I have been using and flip flopping between the original Baron Fig Kickstarter Minimal backpack and the second edition, the Venture Slimline Backpack ($85). Since the original model is no longer available, I will focus on the Venture Slimline model. It’s really more of a 1.5 upgrade of the original rather than massive changes. What has been updated in the Venture Slimline backpack was in response to feedback and usage and are small tweaks.
The size of the bag measures about 11″ wide by 17″ tall with a depth for 4″. The original backpack was about an inch taller. The interior comfortably fits a 15″ laptop, a tablet computer (I have an iPad Pro 11″) and a pile of notebooks and accessories.
The zippers feature large teeth metal zips, as close as they could probably get to YKK zippers or they are YKK. They have custom pulls so I can’t say for sure. Either way, they work pretty well and feel durable. If you run into any friction issues, you can use some wax paper on them to make them less sticky.
The straps on the bag are thick canvas. Even fully loaded, the bag is comfortable without excessive padding on the straps. I did not traverse the Andes with the Venture Slimline backpack so I can’t say for certain that they are comfortable over the long term but I have about a quarter mile walk to and from my office each day and I never noticed the backpack, even stopping for chats. I never noticed the weight or any pinching from the straps. Non-padded straps might be a make-or-break for you, though.
The grab handle on the top of the bag is folded canvas webbing like the straps. The fabric is very soft and the placement of the grab handle is wider than on the original Kickstarter Minimal Backpack which was stitched a little too close together and made it uncomfortable to use. This is a definite improvement.
One of the nicest features of the Venture Slimline backpack are the pair of hidden side slit pockets that are perfect for holding your phone or keys. They are kind of hidden along the seam line so they are not super visible to passersby and keep your phone and keys from ending up at the bottom of the front pocket.
The zippers and pulls on the side pockets were upgraded between the release of the Minimal backpack and the Venture. The pulls are now branded and easier to open and close. I find this more convenient but the original Kickstarter backpack had smaller pulls that were a little fiddly which could make the bag feel a little more secure against pickpockets.
The front pocket is large enough to hold a lot of miscellaneous items. I have my vintage Girl Scout (Be Prepared!) zip bag for charging cables and other accessories for my electronics, my pill case and my Hobonichi Weeks calendar in this pocket.
The main compartment has slash pockets on the back for laptop or large notebook/folders. It’s not quite deep enough to hold a large ring binder but a standard-sized notebook, laptop or file folders would fit here. There is another pocket about halfway down to hold a tablet or smaller notebook. Then at the bottom are a couple additional slash pockets for cards, a pocket notebook, etc. The bottom two pockets have not ended up being all that useful to me but I tend to keep all my miscellany in pouches or cases rather than requiring my bag to have specific pockets for my specific needs.
The Venture Slimline backpack unzips all the way around like a suitcase which means that the bottom of your bag does not end up becoming a wasteland for detritus. From the inside, you can access the side pockets on the front of the bag as well as two additional pockets above and below the side pockets that are only accessible from inside the bag. They are small pockets but could be used for cord wrangling, storing a small wallet or other items.
The back of the backpack had room for a pencil case, my Moment wallet, another pouch for cosmetics and a sketchbook. Of course, since these pouches are floating freely in the backpack, should the bag accidentally unzip, my pouches will end up on the ground. The zippers never unzipped on me but I was always a little worried that if both pulls weren’t at the top of the bag, the possibility existed.
The photo above is everything I was carrying in the backpack. The laptop was subject to change depending on whether or not it was a weekday or weekend. My work laptop is a 15″ while my personal laptop is a 13″.
For comparison, the grey color of the fabric from the original Kickstarter Minimal backpack (in front) and the darker Venture Slimline in the back. You can also more easily see the different in the side zipper pulls.
The original Kickstarter Slimline backpack featured a large logo label centered under the front pocket.
The Venture Slimine backpack now features a small embroidered logo in the lower right hand corner on the front of the bag.
Overall, the improvements are welcomed and the bag is a good value for the price. If you live in a particularly wet climate, I’m not sure how waterproof the fabric is since its just canvas without any waterproofing treatment.
If you are just schlepping your goods from your house to your car to your office or coffeeshop of choice and back, then this is probably not a deal breaker. The fabric could probably be treated with something but I’m out of my depth here. (I recommend searching on YouTube for videos on waterproofing canvas. It’s essentially one part wax and one part linseed oil and heat. There are some serious outdoorsman demoing the process. Find the one that seems doable for you.)
For all the pockets on this bag, there is no outside water bottle slot. While I seldom carry water around with me, I do carry a travel mug of coffee with me wherever I go and it would be nice to have a convenient place to put it.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the items included in this review were provided to us free of charge (none of the Apple products were free. I bought those with my own money but, hey Apple, if you want to sponsor this blog, I think the whole staff would be on board for that!) for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.