Note: Tom Bihn provided this bag at no cost for review.
This bag arrived to me during yet another COVID-19 spike, and thus a no-travel for me. I don’t expect to be able to use this bag for real travel any time soon, so I’ll give you the lay of the land the best that I can.
This is Tom Bihn’s new Techonaut 30 (there’s a 45 version too), which is a modified version of the classic Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30. The Techonaut is a travel backpack first and foremost, and gadget hauler secondary.
In other words: what if the Aeronaut was made to be able to haul a laptop, and was backpack first — you have the Techonaut. It’s quite interesting. I like it and can’t wait to use it more.
This bag looks good, it’s not something that will wow you, but it’s a solid design and nothing to turn a nose up at. Within the bag, there’s some odd things going on, like the sectioned compartment at the bottom, which can be zipped in and out from the main compartment to get that space back (or not), and the three small pockets around the top of the bag.
These pockets and design decisions make no sense when you are playing around with the bag in your house, or pretending to pack it for travel — they make sense when you are actually traveling. There’s loads of times a small slim pocket like those three would have helped me a ton during travel — but only during travel, when you are rushing about and need to securely stash something for small periods of time these pockets prove invaluable.
Size 11 MACV-1s, barely fit.
Zipper stays out of the way inside the bag.
Releasing the zipper adds a lot of vertical space, while not giving you all the space of the she compartment.
Likewise the shoe compartment: sometimes you don’t care about your shoes getting smashed — but other times you very much do. That little zip-in/out divider solves that for you: use it or don’t, there’s basically no trade off for it existing. I like that it is there, even if I will almost always opt to leave it unzipped.
Roller bag handle passthrough.
I got my bag in the Night Walk color, and it’s fantastic — a nice steel blue color with a subtle grid pattern. The fabric itself is thin, floppy, and all around nice feeling — it’s smooth to the touch and light weight. I would not check this bag, but I don’t see any reason to worry about durability, my main concern with checking is more about the mesh back panel.
This bag maximizes for the ability to carry clothes well, get by with electronics, and easily “live” out of the bag when you arrive at your destination. Add to that the upgraded back panel and optional frame sheet (which I did not have at time of testing) and you have a pretty solid offering. There’s certainly a lot of smart design elements going on with this bag, from the locking zippers, comfortable grab handles and quick use pockets.
The Aeronaut has always been a compromised bag to carry as a backpack. It works, and it works fine as a backpack, but it’s not designed to be carried like that as the primary use and that shows. Every time I used the Aeronaut, I did so as a shoulder bag — and I’m a backpack guy.
The Techonaut carries well as a backpack. The new backpanel is very welcomed for comfort, as are the new shoulder straps. I think the frame sheet is needed, and since I didn’t have one to test I can only assume this to be true. As it is, the bag carries with some slouch to it — meaning it will pull downwards and away from your body if not fully packed out.
I packed this bag for a day outing which required an absurd amount of stuff for the family to be shoved into a bag. The Techonaut ended up weighing in at 27.6lbs and it wasn’t even stuffed — four iPads and three water bottles will do that to you. I felt it wasn’t overly comfortable to carry that weight as it was (I think the frame sheet would have made it better for sure). The bag was pulling backwards, and the weight felt uneven, while fine for short spurts — I wouldn’t have wanted to be wearing it all day packed like that.
A frame sheet should help mitigate some of that, as would filling the bag more, but I think it’s better to keep this under 25lbs which should be doable if you are mostly packing clothing and gadgets for just one person. My family outing test was a little unfair to the bag, but did point out where the bag would start to feel at it’s limits for a comfortable carry.
I do have to wonder if getting a 1050 Ballastic variant would offer more structural integrity to the bag, and thus make it carry a little better. This can sometimes be the case, but it’s hard to tell how much better. I think the frame sheet would have helped handle this load a lot better, Ballistic nylon instead would likely only be a margin improvement (you get the other side of the trade off with increased weight).
This bag is weird for a duffle, with the mesh back panel you’ll be setting this bag down on that panel when you store it (most backpacks face this issue, so I only mention it since this also can be carried as a duffle). If you are being careful, this isn’t an issue, but generally this type of panel will collect debris in it — not a concern for me and how I travel, but I have heard others mention their concern on this. I don’t look at the Techonaut as a duffle in anyway, it’s not setup for it — it’s a travel backpack, which can support a shoulder strap if needed.
Even in the small testing I’ve done with this bag, it’s been very simple and straightforward to use and get gear out of. No fuss, effective and works well.
This is a large 30 liters, and it could use some compression straps to keep the load pulled tight. I would say what you can fit in the Shadow Guide 33 you can easily fit in this, and the Techonaut feels more like a 35L bag to me. Tom Bihn generally does a better job measuring capacity than other bag companies, so this is more of a comment on other bags than this one. Comparatively it feels like a large 30L bag.
The laptop sleeve is also large and should be more than enough no matter what size laptop you carry. Outside of the laptop area and the three small slip pockets, it’s a blank canvas for how you want to configure it. This bag begs for packing cubes, and Tom Bihn readily supplies some of the best out there. I would have liked to see a few spots to hold a pen or two, but that’s more of a nitpick at this point.
It’s a big bag that carries a lot and does so without much opinion of how you should go about your carry of said gear — I’m a big fan of that approach. It’s why I like the Shadow Guides over the Synik line, but if you are someone who likes spots for everything, this might cause you some anxiety.
Open questions are: Synik 30, SG33, Aeronaut 30, or Techonaut 30? Which one and for what? Here’s my brief guide on these:
- Synik 30 (my review): this is what you pack if you don’t pack as many clothing items as you do gear items. It looks like every other backpack and people will be surprised it’s all you packed.
- Shadow Guide 33(my review): if you want to pack more clothes, less gear, but you still want an excellent backpack experience. Also, this bag works well for the outdoors, and can compress down for exploring urban areas too.
- Aeronaut 30: you pack clothes and non-laptop/tablet type of gear. This also handles two pairs of shoes better than the others.
- Techonaut 30: you want a travel backpack to live out of, and a daypack is not something you need to worry about, but a laptop/tablet is very much something you worry about.
That’s my rough guide. To simplify further the Synik 30 is ideal for an overnight trip or adding clothes to your daily carry. The Shadow Guide 33 is the ideal onebag travel bag in this mix. The Aeronaut is for those who are carrying a second bag already. The Techonaut is the bag for digital nomads to pack and live out of.
I like the Techonaut and it’s going to be a bag which sees a lot of use in my house. It packs up clothing well and has versatile organization, here’s hoping I actually get to travel with it soon.