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Back in July, we introduced you to the backpack company Able Carry (seen here). Since that time, we’ve had the Able Carry Max Backpack in for review, and have been spending time with it – including a grand Out West family road trip. So, yeah, we’ve put it through it’s paces, and are ready to give you our thoughts on the bag.

So I’m not accused of burying the lede – the Able Carry Max Backpack is what I look for these days in terms of a work backpack. On one hand, just commuting to and from the office (whenever I start doing that again) doesn’t require a whole lot of space – just a spot for the laptop, my Kindle, and then my lunch bag. That’s pretty simple, and the Max handles it with ease. However, that’s not all I use a bag for, and evaluate it for.

You see, I also travel for work every now and again (or at least, I used to) and when I did that, I’d like to pack for a few day trip right into my backpack, so it’s just one bag I’m dealing with in the airport. Here, again, the Able Carry Max Backpack came through with great results. Fitting in the laptop, power brick, and iPad Pro into the back section was a cinch (though it may not open quite as wide as you might like). That leaves you another compartment, under it’s own zipper, for packing your clothes.

This I tested out by loading up the packing cubes I normally use, and fitting them in, along with my noise-cancelling headphones. The Able Carry Max Backpack swallowed that up without any issue, and I was easily able to pull the zippers closed. Speaking of zippers, it’s worth noting that there are some different types. For the back section (where your laptop and the like are) you’ve got some rubberized gores around the zipper, helping keep the water out of that section. The other zippers are more of a standard look, so not as focused on keeping water out, but you should still be ok unless you’re caught in something torrential for a long time.

The zipper differences on the Able Carry Max Backpack also lead to something you may not notice quite at first – that there are actually different materials used on the electronics section versus the rest of the bag. The electronics section (as I’m calling it) is made of 1000D cordura, like you’re used to on heavy-duty backpacks. On the rest of the bag, you’ve got a material called X-Pac, that looks and feels very much like a heavy sort of ripstop material. In practice, it’s a subtle sort of a difference, and ends up working quite well.

The lining of the Able Carry Max Backpack is a ripstop nylon, and in our sample, it’s done in a lighter cream color. When it comes to work bags, this is unique, as I’m used to not having separate lining – or if there is one, it’s the same color as the bag itself. Here, with the lighter coloration, it helps you to see what you’re digging around for inside the bag, and I was quite happy to have that lighter hue inside the bag.

It should be noted, you’ll find that lighter color all over the bag. You see, the Able Carry Max Backpack has quite a number of different pockets all over the place, which is helpful for squirreling away and organizing whatever it is you need to carry along either on a daily basis, or for your longer trips. In fact, it took me a bit to find a few of them, but once discovered, I was quickly finding different ways to put them to use. You shouldn’t underestimate the ability to, say, grab out a pen and notebook or a Kindle without having to dig into – and through – the main compartment. I felt I was able to jam quite a lot into the Able Carry Max Backpack and it expanded to handle it all – but once I unloaded bits of it, the bag sort of collapsed back in a bit, and didn’t feel like you were hauling around a big, 1/3rd full backpack.

Speaking of hauling – you have almost as many options for carrying the Able Carry Max Backpack as there are zippered storage sections. You’ve got the main shoulder straps, of course, which also have a sternum strap with magnetic closures to help hold things steady while you wander about. You’ve also got a grab handle at the top, another on the side (so you can carry it like an attache case), and then there’s even a tighter loop sewn into the center line of the back, allowing you to slip it over the pull handle of a wheeled suitcase, holding it tightly to that handle. In other words, however you like to travel, you’ll be able to easily carry the backpack.

Along with all of the carrying capability of the Able Carry Max Backpack, I rather like how “under the radar” the bag itself flies. Once you’ve got everything zipped up, it looks like just any other backpack. No giant branding or tacti-cool stuff hanging on the outside, and nothing that screams “I’m a business traveller carry my life for the next few days in this bag”. Even the water bottle pocket zips away. On other bags, you unzip it and you can hold your bottle. With the Able Carry Max Backpack , I was actually able to put my 20 oz bottle into the section and then zip it away, keeping the bottle securely tucked away in the bag, but in it’s own space. Having had some bottles hit the floor getting through an airport, I really appreciate this feature.

So, as I mentioned at the outset, the Able Carry Max Backpack is precisely what I look for in a work bag, particularly one that can handle both daily commuting and the occasional work trip duty. At a 30L volume, it’s not a small bag (you can see how it looks against my 6’3″ frame in the photos here), so it may not work for everyone. For me, it was perfect, held everything I needed to, and did some quite comfortably against my back. If you want to pick up your own, the Able Carry Max Backpack is available in four colors (Ocean Blue, Earth Green, Tarmac Black, and a dark camo pattern) for $260.

Is that pricey for a work bag? I will admit, yes, it is. But as a sort of “one bag to rule them all”, at least in how I handle work duties, I think it’s worth it. In the time I’ve had with the bag, it’s felt like a quality build, and has held up quite well. I’ve not noticed any loose stitching, nor had any problems with the zippers. In other words, it’s performed just like you’d expect a high quality bag to do. And, should something go wrong with the build a few years down the road, you’ve got a lifetime warranty backing you up, so you should be able to get it sorted. That’s the sort of backing you like to see for a bag that you’re likely to have with you for years and years. And that’s another area where the under-the-radar look helps you out. It’s a classic profile, and with the subdued coloration, it’s not going to look outdated in a year or two. It’ll just be there, quietly doing it’s job, and keeping you on your mental toes, remembering which small pocket you got things tucked away in. You can check the bag out – and their others – over at ablecarry.com

Tech Specs from Able Carry

  • Weight: 1.72kg (3.79lbs)
  • Capacity
    • Total Capacity: 30L
    • Main Compartment: 25L
  • Backpack Dimensions
    • Height: 52cm (20.5in)
    • Width: 32cm (12.5in)
    • Depth: 20cm (8in)
  • Materials
    • Surface: X-Pac + Cordura 1000D
    • Lining: 420D Ripstop Nylon
  • Laptop sleeve will fit: Up to 17″ devices
  • Compartment Dimensions
    • Length: 40cm (15.7in)
    • Width: 28cm (11in)
    • Depth: 3cm (1.18in)

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By Patrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.