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Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

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Patagonia Blackhole MLC Review: Best One Bag Travel Backpack for Overpackers 2020

Best One Bag Travel Backpack for Overpackers 2020

  • Organization 90% 90%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Security 60% 60%
  • Laptop Protection 70% 70%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Price: $200

Weight: 3.4lbs (1.5kg)

Dimensions: 22.75x18x6.75”

Capacity: 45l

Laptop Size: 17”

What We Like: Internal organization, durable material.

What We Don’t: No frame, awkward straps.

Patagonia is another larger company in the travel backpack space that I think missed the mark. The MLC or (Maximum Legal Carry-on) has no framing system and therefore sits awkwardly on your body whether in suitcase or backpack mode. The benefit of the frameless body is that you can really overpack this thing, and it should be able to manage whatever is thrown at itor in it. There are some good organizational pockets along the outside of the pack, and the internal organization is quite innovative as well. It just wasn’t that comfortable to handle or use on a daily basis. The ability to overstuff it, though, earned the Patagonia Black Hole MLC the Best One Bag Travel Backpack for Overpackers. Be aware: overpacking can lead to this pack quickly changing status from your carry-on to checked luggage.

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Pros

Laptop and Electronic Storage Pocket

Harness System

Cons

Boxy shape

Material Aesthetic

Weight: 5.1lbs (1.7kg)

Dimensions: 22x14x9” 

Capacity: 45l

Laptop Size: 17”

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Pros

Slim Design

Can Accommodate a 17” Laptop.

Cons

Looks Like a Suitcase with Backpack Straps.

Weight: 3.9lbs (2.4kg)

Dimensions: 22x14x9” 

Capacity: 45l

Laptop Size: 17”

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Pros

Zipper Security Systems

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Cons

Top Loading

Weight: 2.6lbs (1.17kg)

Dimensions: 21x14x8.25” 

Capacity: 40l

Laptop Size: 17”

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Pros

Great Harness System

Internal Storage

Cons

Laptop Sleeve Location

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Laptop Size: 15”

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Pros

Multiple Access Points

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Cons

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Pros

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Cons

Limited Organization

Boxy

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Dimensions: 22x14x9”

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Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

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Pros

Internal Organization

Durable Material

Cons

No Frame

Awkward Straps

Weight: 3.4lbs (1.5kg)

Dimensions: 22.75x18x6.75”

Capacity: 45l

Laptop Size: 17”

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Pros

Adjustable Hipbelt

Good Company Values

Cons

Thin Harness System

Weight: 3.5lbs (1.6kg)

Dimensions: 20x12x8”

Capacity: 35l

Laptop Size: 15”

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Cons

Small Size

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Pros

Waterproof

Water Bottle Pocket

Cons

Odd External Material Set Up

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Pros

Included Rain Cover

Laptop Suspension System

Cons

Harness Stowing System

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Pros

Looks Great

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Cons

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Since its inception as a clothing company for climbers, Patagonia has become one of the best known outdoor industry companies on the planet. With an owner who doesn’t care for consumerism and industry revolutionizing environmental practices, it is sort of easy to see why.

Patagonia has recently begun creating and manufacturing travel and gear bags, and the Black Hole line is a very well known line of gear haulers. The Black Hole MLC (maximum legal carry-on, at least in the US) is their addition to the one bag travel pack market. I wanted to love it as much as I love my 70l Black Hole, but it has some flaws I can’t quite get over.

Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

Storage

Inside of the large YKK enclosed main pocket is a large zippered pocket for your main travel clothes. It is a nice size and is walled, so it can contain your luggage as you pack. It also goes very nicely with Patagonia Black Hole packing cubes if you are someone who likes to organize that way. On the other side of the open compartment, there are two smaller zippered pocketsnice for toiletries or cables, etc. These zippered pockets are attached to another large zippered pocket that would hold items you want to keep separate from the rest of the cargo, like a dress shirt or travel towel. All in all, the pack has about 45l of storage, which is why it is the Maximum Legal Carry-on.

Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

There is no water bottle holder on the MLC, but there are several gear loops along the outside so you could clip a water bottle to that. Also on the outside of the pack, there is a small zippered pocket, which is great for storing the additional strap for the briefcase set up or quick-grab items such as your wallet. Behind the smaller zipped pocket is a larger more diverse zippered compartment that has several smaller organizational pockets for documents, e-readers, you name it.

Laptop Sleeve

The Patagonia Black Hole MLC is entirely frameless, so it has some serious sagging issues when not fully packed or without a laptop. There is a large zipper access pocket that can hold up to a 17” laptop that would sit closest to the wearer’s body. The pocket doesn’t cover the entire size of the pack, which gives your laptop some cushion in case of an accidental drop. The pocket is padded, but I just don’t like that the pack is frameless because all of the structure of the pack will come from the laptop, which puts unnecessary stress on the computer.

Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

Comfort and Harness System

The Black Hole MLC is a backpack/side carry bag, with side handles. So trying to make it comfortable in both settings is tricky. The shoulder straps are comfortable and the stowaway very easily into their dedicated zippered pocket. The strange part of the shoulder straps is that their length is adjusted by pulling forward and up instead of down and back as you do on standard backpacks. This set up causes straps to be dangling in off places and takes some time to get used to. 

Due to the frameless nature of the pack, there are also off pointy parts of the bag that may cause irritation when the bag is not fully packed or properly adjusted. It is a very large bag to have such little support to help in the carrying to load management. Patagonia uses removable frame sheets in their Alpine backpacks, and I think the Black Hole MLC would benefit greatly from a thin removable frame sheet to support the weight and the wearer.

Best Travel Backpacks: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag - Gear Hacker

Security and Material

The Patagonia Black Hole MLC is made mainly from a 450D ripstop polyester covered in a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminate that helps improve weatherproofing and overall durability. The plastic hardware on the pack is Duraflex, and there are bulky YKK zippers with locking holes for added security.

Patagonia has also moved to 100% recycled material, which is another step that Patagonia is taking to reduce its environmental impact. Recycled material is harder to procure and manufacture with, so as a large company, they do not need to take these steps but chose to do so for the environment and consumers.

The Bottom Line

I love Patagonia products. They are built to be passed down through generations, and the company itself essentially wants to run itself out of business with their various programs like Worn Wear. I just don’t think that they have succeeded with the Black Hole MLC. At $200, it is not the most expensive pack on the list, yet the value is there. It will last for a very long time and is easy to pack and access all of your cargo.

My issues lay in the strap systems and how they just don’t seem right for a pack that can get so largewhere is the frame?! Without a fully loaded pack, the MLC just flops around as you carry it and is quite uncomfortable. It also just does not look as nice as most Patagonia products do. It is very boxy and sticks out quite far from your back as you are wearing it. I’m the first one to look into getting Patagonia gear, but I think I would bypass the MLC. 

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