Timbuk2 is a well known American bag manufacturer known for being innovative and pushing design forward. The Jet is a backpack built for short, multi-day trips and treks through the city. Can this bag be your new go-to for a carry-on? I’m not so sure.
Timbuk 2 Jet Specs
|Laptop Compartment||Yes (max 15+ inches)|
|Dimensions||19 x 12 x 7 inches|
Let’s get this out in the open right away – I’m not a fan of the overall style/look of this bag which is disappointing because usually I dig the Timbuk2 urban-feel of their bag designs.
When I first saw the bag, I thought it looked pretty slick. Looking at the bag it’s very well balanced, the color scheme is wonderfully muted (the color pictured throughout the review is “surplus”), and it seems relatively streamlined despite having 3 external grab handles.
When I really came to notice an issue is when I saw what the bag looks like when it’s being worn. With these prominent handles, coated polyester, and very boxy profile, this bag reminds me of an soft insulated lunch bag everyone used to have as a kid.
Even this photo taken from the Timbuk2 product page gives off the same vibe –
So from a fashion and style perspective, this bag completely misses the mark for me which is a bit of a shame because there are some really great features that could make this your go-to carry-on when you’re traveling… but even then there are some feature issues later I’ll get into that would likely keep it from being at the top of my list.
The bag is available in three different colors, black, surplus, and merlot. I do think Timbuk2 picked out some decent colors for the Jet, but I also think the satin finish that the coated polyester has takes away from the colors and again, makes the bag look more like a lunch bag.
Carry and Comfort
The Timbuk2 Jet is clearly meant to be a versatile, on-the-go carry on bag as evident by the 3 external grab handles (one on the top and two on each side). These side handles felt pretty nice to use, but you’ll also need to take this all into consideration when packing your bag. If you’re traveling with mostly the basics like a laptop and some clothes, then no problem.
However, if you’re carrying anything heavy it puts you into a bit of a dilemma as to what the best way to pack is. If you grab a side handle and have heavy stuff near the top of the bag, it’s going to pushed down on everything else in the bag. If you pack your bag like a normal backpack and put all your heavy items closest to the back-side of the pack, you’re going to have a lot of items shifting around when you carry it by one of these side handles.
Carrying the Jet as a backpack is pretty standard. The straps are minimally padded and there’s also a chest strap which can be unbuttoned on both sides and removed if desired.
There isn’t a real frame to this bag, but the back does have some padding for both comfort and keeping your laptop safe from bumps and falls.
Layout and Design
When it comes to the different compartments of this bag, it’s pretty well designed for travel. That being said, there’s one design flaw that’s a big turn off for me, and that’s that there’s no way to stow the backpack straps.
Given that the ideal use case for this bag is as a carry-on, it’s a shame that you would have to deal with these straps flopping all over as you’re carrying it onto a plane or stowing it in the overhead compartment. By comparison, the Osprey Porter line of bags lets you zipper the straps into the bag itself so there’s no way for them to get caught on anything when you want your bag to act as a carry-on and not a backpack.
All of that being said, at least there’s a built-in bottle opener on the straps, right?
Exterior Components and Pockets
One bring spot for the Timbuk2 Jet is the laptop compartment. It’s a zipper pocket right behind the back padding and the compartment is quite large. Timbuk2 says it will fit a 15″ Macbook and below you can see how much spare room a Microsoft Surface Pro (12″ screen) has.
Keeping the laptop so close to your back also keeps it safe from thieves while you’re wearing the bag. Unfortunately there’s no simple way to lock the single zipper to this compartment, you’d likely need to run a cable from the zipper to the top handle.
On the front side of the pack there’s an almost hidden zipper that’s food for stashing often used items. There’s a mesh pocket stitched inside that could be used to store a cell phone or passport, but due to the lack of security I wouldn’t leave anything too valuable in here if your bag isn’t watched over.
Also easily accessible is a zipper compartment at the top of the bag that runs the full depth of the bag. Inside you’ll find another mesh zipper pocket, an opaque zipper pocket, and various other pockets/compartments for organizing your stuff.
Noticeably missing from the outside of this bag is anyplace to store a water bottle. If you’re like me and always buy a drink to take on your flight, you’ll be stuck choosing between holding it yourself or putting it somewhere inside your bag, likely getting condensation on everything else.
The main compartment of this bag is going to be what either sells you on the bag or turns you off completely. For starters, the bag has a clamshell design which is excellent for having full access to every corner of the pack when fully unzipped, making packing easier.
You’ll also notice the Jet has a built-in separator, almost like one big packing cube. If you’re planning to primarily use this bag to pack clothes for your trip, then this is a great feature. Maybe not so much if you had other plans.
The sides of this separator is a stretchy neoprene, so you can really stuff this bad boy full of clothes without worrying about the mesh breaking. Pictured above I have two pairs of pants, a pair of workout shorts, two t-shirts, a long sleeve dress shirt, and three pairs of socks with plenty of room to spare.
I think the biggest benefit of this compartment is that when you fully unzip this bag, you don’t have to worry about your items falling out as you have another layer of security that should keep everything in place and allow you to get your bag setup before anything can pop out.
Also pictured above on the opposite side of the clamshell is another flat zipper compartment which might be ideal for storing any documents you will need on your travel once you arrive at your destination.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise if you’ve read everything up until this point, but to me this bag just doesn’t fill any niche well enough to be recommended for any type of use. It’s clearly aimed at being a travel bag, but backpack straps that don’t stow and lack of anyplace to store a water bottle are deal killers for me in that respect. It’s also really hard to secure all of the zippers on this pack, giving more more concerns for using it for travel.
If you don’t really mind all of these shortcomings and think that the clamshell design and built-in clothing separator are selling points, then you’ll be pleased to know Timbuk2 does offer a lifetime guarantee on all of their bags, so you shouldn’t have any concern about the build quality or manufacturer’s defects.