The Patagonia MLC 45: Everything You Need to Know

Making Some Luggage Headway With The Patagonia Maximum Legal  Carry Bag Review

How many times have you wondered if you were going to get some grief from the airline when you arrive at the airport? I used to be in a constant state of anxiety about whether the airline would allow my rolling suitcase above. Then I took at look at the Patagonia MLC 45 aka the Maximum Legal Carry by Patagonia.

Look, with more people using low cost airlines for travel, the need for practical luggage is a must.

Whether you use a carry-on suitcase or a travel backpack, it’s important to choose a bag that fits your needs.

Patagonia may be using the Maximum Legal Carry backpack as an entre into the casual travel market. The grab your stuff and leave for a very long weekend type of bag…. This bag appears specifically made for the overhead compartment.

Who Should Buy This Backpack?

Listen, all backpack companies hope that someone writes, “This bag is for everyone!” But, the Patagonia MLC is meant for the casual fun traveler.

Immediately, I wouldn’t recommend this back for a business traveler. Also, It’s not for the traveler that will be traveling to all the corners of the world for technical trekking.

But more for a traveler that will not be doing technical trekking or hiking. Going to Vietnam for a week, sure. Hiking the apalachin trail, no way. This is not some crazy technical Osprey backpack.

The Patagonia MLC45 is a new take on the carry-on travel bag especially since airlines are getting picky about carry on bag sizes.

Let’s dig a little deeper on the Patagonia’s MLC….

What is the Best Use of Patagonia’s Maximum Legal Carry?

You want to take a trip to Las Vegas with a simple carry-on backpack? Sure.

You want to travel to Vegas for a wedding? No.

The best use case of this bag is for a person that is going to a place either by themselves or on a no frills kind of trip. The essentials only.

The backpack’s back does happen to have a hip belt attached to the bottom of the bag. I wouldn’t find that kind of belt necessary for this type of backpack.

Hear me out, The only reason I would need a hip belt is if I were dragging around a lot of weight above 35 lbs or 15 kilos.

Again, this bag is made for a 3-5 day trip. Now, I’ve read about people that use this backpack as their only bag for much longer trips. But I wouldn’t recommend that kind of use unless I was traveling as a Spartan.

What About the MLC’s Soft Outside Material?

The bag is made from a recycled polyester twill. It is a soft sided bag that allows for easy expansion and allows you to jam your clothes and extra articles.

The interior fabric is your standard nylon interior. I was kind of disappointed with the interior. Here’s why: Bag failure often occurs on the inside with a rip at an edge or seam. Though I didn’t use it long enough to have catastrophic failure of a rip, I would definitely be concerned.

What are the features on the outside of the M.L.C.?

There are a lot of ways for you to carry the MLC. One, you can use it as a backpack, which is nice. Another, the M.L.C. has a handle on the side of the bag which allows you to carry the bag as a suitcase type of carryon backpack. Lastly, the M.L.C. has a strap that your could use it as a carry-on over the shoulder.

Special Feature – 3 Points for a Carry-on: Hidden Straps, Shoulder Strap and Handle

I used the bag in all three configurations with all the handles. I found the backpack method to be adequate.

The easiest, but least enjoyable method was using the shoulder strap due to comfort. And lastly, the handle which seemed like an awkward way to carry the bag due to it being inconvenient.

Slip this Travel Backpack Over Your Luggage

The Maximum Legal Carry allows you to slide your backpack over your larger luggage. There is a zippered pocket on the back which allows you to slap it on the handle of your suitcase.

It wouldn’t be on another carry on bag since the Patagonia’s Maximum Legal Carry is as large as you can get for a a carry on bag. Thus, it crushes your dream of being able to carry on a carry on suitcase and this bag.

The MLC’s Back Strap and Padding:

On the back of the Maximum Legal Carry, there is a drop pocket for the straps. It allows you to hide the backpack straps when you’re not using the bag as backpack.

When pulled out, the straps attach to to connection points at the bottom of the pack. So, when not used as a backpack, the Maximum Legal Carry allows the straps to be tucked and flattened in a closed zipper pocket.

The Backpack straps are too thin. I believe that the straps are thin because you can tuck the straps away. But, I believe they’ve sacrificed comfort for the ability to hide them. If comfort is important to you, buyer beware.

More than likely, you would be carrying this bag as more of a duffle bag than anything else.

Does the M.L.C. have a Padded Laptop Pocket?

The M.L.C. has a padded laptop pocket that holds most laptops. You need to consult Patagonia to make sure your laptop fit, but it easily handled my 15” PC laptop and it could easily handle a Macbook Pro to a Macbook Air.

Does Patagonia’s MLC45 have an Organizational Pocket?

The front of the bag has a convenient storage pocket for carrying documents and some magazine, pens and cords.

It’s well organized, but the structure of the pocket is so large and unstructured. Because the bag is so flexible, I wouldn’t recommend that the you would carry important business documents in the bag. I would be too concerned about the documents becoming damaged, bent or wrinkled in transit.

Another interesting thing about the front pocket is that is very deep. Again, if you’re a person that likes structure and a well organized area, I wouldn’t say that this is the the MLC45 strong suit. I found that I was constantly fishing around for stuff. I personally like a bag that is minimal, yet is very well organized. This bag area is massive compartment.

There is a key dongle in the inside, but I usually like to keep my keys accessible and easily reachable. And there are a couple of Velcro pocket in the organization compartment. So, you can definitely carry some sunglasses and some cords, but you’ll likely be fishing at the bottom of the compartment. The organization area could be easily designed better.

Patagonia’s MLC Zippers

This backpack uses larger coil zippers that are relatively smooth to zipper and unzipper. Overall, the zipper are really high quality. A lot of backpack companies tend to use lesser quality, but Patagonia is likely using high quality YKK zippers for this bag. I did have a slight problem with one zipper grabbing some extra fabric, but overall the zippers work as they should. Another improvement that I would make is the zipper pulls. I felt that this an area that the bag could be made better.

What about the inside of the Headway Bag?

In side the main interior compartment, there is a small mesh pocket near the top.

The main compartment in the interior of the bag can handle about 3 days worth of cold weather clothing due to its bulkiness or 5 days or summer wear. Of course, you could always fit more depending on the thickness of your clothes and the method of packing.

The bag opens like a clamshell which is great for easy packing. You can quickly access your clothes and toiletries. Again, the bag reminds me a a simple suitcase carryon that you can open and have access to what you’ve packed pretty simply.

On the left side of the backpack, you have a zippered compartment that has a mesh pocket and a closed pocket. As you open the compartment, you can place your clothes in a very wide opening.

On the right side, there is a large mesh section that allows you to see the articles you’ve packed in the right section. I like the ability to see what’ve packed and I like this part of the bag.

The internal compartments have enough space for a simple travel backpack. I would recommend that if you’re using this bag, only fill it 75-85%. I often do this to make room for some special gifts for friends and family or mementos and souvenirs for myself.

Because the bag is soft, I’d be careful packing anything that may be fragile or breakable in transit.

FAQ and Specs

Price: MSRP $189.00

Dimensions: 22”x16”x9” or 55.88cm x 40.64cm x 22.86cm

Weight: 3lbs, 3oz or ~ 1.45 kg

Materials: 600 denier recycled Polyester Twill

Laptop: Holds a 17” laptop in a padded Sleeve


Patagonia has always been pretty great with their warranty, and here they extend the same courtesy. You have a lifetime warranty against materials and defects. That’s pretty standard for great travel bags. I have read that Patagonia is looking more at repairs than replacement these days, so take that into consideration.

Final Thoughts on the Patagonia’s Headway MLC

I think the bag suits a traveler pretty well. I can’t say that I love the bag, but I think it’s adequate. I like the spaciousness of the interior, but I think the over all structure and organization of the bag could be greatly improved.

I think I’d likely get frustrated with the organization pocket. Personally, I think a great travel backpack is supposed to help you organize your mobile life. It’s your mobile home for as long as you’re gone, and this backpack seems like a warehouse… It has lots of space, but no organization.

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