Peak Design Everyday Backpack is not an Everyday Bag

That headline misleads slightly: the 30L backpack is a good everyday bag if photography is part of your everyday.  If your everyday involves traditional office work and commuting, I suggest looking elsewhere for a bag.  That is what I did, and I own happily the Nomatic Backpack.

The internet world is in love with all Peak Design products, so I was naturally convinced that it was the best product for me.  I even went to a camera store to see the bag in person.  My entire life to that point had been spent with JanSport or slightly more elaborate bags, so anything seemed like a huge improvement.  The Peak Design is a huge improvement over those brands, but I quickly discovered key problems that ultimately caused me to stop using the bag.

First, the good parts about the PD bag.  As the name suggests, the design is great.  I chose grey with tan handles, and it is beautiful.  It is still the prettiest bag I have seen.  The sweeping shell pleases the eye.  The zippers and all fastener points are very high quality.  It stands vertically with ease, a feature that I now require every backpack has.  The external pockets are very large; designed for camera peripherals, I used them to secure water bottles and umbrellas.  The key ring is very useful and secure.  The reconfigurable interior is sometimes useful.  The niftiest feature is the loops that secure zippers, making it much harder for strangers to surreptitiously access your bag.  Overall, the bag is very high quality.

Ultimately, however, the bag fails for my daily life as a bus commuter to an office job.  The laptop compartment is not designed to securely hold a laptop.  While there is a false bottom to protect against drops, the laptop otherwise moves around at will.  A bag should always allow for the securing of a laptop; I soon realized that any bag I buy would have to have that feature.  The laptop compartment does contain a pocket for papers or an iPad.  This compartment is the worst of two worlds: it is flexible enough to cause papers in it to bend (bad!), but its edges are so tight that it holds little material.  I guess that way you can only wound a few papers at once.  Moreover, including a laptop and papers makes the laptop compartment feel uncomfortably tight.  It is as though the bag was designed with the main, big compartment in mind first, the one for camera equipment, and at the last minute designers realized a laptop compartment was needed.  Finally, the laptop compartment contains a small pocket that is supposed to be used for small things like USB sticks, pens, coords, etc.  It is one pocket whose magnetic closing mechanism is not strong enough to close reliably.  What happens, therefore, is that you have stuff in an open pocket flopping around, invariably falling out.  You also spend a lot of time searching for the thing you want because it is one of many in this blah of a pocket.  Overall, the laptop compartment is very poor at carrying laptops and their miscellany.

Fine, whatever, the point of the backpack is the main compartment and its reconfigurable panels.  The reconfigurable panels let you arrange bulky items, like lens or rolls or whatever else camera equipment is.  I eventually settled on an arrangement that created two small shelves at the bottom where I would put my charger, a book, and maybe some food.  I would then throw in my journal, other books, or whatever else I needed to bring in the large space that remains.  These panels are cool, but then I find they create asymmetry if I want to set the bag down, and it is annoying to reconfigure them as what I carry changes.  I would somehow have a lot of empty space but the bag would still be bulky.

The wings of the main compartment that open also have pockets that are supposed to contain smaller items, like SD cards or camera batteries.  They do.  But because the pockets are designed for camera equipment, they are not great for holding things like pens, USB sticks, or laptop peripherals.  And then you have to open two zippers to get to whatever you have in those pockets, which is not convenient at all.

My last point on the PD 30L Everyday Backpack is that it is bulky, even when not carrying much.  The shell shape is very much like a shell, which means it doesn’t shrink in size much when the main compartment is empty.  The shell protects camera equipment, which is fine and shows again the orientation of the bag.  The bulk means the bag has to be shoved under the seat in front of me on a plane, which is not good for the bag or its contents.  It is then so tall that when I pull it out from the seat in front of me, it makes it very difficult to sit the way I like, which is not an issue with other backpacks.  Its bulk also means that the bag is heavy, and I always feel like I’m carrying a lot.  My body size is average, 5’10” and weigh 163lb.

At this point, the only time I use the Peak Design is when I’m going on a 2+ week trip.  Then, I need the extra space the 30L bag provides, and I use that space for assorted clothes.  In those situations, I am okay with the extra bulk because, combined with a carry on bag, I can travel very well for long periods.  I even once used the PD 30L alone for a 2 day, 2 night trip.  It worked, but I have chosen not to repeat the experience.

I had had my eye on the Nomatic Backpack, but there were few reviews online a year ago, so I held off because the bag does not use YKK zippers.  I then saw someone on my bus with it, and he spoke very highly of it.  Realizing that I needed a bag designed for office work and now used to high quality bags, I pulled the trigger.  I have now used the bag for 6 months and am very happy.

The Nomatic Backpack securely holds my laptop, and the default organization panel securely holds my papers and writing journal.  The default panels are a nice size and expand well, so I can secure papers without bending and can easily retrieve whatever is in there.  (The main compartment has a velcro wall that you can attach panels to depending on what you want to organize.)  The external pockets are large enough for a water ball or umbrella, just like the Peak Design.  It stands vertically reliably for me, unlike some reviews I have read.  The main handle you grab the bag with is very cushy and nice to hold.  All the pockets are nice.  There are clear pen pockets, other pockets for coords and medicine, and some generic pockets.  There is a small exterior pocket where I put keys, pens, and some peripherals.  This convenient pocket means I can grab writing material and other important things with one unzip, whereas with Peak Design it would require an unzip and a pull or two unzips.

The greatest drawback is the build quality, which was one of my main concerns.  The zippers are loud and the material is a bit scratchy.  It is a well-made backpack and certainly better than most backpacks, but it is not at Peak Design levels.

For more detail on the Nomatic Backpack, see this person’s YouTube review.  It eventually does not like the bag, but I am very happy with it and recommend it to others.  For a comparison with the Peak Design, see this review.


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