Everything You Need to Know About the Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack

Consider you’re going on a trip, and you don’t really want to bring a suitcase carry-on or even check in luggage. You’re looking for the ultimate carry-on to handle your travel needs. I wanted to share my thoughts on the Timbuk2 Aviator travel backpack.

Here’s the deal, my first impression is the Timbukt2 Aviator is a decent travel backpack.

But, I want to go a little bit more in depth so you can make a well-informed decision of whether you want to buy this backpack.

So, let’s begin.

Overview of the Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack

Before we begin, let’s first cover the general information about the Aviator.

Aviator Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity

The specifications of the bag are as follows:

  • Dimensions: of the Aviator are 22.83″ x 13.39″ x 9.45″. (The Aviator is a good Carryon backpack size).
  • Weight:  It weighs a little over 4 Lbs, 6 oz  (or 2 kg).
  • Volume: It has a capacity of 1820 inches.

Backpack Organization

This backpack comes equipt with the following organization features:

  • The Main Compartment
  • A Laptop Compartment
  • A Mid-size compartment
  • 3 Smaller Compartments

Price of the Timbuk2 Aviator

As of writing this post, I have seen it advertised for $189.  But, I have also seen it on sale.

Now that I’ve covered the basic information, let’s dive into the overview of the exterior features and compartments.

Timbuk2 Aviator Exterior Features Overview

In this section, I talk about the exterior features of the bag and my thoughts on whether or not they live up to the hype.

Here are the features that I’ll be touching on:

  1. TPU Fabric
  2. Shoulder Straps
  3. Back Padding
  4. Hip Belt
  5. Backpack Handle
  6. Compression Straps
  7. Zippers
  8. Hardware

Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack: TPU Fabric

In my experience, there are a couple things that you want to look at about travel backpacks. The first thing that you want to look at the exterior fabric.

You want to make sure that the exterior fabric matches your needs. For example, if you’re going to rainy and humid climates, you want your backpack to handle those conditions.

The second thing that you want to look at is the interior fabric. You want to be asking yourself questions like, “Does it feel cheap?” Or “Will this really hold up to constant travel and potential abuse?”

Surprisingly, the aviator uses a lighter weight tarpaulin material for its exterior. Now, I couldn’t confirm with the company the exterior material, but I believe it is a 600 D poly non-phthalate PVC.

The fabric appears to be single side coated. A single coating may lead to some floppiness and an unstructured bag when it’s empty.

The interior fabric lining is a very lightweight material. The backpack I was reviewing, had a red interior. The lining didn’t feel as if it had a lot of strength. The company may have used it to reduce the weight of the backpack.

Timbuk2 Aviator: Shoulder Straps, Back Padding, And Hip Belt

Shoulder Strap

The back straps and padding of the Timbuk2 Aviator are a little on the spartan side. Re: Thin.

An interesting feature for a travel backpack is the use of hidden backpack straps. You can pop them off and throw them into the interior of the back of the bag and flatten them out with a little bit of help. Then zip it up the straps and they’re gone.

You do have the choice to hide your backpack straps so you can potentially check the bag in. Yet in all my travels, I’ve never ever checked in a backpack. I’ve always found that airlines will damage the exterior buckles if you check in a backpack. Unfortunately, a hidden straps feature appears to add little value.

Back Padding

The Back padding feels like a hard foam texturized plastic. I personally like that kind of structure, but I know that some people prefer backpacks with a little more padding for their back. It’s really a personal preference.

Hip Belt

But, there is one problem that I surfaced. Timbuk2 added a waist belt to the Aviator carry on. Now, if you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail’s, you’re looking for something a little bit more technical. But Timbuktu decided to include a waist strap on the Aviator.

The one thing that I didn’t understand was if you were hiding your backpack straps, What do you do with a waist belt? It looks like it is removable, but I didn’t even attempt it because I thought of a headache that would occur if I had to try to put it back.

I found it like when your swimsuit trunks drawstring comes off and you have to try to feed it through a small hole so you can use them again. It’s a huge headache in the end.

Timbuk2 Travel Pack: Handles and Compression Straps

Backpack Handle

The handles on both sides make it easier for you to carry the bag around as if it’s suitcase. But, I found that the texture of the handle material was rough.
The handle is bar-tack reinforced so you can be certain that the handle won’t rip from the bag. Overall, it seems that the company didn’t put an emphasis on creating a side handle for the backpack.

Compression Straps

On a positive note, I love the fact that the Timbuktu Aviator uses compression straps. A lot of backpack companies forget you may want to cinch down what you’re carrying.

But I actually think that this is a huge positive for the Timbuk2 Aviator. See, I’ve traveled many miles and I’ve found that at the beginning of my trip, I’m caring a little bit less.

And because I may want to pick up things as I’m traveling (Shirts, pants or gifts) that I don’t pack.

By the end of the trip, my bag is fully loaded. With the side straps, they allow the bag to have a smaller profile. While allowing it to grow over the course of your travels as you place more things inside.

Timbuk2 What You Need to Know: Zippers and Hardware


This backpack uses YKK zippers. In general, they were fine. They were good quality zippers, but I’ve seen better. I’m not sure how they would handle wear and tear.


I believe the buckles are Duraflex, which is fine, but not the heaviest weight buckles out there. This is important because buckles undergo a good amount of pressure. The positioning of the buckles on the bags also didn’t seem to do much in terms of functionality.

Bottle Opener

The bottle opener is a unique touch that I haven’t seen before, so points to Timbuk2 for that.

This concludes the overview of the external features. Now, let’s move into the interior organization of the backpack.

Timbuk2 Aviator’s Compartment Overview

This next section is all about the organization of the backpack. I touch on all the compartments and pockets and offer some insight on what I think the Aviator nails and what it misses.

Here are the features I’ll be touching on:

  1. Top Loading Compartment
  2. Panel Loading Compartment
  3. Travel Backpack with Laptop Compartment
  4. Front Zip Pocket
  5. Water Bottle Pockets

The Aviator is a Backpack With Two Main Compartments: Top Load and Front Load

Top Load

First, let’s start with the top opening of the bag.

On the front exterior of the Aviator backpack, it has a top flap that has two different levels of security.

First is it’s zipper shut, and the second is that there is a side release buckle that holds the flap in place. It seems the buckle is more decoration than anything. I didn’t understand its function.

Now let’s move into the first compartment: the top load pocket.

The backpack has two main parts. On the top, there is a pocket that’s approximately 8 inches deep. It can hold a small lightweight jacket, headphones, and small travel journal. I’ve heard people use the top compartment to hold dirty clothing and shoes but that seems unsanitary to me.

I prefer to keep my dirty clothes and dirty shoes in a separate bag. I think this area would probably be best suited carry a dopp Kit or a sundry bag.

The top pocket can open up to allow the Aviator backpack to function like a full rucksack backpack. I thought that that was an ingenious kind of move by the Timbuk2 design team. But, in all fairness, you could put your coat and headphones on the top of any rucksack.

Front Load

Let’s talk about the front load panel.

In a pinch, you could use this compartment for business travel quite for shorter trips. If I had to describe it, I would say that the main compartment is about the size of a small midsized duffel bag. You would need to keep your dress clothes packed very well in order for this to work.

Ultimately, you would have to wear your business suit or dress on the plane. Then get out of it once you’ve reached your final destination. I definitely wouldn’t recommend putting a dress coat to the interior compartment.

The Aviator also has a backpack travel cover rainfly attached to an interior pocket towards the back. Now, I’ve traveled a lot and it is very rare to be in a torrential downpour of rain that makes you wish you had a rain fly.

I wish I would’ve looked at it in more detail, but I believe the rain fly attaches with a
permanent strap to the backpack. At first glance that appears to be a very smart move since you won’t lose it. But, what do you do when you want to dry it out. Or clean it off separately? Again, a feature that may or may not be a benefit.

The interior fabric consists of a super lightweight rip-stop liner. It looks as if the construction is relatively solid; however, I couldn’t speak to how long the fabric would last.

The Aviator Backpack’s Other Compartments

Travel Backpack With Laptop Compartment

The Aviator’s laptop sleeve is right to the side of the backpack straps and fits up to a 15-inch MacBook pro. The interior of the laptop pocket has a nice soft fleece on the inside. But, I found it strange that there was no backup security strap. For example, I have left zippers slightly open.

Over time, while riding my bike or walking around, the zipper has continued to open up. Well, if you accidentally left the laptop compartment open, there is nothing that would keep your laptop from falling out. Be careful about that.

A laptop area that has access from the exterior, should have an extra safety measure. I think of it as similar to putting a case around your smartphone. Just in the off case that you might drop your phone and it might shatter, the same holds true for a laptop sleeve. You should definitely have an added level of security in a laptop backpack.

Front Vertical Zip Pocket

I found the Timbuk2 includes a front vertical zipper pocket. Now, normally I would love a pocket for my passport, boarding ticket, or even a phone. But, one of the most confusing things that I found is that the pocket is very large and deep all the way down to the bottom. Here’s why…

If you place your passport or boarding ticket in the pocket, they would fall all the way to the bottom of the bag. 

Ultimately, you have to decide whether you would think of difficult deep pocket as a benefit or a defect. I prefer in access pocket that allows me to find things quickly. The last thing that I want to be doing in an error Port is searching through a very deep pocket looking for my passport.

Water Bottle Pockets

There are two water bottle openings on both sides. Which is great for people that like to carry water with them, but it’s a minor plus in my book. It looks more minimalist and professional without the side pockets.

FAQs about the Timbuk2 Travel Pack

Below are some questions about the bag that come and I’d like to take this chance to address them.

1. Is the Aviator for Domestic or International Travel?

The Aviator bills itself as a travel backpack and its design is for somebody traveling. I would not recommend this for people that are looking for more of a technical backpack.

This simple travel backpack serves people that are going to be traveling for 3 to 5 days at the most.

If you may be traveling internationally, you want to check with the Airlines. Different airlines have weight carry on restrictions. But, this bag does fit all Airline carry-on dimensions.

2. What is the Aviator’s Warranty?

Timbuk2 offers a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. But, it appears that you need to buy it through them or an authorized re-seller. This means no E-Bay.  You need to be able to prove you bought it.

Should You Buy a Timbuk2 Aviator for a Carry-on Backpack?

Overall, the Timbuk2 Aviator is a good three-day travel backpack. I wouldn’t travel for more than a few days since it’s not a large backpack like other travel backpacks.  In general, the Timbuk2 Aviator is mid-size weekend travel backpack.

The exterior fabric is solid, but I think that the handle and strap fabric are not as good of quality as they could be.

As far as construction, Timbuk2 appears to be reinforcing their pack in all the right places. If you are thinking of buying the Aviator, you can check it out here.

There are many features on this backpack that could be helpful or be a disadvantage. Ultimately, you have to think about the type of pack you need. Think about it, as well as the straps and whether you want a waist strap.

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