Aer Travel Pack 3 (X-Pac)
It has finally arrived! In March of 2022, Aer released a number of new and updated gear in their lineup. I currently use the Auer Travel Pack 2 (X-Pac) and the Aer Day Sling 2 (X-Pac), but when I heard that there was going to be a 3rd release, I had to get my hands on it. I found out about this lineup in the Pack hacker Pro community where I am currently a member and frequent contributor. Pack Hacker Pro members had the unique opportunity to get insights about the new gear as well as ask question to Allen Choi, one of the founders of Aer. If you aren’t a member and you are looking for a good community to join about travel, I would highly recommend checking them out.
The Aer Travel Pack 3 is an update to Aer’s popular backpack lineup and includes 3 different models, the Aer Travel Pack 3 (35L), the Aer Travel Pack 3 Small (28L), and the Aer Flight Pack 3 (20L). All 3 of these backpacks come with either a 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon (in Black and Gray) or X-Pac™ (Black) exterior. I personally always go with the X-Pac material since it is lightweight, durable and waterproof though you will find the ballistic nylon to be a all of these as well. The newer TP3 comes in 35L which is 2 liters more than the TP2. Even if you are from America, you know how much space 2 liters is a considerable amount of extra space while still making it a good choice for a carryon backpack for air travel.
So lets start with the exterior. I am VERY pleased that Aer continued with the X-Pac line as an option as I personally really enjoy it. X-Pac is a “sailcloth” type of material. As such, it is water proof, resistant to abrasion, puncture, cuts, and lightweight. I can personally vouch for this type of material as I have traveled all over the US and Europe with just a single backpack and to this day, it still holds up with almost no noticeable signs of compromise to the outside. This just speaks for the high build quality behind Aer’s products. The inside of the X-Pac version of the backpack uses an orange “high-vis” lining that helps you quickly identify objects in your pack due to the contrasting colors. The interior of the new TP3 has a different texture pattern which I think will help with stopping rips and add to the durability of the lining material itself. One other material change to note is than main handle (on top of the backpack) is no longer made from the X-Pac material and seems to be more low profile. As far as handles go, TP3 includes carry handles on BOTH sides. The TP3 continues on with the use of the YKK® AquaGuard® zippers and this time I have noticed a lot more intentional waterproofing. More on the zippers later as I cover each compartment individually.
The TP3 has a massive overhaul with the harness system starting with the load lifters. These are designed to help keep the backpack closer to your body on the top end and prevent that top mass from swaying which can cause exhaustion over time and wear the user down. One thing I did notice was the D-ring switching sides. It might not be a big deal for most but since I have my GoPro clipped onto my backpack strap (right side) for POV videography, it means now the new D-ring placement will either get in the way sometimes or I might have to just switch sides entirely.
The straps themselves have changed to a new nylon material and I am not sure entirely how I feel about them. Before, they were a smooth seatbelt like material and the new nylon material is more textured. I assume this is probably to increase in friction and prevent straps from slipping but this was never a problem I ever encountered before when traveling, and I traveled with a full load. My biggest fear is that the straps will wear faster over time since I do tighten them and loosen them every time I remove and put on the backpack. My TP2 has already started to show this type of wear (though slightly) and I am afraid that this type of wear will be more pronounced now. It also does not feel as nice and high quality, but these are just my observations.
Aer has moved away from buckles and started replacing them with new Fidlock fasteners. I do NOT like these new magnetic fasteners. These fasteners replace the sternum strap clip as well as the 4 buckle clips on the side of the backpack. They feel nice and do look a lot more modern however I feel like they are not as secure and are really just an unnecessary change in the lineup. I know I personally like to hand s-biner clips around my backpack straps on the side but with the new Fidlock system, I fear that the clips might come undone and my s-biner clips will just fall off. This is probably the first feature that I dislike entirely on the new backpack.
Like the TP2, is an option to buy a hip bely and I highly recommend it, especially if you carry a heavy load. Its the same hip belt from the TP2 so if you already have one, there is no need to buy another one unless you just want to have 2. Shoulder straps are thicker, wider, contain more padding which probably aid better in cooling. The strap in middle of the backpack padding is also made with the new strap material which makes me start to question the change even more. Not sure why they went away from the smoother seatbelt like material. Another small change is that the padding flares inward towards the bottom which I assume again helps with airflow.
The water bottle compartment on the TP3 is larger than the TP3 (though slightly) and is swapped from the right side to the left side. To be honest, I actually don’t like this change either since I loosen my backpack on the right shoulder and swing it around to the left to easily get access to the water bottle if I am traveling but its more of a slight personal inconvenience than a crippling design flaw. With a larger water bottle slot, I probably need to get a new bottle but that is fine and I actually enjoy the fact that I can probably carry just a little bit more water with me. The zipper is YKK® short pull with an interesting new rubber pull tab. I guess this is to slightly reduce the noise although I can say I am not a big fan of the new pull tab. To me, it doesn’t feel as durable and I will probably be swapping it out for some of the standard pull tabs on my older gear. I know there are probably a lot of people who don’t use that pouch but I certainly do and I never leave home without a full bottle of water. Remember to stay hydrated.
There are a lot of compartments on the new TP3, and I mean A LOT more. I enjoy having options so I am not complaining about this but because I pack a full backpack, there is a good chance I wont use them all for the sake of space.
The front compartment is relatively the same sitting on the outer lower half. The compartment uses a YKK® AquaGuard® short pull zipper. While the TP2 used a long pull, the pull tab on the zipper still makes it easy to have a good grip when zipping and unzipping. This compartment includes the hi-vis orange lining and is just a standard pouch for easy access to items. Like the TP2, it has a moisture guard to protect from water getting into the opening where the zipper meets the end. There is nothing much to this compartment.
There is a new “secret” compartment included in the TP3 which I like and will probably use for storing smaller items that I might need more rapid access to and don’t want to be bothered with opening one of the larger compartments especially if my backpack is completely full. This compartment uses a YKK® short pull zipper with the same rubber pull tab that the water bottle compartment uses (I do not like these rubber pull tabs). The zipper itself is not waterproof so that means be careful what you decide to put into this compartment. Inside it also has the same high-vis orange lining.
The tech compartment on the TP3 has some very much welcome changed that I am very excited about. First off, the YKK® AquaGuard® short pull zipper with pull tabs allows for easy grip like the long pull tabs on the TP2. The new TP3 zippers, however, go just a bit farther down, far enough that you are able to access the bottom pockets of the compartment much easier. I like this since this is where I put my cable bags and I will be able to access them just a little bit easier. The pockets also are just slightly higher in the TP3 than the TP2. The mesh pouch is thinner and much more flexible. The zipper on the top inside compartment is a YKK® short rubber pull tab which lock into place instead of dangling down. The interior is the same high-vis orange lining. There is only one pen pouch in the TP3 compared to the two that were in the TP2 which I am not a fan of because I like to travel with as many pens as I can. The sizes of the top pouches have also changed as I used to be able to fit my kindle on the left side and now I have to move it to the right side (swapping it with my power bank). This has to do with the stitching placement on the TP3 and how it is farther away from the edge. This is all a slight inconvenience but I assume it adds to the added durability of the backpack which is the ultimate tradeoff here. Overall this compartment hasn’t changed too drastically but its the little changes that made the biggest difference here. The changes produced an overall better outcome for this compartment.
The main compartment I feel has one of the biggest overhauls in the TP3. The compartment is following the same overall trend with the TP3 using YKK® AquaGuard® short pull zipper with the long pull tabs. The zipper placement itself has changed completely and in my opinion for the better. Its up closer to the front face of the backpack and just outside of the Fidlock clips meaning you do not need to unfasten the clips to get into the main compartment. I dreaded having to get into my main compartment every time my backpack was fully packed because that meant unbuckling all 4 of the side buckles. Now its easy and very convenient to access this compartment. The main compartment itself is much larger and holds it shape a lot better which is a plus for placing my packing cubes inside but a negative when you are trying to make the backpack slimmer. the inside lining is that same orange high-vis material. The mesh pouch towards the top uses a YKK® short pull zipper with a nylon string pull tab. The mesh is made out of the same thin flexible material as the tech compartment. The mesh pouch itself is actually smaller which is NOT good for me since I used to put things like toothbrush, razor, clippers, and hair brush in here vertically. The bottom zipper pouch has been relocated entirely and it is relatively hidden on the outside flap. The YKK® short pull zipper with the nylon string pull tab is located on the upper right side of the compartment flap and offer ample more space for extra storage. Overall, the main compartment is much larger, has a greater depth, and offers more room to pack things for travels making it easier to decide what to bring.
The shoe compartment has been completely removed on the TP3 and to be honest I am not sure it will make a huge difference to me. I only kept a pair of flip flops in here for showering and going to the beach so having a dedicated shoe compartment (while not a necessity) I feel wasn’t really something that needed to change. After all, if you don’t use it, it doesn’t really get in the way. I guess its removal just keeps costs down slightly.
The pocket compartment on the top of the backpack utilizes the YKK® AquaGuard® rubber pull zipper which I find interesting and I will explain why. The rubber pull snaps into place making it low profile, the pull tab is small and short which means its less pronounced however more difficult to grip. Additionally a new zipper moisture cover has been added at the end of the zipper to improve waterproofing of the compartment. These are not the only interesting changes as when you open the zipper compartment you will notice a soft black lining instead of the high-viz orange lining. Now overall I think these changes are welcome since the compartment is so small I almost never use this and when I do its not like I can fit a whole lot into it or even see what’s inside. I usually end up relying on feel or just pulling everything out. I will probably continue to use this compartment for things like locks and cables since I almost never use them.
The laptop compartment also has a few changes starting with the zipper itself. Aer decided to go with the YKK® AquaGuard® short pull zipper but with a long pull tab so again no noticeable difference in zipper grip. The zipper itself is shorter however, with the TP2 sipper coming down most of the way on one side, both sides are limited to only opening partially. I prefer to have easier access to my laptop compartment but I don’t think this change will have any major impact. Inside is the same high-vis orange lining although you will notice the back panel has a black (thick) fabric which I assume is to help further protect the laptop for any type of damage although I felt that the TP2 was sufficient enough, I guess this is still a welcome change. The material is black however so its not high-vis however the only things I think anyone will be carrying in this pouch are laptops and they aren’t too hard to find. The sleeve against the back panel has a false bottom like the TP2 with the main sleeve extending to the bottom of the backpack. I will admit that I use the main sleeve for my extra monitor when I travel and it would be nice to see some type of padded bottom for this in the future to protect against items that use this area. Inside the laptop compartment is another “secret compartment that uses a YKK® short pull zipper but with a nylon string pull tab. This seems to be suitable for maybe some hard drives, USB drives or SD cards. The inside is also the same high-vis lining as well.
For those who are deciding on purchasing the new Aer Travel Pack 3, I can that that this is an easy recommendation. However, when you consider those whoa re wanting to upgrade from the Aer Travel Pack 2 or who who are looking between the TP2 or TP3, I am a little torn on recommending the new upgrade. I feel that the upgrade is entirely circumstantial and depends on a number of factors. Some of the things that have held me back from wanting to make the switch have been small material changes but the positive changes I feel like outshine the negatives and in that case I think the upgrade is worth it….kind of. If you are in the position to upgrade I say go for it but if you don’t have the extra money lying around, the TP2 is going to still be worth it.
I look forward to being able to travel with the new Aer Travel Pack 3 and hope to show you guys some of the awesome adventures that I will be on with it in the future!
A quick recap on some of the pros and cons
- Larger capacity (35L)
- Load lifter on the harness
- Better support and padding on the harness
- Larger main compartment
- additional secret outside compartment
- carry straps on both sides
- moisture hood on the top zipper pouch
- tech compartment zipper goes down a little further
- Tech compartment bottom pouches are slightly higher
- Fidlock clips (sternum strap and side clips)
- New nylon strapping (might change my mind in the future)
- Missing shoe pouch (not a big negative but I feel like it wasn’t a nuisance before, I enjoy having the option)
- Tech compartment stitching makes the pouches smaller
- 1 pen pouch vs 2 in the tech compartment
- New nylon zipper pull tabs in a few places on the outside (I’m going to replace these myself though with the normal pull tabs)
- Top pouch does not have the orange high-viz lining
- Laptop compartment zipper does not extend as far on one side as the TP2