TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 Review: An Elite Travel Backpack?

Searching for your next travel backpack? Read our in-depth review of the TOM BIHN Techonaut 30, which covers its materials, design, durability, and more.

Man sitting on a park bench with a black TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 travel backpack at his side
Reviewing the TOM BIHN Techonaut 30

I’m a bit of a backpack nerd if you haven’t figured it out by now. I’ve spent more hours (days?) of my life geeking out over bags than I’d like to admit, and I continue to do so because, apparently, gear addiction is in my DNA.

Throughout my constant obsessing over gear, the TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 caught my attention as a potential do-it-all one-bag travel backpack. I’d had my eye on TOM BIHN bags for years — people rave about their products — but I’d never owned one until I got my hands on the Techonaut.

And now, after putting my Techonaut through the wringer, I fully understand why TOM BIHN has such a relentlessly loyal following.

Stay tuned, and we’ll take a deep dive into my honest opinions of the Techonaut’s materials, design and function, comfort, storage capacity, durability, weather resistance, and more in this top-to-bottom review.

Price: $392 MSRP – Check Current Price on TOM BIHN
Weight: 2.5 lb
Dimensions: 19.7″ x 12.6″ x 8″
External Fabric: 630-denier Ballistic nylon
Pros: Stylish, durable, load weight distributed evenly; extremely comfortable, functional storage organization, personal item compliant
Cons: Zippers jingle, water bottle pocket needs work, pricey
Noel’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4.8 of 5 stars
Larger Model: Techonaut 45

How I Tested the Techonaut 30

Man unzipping a black rucksack leaned against a tree
Over the last seven months, I’ve put my Techonaut through the ringer

At the time of writing this, I’ve owned my Techonaut for about seven months. I use it nearly daily, either as a one-bag travel backpack or an around-town bag when I’m at home. It’s my do-everything-go-anywhere bag.

I’d estimate I’ve used the Techonaut:

  • 70% of the time as an around-town bag
  • 30% of the time as a one-bag travel backpack

When I’m home, I get my best work done when I’m out and about, so I take my pack to the library, coffee shops, the gym, the beach, and wherever else everyday life calls me.

When bouncing from airports to train stations to hostels, my Techonaut hauls everything I need for my minimalist one-bag lifestyle. I travel frequently, so I need a sturdy, reliable, and comfortable workhorse.

Through my experience with the Techonaut, I’ve loaded and unloaded it hundreds of times, hoisted it into overhead bins, tossed it into the back of Ubers, used it to host beach picnics, hauled heavy loads of groceries with it, taken it on long hikes, and more.

I’m a frequent traveler and remote-working gear nerd who has put the TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 to the test in countless scenarios, and I’m well qualified to review it. Let’s dive in.

Materials

Close up of a black backpack with YKK zippers, Ballistic nylon fabric, and a TOM BIHN logo
Ballistic nylon, YKK zippers, perfect stitching; the materials and craftsmanship are top-notch

The Techonaut is constructed in the USA from lightweight, eco-conscious backpack fabrics and materials. TOM BIHN is obsessed with choosing the perfect materials for their bags and isn’t afraid to nerd out about their entire repertoire with anyone who will listen.

My pack’s exterior is made from 630-denier High-Tenacity 2×2 Ballistic nylon, which is just a fancy way of saying that its fabric is slick and smooth but not shiny, extremely durable, highly weather resistant, and quite easy on the eyes.

If you require an even burlier bag than mine, the Techonaut is occasionally available with a 1050-denier Ballistic exterior, though these bags are heavier and produced less frequently than the standard 630-denier version.

The interior is made from a 200-denier ripstop grid-patterned fabric that gives a great contrast against the pack’s black exterior. This pack is stylish inside and out.

Its well-engineered back panel is made from a clever combination of 210-denier Ballistic nylon, Diamond Mesh, and closed-cell foam, which combine to make for an extremely balanced and breathable carry.

The shoulder straps, made from EVAZOTE® OEKO-TEX® foam, are as comfortable as I’ve experienced. They’re velvety soft and cushy and evenly distribute the pack’s weight without any pressure points.

The Techonaut’s YKK zippers are smooth, buttery, and reliable. I’ve zipped and unzipped them thousands of times, and they’ve never become stuck, snagged, or run off track. The zippers on the main compartment and the shoe storage area are compatible with mini travel locks to protect against theft.

One of my few nitpicks with this bag is that the two zippers that secure the main compartment clink together and jingle when I walk. No biggie; TOM BIHN could remedy this by adding rubber caps to the zippers, which would mute the sound. The jingle doesn’t bother me much, so I haven’t done anything to dampen it yet.

The meticulous stitching on this bag connects all of the Techonaut’s high-end materials flawlessly. I’m a sucker for a good sew job, and this bag’s threadwork doesn’t disappoint.

It’s clear that, when picking materials, TOM BIHN did its best to keep the weight of this pack as low as possible without sacrificing comfort, style, or durability. A lighter pack means a lighter load, which means less strain on your body.

Here’s a weight comparison with the Techonaut’s main competitors:

  • TOM BIHN Techonaut (30L): 2.5 pounds
  • Peak Design Travel Backpack (30L): 3.2 pounds
  • Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro (30L): 4.0 pounds
  • GORUCK GR2 (34L): 4.1 pounds
  • AER Travel Pack 3 (35L): 4.1 pounds

Materials-wise, the Techonaut knocks it out of the park.

Design & Function

Yellow Earth Pak bag sitting on the wet forest floor
Man in grey jacket carring a yellow roll-top bag
Close up of a zipper on a yellow backpack
Close up of a black buckle with water droplets on it
Side buckles on a roll-top bag
Yellow waterproof material that says "35L"
Yellow and black shoulder strap
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The Techonaut is a thoughtfully designed bag with one main clamshell compartment and six secondary pockets within the rest of the pack. The more you pack and unpack your bag, the more the function of each pocket will reveal itself to your specific needs.

Here’s how I use each pocket in a travel setting:

  1. Main compartment: Packing cube with clothes, toiletries, camera + case, tech accessories
  2. Suspended laptop pocket: Laptop, case, Bluetooth keyboard
  3. Shoe pocket: One pair of travel shoes and one pair of minimalist sandals
  4. Water bottle pocket: 800 ml titanium water bottle
  5. Top pocket: Keys, pocket journal, pen, odds and ends
  6. Side pocket behind handle: Bluetooth mouse
  7. Main flap pocket: Journal, laptop stand, travel documents

Here’s how I use each in an around-town setting:

  1. Main compartment: Laptop, case, Bluetooth keyboard, tech accessories, packing cube with clothes + towel, protein powder, shaker bottle
  2. Suspended pocket: 17” packable external monitor (only on days when I’m video editing)
  3. Shoe pocket: Shower sandals, toiletries
  4. Water bottle pocket: 800 ml titanium water bottle
  5. Top pocket: Keys, pocket journal, pen, odds and ends
  6. Side pocket behind handle: Bluetooth mouse
  7. Main flap pocket: Journal, laptop stand, documents

This pack’s thoughtfully placed pockets make it highly functional for all my use cases. When properly packed, I know exactly where everything should go, and I can easily access what I want, when I want—mise en place, as they say.

The Techonaut is the most well-designed and functional pack I’ve ever owned.

But…

Its water bottle pocket needs a redesign. Let me explain:

  • It can be difficult to slide a water bottle into when the pack is full
  • Since it’s zippered, it isn’t easy to access your beverage when you’re on the go
  • The water bottle eats into the internal storage of the pack

Much like my earlier nitpick of the zippers clanking together, this criticism is nowhere near a dealbreaker. It’s simply a feature that has room for improvement. If you’re reading this, TOM BIHN Team, your water bottle pocket could use a little work.

Comfort to Carry

Backside view of a black travel backpack
The padded mesh backpanel and primo should straps make this the most comfortable travel pack I’ve ever carried

As you may have gathered from my writeup of the back panel and shoulder straps in the ‘Materials’ section, the Techonaut is an incredibly comfortable pack to carry, even when fully loaded.

Why? Because TOM BIHN paid extreme attention to detail when engineering this bag, put comfort front and center, and nailed the design.

The mesh back panel, uniquely cut foam insert, and suspended laptop pocket (which, when carrying a laptop, works as a frame) rest comfortably on my back, spread the internal weight out evenly, and ventilate well in hot weather or when I’m exercising. No sore and sweaty back for me, thanks.

The squishy (but not too squishy) foam shoulder straps never dig into my shoulders or hinder my circulation, no matter how much weight I’ve loaded in the pack. The same can’t be said for other bags I’ve used in the past, like the Osprey Porter or Pakt Travel Backpack. For reference, my fully loaded travel pack usually weighs between 18 and 22 pounds.

The pack’s sternum straps and hip belt are meant to help travelers distribute their load more evenly, though I find this pack so comfortable that I never use either. Thankfully, these straps are removable, so I’ve taken them off and stashed them away for safekeeping.

Storage Capacity & Carry-On Compliance

Black backpack on a colorful rug next to measuring tape stretched to 22 inches
Fully loaded, the Techonaut stretches to about 21 inches, but can still qualify as a personal item with a little finagling

The Techonaut is rated to hold 30 cubic liters; from what I can tell, that figure is pretty accurate. No, I don’t have any official way of measuring its internal volume, but I’ve owned a 25-liter pack and a 35-liter pack, and this one’s internal storage sits right in the middle of the two.

Why did I pick a 30-liter pack? Because it fits all my belongings perfectly and slides into most budget airlines’ personal item bag boxes like a glove. I’m a budget traveler through and through, so I book the cheapest tickets possible and bring a personal item bag to avoid paying for carry-ons or checked bags.

A word to the wise: On paper, the Technaut exceeds most budget airlines’ personal item bag dimensions by an inch or two. Don’t overpack it if you want to use it as a personal item bag. If you do, you might have trouble sliding it into the dreaded bag-measuring box, and the airline might ding you with a fee.

If you want to use this bag as a carry-on, however, pack it to your heart’s content. Heck, you could probably even fill up the Techonaut 45 and carry it onto your flight.

Durability

Black TOM BIHN bag leaning against a cement pillar in a parking garage
Thanks to its 630-denier Ballistic nylon, this pack is as tough as nails

After seven months of regular use, I’m thrilled to report that this bag is as durable as advertised. No, it doesn’t rock ultra-tough 1000-denier special forces grade CORDURA nylon like the GORUCK GR2, but it doesn’t need to. I’m not taking this bag on any top combat missions, and you probably aren’t either.

That said, I don’t coddle this bag by any means. It’s gone with me:

  • Through airports
  • In trains, planes, taxis, and buses
  • To hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs
  • To libraries, coffee shops, and coworking spaces
  • To the gym
  • To the beach
  • To the mountains
  • Through packed city streets

And it still looks as good as the day I got it. No scuffs, tears, scrapes, blemishes, or loose threads. Nothing.

I’ll update this post if/when some part of this bag wears out, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that day. This pack has been a trusty steed so far, and I’m excited to see how well it’s holding up a decade from now.

Weather Resistance

Rain droplets on nylon fabric
The Techonaut isn’t waterproof, but has enough water resistance to hold of moderate exposure to precipitation

I live in Portland, where it rains incessantly, and I walk around outside a lot. I’ve carried my Techonaut in the rain and tested its weather resistance on several occasions. My belongings have always stayed dry during short periods of moderate precipitation, but I’ve never exposed my pack for more than 30 minutes at a time.

That said, the only water that’s ever made it inside my bag was from a water bottle in the side pocket that I hadn’t screwed completely closed. Oops.

TOM BIHN says all of the fabrics they use are technically “waterproof” (treated with water-repellant urethane), but that doesn’t mean water can’t seep in through the seams and zippers, especially during heavy exposure to precipitation.

To clarify, this is definitely not a waterproof backpack. Don’t take it out for hours at a time during downpours, especially if you’re carrying your precious laptop or camera gear. If you do so, your stuff will get wet, and you will be sad.

BUY TOM BIHN TECHONAUT

Features I Appreciate But Barely Use

Black padded side handle on a travel bag
I love the padded side handle, but barely ever use it

The Technoaut is a full-featured travel backpack, though I don’t utilize all of its bells and whistles. Here’s a short list of the features that I don’t find super useful but might come in handy for you.

  • Duffel Bag Conversion Strap: TOM BIHN sells an extra strap that allows you to carry the Techonaut as a shoulder or crossbody bag. My travel style doesn’t call for it; I’m a one-bag travel backpack guy.
  • Stashable Shoulder Straps: If you choose to use this pack as a duffel or a shoulder bag, you can unclip the shoulder straps and stash them away behind the back panel for a cleaner carry. I’ve never needed to.
  • Padded Side Handle: The padded side handle is quite cushy and luxurious, but I rarely use it. 99% of the time I carry this bag, I wear it as a backpack. The other 1% of the time, I carry it with its side handle.
  • Luggage Pass-Through: I have no use for this bag’s rolling luggage handle pass-through, but I imagine many of you might. It’s a helpful feature for two-bag travelers, but it’s not applicable to me. I’m a one-bag traveler, remember?
  • Hip + Sternum Straps: Even when my Techonaut is fully loaded (around 20 pounds), its weight is so evenly distributed that I see no use for the hip belt and sternum straps. Luckily, they’re removable, so I removed them.
  • Internal Straps: There are straps and buckles within the pack’s main compartment to keep items in place, but I use packing cubes and other travel organizers and thus have no use for them. Since they’re removable, I removed them.

Price

Screenshot of text with the header "WHY ARE TOM BIHN BAGS SO EXPENSIVE?"
An excerpt from the TOM BIHN website

At $392, the Techonaut is on the higher end of the travel backpack price spectrum. There’s no sugarcoating it.

Price-wise, let’s compare it to a few competing bags on the market:

  • Osprey Sojurn Porter: $175
  • Aer Travel Pack: $249
  • Peak Design Travel Backpack: $300
  • Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro: $349
  • TOM BIHN Techonaut: $392
  • GORUCK GR2 Ripstop Robic: $465

To understand why it’s relatively pricey, visit TOM BIHN’s FAQ page or check out the screenshot atop this section. Excellence ain’t cheap.

In my eyes, the Techonaut is well worth the spend above its more affordable competitors if you’re searching for one of the most stylish, comfortable, lightweight, and functional travel backpacks money can buy.

This bag is an incredibly well-engineered work of art; each aspect of its design seems thoroughly pondered, meticulously designed, and executed to near perfection. This pack is a gear nerd’s dream.

What I Love About this Bag

Black travel rucksack leaned up against a tree
There’s a lot to love about the Techonaut

I love the Techonaut 30 backpack and highly recommend it. Here’s why:

  • It’s the best-looking travel pack I’ve ever owned
  • It’s the most comfortable travel pack I’ve ever owned
  • At 30 liters, it’s the perfect size for my personal item minimalist travel packing list
  • It’s one of the lightest full-featured travel packs on the market, and it’s also very durable
  • The suspended laptop sleeve is protective, well-placed and acts as a frame when filled with a laptop
  • It works well as an around-town bag, too; it fits my remote work setup and gym gear perfectly
  • You’re not stuck with straps that you don’t need; most are easily removable
  • It’s incredibly well designed and constructed in the USA from high-end eco-friendly materials

What I Would Change About this Bag

Blue titanium water bottle in the side pocket of a travel pack
Water bottle pocket: One of the two things I’d change about this bag

Though I love my Techonaut, it’s not perfect, and I think it could improve a couple of small areas. Here’s what I’d like to see change next time TOM BINH updates the pack:

  • The main compartment’s zippers jingle together when walking; rubber dampeners would alleviate this
  • The water bottle pocket is hard to access when the bag is fully packed and eats into the internal storage

Who Should Buy the Techonaut 30

If you’ve made it this far, you may be teetering back and forth trying to decide whether you should pull the trigger on this bag or not. Here’s who I think would benefit from having the Techonaut in their travel arsenal:

  • One-bag personal item travelers – If you have a dialed-in minimalist packing list, this bag is the one
  • Two-bag travelers with a suitcase/backpack combo – It would pair perfectly with a nice piece of carry-on rolling luggage
  • Digital nomads who want to protect their tools – It’s well-padded and protects my camera and laptop very well
  • Travelers who value style – This is one of the best-looking bags I’ve come across; I’ve gotten multiple compliments about it
  • High-frequency travelers and backpackers – It’s a very durable and reliable bag that won’t give out or let you down
  • Gear nerds who value attention to detail – Every aspect of this bag is thoughtfully-designed and well-executed

Who Should Not Buy the Techonaut 30

If you don’t fit into one of the categories above, maybe this bag wouldn’t be the best fit for you. Here’s who I think shouldn’t buy the Techonaut:

  • Budget travelers – There are much cheaper packs on the market that’ll serve you just fine
  • Travelers who max out the carry-on size – Go for something in the 40-45 liter range, like the Techonaut 45
  • Backcountry backpackers – This bag isn’t built for the great outdoors; go with an ultralight backpacking pack instead
  • Low-frequency travelers – If you don’t travel that often, it might be hard to justify spending $400 on a backpack

Wrapping Up My TOM BIHN Techonaut Review

Is the Techonaut a good fit for you?

Thank you for sticking with me until the end as I review the TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 travel backpack. I hope I’ve helped you decide whether or not it’s the right pack for you. It certainly is for me.

You couldn’t ask for much more in a travel backpack in terms of materials, style, design and function, comfort to carry, durability, personal-item compliance, and weather resistance. It’s a gear-obsessed traveler’s dream, even if it’s not quite perfect.

If you have any lingering questions about the Techonaut, leave a comment below or contact me with your feedback. I’d be happy to share more about my experience with you.

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Last Updated on April 2, 2024

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Noel Krasomil

Hey, I'm Noel Krasomil, the founder of The Packable Life. I pack light and explore the globe searching for awe-inspiring hiking trails, rich cultural experiences, and ways to continue traveling indefinitely.

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