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Carry On

Drive By :: Minaal Carry-on

by , May 30, 2014

The Minaal Carry-on is a $299 travel bag for the one-bagger crew. It can work as a hand carry or a backpack, and with some disciplined packing it can help you travel for a week or more. There are elements to like, but it’s also the first release from a new group to carry, so it’s not yet what it could be…


Who it suits

Someone who frequents big metal birds for business or pleasure and needs an all-in-one bit of carry to get them from A to B. And if you are getting suited up and travelling from runway to boardroom, this is the kind of bag that will look suave in either environment.

Who it doesn’t

This isn’t for people who will never travel, and are looking for a small volume bag. This is a larger bag that’s not quite maximum legal carry-on – but it’s getting close.

Some background

Hype is a strange beast; once it gains momentum it swells, entangles and whirls together into something uncontrollable, and in some cases becomes something incredibly hard to live up to.

Enter the Minaal. When we opened up the voting for our Carry Awards, the votes for the Minaal flooded through in rapid succession. And just by votes alone, it could have taken home the title. But the thing was that none of our crew had got their hands on it – so the love was all based on a supremely awesome Kickstarter page. Their spiffy vids and sexy product shots had gone a long way, connecting with a whole heap of crew.

But we don’t hand out awards based on hype alone, so we reached out to Minaal for a sample to make sure it was awesome in the flesh, and they were super cool about it, shooting us a sample express with no questions asked.


Fast-forward a week, and I cracked open a cardboard package to unveil its charcoal façade, which looked good. In fact, it looks a lot like the Arc’teryx Blade, whose designers should be given props for what seems like pretty strong inspiration.

The Highlights

One of the best things about the Minaal is that they do a great job explaining the bag and the inspiration behind it. All brands can learn a thing from them here.

The overall volume and shaping makes sense, where you can take enough clothes without it becoming unwieldy like some larger carry-on bags. While you’d feel a touch awkward bringing it into a work meeting, so long as they understood you’d just stepped off a plane, you can totally get by.


The thermoformed back panel is comfortable enough, and the stretch strap lining feels good on bare skin.


There are a lot of pockets and sections for bits, with a reasonable hierarchy to them. This includes mesh-lined internal pockets, and several organising sections.


And like many outdoor packs, it runs with a rain-cover, so if a shower hits you can wrap up your pack and keep on keeping on.


The Lowlights

This is where you start to understand just how hard it is to make an amazing backpack or travel bag on your first go. That library of refinements you get from years of toiling away does add up…

The large main section is essentially a soft rectangle with organising spots for your clothes. Unfortunately this primary zone is a little underwhelming, as there’s no structure, and no load stabilization straps, so you’ll need to use packing cubes or deal with tumbling contents. This also means you can’t easily load it like a tub, as the bag collapses flat.


Because the bag can be used in portrait as a backpack, or in landscape as a hand carry, the bag is not really sure which way is up. You really understand this issue when you see the work section, where pockets face every direction and there’s never just an ‘up’. That means you need to flip the bag to access an iPad, and then flip it again to access your pens and small devices. It’s a bit like a USB, where somehow you need to flip it three times before it works.


This section is also let down by a lack of efficiency. There are lots of dead zones to the side of pocketing, which you can’t utilize. And then the pocketing that is floating mid-panel is just too short for what I wanted to use it for. For instance, it takes an iPad but it doesn’t quite take a 15″ laptop, my weapon of choice – for which it’s only just too short.


There’s a drink bottle holder on the outside that’s finished with some really underwhelming cord – it looks like a mistake in the sample or something.

And the little niggles continue: the zip arounds get caught up on the compression straps and the side handle gets caught up by the compression straps too – again, it’s quite unresolved.


The compression straps are good if you’re running a small load, but because of the clips’ length and where they’re anchored they don’t allow full compression. If they used a different clip or anchored it further down the back of the bag you’d get way more compression out of it.


The fabric had us perplexed…

It is labelled Cordura, but it looks like a really furry polyester that attracts lint and hair, like Velcro in a petting zoo. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not a great look.





On the exterior spine piece it looks like a really open weave and of low-quality polyester, but we’re almost thinking we got a sample that wasn’t made of the Cordura it was meant to be. We contacted Minaal about these fabric issues and they stated that it is in fact made from Invista-certified Cordura, 500D and 1000D. We thought that perhaps we may have received a non-final production version – and that would clear up a lot of issues for us.  


To then get really geeky with it, the load support systems are not yet resolved either…

There are load lifters on the top of the straps, but these are anchored to an unstructured panel, so they only add a touch of stability. The downside to them is that if you want to tuck the straps away, you then need to unclip and fiddle with these.


The waist strap is also for stability only, as there is not enough back panel structure or enough waist-strap padding to support much load on your hips.


And my last little nitpick, Minaal went through a lot of effort to make their Carry-on both a messenger and a backpack but they left out a shoulder strap. So you can briefcase it, but if you then want to go and visit a client there’s not a shoulder strap option, which isn’t a great aesthetic when you’re gliding into a meeting.

Other carry to consider

The Arc’teryx Blade 30 is an obvious option. It’s probably a touch smaller, but it’s really well resolved.

The GORUCK GR2 is also a great option, including the Slick version. Tom Bihn are incredible in this space, with bags like the Western Flyer really nailed.

Then there are great options from Porter, Patagonia, and all sorts of carry and travel brands that you should check out.


There was a lot of hype about the Minaal, and a promise of reinventing this bag format and creating something that you couldn’t otherwise find. If you buy this bag with that promise in mind, you’ll be disappointed. It doesn’t really solve any of the current one-bag issues, while it introduces some new ones.

If however money is not tight, and you’d like to play with a well-sized carry-on with a few niggles, you could be happy.

We look forward to seeing Minaal dig deeper into the world of great travel carry, and hope to see this first effort refined and resolved going forwards. They are excellent communicators, and should be able to help bring some of the joy of good travel to a new audience.

Reader's Review


All Reviews

UPDATE! Costomer Service

8 January, 2018 Chris

This is an update to my previous review above. Minaal’s customer service did contact me after I wrote my post. I don’t think the response was due to my negative post. Rather, I believe it was they were backed up a bit at the time. They took care of the problem right away, and sent me out a replacement after seeing the damage. The new bag has been just as great as the first one was before the ripping. I can also see extra reinforcement where the previous bag ripped – a good sign that they want to improve their product over time. My delay in correcting my first response was I couldn’t find an option to edit a past post on this site. At this point Minaal has earned back my respect and trust in their product and customer service. If you are on the edge take the last step; go out an get yourself a Minaal!

Good bag… When stitching holds.

30 March, 2017 Chris

I just started using a bag I purchased a while ago. I really have liked it the first two times I have used it, but the stitching on a strap is starting to rip. I’ve tried contacting Minaal 3 times and have yet to hear back in over a week. The radio silence is concerning, especially for what seemed to be a top notch company with such an expensive bag. I was thinking about trying the packing cubes before this, but not anymore. Proceed with caution if you are thinking about buying one of their bags.

The Good: Size, Organization, Zippers

The Not So Good: Customer Service, Stitching, Price

  • One Bag, One World

    I think you may find this posting interesting:


    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

      Hey Frank, seems to be a misunderstanding, responded with a comment on your post.

    • John Harry

      OBOW sound like you are forcing them to GIVE you a bag for review? No bag bad review?

      • One Bag, One World

        I don’t review things I don’t have. No bag, no review.

        I can’t force anyone to do anything. If someone sends me a product for review, I review it honestly. No preconceived notions. If I like something, I say I like it. If I don’t, I say I don’t and explain why. I judge a product strictly by that product.

        If I get a bag, I’ll review it. If not, I have plenty of other products sitting here waiting for reviews. And more products, including new carry-on bags, are on the way.

    • Richard

      Wow, what a butt-hurt little bitch you are.

  • AC

    I have the Minaal bag and used it recently for a three week trip. I have to agree with all the downsides that are mentioned (the zips that get “stuck” at the compression straps and the outside material that attracts “stuff”). The laptop compartiment is a bit weird when you open it. I always felt like it should open a bit more. All those pockets in there could have been left out for me, I don’t really need those but whatever floats your boat I guess.

    For my taste the shoulder straps could have used a couple of extra centimeters of slack. The bottle holder works fine though, it does what it needs to do.

    The above does not really make it a bad bag, just not a perfect one. Compared to my GR2 it is quite a bit lighter which helps on max. 6kg carry-on flights (I got just about under 6 kg for this trip and I did not really skimp on clothing)

    • TeamCarryology

      Some great points AC. We appreciate the notes!

    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

      AC, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’re always interested in direct feedback also, feel free to flick a note through anytime: feedback [at] minaal [dot] com

      Glad to hear you’re flying safely under those seriously nasty 6kg limits!

  • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

    Thanks for the review guys. A thoughtful analysis.

    The one thing I’d like to make sure is clear is that a few of the points raised here are intentionally designed, as features for a specific use case. The positive feedback we’ve received from both Kickstarter backers and other users is based on more than just a Kickstarter page and good communication – it’s based on a whole lot of travellers using the bag. People like Christina: http://kipsandkale.com/carryon/

    A few specific notes:

    – ‘Maximum legal carry-on’ is a loaded term, given that there’s no one standard. Many carry-on bags are US-centric, and forget about the smaller dimensions allowed by many European airlines. We made for those people who live and work from the road, around the world – this means being able to carry-on pretty much no matter where you are, or who you’re flying with.

    – The laptop sleeve absolutely should take a ‘naked’ 15″ Macbook Pro. If it doesn’t, then it’s possible your unit had some variation that we’d be happy to take a look at.

    – Cordura has a *lot* of benefits in super important areas like durability; one of its few drawbacks is that it can attract hair. This isn’t limited to our specific finish. For us (and more importantly, our testers), the fabric’s performance was so superior in long-term, real-world testing that we considered the trade-off very minor. Any stray hair picked up can be brushed off – a shortened lifespan can’t. It’s the same reason we used Cordura instead of neoprene or mesh for the drink holder. Everything was done for a reason, based on the specific use-case.

    Anyway, thanks again, this is an interesting read and we’ve taken the notes on board. See you on the road!

    Jimmy – Co-founder

    • TeamCarryology

      Jimmy, thanks for responding. It’s great to see you’re taking feedback seriously.
      We think design is a series of continual compromises, where there are very few things that can be called ‘the best.’ We try our best to present the compromises with that in mind.
      One note on Cordura brand is that it has many different fabric options, some of which attract far more hair and fluff than others. It may be worth exploring some of the other options in their stable.
      Good luck with it all, and safe travels.

  • Jagger

    Great first attempt from Minaal and excellent review. Lack of internal compartments / zones means I’ll probably hold off for the next release.

    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

      Thanks Jagger, do keep an eye out and feel free to hit us up anytime with questions.

  • Lebowksi

    I want one! Where can I buy these in Australia?

    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

      Hey Lebowski, cheers! We offer international shipping via fully tracked express courier through our website – http://www.minaal.com

      And feel free to contact us with any questions/comments: feedback [at] minaal [dot] com

    • Jon May

      Or you could buy mine. It’s a bit small for me.

  • johnnymac149

    I like that this review is lukewarm. Not all reviews should be amazing.

  • Brintt

    So glad you brought up the Arcteryx Blade silhouette similarity. Props indeed to the Arc’ team.

  • Guy Blunden

    The review is fair and has picked up all the points I’ve noticed myself. That said, I think the bag is an outstanding first release from a start-up company. I haven’t been on an international trip with the bag yet but have been testing it out on interstate business trips and, for the last 4 weeks, as my daily carry between home, work and early morning laps at the pool. It’s been terrific in all these circumstances.

    I recommend the bag and reckon Minaal will go from strength to strength.

    And to be clear, I’ve no association with the business. I threw down some coin on kickstarter in the hope that these guys would get airborne and I’d get a decent bag in the process. I got more than I bargained for: not just the bag itself but a great all round experience from a company which understands that building a great brand is as much about good relationships with people as it is about product.

    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy


      Glad to hear the bag’s working out for both biz and pleasure. How many days countdown before it’s christened internationally? And how many laps are you busting out every morning?!

      Thanks for the positive feedback, we wouldn’t have a company without people like you – we hope to keep making cool stuff for you for years to come.

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  • incorvia

    It’s a beautiful bag and props to the company for making such an awesome first effort. But…. I have a huge concern about the lay flat design and I’m glad you pointed that out as a critical problem. No one else mentions this in their reviews but it seems like a huge problem and I’m wondering why no one mentions it. All the videos I have seen online of people packing this bag show them stacking all of their stuff in a huge mass/pyramid and pulling the bag over it. It sounds like everything would fall everywhere the moment you unzipped it. What a nightmare! I hope they figure this out and in the future adopt a system more like the Arcteryx Khard which offers 3 easy access points to your gear while still allowing for a lay-flat design.

    • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

      Hey incorvia –

      Valid concern, all I can guess is the reason people haven’t mentioned it as a problem in reviews is because they don’t find it a problem. From what I’ve seen of thousands of traveller/user emails and conversations, we haven’t had anyone mention it as a negative.

      We’re always looking at ways to improve, and certainly bags work for some people better than others, but feedback so far from heavy users hasn’t identified this as something we should be changing – they’re generally pretty stoked with it 🙂


      • http://www.minaal.com/ Jimmy

        One thing I forgot to mention – people also have their own favoured ways of packing the bag. You’ve seen them stack gear on the back panel. However, you can also pack within the front ‘scoop’ giving you walls to work with, or from the side like a duffel, or from the top like a regular old backpack. That flexibility to pack how you want while keeping carry weight low is a key focus for us.

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  • cherylchewy1

    Hi, i am selling my NEW Minaal 2.0 for $200. Let me know if anyone is interested. Thanks

    • Laurence Wolf

      Hi Cheryl, I’d be keen. laurencewolf@gmail.com

      • cherylchewy1

        HI Laurence,
        i have emailed u few days ago. please check. thanks

    • Andrei Behjan

      Hi Cheryl,

      Please email me: boxrocker_76@yahoo.com




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