on a cloth to wipe down any soiled areas of your bag as needed. After, you can just lay the bag down onto a dry towel to dry. It’s not recommended to put your bag into a washing machine or dryer and it might even void the warranty, so just wipe it done and you’re fine!
After our 5-senses test, we’re ready to answer our final (and perhaps most important) question in our Standard Luggage Carry On Backpack Review:
6. Does this product make us happy?
Over the last years, I’ve seen Standard Luggage grow from a Kickstarter project to a serious luggage company with an amazing product range. They are clearly evolving all the time, testing new materials, improving details and making their products more user-friendly.
Their Carry On Bag is their flagship product and with good reason: it’s super practical for pretty much all type of travellers, has good value for money and is of good quality. I personally use the carry on backpack for I’d say 90% of my trips, especially those that are done via short-haul flights where I want to travel with just one bag. And Standard’s backpack is just perfect for that.
What I must say, is that seen over the three versions that I currently have a home, some things massively improved (such as the padding on the back and shoulder straps, the lesser amount of pockets inside the bag, the addition of the water bottle pocket and the hip belt), but there are also some things that I feel have become less useful (the trolley-handle slot on the back and the quality of the coloured zipper tags) or haven’t improved yet (the size of the straps inside the main compartiment and the connection of the laptop sleeve to the backpack).
I do feel that the things that improved very much outweigh the things that can still become better, so even though there are a few little things that I’d like to see perfected a bit more, overall I am very content with this product.
It seems to me that Standard Luggage as a company never stops learning and improving their production methods, so I can only foresee more improvements in the future! For now, I am very pleased with this carry on backpack and I will be using it for many more trips to come, I hope you find the same!
Carry-On Backpack > USD $199
Packing Cube Set > USD $59
Backpack Packing Cube > USD $39
Travel Wallet / Passport Holder > USD $39
Daily Laptop Backpack > USD $119
Disclaimer: We worked in partnership with Standard Luggage to do this review. All photos, videos and opinions are 100% our own.
Click for the meaning of our product review ratings in this Standard Luggage carry on backpack review!
Interested in more amazing travel gear? Make sure to check our other product reviews!
Curious how I use this carry on backpack by Standard Luggage to pack my weekend bag? Make sure to read our Marie Kondo-style packing guide:
See the unboxing of the Standard Luggage Co. Daily Backpack below:
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