The Grid backpack is a brand-new product from Ekster, which nicely fits into their existing offerings of minimal, well-designed items.
While many little features make the Grid backpack special, its defining characteristic is a top zipper, which makes accessing your items more like a suitcase than a traditional backpack.
Let’s take a closer look.
I’ve been using Ekster products for a few years (check out my Ekster wallet review) and I’m glad to see their core design philosophies of minimalism and quality materials start to translate to different products.
There are a lot of interesting design decisions that went into this backpack, but the most notable one is the inclusion of a front zipper that allows you to access everything in your bag at once by opening from the front instead of the top.
Personally, I’ve found this sort of design ideal when traveling, as it mimics how I would traditionally pack a suitcase.
If I’m on a flight and need to access something at the bottom of the bag, this design approach makes it much less cumbersome.
Ekster also leans into a minimalist design by not placing its logo everywhere on the product. I despise loud branding so the confidence a brand has in its product without having to yell its name is always appreciated.
Easy access to items is a core functionality of this bag and they've leaned into it further by adding a variety of pockets in different shapes, sizes and locations.
There is a side pocket that you can access while the backpack is worn, which I find ideal for quick access items while traveling like a wallet, passport, or phone.
As a bonus, this pocket has RFID blocking to keep skimmers from stealing your credit card data.
I actually wasn't aware of this feature until I took a closer look near the zipper and saw the label.
Inside the bag, there are two zippered pockets with a mesh cover that allows you to tuck away some additional items. The mesh is nice in that you can see what’s in each without opening it.
At the top of the bag, you'll also find a small compartment with softer material suited for fragile items like sunglasses, or tech that you want to avoid getting scratched.
Inside of that pocket, there is another even smaller zippered section. I've been using this to hold my keys, since I have a pretty consistent habit of losing them wherever I go.
In the main compartment, there are a few other areas to tuck away some items. In my case, I'm typically using it for my iPad, or notebook.
On the back of the bag, there is separate space to hold your laptop. I’ve tried it with my 16” Macbook Pro which fits perfectly, but if you’ve got something much bigger, make sure to check out the measurements to double check it will fit.
I’ve always liked backpacks that have a compartment on the back for a laptop. It performs double duty—it gets it out of the way, making room for more contents in the main compartment while also giving a little bit more structure and rigidity to your back while it’s being worn.
There are a variety of these simple hooked external clips on both sides of the bag, which makes it great for mounting all sorts of things.
I typically bring some basic camera gear while travelling, so this side pocket is great for quickly attaching my tripod to the exterior.
As an added bonus, each side of the bag has matching hooks and straps on the bottom, allowing you to attach an item from both sides. Not only is this more secure, it'll also reduce wear and tear on the strap that's taking all the weight.
A family of add ons
Beyond the backpack, Ekster also offers a few more options to round out the functionality of the bag.
To help keep things extra organized, the Ekster Tech Case is a little bag with a ton of mesh cable organizers and pockets, which should help keep wires and smaller tech items contained in their own little space.
I always bring my Sony Noise Cancelling headphones with me while travelling, and this would be perfect for them to live in while not in use.
The Ekster Camera Cube is the kind of accessory I’m interested in. The ability to have your camera gear in your regular bag without a separate camera bag is a huge plus for me considering I usually haul around a Fuji XT5 and a few lenses, and this little organizer has room for all of that and more.
Just like the Grid backpack and tech case, this zip opens at the top to provide easy access to all your gear without having to dig through the bottom of a bag.
How comfortable is it?
Overall, this bag is very comfortable to wear, and I haven’t had any issues in my day-to-day use. The design lends itself to a more rigid feeling design than many other backpacks, so keep that in mind while you’re shopping around.
My lovely partner here is modelling the bag, and she's about 5'7". It's going to fit larger than the average backpack due to the tendency to lean towards function, so don't expect something tiny.
They’ve opted to add a small slot in the back of the bag right down the middle which alleviates pressure on your spine while walking around. If you're travelling with a suitcase, you can slip the handle right through the passthrough strap, and you don't have to worry about wearing the bag.
It’s a nice touch.
It's all about the materials
Like all Ekster products I’ve used over the years, you can tell that they hold themselves to a high standard with the materials they choose.
It's not just the product material itself either. I was surprised to find the backpack inside of this included waterproof bag, which they suggest to use for your gym or swim stuff.
The price point may be a little bit higher than the competition, but when you get to use the waterproof zippers yourself and see how a recycled material can start to feel premium, it's easy to justify the $150-$200 price tag.
I prefer having backpacks to fulfill different roles. I’ve got a small Bellroy backpack that just fits my laptop, charger and headphones, which is great for day-to-day work out of coffee shops.
I’ve got a medium-sized Cote and Ciel bag that is both stylish and handy when I need to carry a bit more. This bag now fills the gap of having a great travel bag that I can organize all my contents into, allowing easy access without having to dig through everything.