Last updated: October 9th, 2023
TL;DR: After over 3 years of testing my Pakt One travel bag, I recommend it if you’re looking for a minimalist weekender bag. Here are the key takeaways from my Pakt One review:
- The Pakt One bag is well-designed with useful features like a clamshell opening, accessory loops, protected corners, and a TSA pouch that make it functional for travelers.
- It’s constructed from eco-friendly materials and though not fully waterproof, it’s held up well over the past few years.
- The duffel shape offers a roomy 35L capacity in a carry-on size, though the single shoulder strap may be too heavy and uncomfortable for longer trips due to uneven weight distribution.
- At $275, it’s costly yet delivers quality. Best for minimalist travelers who’ll use it often.
The first time I traveled abroad by myself, I took a ridiculously large rolling suitcase with me.
I was 21 and only studying abroad for a couple of months in Italy, but I’d packed the equivalent of my four-year college wardrobe into my suitcase.
Somehow it was already bursting at the seams upon arrival in Europe.
It took many years, various styles and sizes of travel packs and suitcases, and thousands of miles traveled to start embracing the carry-on only travel style.
I now rarely check a bag, no matter how long my trip is.
Most recently I went to Mexico for a month and a half with only a carry-on, and I even lived in Portugal for a summer with just my carry-on bag.
Even though I fully embrace the minimalist travel style these days, I can still remember with stark clarity that first summer in Europe.
Most notably, I remember lugging around my unnecessarily bulky suitcase throughout the continent.
I dreaded travel days when I would have to roll my suitcase on uneven cobblestones and wrestle it up four flights of stairs after arriving at another hotel that didn’t have an elevator.
This was before I knew anything about minimalist travel or how much more enjoyable the right pack or bag could make a trip.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips. I also received a complimentary bag from Pakt One to review, but all opinions are my own.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to try out the Pakt One bag as soon as I discovered it.
I’ve been traveling with my Osprey Fairview 40 as my go-to carry-on travel backpack for a few years now, but I’m always looking for a good duffel bag for shorter trips.
Up until now, the only duffel bag I’ve taken on my travels is my LL Bean duffel that is as practical as it is simple.
I received it as a gift from my parents when I was still in high school and it’s lasted all this time.
Unfortunately, the zipper on my LL Bean duffel recently broke and I was in the market for a new duffel bag.
That’s when I discovered Pakt One.
Their signature Pakt One travel bag is branded as having “the casual versatility of a duffel with the organization of a suitcase.”
Besides its spot-on marketing, it looked like the perfect duffel for my style of travel – organized, stylish, minimalist, and straight-forward.
After testing out the pack for a while and now using it as one of my regular travel bags, this is my full Pakt One review and my thoughts on whether it’s worth the price.
Weight (on its own): 3.25lb (1.5kg)
Dimensions: 20″ x 10″ x 11″ (50.8cm x 25.4cm x 27.9cm)
A Short Background on the Bag
The Pakt bag really took off after it showed up in the Netflix documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.
When the documentary was released, the bag (designed by Malcolm Fontier) hadn’t been in production for years.
But after the documentary came out, there was a lot of demand for the bag to come back.
So, Malcolm and the two guys behind the Minimalism documentary – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) – collaborated to bring the new and improved Pakt One minimalist bag to the market.
They raised over $1 million from crowdfunding on Indiegogo and the Pakt One bag was officially born in 2018.
It has since become the favorite travel bag for those in the minimalist travel community, and a solid carry-on duffel bag for a lot of people around the world.
PAKT ONE REVIEW
Organization & Design
My favorite aspect of the Pakt One is the attention to detail and its thoughtful design.
This minimalist duffel bag was designed by people who regularly travel and it shows in the design and user-friendliness of the bag.
Packs Like a Suitcase / Clamshell Opening
A unique feature to the Pakt One duffel is that it opens like a suitcase (e.g. it has a clamshell opening).
This allows the bag to lay flat as you organize and grab your things.
At the same time, you don’t have to fully open the bag to grab what you need quickly.
There are two other openings at the top of the duffel bag that give you easy access to separate compartments.
I like the fact that you can use the bag as both a suitcase and a duffel bag, it’s the best of both worlds (and it’s ideal for organizational purposes).
Although I don’t tend to use these myself on my travels, another well-thought-out feature is the accessory loops on the outside of the bag.
These allow you to attach whatever you want to the outside of the bag with a carabiner or external clip.
To be honest, I’m not sure how much I would like something banging against the bag as I walk.
But if the bag is packed to the brim, it’s a good way to securely carry bulkier or regularly used items like a water bottle or hand sanitizer on the exterior.
Protected Corners / Metal Feet
Another design feature that I appreciate about the bag is the protected canvas corners and metal feet on the bottom.
Not only does it add to the style of the bag (I love that canvas corner look on a weekend duffel bag), it also helps the bag last longer.
Since the bottom is where you’ll get the most wear with duffel bags, this is an easy way to protect that area a little better.
With that said, there’s nothing to protect the middle bottom of the bag as it’s only the corners that have metal feet, but it’s a nice added touch to the design.
Made with the Traveler in Mind
As I mentioned above, this bag was designed by people who regularly travel, and there are a few features that reflect that.
The first is the TSA pouch that can be found within the large outside pouch.
This is where you can easily organize your small electronics and passport and anything else you might need to whip out as you go through security at the airport.
Besides the TSA pouch, the bag as a whole is organized to make going through security as easy as possible.
Everything is accessible and easy to reach.
I especially love how accessible the laptop pouch is since getting my laptop out of a packed bag is a constant struggle when I go through security.
The bag is also fully carry-on friendly. It might be a tight fit for budget airlines if you pack the bag fully, but in general, 20″ x 10″ x 11″ is within the carry-on limit for major airlines.
Easy to Carry
Although I’ve found it’s not the most comfortable bag to carry for long distances (more about that below), it’s easy to pick up and throw around your shoulder in a hurry.
I appreciate where the bag’s strap is located.
It’s more to one side as opposed to in the middle, which makes it easier to carry.
The one-sided strap also makes the duffel lay more flat against your body as you walk, which is more comfortable than my previous duffel bag that always banged against my body.
Because I have small-ish shoulders, I prefer to carry the bag across my body as opposed to on one shoulder, but that’s more of a personal preference.
If you are on a longer trip and don’t want to hurt your back, try one of these wheeled backpacks.
With the very real and increasing impacts of climate change, I make it a point to seek out sustainable companies that create products with the planet in mind.
Pakt One does their part with being an environmentally-conscious company, which I appreciate.
They use all eco-friendly and vegan materials that have the lowest environmental impact possible.
They also use plastic-free packaging that’s designed by SeaHive (a company that helps reduce plastic pollution in the ocean through environmentally-friendly packaging).
As a bonus, the company has been vocal about providing fair working conditions for factory employees.
Something that seems like it should be a given, but is usually not – even (or especially) with high-end brands.
Stylish & Versatile
If you’re investing in high-end travel gear, you want something versatile enough to be used regularly.
The good thing about the Pakt One is that it’s as versatile as it is stylish.
It looks smart and gives you the appearance of a traveler who is put together.
I especially like that it doesn’t make you stand out as a tourist when you’re in a new place because the bag easily passes as a work tote or weekender bag.
Another nice feature is that the strap is removable, so if you don’t want that hanging down and you just want to use the small handles, that’s easily done.
There’s also no exterior branding, which is a nice change from every other travel backpack or tote I’ve owned in the past.
I’d argue the lack of branding is even a good deterrent for pickpockets because it doesn’t automatically stand out as a high-end bag without a name brand attached.
The most obvious con and hindrance to investing in a Pakt One bag is the price.
There’s no way around it, $275 is a lot for a travel duffel bag – even if it’s one of the best travel duffel bags in the market.
The way I usually think about cost when I’m considering investing in a more high-end product is – how long will it last and how much use will I get out of it?
If it’s a product that I plan to use for the majority of my travels (and even better, for everyday use), then it’s easier to justify spending a decent amount on one piece of minimalist travel gear.
I usually calculate how much the cost per use would be if I were to own it for x many years and use it x many days.
It’s a calculation that gives you a rough estimate, but it helps to show you whether it’s a product that’s worth investing in or not for your current lifestyle.
Uneven Weight Distribution
As expected with a duffel bag, the weight distribution is uneven and not always the most comfortable for long jaunts.
If you only fill the bag half full, it’s not that bad.
But if you plan to pack the Pakt One to its limits, the bag gets heavy fast.
If it was a backpack, the weight would obviously be more evenly spread out.
With a duffel bag, the weight is something you have to be more mindful about. The lighter you can pack, the better.
When I’ve worn the Pakt One on long travel days, it gets uncomfortable after a while because of the uneven weight distribution that comes with a duffel bag.
I still love the duffel bag style, but it’s worth thinking about what it might be like to travel with if this is your main bag.
On a side note, Pakt is in the process of making a backpack version of the Pakt One – so keep your eye out for that if you’re worried about the duffel bag design.
I tend to go for mostly waterproof travel gear because I never know when I’ll find myself in torrential rain during the wet season.
Unfortunately, the Pakt One isn’t waterproof.
The different colors are made with different materials, so if you’re looking for a more weather-proof option, the black Pakt One bag is the most durable.
The black duffel is made with a 420D nylon exterior, 150D polyester interior lining, and the zippers are all water-resistant YKK brand.
It’s still not fully waterproof if you get caught in a really strong downpour, but more resistant to water than the navy or grey options.
Probably Not Great For Longer Trips
As I mentioned above, due to the uneven weight distribution, the Pakt One wouldn’t be my choice for longterm travel.
If you’re doing a weekend trip or even up to two weeks on the road, the Pakt One works great.
If you plan to go on a longer trip, I’d probably recommend taking a backpack over the Pakt One duffel for comfort.
Again, if it’s packed lightly, it’s not too bad. But if you’re heading out on a longer trip, chances are you’ll be packing the bag to its limits.
A Few Design Aspects That Could Be Improved
The zippers feel sturdy enough, but they’re not super smooth when you zip and unzip the bag.
I usually have to use two hands to use the zipper, which is perhaps a good thing if someone is trying to get into your bag.
But for everyday use and quick access, it would be nice if the zipper was slightly more smooth and less sticky.
I’ve seen this from other reviews of the Pakt bags as well, but I noticed a few loose strings on my Pakt One bag as soon as I opened it.
Honestly, it’s not a huge deal for me.
But when you’re paying almost $300 for a bag, it’s nice to not see loose strings on the exterior of the bag as soon as you get it.
Back Pocket Magnet Could Be Stronger
The exterior back pouch with the single pocket has a magnet that keeps it closed. However, the magnet is pretty weak.
Because of this, I’d probably never keep valuables in that pocket for fear of them falling out or someone easily putting their hand into the pocket.
I feel like the magnet on this pocket should be stronger to keep items more secure, or it should just be another zippered pocket.
Color of the Metal Clip Could Be Better
Okay, this is just me being a bit particular, but I wasn’t a big fan of the brass color of the shoulder strap clip.
For some reason, even though the clip feels sturdy, the color makes the clip look less high quality than the rest of the bag.
Perhaps it’s the brass color.
In this instance, I think the clip would’ve been nicer in black, silver, or navy to match the rest of the bag.
With that said, it’s only the navy bag that has the brass clips.
The black and grey bags use silver metal clips, which I think look nicer from an aesthetic perspective.
Why Does the Pakt One Cost So Much?
This is the question that is at the top of most people’s minds when they first see the price of the Pakt One.
How can a compact travel bag cost $275?
The short answer is the guys behind the Pakt One wanted to not only use high-quality materials but materials that are sustainably sourced and environmentally friendly.
And it’s not always cheap to do that.
They are also big on paying fair wages to all their employees and manufacturing partners for every step of the bag’s creation.
And lastly, this bag is complex. It’s made up of over 300 individual components and requires over 200 steps to assemble.
Basically, you get what you pay for.
And you’re also supporting environmentally-conscious sourcing, production, and fair trade.
It all comes down to whether or not these aspects are important to you when it comes to choosing the ultimate travel bag.
If they’re not, you can probably find a much cheaper bag on Amazon.
But if they are, I’d argue that the Pakt One is one of the best duffel bag options out there right now.
Is the Pakt One Animal-Friendly?
Yes. The Pakt One is a completely vegan travel bag.
Where Are the Bags Made?
The Pakt One bags are made in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
How to Choose the Right Color / Material
An interesting choice by the designers was to use different materials for each color – navy, grey, and black.
I think this partially has to do with the aesthetic look of the bag and what looks best with each color, but it’s something to note when you’re choosing a color.
You should think about which materials works best for your travel style, not just the color.
The black bag is the most durable of the three, with water-resistant YKK zippers and 420D nylon dobby technical exterior fabric.
If you’re more of an adventurous traveler who needs a bag to withstand a lot of different climates and a more rugged travel style, the black bag is the best option.
On the other hand, the navy and grey bags both have a coated polyester canvas exteriors, so not quite as heavy duty.
The only difference between the grey and navy bags is the color and the fact that the navy bag uses brass hardware instead of silver.
Where Can You Buy the Pakt One?
The only place to officially buy Pakt One bags is on their website. You can view their full collection and upcoming products here.
Who is the Pakt One For?
The Pakt One bag is for anyone who is looking for a good carry-on travel bag that is both stylish and practical.
If you’re into minimalist travel, this is an ideal go-to carry-on for the weekend and shorter trips.
The designers have made it clear that if it’s not a bag you need right now, there’s no reason for you to purchase it.
They only make bags at the rate of demand and they don’t want people buying them just for the sake of having something new.
So, this bag is for anyone who will use it regularly and who needs a quality duffel bag for overnight trips and other upcoming travels.
Overall Thoughts on the Pakt One
I’ve enjoyed testing out the Pakt One this past month, it has quickly become my go-to overnight bag when I’m visiting friends in the city.
And although there are a few small aspects I would change about the design of the bag, overall it’s one of the better travel bags I’ve owned throughout my 10 years of regular travel.
If you’re someone who appreciates organized and minimalist travel, then I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best carry-on duffel bags out there for the minimalist traveler.
Have you heard of the Pakt One duffel bag? Are you a fan of minimalist travel and carry-on only?
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