I have to say up top – I am a huge fan of backpacks, sling bags, roller bags, basically anything that can be used for carry-on purposes. I think the reason I like them so much is trying to figure out the best possible way to get everything I need on the plane with me instead of having to check it in. For this reason, I am always on the hunt for my new, perfect bag.
Review of the Knack Bags Travel Backpack
Link: Knack Travel Bags (this is an affiliate link that will pay me a commission if you purchase one – thanks for the support!)
Why Knack Bags?
They contacted me a couple of months ago and asked if they could send me a bag to try out – no obligation. I get a lot of these requests and turn most down (either due to the company or the quality of the product). But, Knack Bags looked quite different and, among others, one of their creators was the former CMO and head of product at Tumi. As someone who always has loved Tumi bags, this caught my ear.
So, they sent me the bag to try and I love it! So, here is my review – please know that I am now an affiliate partner with them so I will earn a small commission should you buy.
The Most Important Things in a Travel Backpack
Now, this will be my list but here is what I look for in a successful travel backpack:
- Great, comfortable straps
- Thoughtful design of the pockets and space
- Weight Distribution
- Pocket(s) for fragile electronics/glasses
Maybe you have a couple of those on your list but those are on my top list because of years of travel! I am tired of “travel” backpacks that have no thought whatsoever about the space inside the backpack. I admire companies that are careful to design that space and the pockets for certain things that travelers always carry while still leaving room for flexibility with the functionality of the bag.
What Makes the Knack Bag Special
When I travel, I like to use a backpack to transport what I will need for that trip but love to be able to use it for when I am out and about as well. The problem is that too few bags can make that transition in a way that is positive to either use.
Knack has an expansion zipper (like roller bags) to let the clothing portion expand for the trip and then you can simply zip it up to go about your day in the new city and carry whatever you need!
Plus, when you look at the clothing area of the bag, you will see it has compression straps like many roller bags have to help keep your clothes strapped in tightly. Again, this is something that you would not normally see in a backpack so a great addition to set it apart.
What I Fit Into a Fully-Loaded Medium Knack Bag
Ok, you can tell the bag is definitely fully packed, but let me tell you what you are seeing in the contents photo so you can see for yourself!
- Suit (jacket and pants)
- Dress shoes (size 12)
- 2 button down shirts
- 2 polo shirts
- 2 pairs of chino pants
- 2 running outfits
- underclothes for 4 days
- Toiletry bag
- Chargers for iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro
- Travel Camera
- 13″ MacBook Pro
- Portable power pack
- Wireless ear buds
Yes, all of that fit in the backpack above! That is enough gear to last me for a 4-5 day trip and could even get me through a full week, depending on where I am headed.
How Does Knack Do With Quality and Build?
I have tried a number of backpacks and one of my favorites years ago had been made by Killspencer. The quality of the bag was excellent – but it failed, in my opinion, with the straps. The straps did not have cushioning and it just felt too harsh for long carries.
The Knack Bag has done an excellent job with both quality of the bag and straps. They are padded so quite comfortable to carry around everything you may carry with you. I used it on my recent trip from the US to Europe and it felt great, whether it was on one shoulder or two.
The zippers feel very secure and well-designed. I have only owned the bag for a couple of weeks now and, while I have been using it a lot, I cannot speak to long-term quality of the zippers. I do feel they are definitely better than most on backpacks I have tried so that is a big plus.
What About the Space and Design with Knack Bags?
Front of the Bag
Knack packs come in a few different sizes (you can read about that below) but they have similar layout for the interiors. On the front, you get a zippered area where you could carry valuables like earbuds, headphones, papers, documents, phones, etc. The zippers come up under a flap with the Knack logo so you won’t have someone accessing it easily without you knowing about it.
At the bottom of the bag, there is a power cord area. Yes! I love bags that can incorporate a way to keep power cords, cables, power bricks, etc separated from everything else. This has three loops that will hold your cables and plenty of room for bricks. I put my MacBook Pro charging brick in there, a wall charger for USB-C devices, and my various cables – no problem!
Next, there is a zippered pocket for a water bottle (and, yes, Knack sells bottles as well). This is a unique take on storing a bottle where most bags would have an outside pocket to keep these in. If you choose to store something else in this, it is long enough to keep many things that you may want easy access to while keeping them zippered away.
At the top of the bag, there is a small pocket that is designed with a microfiber on one interior pocket and a regular material for the other pocket. This is a great place to keep anything that could be easily scratched like your sunglasses or phone.
Finally for the front, you have zippers that open the front compartment. It has a deep area that can really keep a lot of stuff in. This is the spot where you have a slot for a tablet, a zippered pocket for some small things that you may want to keep separated and the general area to keep things like toiletry bags, etc.
Back Part of the Bag
Moving around the back portion, there is a laptop compartment at the very last zipper. This is a padded compartment that is positioned between your back and the clothing compartment. I felt it was completely safe, even with the total bag fully loaded, for my 13″ MacBook Pro.
In front of that, we have the clothes compartment. There is a zippered portion on the top part but if you are packing the bag out, you may not want to put much in there so as to prevent it from getting all bulky on your back.
The main compartment has plenty of space – expanded or not – for clothes and shoes. I have a size 12 shoe and had no problem fitting them in there. When you are finished, use the strap to keep everything pressed down and ready to zip up.
If you do need to expand it, the zipper has a hidden flap so it is not exposed (another nice touch for aesthetics). Simply zip it all the way around and you have your expansion! One of the things I always like to do with bags like this is to open it all the way, and after I have packed, see if I can sip it up again. It keeps everything compact and is slimmer for taking onboard.
Finally, you can actually unclip the back straps and slip them into a dedicated area (which doubles as a place to slip over your handle on a roller bag). This is great if you want to go from backpack to more compact bag you can carry around with the handle (also well built and cushioned).
Knack Sizes and Prices
Ok, now down to sizes and prices! There are three main sizes that you can see below with their prices:
- Small Expandable 13″ Laptop Backpack – $165
- Medium Expandable Laptop Backpack – $195
- Large Expandable Laptop Backpack – $235
So, which size do you choose? That depends on the answer to two questions – how many days worth of clothes do you want and what size laptop do you have? The small is great for daily use and gym stuff and can fit a 13″ laptop. The medium (the one I went with) can handle 2-3 days worth of clothes (but I showed that you could pack it even more!) and a 15″ laptop. Lastly, the large is for 3-4 days and can fit a 17″ laptop.
They also have some accessories that go with them like packing cubes. Or, you can take advantage of a sale going on now that has things like Factory Seconds available at great discounts!
They also have plenty of colors to choose from in the various sizes so you can definitely get your pick in the size and color you like (most likely – or at least close to your favorite color!).
I have tried a lot of travel backpacks and I think I have found my new favorite. The Knack backpack is perfect for my kind of travel while also being comfortable along the way. Not only that, but I can slim it down for those times I am flying an airline like Ryanair or pack it fuller when I need more gear with me.
The backpack I had been using was actually not for travel like this but did fit one area I will miss with this – my photography gear. I will try some inserts to safely hold a camera and a lens or two, but I should not have a problem with those in the main compartment.