Gear Review: Patagonia Mini-Mass Bag. (Almost) Travel Perfection.

Introduction to my Gear REviews

I’m tough on my gear—using it constantly over the past year and half of travel and trekking. I’m also a minimalist—striving to find a few well-chosen pieces that are highly versatile and multi-functional—at home in fashionable cities as well as on extended wilderness treks—while being as light and small as possible.

I love having a small travel set-up—enabling me to roam free and far. 

 

I think I FINALLY found the (almost) perfect travel bag.

This is big news. 

If you’re like me, your shoulder bag is arguably your #1 most used item. When I'm traveling,it's glued to my side almost every waking moment of every day.

It carries essentials for a day out exploring: camera, kindle, guidebook, iPad mini, light jacket, small notepad, camera, sunblock, etc.

It must be large enough to carry what you need, but small enough to be stow-able inside my larger backpack when necessary. It must be reasonably non-obtrusive and doesn’t scream,  “Hey everyone I’m carrying a laptop, camera, or other valuables!"

Ideally I like to blend into the cityscape—just another urban dweller going about their day.

Patagonia’s mini-mass bag is the first bag I feel (almost) entirely happy with. The almost caveat is that while it is reasonably fashionable—it’s not exactly the pinacle of style. Still, this bag is so functional that I’ll overlook this minor fashion-related shortcoming.


Here my rundown & rating by category 1-5 (poor - great):

Durability: After shredding my last bag, this one has stood up well to the formidable abuse and constant use I’ve thrown at it. Zero complaints here. And this is saying something. 5.0

Aesthetics/Fashion: As stated above, it could be better—but it also could be worse. I give it a 2.5. 

Ultralight: This bag does not qualify for ultralight status, it’s just a bit too heavy. BUT it is perfectly sized for a minimalist, able to carry the essentials well, and stretch to accommodate at 13 inch laptop when needed. 3.0

Functionality. This is where this bag really shines. Everything makes sense in this bag and there for a reason. There’s everything I need and nothing extra I don’t.

  • An outer slash pocket on the front is perfect for securely dropping essentials like keys, change, or your iPhone and wallet while zipping through security. While a similar zip pocket under the front flap provides more useful stowage options.
Shown with an iPad Mini inside the main compartment. 

Shown with an iPad Mini inside the main compartment. 

  • A top grab handle is right where it should be—something I haven’t always seen in bags this size.
  • The pocket on the side next to your body is essential. I love this pocket and loath a pack without one since I use it so often. Since you don’t need open up your whole pack to reach it, I often slide my Kindle and or iPad mini here for quick access while walking around town or standing in airport lines. It’s also handy for things like museum maps, magazines, or other quick access items.
  • A small inner zip pocket is much appreciated to stow things you really don’t want to lose, like your passport. I put my portable SD card reader & other essentials like a key. There’s also pens slots, a velcro-secured inner pocket for a phone, and inner slide-in pockets on either end of the bag for miscellany. These are quite handy, providing lots of potential stowage options.
  • An elevated inner laptop divider which keeps my iPad mini or laptop off the ground.
  • And outer elastic side pocket will take a water bottle, sunglasses or other quick grab items.
  • This might seem like a strange one, but the choice of shoulder strap material to me is really important to me. This bag gets it right in my opinion. The unpadded strap material is functional and comfortable, as well as being light. 

I find many sling bags use a thicker material for this which I think is an overkill—only adding weight and bulk.

A crucial functional advantage of this thinner material is that I can slide the pack around to my chest and then put my backpack on over top of the strap comfortably. There’s no pressure or bunching in this set-up. I use this method all the time, negotiating airports, trains, and the walk to my hostel etc.

 

Here's me with a previous black version on the Mini-mass. This is where the thin strap shines. 

Here's me with a previous black version on the Mini-mass. This is where the thin strap shines. 

Notice that nice durable, thin shoulder strap

Notice that nice durable, thin shoulder strap

SUMMARY: I need a durable bag that can stand up to wear and tear, so I’ll forgive the 3.0 ultra-light rating. I can also look past the 2.5 Aesthetics/Fashion rating, though it does leave me wanting a bit here. 

So in conclusion, this is great bay for daily use traveling and around town. I give it a 4.5 rating. Definitely a good piece of gear I can recommend. 

Ratings Summary (1 Poor to 5 Excellent):

Durability: 5.0

Fashionability: 2.5

Ultralight: 3.0

Functionality: 5

OVERALL: 4.5

Lastly, you also might consider this bag as an option. It's the exact same design, with a more rugged waterproof material. And I think it looks cooler too.  It is 4 ounces heavier, but worth a look.