If you follow The Savvy Backpacker, you know I’m a travel backpack dork so I was excited when Aer recently released the latest iteration of their popular AER Travel Pack. So how does the new Aer Travel Pack 3 compare to the older Aer Travel Packs I’ve reviewed in the past (read my Aer Travel Pack 2 Review and Aer Travel Pack Review) and is the new Aer Travel Pack 3 still one of the best travel backpacks on the market? Let’s find out!
In this Aer Travel Pack 3 review, I’ll cover everything you need to know to help you decide if this is the right travel backpack for your trip.
How I Tested The Aer Travel Pack 3
I believe the best way to test a travel backpack is to actually use it while traveling since you can see how it performs in a real-world environment.
So to review the Aer Travel Pack 3 I hit the road for a two-week trip through Italy—mainly Rome and Naples where I took trains, used public transportation, and stayed in hotels and Airbnbs. For this trip, I also used my Aer backpack as my only piece of luggage so I have a good idea of how this backpack performs when fully packed out.
For reference, I’ve also continued using my Aer Travel Pack 3 on a few shorter domestic trips since this is such a versatile backpack.
Overview Of The Aer Travel Pack 3
Aer is well-known in the luggage community for making well-designed, high-quality backpacks that have a modern design aesthetic—in fact, the Aer Travel Pack 3 is sold at the NYC’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Design Store so it has some designer street cred.
The Aer Travel Pack caters to travelers who want a premium quality carry-on size backpack that is functional and has a sleek, urban vibe.
And the Aer Travel Pack 3 delivers. It’s comfortable, has a ton of smart organization, and the build quality is some of the best I’ve seen. In fact, Aer offers a lifetime warranty on their bags so they obviously believe in their products.
Aer Travel Pack 3 vs. Aer Travel Pack 2
On the surface, the Aer Travel Pack 3 and Travel Pack 2 look very similar but they’re quite different once you dive into the details.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 features multiple design and functionality improvements that make this bag much better than the older Aer Travel Pack 2 (which was already a well-regarded backpack). The most notable improvements are the updated harness system with load lifters (which was my main complaint on the v2), a slight overall size increase, and a few upgraded materials.
The TP3 ditches the old built-in shoe compartment (which I’m glad to see go), and it features new beefed-up hardware, added zipper pulls, a few pocket adjustments, and better cinch-down straps.
Aer Travel Pack 3 Specs
Here are the specs of the Travel Pack 3 (via the Aer website)
Size and Weight
- Volume: 35 L
- Weight: 4.12 lbs
- Length: 21.5″ (54.5 cm)
- Width: 13″ (33 cm)
- Depth: 9″ (21.5 cm)
- $279 (X-Pac sailcloth exterior version)
- 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon exterior
- YKK® zippers
- Duraflex® plastic hardware
- Padded, suspended laptop pocket (up to 16″ laptop)
- Lay-flat main compartment
- Compression straps with magnetic fasteners
- Quick-access top and side pockets
- Load lifters for support and comfort
- Handles on all sides for versatile carrying
- Expandable water bottle pocket
- Hidden smart tracker pocket
- Internal framesheet for structure & support
- Luggage handle pass-through
- Lockable zippers for additional security
My Hands-On Aer Travel Pack 3 Review
I’ve come to really appreciate the Aer Travel Pack 3 after putting it through its paces while traveling through Italy.
Is it perfect? No. But it’s certainly one of the best travel backpacks I’ve personally tried.
So let’s take an in-depth look into all the details and features of the Travel Pack 3 to see what makes this bag excellent and where it comes up short.
Looks and Aesthetics
The first thing you notice when looking at the Aer Travel Pack 3 is its minimalist, streamlined, and utilitarian aesthetics. It has a sleek, urban techy vibe. The fabric is heavy-duty and all the hardware feels sturdy.
I’m a fan of the look Aer Travel Pack 3 because it feels more refined and modern than other travel backpacks. The bag has a more elevated vibe so don’t feel like a typical twentysomething “backpacker” when I’m wearing it. I also appreciate the backpack’s subtle branding—there is a small “Aer” logo on the side of the bag and a tiny one on the shoulder strap.
I prefer the black color option but it also comes in Grey and Olive—personally, I’m not a fan of the gray color but the Olive is interesting. But, I’d always choose black.
The Aer Travel Pack also comes in a slightly more expensive black X-Pac sailcloth exterior that’s more water-resistant and lighter. The X-Pac sailcloth material has a bit of a sheen (I prefer the look of the regular version) but the extra water resistance of the X-Pac sailcloth is certainly nice.
Materials, Hardware, and Zippers
Like all Aer bags, the Travel Pack 3 is a premium product so the materials and finishings used to construct this backpack are high quality—this is also reflected in the $250 price tag. The backpack’s exterior is made from heavy-duty 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon, the zippers are all YKK®, and the buckles, fasteners, and other plastic pieces are made from durable Duraflex plastic. The padding on the shoulder straps and pull handles are thick for added comfort.
The entire bag weights in at 4.12 lbs so it’s not the lightest bag I’ve tested (for reference, the Travel Pack 3 is 35L and the 42L Cotopaxi Allpa weights roughly the same) but that’s one of the tradeoffs when using sturdy materials.
In short, you can tell they didn’t cheap out on the more minor details on the Travel Pack 3 so this is a sturdy backpack that will withstand plenty of abuse (and it’s all backed up with a lifetime warranty).
Harness System and Comfort
The harness system (i.e. shoulder straps) of the Aer Travel Pack 3 is a huge improvement from the previous generation Travel Pack 2—in fact, the old bag’s harness system was a big disappointment for such an otherwise well-designed and premium product.
Looking at the photos above, you’ll see how the Travel Pack 3 now uses a hiking-style harness that curves to fit your shoulders. This helps keep the weight of the backpack square against your back and up on your shoulders so the weight of the bag doesn’t pull away from your body (which causes added stress to your body. The Travel Pack 3 also has load lifter straps that help the steps confirm to your shoulders so it keeps the bag close to your back.
The shoulder straps are well-padded with about a quarter inch of high-density foam which helps disperse the weight of the load over your shoulders. There is also a good amount of mesh padding lining the back that adds more comfort while wearing.
The Travel Pack 3 also features an internal plastic framesheet that runs along the back of the bag for added structure & support.
NOTE: Aer sells a detachable hipbelt for $20 that can be added to the Travel Pack 3. I haven’t tried it but I assume it would make the bag even more comfortable—especially if using the bag for extended periods of time since a hipbelt distributes the bag’s weight from the shoulders to the hips.
Is The Aer Travel Pack 3 Comfortable?
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is a comfortable backpack but any bag will become less and less comfortable as you add weight—the Travel Pack 3 is no exception. That said, the bag’s hiking-style harness system makes it a great option for point-to-point city travel.
External Design Features
The Aer Travel Pack 3 features multiple smart design features that I truly appreciated after putting some miles on this bag.
The bag has three well-padded grab handles (top and both sides) which are great when you’re grabbing your bag from overhead bins, carrying your bag through train aisles, and other times when you need to carry the bag but you don’t want to throw it over your shoulder. The fact this bag has three grab handles is amazing since most bags only have one or two. The bag also has an unpadded strap on the bottom of the bag.
The bag has multiple types of zippers—all of which are high-quality YKK zippers.
The zipper on the laptop compartment has a weather-resistant coating so that will help keep your laptop safe if you get stuck in a rainstorm.
The other zippers on this bag aren’t weather-proofed but they’re still robust and the action on the zipping/unzipping is smooth.
The main zippers have lockable loops that can be secured with a small luggage lock. The zippers also have nice pulls to help make it easier to use the zippers. The previous version of the Travel Pack had zipper-pulls that made a lot of noise but this version has fixed that issue.
One tiny complaint is that the zippers of the main compartment and the front flap look so similar that it’s easy to confuse the two. I wish Aer put different colored zipper pulls to help quickly distinguish the two zippers.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 has redesigned magnetic buckles on the bag’s four cinch straps. These magnetic buckles are pretty genius because you can buckle/unbuckle them instantly, but the magnets are strong enough to keep the straps securely closed.
The cinch straps have also been moved in this latest version so they don’t obstruct the zippers—unlike the previous version where you have to unbuckle the straps to unzip the bag (it was very annoying).
Internal Pockets and Organization
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is loaded with internal pockets and organizational compartments to help keep all your stuff secure and easily accessible. In fact, it might take you a minute to remember where you put your stuff since there are so many places to stash your gear.
Let’s start with the front panel pocket which is full of multiple compartments and dividers. There’s a deep pocket in the back for documents, a zippered pocket for smaller valuables like your passport, and multiple elastic compartments for electronics accessories, pens, and other small knickknacks.
There’s also a good amount of room in this front panel so there’s space for a light jacket, etc.
On the very front of the bag, there’s a small pocket that has a weather-resistant zipper. It’s not a very deep pocket so I use this mainly for thin objects like paper documents, backup phone cables, snacks, etc. This pocket does have an internal key clip so you won’t lose your keys.
There is a super handy quick-access pocket at the top of the bag that I ended up using all the time while traveling with this backpack. The pocket is also lined with a soft and fuzzy fabric so it won’t scratch up your phone or glasses.
The pocket is large enough to hold a wallet, sunglasses case, passport, and phone (or other small items you need to easily grab while on the go).
The laptop compartment, which is protected with a water-resistant zipper, is located on the back of the backpack and it is comprised of a few different pockets.
The padded laptop sleeve can easily hold my 16″ Macbook Pro and the sleeve has a false bottom so your laptop is protected from hitting the ground.
There’s another large sleeve that can hold flat items like papers/folders, etc.
The compartment also contains a small hidden zippered pocket that offers an extra layer of security for your valuables (passport, phone, wallet, etc.).
On one side of the bag, you’ll find a small zippered pocket that can hold something like a passport and the other side features an expandable water bottle pocket. I don’t typically carry a water bottle so I haven’t tested this pocket but it looks to hold a standard disposable water bottle (not sure it can hold a large Nalgene-style bottle). Alternatively, you could put a small travel umbrella into that water bottle pocket.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 has a lay-flat, clamshell-style opening, and features a single large cavernous compartment that zips completely open—which makes packing quick and easy. As you can see, it’s super minimal so I highly recommend using packing cubes to keep all your stuff organized.
There’s a small zipper pocket in the sidewall of the main compartment and then another small mesh pocket on the flap—so most of the organization is found on the outer front flap that I covered earlier in this article.
Aer rates their Travel Pack 3 as a 35L backpack so this bag can fit a solid amount of stuff but you still need to be selective in how much you pack. In my opinion, this back is geared towards people who want to travel relatively light.
If you’re a heavy packer, I recommend a 40L+ backpack or you could pair the Travel Pack 3 with a smaller suitcase.
Final Thoughts On The Aer Travel Pack 3
So is the Aer Travel Pack 3 a good travel backpack?
Yes. I honestly like this backpack and I found that it suited my travel style very well. I wouldn’t call myself an ultralight traveler but I certainly travel lighter than most. Through smart packing, I was able to fit enough stuff in my bag for about 7 days (including an extra pair of sneakers that I probably didn’t need) so had to do a wash about halfway through my two-week trip.
However, if you can’t pack reasonably light then this Aer backpack probably isn’t right for you since its 35L size is a bit smaller than similar travel backpacks. Check out my guide to the Best Travel Backpacks for my other top picks.
I love the minimalist styling of the Aer Travel Pack 3 since so many other travel backpacks have a “hiking” style that I don’t love.
I found the back to be comfortable so I had no problems hauling it around for extended amounts of time. I also thought the bag’s organization was smartly designed so I was able to access whatever I needed without much hassle.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is also extremely durable and well-made so I have no doubt in its ability to withstand being thrown around.
But the quality of the Aer Travel Pack 3 comes at a price—it’s $249 for the standard version and $279 for the water-resistant X-Pac version.
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Thanks For Reading! — James