I love bags. I have bags for almost every scenario in my life. I get this trait from my Dad as we both consistently out bag each other. Tennis bag, cycling bag, weekend duffle, 3l camera sling, 6l camera sling, leather sling etc…
You know what else I do? Meticulously research almost every product I buy that I know I’m going to be using for years. After hours of research, spreadsheets and many cups of coffee, I end up getting a great product that I don’t feel the need to change.
My most recent bag purchase was the Peak Design Everyday Zip 20L I picked up in mid-2020. I’d been a fan of the Peak Design brand and had been envious of those that had the ever popular “MagLatch” system you see a lot of tech and camera folks using. When the 20L came zip came out I thought it was the perfect hybrid camera and EDC bag, especially when paired with great materials, thoughtful modular design and many magnets. I also loved the system that incorporates their Tech Pouch and Wash Pouch, which are both incredible products.
But what I found over time with this setup was that the Tech Pouch and Wash Pouch took up two thirds of the bag when travelling which only left me with a small amount of space for other things. And as a camera bag it was compromised too, with my gear never feeling secure. I tried a few different ways of packing the bag but was never quite satisfied. I often ended up going back to my non-techy 7-yr old TigerNu Aliexpress backpack that has lasted better than I ever expected.
So for the past few years I’ve flirted with different backpack systems but have never really made the plunge for something else. Honestly, most of the time I need a backpack for work, I use my camera-specific Lowerpro Fastpack II with a tried and tested system. It’s not sexy, but it works.
Then a few weeks ago I agreed to go on a long-weekend trip to Lisbon with my friends and upon booking the flight I realised EasyScam charged you £80 extra for a roller case, I was advised to go backpack only. The thought of not paying the orange airline charlatans £80 and instead spending £200 on a new backpack filled my heart with joy. So my search commenced.
I’d love to say 5 hours of bag research starting at 11pm was fuelled by beer, but sadly it was my own excitement. Recently I’d seen Stammy (Paul Stamatiou) start his own bag search and outsourced recommendations to Twitter. Now Stammy is one of those people who, like a lot of us, spends hours researching important products and will pick the best option. So I knew following along with this thread would give me a strong contender.
Paul went with the Aer City Pack 14L, which is quite a slim but nicely designed pack that would work perfectly for EDC.
At this point I’ll say I wasn’t too sure what my requirements were for a new bag, I just knew I wasn’t excited about the prospect of doing a one-bag travel with my PD alternative.
I turned to YouTube for some inspiration and to narrow down the search. As a bag nerd and someone who loves niches, one of my favourite channels is Chase Reeves’ (of Fizzle fame) who has the most glorious obsession with bags. (I love those channels that go so deep on one topics, they become a subject matter expert and you will search almost any product in that niche and trust their opinion on that product.) So I watched a few of his videos on “best everyday bags”, “best one bag travel bags” etc. I then dabbled in a few other of my favourite channels, including Pack Hacker, Rushfaster and Josh Fenn.
There were a few other brands that popped up, such as Able Carry, Bellroy, Tomtoc, Pakt, Tom Bihn, GoRuck, Trakke. Many of the contenders that popped up often on Stammy’s post. This initial research helped me decide what I wanted from a “do it all” backpack, and it involved making yet more purchases (oh no…).
Narrowing it down
My newly formed requirements:
- Clamshell main opening for main and large items
- Small top compartment for airpods, keys, etc
- Separate laptop compartment
- Nice front pocket
- Fit EasyScam’s size specs (45cm x 36cm x 20cm)
- I must like it
Additionally I needed to:
- Reduce the footprint my tech and wash pouch*
- Get packing cubes
*we’ll get onto this later
I then sort of rewatched a bunch of the videos previously with my new requirements and a brand started to stand out for me. Aer. I’d been interested in Aer bags a few years ago but went down the Peak Design route, and given it was Stammy’s choice I decided to narrow my search to this brand. Trouble is, they have so many bloody options.
The Aer options
Naturally, I made a spreadsheet and started to figure out what was included in Aer’s bag selection. Initially, the Aer Pro Pack 20L looked to be the best option for me. It was simple, nicely priced and fit all my requirements. And it was a nice size so would be a good everyday bag too. Then I came across the Aer City Pack Pro 24L and just had a few extra features I appreciated. I liked the design a little more, it had an extra pocket at the front and a small side pocket instead of two water bottle pockets, so I could put my film camera in there.
I was decided, this was the bag for me. I then spent the next hour specifically watching videos on this bag to solidify my decision. Found a stockist in London and planned to pick it up the following day.
The tech pouch challenge
The final challenge was to reduce the footprint of my PD Tech Pouch and Wash Pouch. Peak Design actually released a small version of their Wash Pouch that I picked up a few months ago. I’ve used it on a few trips and I quite like it.
Reducing the size of the Tech Pouch was a little more tricky. If you haven’t seen the Peak Design offering. It’s awesome. It’s this beautifully designed origami style pouch to fit all of your cables and small tech goodies (how I filled it 3 years ago). But after using it for a few years, I realised I just don’t need to fill all that space. I’d experimented with a £10 Amazon option to fit in a couple of cables, a dongle and a portable charger but it just felt cheap (shock).
My luck would have it that my new found favourite brand, Aer, had a sizeable selection of pouches for my tech nicknacks. A little too sizeable, in fact. They had 6 different options, all seemingly very similar. I whipped up another spreadsheet and got searching.
I settled on two options, one of which I could potentially use as my wash pouch in future. The Aer Split Kit (£35) and the Aer Slim Pouch (£39). I decided to wait until I got to the store in London so I could compare the two and make my decision. (Spoiler, I bought both.)
So, the next day, very proud of myself after finally deciding on a few bag, I trotted along to London to what I found out was the only stockist of Aer bags in Europe, London Undercover (an umbrella shop, obviously). I was met by a very helpful chap who showed me the Aer range. I was pleasantly surprised for a small shop they had literally the entire line in stock.
I walked out with a beaming smile and a new backpack. I will report back after my Lisbon trip.