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Review: Bellroy Transit Backpack

By PS Staff

Published Oct 05, 2020

6 min read

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While most people wouldn’t consider travel an everyday activity, at least outside of in-city commuting, there are some people that literally jet-set around the world as a part of their career. And, no, we’re not strictly talking about social media influencers. There are writers, consultants, salespeople, doctors and nurses, and many more who have — either out of choice or necessity — integrated long-distance traveling into their daily lives.

Furthermore, there are people that perhaps don’t travel every single day that still want gear that’s suited to the activity, should the occasion arise. These folks either don’t have the necessary storage space, need, and/or budget for multiple purpose-specific pieces of gear or they simply don’t want them. Find the meeting point of career travelers and those who only take to the skies occasionally and you’ll find the exact crowd that the folks at Bellroy are targeting with their Transit Backpack. If you fall into either of those groups, our following in-depth hands-on look at that particular offering will be of keen interest.

First Impressions

For a travel-focused backpack, the Bellroy Transit looks remarkably minimalist. At first, we were taken aback by that fact, but — after more careful consideration — we came to realize that our expectations were the result of the fact that we’re simply used to busier external designs. The real truth of the matter is that jet-setting packs don’t have to be convoluted and confusing. In fact, after getting our hands on the Transit, we’re a bit confused as to why we were ever okay with unnecessarily extraneous designs and features to begin with when we never really liked or needed them. It isn’t often that a piece of gear can shift our perspective, but this one has done just that — and it managed it with only a first impression.

Materials & Craftsmanship

With its unstructured silhouette and a lack of extraneous external detailing, the Transit doesn’t look like a travel bag — which (in this case) is a very good thing, as it helps to break the mold without sacrificing its usefulness or losing touch with its original intended purpose. It’s a bit larger than many of the other bags that made our best EDC backpacks guide, but it still falls within the sizing regulations for international carry-on bags — which is also hugely beneficial because, even fully loaded, this bag qualifies for in-cabin carry (be that under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin). It’s a bit more unstructured than other travel-focused backpacks, and that might be considered a knock against it in some circles because it makes the gear, equipment, and apparel inside a bit more susceptible to being knocked around, bur careful packers will have no issue.

The exterior of the example we got our hands on is built from Dura Nylon, which has its origins in military usage and boasts natural water-resistant properties, as well as resistance to punctures, abrasions, scratches, etc. It’s not as heavy as, say, fully-waterproofed PU-coated nylon, but it’s still plenty weatherproof for daily usage, even in places where it frequently mists, drizzles, or rains. That weatherproof profile is furthered by the brand’s inclusion of water-resistant zippers on all its externally-accessed pockets. And, lastly, there are touches of environmentally-certified high-grain leather here and there — like on the subtle branded patch, zipper pulls, and the shoulder straps.

Unlike some of this bag’s competition, the hardware on the Transit is made entirely from metal and feel a bit more substantial than their plastic counterparts without adding too much weight. Furthermore, the seatbelt-style nylon straps and top-mounted handle are a nice, durable addition. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the padded shoulder straps are mated to a uniquely-padded and cloth-covered back panel that’s soft and supportive yet ribbed for better ventilation during all-day wear, which is much more interesting and seems less likely to rip or get caught on anything than standard mesh-wrapped foam. All told, the design is clean and, the closer we looked at the detailing, the more we came to appreciate this bag’s craftsmanship and overall subtlety.

Function & Form

If you were to see Bellroy’s Transit out on the street, it might look to you like a fairly standard, albeit quite minimalist EDC backpack. And, while that’s almost certainly a part of the point of its design and styling, the internals of this bag tell a decidedly different story of versatility and jet-setting friendliness. In fact, while you almost definitely can’t tell at first glance, this bag actually has a whopping six different externally-accessed zippered pockets. The first of those pockets is the vertically-zipped front pocket, which has a secondary vertically-oriented organizational sleeve inside alongside a keychain attachment point — perfect for small- and medium-sized items you want in reach as you move from point to point. There are also two “hidden” side pockets that serve perfectly as water bottle or umbrella holders without being so obvious as to make their contents easy to steal. There’s also a zippered sunglasses pocket at the top that’s a bit tight and really only suited for a pair of shades or a very small amount of other pocketable gear.

Before we get to the main compartment, there’s one other externally-accessed zippered pocket we should discuss, as it is both integral to this bag’s functionality and a boon to travelers. Accessed via a horizontal zipper a the top of the pack (backed up against the padded back panel), there’s a quick-access laptop pocket that’s padded on both sides, lined with a soft fabric, and sized to fit up to 15″ laptops. The positioning and access of this compartment is important for two reasons. First, it makes accessing your laptop when you need it a relatively simple affair, as you don’t have to dig through any of the other compartments. This is all-the-more convenient because there’s also a secondary zippered accessory pocket for your cables, mouse, hard drive, etc. Second, it makes traveling with your computer easier because you can remove your laptop without having to rearrange the pack’s innards and holding up the security line.

Finally, there’s the main compartment. Making up the bulk of the bag’s 28L capacity, this compartment is accessed via a full clamshell opening that makes every inch of it easily-accessed. And while the larger portion of this compartment is just a big open space, it is aided by a built-in compression system — not unlike those you’d find in a dedicated suitcase. Beyond that, this portion of the bag also features two smaller, mesh, zippered compartments for in-compartment organization. One is larger and likely works best for stashing socks and underwear during travel and the other is small and seems well-suited to stashing toiletries or anything else you might keep in a dopp kit. Of all the features the Bellroy Transit has to offer, this compartment is decidedly the most carry-on-like.

Who Is This Backpack For?

For those with strict EDC usage in mind, the Bellroy Transit is likely going to seem a bit too big and perhaps bulky — as it boasts a 28L capacity and a silhouette that’s designed to fit just within international carry-on bag guidelines. However, if you need a bag that can do double-duty — one part versatile EDC hauler and one part weekender getaway bag or stripped-down business trip pack — then this backpack is sure to please. Just keep in mind, if you are considering this one, that the internal scheme is heavy on luggage-style organization, especially in the main compartment. If travel is not in your plans regularly, you may wish to look elsewhere.

Verdict

With its minimalist, unstructured exterior, Bellroy’s Transit doesn’t look like a travel-focused carry-on. And that bodes well for the days between trips when you need something that’s functional for EDC purposes and not too gaudy to take in and out of the office. However, when the time comes to hop on a plane and jet-set to anywhere, the versatile internal scheme with its clamshell-opening luggage-style main compartment and quick-access padded laptop pocket are ideally outfitted for just such an outcome. This is definitely not a backpack for strict EDC usage, but it’s versatile enough to do double-duty and can serve numerous purposes for those that need a bag that isn’t pigeonholed to just one or two appropriate activities or venues.

Scorecard

Bellroy Transit

Travel-ready, carry-on-sized EDC backpack with a clean minimalist exterior and packing-friendly internal scheme.

  • Form
  • Function
  • Craftsmanship

Overall Score

8.0/10
Pros
  • Quick-Access Laptop Compartment
  • Travel-Focused Organization
  • Full Suitcase-Style Clamshell Opening
Cons
  • Somewhat Large For EDC
  • No Luggage Pass-Through
  • Awkward Vertical Front Pocket

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