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Nomatic Travel Pack on the go
Nomatic Travel Pack on the go Jeff Li/IBTimes
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What's the strength of the soft shell backpack? Soft shell backpacks have been on the rise in recent years as opposed to conventional soft fabric backpacks. Taking the Nomatic backpack on my latest trip to Asia, I had great anticipation of the different user experience that it will be offering as opposed to other travel packs that I've been using recently.

Built like a shark

From the get-go, backpacks with soft shells have this futuristic sleekness to it. The Nomatic backpack has a rigid dimension, and though constructed of fabric, it looks closer to a box than a bag.

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The exterior shell is made of a water resistant material that is smooth and has no 'pores' (Upon some research, the outer shell is made of Tarpaulin). The texture reminds me of shark skin which is smooth and yet has this toughness to it.

On close inspection, there are actually two types of fabric used on the shell of the Nomatic backpack. A graphite-esque material that is seemingly tougher wraps the base and magnetic bottle holders on the sides, which are areas that are more prone to wear and tear - which is a design detail that I'm always on the watch for in backpacks.

Free standing bag

The boxy build of the Nomatic backpack means that it is free standing - all the time. You don't need a wall or table to lean against, it just stands upright. There are a lot if benefits to this: most of the bag stays clear of the dust of the ground, it's also less likely someone would accidentally step on your bag, and perhaps most significantly, the bag becomes like a standing shelf where you don't dig around for your stuff, but your gadgets are dispensed to you.

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Once the bag is set down, it is more like a pod than a backpack. Each level of the bag is designed to open up in a certain way so that its contents are easily accessible. The front most pocket for example opens and holds at roughly 45 degrees, while the laptop layer opens fully, laying the laptop holder open and flat, while the document holder remains vertical.

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The top diagonal part of the opening turns out to be one of the most used feature for me, as the angled part can open like a flap, giving access to a wider storage space in the bag. I used it most often accessing and putting away my headphones, jacket, and anything else that could not fit into the flat packed storage sections.

Convertible suitcase

The Nomatic backpack's cubic shape is especially convincing when converting to a suitcase, together with a couple of unique tricks up its sleeve.

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I have seen various implementations to hide back straps for converting a backpack into a suitcase, but I have to say Nomatic's execution is one of the best. There is no detachment of the straps in anyway, which ensures the strength of the straps. Instead, the surface that comes in contact with the user's back has two flaps like a butterfly that can be opened to tuck the straps away. Since the Nomatic backpack doesn't have tension straps, or any other straps for that matter, once the back straps are put away, you end up with a clean cube, which is a good look.

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To carry the now clean, free standing box, you can carry the backpack in three places: either with the top grip, or with not one, but two side grips that allows the Nomatic backpack to be carried like a classic suitcase. The symmetrical side grips is both pleasing aesthetically, and as I found out, useful when you're rushing between flights. Not having to think about which side the grip is, well, as convenient as USB-C or Lightening port as opposed to older USB ports. No one wants to go through a trial-and-error process when all they want is to get a good, fast grip on their backpack.

Expandability without tension straps

Expansion is nothing new for modern backpacks, but in order to keep things nice and tight at compression or expansion, it's normally achieved with tension straps - which are a necessary evil. What you end up is at least 4 straps dangling at all times. The Nomatic Travel Pack gets around this with its stiff soft shell design: when expanded, the extended section is also made of Tarpaulin which has a good stiffness to it. Together with the boxy structure of the overall backpack, the extended part simply holds and like magic, your cube became a good 33% larger.

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The expanded section of the Nomatic Travel Pack also opens up differently from the remaining layers of the backpack. Instead of opening up vertically, it opens up like a clamshell horizontally. This means not only great accessibility, but you can easily distinguish between your day luggage from your night luggage.

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Who is the Nomatic Travel Pack for?

If you're into the tidy look of soft shell backpacks, and prefer a boxy style travel pack, the Nomatic Travel pack is one of the market leaders in terms of how much thought they put into versatility and flexibility. Furthermore, as a backpack almost completely constructed in Tarpaulin, it is a great choice if you are after a backpack that is water resistant and durable - which if you travel often, why wouldn't you?

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.

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