It would be remiss of me not to begin this post with a line such as ‘2020 huh? What a year’. Like everyone else I have spent most of the year hunkered down in one location. The whole ‘living out of a bag so I can jet off somewhere exotic at any moment’ has been somewhat undermined, and the benefits of my minimalist lifestyle seem far less significant this year.
That said, it has been reassuring to discover that, even with a significant lifestyle change, my onebag of 137 things is enough to sustain me for another year, and being static has not meant a static onebag, I’ve made a few changes to my belongings, including perhaps the biggest change of all; my onebag itself.
After almost 6 years I have decided to replace my superb Tortuga Air. As the container for my worldly belongings this was a big decision, and one that, thanks to Covid, hasn’t really been validated yet. My Tortuga didn’t fail, in fact it still looks remarkably good, but there was a fairly urgent need that drove this change.
Last year, thanks to a very delayed Flybe flight I found myself running from Manchester airport terminal 1 to 3 with my fully laden Tortuga, for a connecting flight to Oman. I made the flight (literally as the gate was closing) and after I’d finished congratulating myself for not needing to check a bag (which wouldn’t have been an option) I noticed that I couldn’t move my neck.
It turned out I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder and this one injury almost wiped me out for my Oman trip.
I have been living out of a bag for over 8 years now, and I turned 43 this year, an age that somehow seemed pretty ancient even when I started this adventure.
I now have a pension, a personal hair trimmer and a physiotherapist. His name is Jim and after this particularly painful shoulder episode, he suggested my Tortuga may not be providing the necessary support for my back and neck when fully laden.
This was a fair assumption, the bag’s primary feature is its feather weight (requiring minimal structure). It’s a superb bag and it’s served me well but the time had come for something with better structure and support, and perversely I would have to consider heavier bags for the sake of my health. Enter the Minaal 3.0.
The Minaal Carry-On has been cooking (their term) for almost as long as I’ve been carrying my Tortuga, it always struck me as sleeker and sexier than the Tortuga Air but the weight difference (1.5kg to 1.0g – both 35l capacity) was a turn off.
With the recent release of the 3.0 the Minaal team introduced a new lightweight ‘unified harness’ featuring a dense EVA foam back panel, thicker EVA foam handles, and remarkably strong magnetic load lifters which make a big difference.
The first time I lifted this bag on to my shoulders and adjusted the straps, it just felt right, good balance and excellent weight distribution, even when full.
The sternum strap is strong, comfortable and makes a hell of a difference to the ease of carry. It is also easily stowed in its own clip when not in use, which is neat.
There are other killer features too – including the material itself (1200D and 600D Picton) which is significantly more water proof and abrasion resistant than the Tortuga’s Denier material (which was getting a little ‘fluffy’ after so much use).
There’s a clever system of pockets (particularly towards the top of the bag) that are larger than the Tortuga’s – which I really appreciate, particular when under pressure at airport security.
The solid grab handles are a delight and having one on the side of the bag makes all the difference when retrieving from awkward positions such as overhead bins.
The internal pockets also reduce the need for packing cubes although the Tortuga’s internal mesh pocket created two large packing cubes which is a feature I shall miss.
I did try the Minaal packing cubes but I am so used to how my gear packs in the Eagle Creek Specter cubes (which still fit inside the Minaal remarkably well) there seemed little point in making the switch. The Eagle Creek cubes are lighter too – although it is marginal (19g vs 30g for a Medium).
The hidden passport pocket is a nice addition and the lie flat laptop compartment is neat if a little gimmicky although the ‘Devicenest’ system itself is very cool; protecting the laptop from impact on all sides – particularly from drops on the base of the bag.
The ability to hide the straps, and in super quick time, for that professional look, is impressive, and the way the rolldown cover stashes is very clever.
Everything about the bag feels premium; from the lightweight alloy buckles to the hypalon zipper tabs which make closing the bag so much easier.
I really appreciate the inclusion of an integrated raincover (and raincover pocket in the base of the bag) and the water bottle pocket is very well thought out, secure and much deeper than on the Tortuga.
The dimensions of the Minaal (55 x 35 x 20) are also better for a onebag than the Tortuga (48 x 32 x 18) – maximising most airline carry on limits (56 x 35 x 22) while minimising the external trappings for what can only be described as a minimalist sleek ‘flow’ look.
The Minaal feels roomier than the Tortuga Air (even when the latter is expanded), and yet the extra weight isn’t very noticeable when being carried, thanks to the harness system.
Time will tell whether the Minaal 3.0 will reduce the drag on my shoulder and neck, but for now I am hopeful.
Also I will be updating my ‘Everything I Own’ for 2020 in the next couple of weeks, there have been some other changes to reduce weight I hope you will find useful.