Bellroy Transit Backpack Review
Last summer, I fell in love. Deeply in love, madly in love… with a bag. But not just any bag. The Bellroy Weekender Plus was my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and I’m still smitten. When given the opportunity to look at the Bellroy Transit Backpack, I jumped at the chance.
Like most of their products, Bellroy’s Transit Line is designed to make your life easier and more fluid. In particular, Bellroy wants to take the stress out of travel so you can enjoy the journey and adventure. There are three bags in this collection, the Weekender Plus, the Flight Bag, and last but not least the Transit Bag. This 28L travel backpack looks to streamline one-bag travel, but does it achieve that goal?
Who It Suits
This is for those who like to double strap when they travel.
One-baggers who would like a piece that can do it all!
Travel-friendly – meets all requirements!
Who It Doesn’t
If you prefer sleek, smaller profiles, this might not be for you!
This bag feels like it is born out of frustration. You can imagine the team at Bellroy regaling tales of missed connections, lost bags, wandering passports and all of the other issues that you can encounter when traveling. What I mean by that is that this piece of luggage attempts to solve all the problems you can have with short-term travel. And guess what – they’ve succeeded.
I’ve found that Bellroy’s biggest strength is making usable products that simplify your day-to-day. That is the ethos of this bag, too. It excels at blending into the background, with simple and smart color choices. The materials are premium, but not at the expense of selling a kidney. There is a space or slot for everything you need on your short trip, but not for anything superfluous. That is exactly what you need when traveling: something that allows you to focus on the destination.
Once in a while, a bag just works for you, and your interactions are seamless – that’s how I feel about the Bellroy Transit Backpack. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, I don’t believe there is such a thing. But it does what it is supposed to and it does it very well. As with their Weekender Plus, there are also small notes filled with well-thought-out offerings that guide you through the bag before you even pack it. Through these small gestures, you are experiencing Bellroy’s mantra – they want to use this bag to have adventures – both new and old!
I’ve been using this bag for around five months now, and I’ll be using it for many more to come. It’s come with me for long weekends away, bachelor parties, and overnight trips. From urban exploration to snowy mountainous getaways – this backpack has excelled. The materials feel great in your hand, the rich canva weave is durable – robust and reliable. This has taken beatings in the rain, been hauled around grubby trains and even been caught in some serious snow. But looking at it now, you wouldn’t know – it looks like it’s brand new!
Bellroy are at the front of the closed loop charge in the soft goods industry and that story continues here. The Transit is made from recycled materials that actually reduce energy consumption during production, while the leather zipper pulls and details all come from gold-rated Leather Working Group Tanneries. I have the charcoal colorway of this bag and I love it – simple, clean, and elegant styling means it will work wherever you need it to – a positive trait in a travel bag. Who knows where it will take you!
Much like my experience with the Weekender Plus, this bag is a joy to use. Bellroy appear to have really examined the minutiae of travel, and how you act when you’re doing it. What I’m getting at is that there isn’t a learning curve with this bag. Sometimes when we purchase a new bag it takes a few trips to assimilate and synchronize with your new beau. But with the Bellroy Transit Backpack – my hands went to the right pockets, at the right moments without a second thought. From the sunglasses pocket on the top of the bag, to the pen slips just inside the front zipper where you can grab them quickly, the Transit is an intelligently designed bag.
Thanks to the clamshell opening you can see your whole packing space. The high side “walls” give you a surprising amount of space. Listed at 28L, it comfortably held four days’ worth of complete outfit changes for me, and if you’re a minimalist, I’m willing to bet you could make that stretch a lot further than I can! There is also a Plus version of this backpack which comes in at 38L.
The rectangular shape of the main cavity makes it a dream to pack – it’s very easy to go from wardrobe to bag without having to refold. An internal elastic compression strap (with magnetic closure!) keeps everything in place as you travel. I really like this feature! If you are traveling and just using one bag, it almost acts as a divider between your quick-to-grab gear and not-until-later gear. You can keep your underwear, evening garments, or whatever else under the compression straps while being able to grab a jacket or sweater quickly from the main compartment. The strap also works for holding down any magazines or documents, so they don’t do the traditional “sink to the bottom and get crumpled” routine. The clay red interior makes it easy to see your contents and complements the subtle exterior styling.
Pockets, pockets, pockets. Internally and externally, Bellroy have you covered. On the front of the bag, there is a vertical zip that houses a key loop, two pen slots, and a wallet/phone mesh net. This is easy to access at all times, and it actually has great volume. You can comfortably fit a book in there on top of the aforementioned. Moving up the backpack, you have a stretchy quick-access pocket, which is designed for sunglasses. It is softly lined, so you needn’t worry about your glasses getting damaged. I love this pocket, and as a glasses wearer, I wish every bag had one. It’s the perfect size and shape – I found that it can hold two pairs of glasses without their cases.
Going over the top of the backpack (past the incredibly comfortable grab handle!) you come to the lined laptop compartment. This will hold a 16″ laptop with ease and I really enjoy the quarter opening. Enough to give you the traction needed for in/out, but still sleek in line with the rest of the styling. Also inside the laptop compartment is a useful tech pocket. You can fit a small tech pouch in there or just have your cables and chargers loose – this is also a good option for headphones!
On both sides of the bag are two concealed pockets. These are water bottle pockets. I LOVE the hidden aspect here, it keeps everything tidy, and I found it held a 500ml insulated bottle comfortably – I’m sure you could probably fit a bigger bottle in here – although be aware it will take away some internal space. These hidden pockets are also great for a passport, wallet, or keys if you’d like them to be out of the way. Internally there are two zip pockets on the “front” of the clamshell opening. One horizontal shorter pocket, great for toiletries, and a pocket around twice that size with a vertical zipper for on the side – I found this to be the natural spot for underwear.
Now all of the pockets and sleek styling are great – but they mean nothing if the bag isn’t comfortable – particularly for travel. Thankfully, it is supremely comfortable. Well-padded shoulder straps, a ventilated mesh back panel, and a magnetic sternum strap allow easy transit when you’re loaded up with the Transit. Would I take this on a 15-mile hike? No, that’s not what it’s meant for. But it’s handled mile after mile of city streets without me even batting an eye. The ventilated back panel shouldn’t be underestimated here – once you’ve loaded up your backpack for travel, it can be pretty weighty. The central channel gives you great ventilation and helps to mitigate sticky back syndrome.
Another key strength of the Bellroy Transit Backpack is its versatility. At 28L it also doubles as an excellent EDC bag. You can travel with this to your destination, unpack at your lodgings, and then head out with this as your day bag. When not traveling it’s proved to be a good gym bag, with plenty of room for shoes, a towel, and a change of clothes. It can also hold plenty of beer and food from the grocery store.
While I am a big fan of the Transit line, it doesn’t mean that they are flawless. The Bellroy Transit Backpack could do with a few tweaks that would elevate it to the god tier for me. Locking zippers, like on the Weekender Plus and Flight Bag would be excellent; I think that should be a necessity on a travel bag. Internally, the bag could benefit from a few zippered mesh pockets along the side wall. I think that would elevate the organization of both clothing (think belts, socks, toiletries) and EDC. These aren’t deal-breakers by any stretch of the imagination, but there is always room for improvement!
With the Transit line, Bellroy is making travel simpler – just as I found with the Weekender Plus. That is an admirable and welcome achievement. The fact I don’t have to think about this bag while I travel tells me everything I need to know. Bellroy has engineered the humble backpack to near perfection as a travel tool.
A heads up, Bellroy and Carryology share the same founders. You can learn more here.