- Buyer's Guide
Late last summer, Heimplanet was kind enough to send over their Monolith Weekender bag and Volume+ Pouch to review. Shortly after I took it on a weekend trip up the Central Coast of California and it accompanied me as my sole piece of luggage. Since then, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to use the bag and I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on it. This review is a long time coming, so apologies to the good folks at Heimplanet for the delay. Now let’s get started…
As we learned in the Daypack review, Heimplanet has their roots in forward-thinking tent designs and has shifted some of their expertise over to the world of carry. The Monolith Weekender bills itself as a “jack of all trades”, being able to convert from a backpack to shoulder bag and sporting modular features like MOLLE attachment.
- Name: Monolith Weekender
- Brand: Heimplanet
- Format: Backpack/Messenger
- Measurement: 55 x 40 x 20 cm (21.5 x 15.5 x 8 inches)
- Capacity: 40L
- Weight: 1580 g (3,48 lbs)
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: 840D Ballistic Nylon, PU coated; 1680D Ballistic Nylon PU coated
- PriceUS$ 250
Who It Suits
This bag is best suited for a traveler who takes weekend trips, some of which involve flying, and prefers not to have wheeled or rugged luggage. It also is ideal for someone who is interested in modular bags and cares about being able to switch into different carry positions.
Who It Doesn't
Smaller framed or physically weaker travelers need not apply; this bag carries in a unique way and can get uncomfortable fast.
I was sent the dark olive color and I personally think it's the best-looking one of the bunch. It's a safe bet for a young professional who wants a little color (gray and black need not apply) but doesn't want to be the center of attention. The Monolith Weekender is a large bag, carry-on size, and that's something you should keep in mind. It's a rectangular prism in shape with parallel lines and 90-degree angles and the only curves are on the corners, and even they are very gradual. There are not many angular cuts on this bag, so it looks boxy.
"The Monolith Weekender bills itself as a “jack of all trades”, being able to convert from a backpack to shoulder bag and sporting modular features like MOLLE attachment."
There is a decent amount of contrasting materials and textures, notably where the MOLLE straps size and some of the metal hardware (more on that later), but even they are shades of olive, so it all blends together quite well. Speaking of MOLLE, Heimplanet are clearly huge fans of the loop aesthetic because that pattern is repeated all over the bag, even in areas you are likely not to attach any modular accessories.
The Weekender is constructed of 840D, contrasted with 1680D ballistic nylon and does not depart much from other bags in the materials department. From a practical standpoint, it seems to be abrasion resistant enough. Since Heimplanet markets this as a carry-on bag, it seems wise that they did not use any "luxe" materials (like leather or wool), though that would have added a touch of class to the bag.
"The Monolith Weekender is a large bag, carry-on size, and that's something you should keep in mind."
The bag is well constructed, with very few stitching errors or loose threads. No complaints here. Besides the nylon and some very light padding, the bag has no real additional structure. This means there are no rigid steel rods or plastic pieces in the corners or sides and because of this the bag is not well self-supported. It sits (or stands) more like a duffel bag or tote, rather than a piece of rolled luggage. This changes as the bag is filled but this lack of structure, even when filled, results in some interesting carry issues. If you take a look at the shots, you can see how the bag sort of collapses on itself.
You'll find pretty standard stuff here. From run-of-the-mill YKK zippers (with custom pull tabs) to some plastic buckles and loops. The most interesting hardware would have to be their metal hooks which they call "Customized G-Hooks". I wanted to learn more about them but unfortunately the site points to a dead link so I am not sure what exactly is customized about them. I usually refer to these types of hooks as J hooks and usually I am not a fan of them. I usually find them quite finicky to use; depending on the tolerances they often become a nightmare to attach or remove. I rarely find the level of frustration these hooks impart worth the supposed strength and convenience they offer.
With that said, the G-Hooks on the Monolith Weekender are some of the best I've seen. They are made of a nice thin piece of metal with a subtle bend. The entry and exit out of the loops ranges from fairly easy to frustrating and challenging. The branding on the hooks is very subtle and comes in the form of (what I think is) silkscreening.
"...the G-Hooks on the Monolith Weekender are some of the best I've seen."
The main selling point of this bag is that it's a carry-on bag that you can wear; a bag that can be converted between a backpack and a shoulder bag. The way this is accomplished is through the use of G-Hooks and compartments to tuck away the unused straps. For example, to transform the Monolith into backpack mode, you unzip a compartment in the back and pull out the two nicely padded shoulder straps. Then, you pull out the two G-Hooks attached to the straps, one from each side, and hook them to the shoulder straps. I should point out that these G-Hooks in particular are a huge pain to get in and out and the most problematic ones of the bag, which makes converting in and out of backpack mode a huge pain. That aside, the straps have plenty of slack for adjustment and even rock Velcro pieces to keep excess tidy.
"The main selling point of this bag is that it's a carry-on bag that you can wear; a bag that can be converted between a backpack and a shoulder bag."
If carrying a large slab on your back isn't your cup of tea, you can tuck those dual straps away and attach the large padded shoulder strap. Again, Heimplanet employs G-Hooks but this time huge beefy ones which are much easier to operate and use.
Pockets and Organizing
The Monolith Weekender rocks plenty of compartments which mimics what you'd find in both carry-on (rolling) luggage and backpacks. As an organizational fiend, I really appreciate this. Starting from the front, there's the MOLLE straps and a large compartment up top, accessed by a horizontal zipper. At the top rear is a wide but very shallow compartment, suitable for a pair of sunglasses, keys, and some pens but nothing wider than business card size. The bag is a three-quarter open and once you unzip it, you are presented with a pretty clean and minimal interior. The back side of the lid is entirely covered with two mesh compartments. The main compartment has a padded laptop compartment which stands out for a few reasons. First, it's lined with a really lush material, similar to velour or felt. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the bag which is very industrial in appearance and use. I understand that a laptop compartment is useful and in the case of the Monolith, you might not even be carrying a standard backpack on the plane so you'd need to put your laptop somewhere, but it's such a large bag and already so heavy with stuff, that putting in your 6 lb. MacBook Pro is asking a lot. Either way, it's a nice compartment and is secured with a Velcro strap. Finally, the center of the main compartment is rocking more MOLLE attachment points.
"The Monolith Weekender rocks plenty of compartments which mimics what you'd find in both carry-on (rolling) luggage and backpacks. As an organizational fiend, I really appreciate this."
I've been speaking of MOLLE a lot and that's because Heimplanet really loves the expandability system it provides. I know the system is obviously really popular in the military and a few companies have dabbled with modular systems. Personally, I haven't had much experience with them but I also rarely find myself craving or wanting them. For my trip, I used the included pouch to carry electronics. It could have equally doubled as a dopp kit. The pouch looks like a mini Weekender to be honest, though it was sporting some foam padding on both the top and bottom, which gave it some needed rigidity. You could attach the pouch on the outside like I did, or in the inside of the bag. The awkward thing about the latter is the connection points are right in the center which means when you are packing, you have this block which you have to pack around. This might not be a big deal but I would have preferred having the option of putting the bag on either end. You could also not use the attachment points at all, in which case the pouch would be like any other item you are packing. That begs the question though: why is a MOLLE attachment point necessary in the interior of the bag? Why is it so important to have a "floating" pouch? Finally there are cinch straps on the sides which do a good job of tying everything down.
"You could attach the pouch on the outside like I did, or in the inside of the bag. The awkward thing about the latter is the connection points are right in the center which means when you are packing, you have this block which you have to pack around."
On my trip, I actually left all three straps attached so I could switch back and forth between the two carry modes. This was done out of necessity rather than a desire to compare and contrast them. The important thing here is you are carrying what is two or three days' worth of stuff in a pretty large and soft bag. The weight is intense and while you might be thinking that a 40L bag is not a big deal for an overnight hike or even a two-day jaunt in the woods, the way a backpacking pack carries is very different than the Monolith. The backpack mode definitely distributes the weight better but still looks absolutely comedic on my 5'8" size. The bag also has no tapering so visually it looks very different than traditional backpacks. It reminds me of folks carrying (climbing) crash pads on their backs, but smaller of course.
"...while you might be thinking that a 40L bag is not a big deal for an overnight hike or even a two-day jaunt in the woods, the way a backpacking pack carries is very different than the Monolith."
When I got tired of carrying all the weight on my shoulders, I'd swing it around and carry it in my shoulder. This only lasted about 30 yards before it became unwieldy. What happens is the bag would sag and fold over on itself, collapsing at the center, while the two ends where the hooks were attached would pull up and in. This is not unexpected once you think about the physics of the setup, but a little surprising the first time since the result is a lot more pronounced than other shoulder carry bags (i.e. traditional duffels or messenger bags), due to the large difference in weight.
"When I got tired of carrying all the weight on my shoulders, I'd swing it around and carry it in my shoulder. This only lasted about 30 yards before it became unwieldy."
- Durable construction
- Variety of organization options
- Can alternate between backpack and messenger carry
Not So Good
- Converting in and out of backpack mode is tricky
- Not self-supporting and can become unwieldy in messenger-style mode
- Smaller framed or physically weaker users may struggle with this bag
The Heimplanet Monolith Weekender is a well-constructed, spacious bag with above average hardware and plenty of compartments and expandability, that is perfect for the right consumer. That person must really value being able to pack plenty of gear and having the option of carrying their stuff on their back or shoulders. That person ideally is also tall with a normal to wide frame and is able to carry a good amount of weight, for possibly extended periods of time. Finally, they must appreciate the modularity of the pack.
"The Heimplanet Monolith Weekender is a well-constructed, spacious bag with above average hardware and plenty of compartments and expandability, that is perfect for the right consumer."
With that said, and despite my niggles, I was impressed with the build quality of the bag and the risk that Heimplanet took in designing for a use case that is rarely addressed.
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support