Survival Gear Review: Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack

A few years ago for work, I switched from the over the shoulder computer bag to a backpack.  The old style computer bag just wasn’t cutting it for both work and the urban bug out situation.  After I saw the Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack, I upgraded from there.

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By Mark P, a contributing author to

The Aviator Pack

Going from a typical shoulder strap computer bag to a backpack was an easy transition.  My bag was getting heavier and heavier and my one best urban bug out bagshoulder would be in pain by the time I got through a typical airport.  At the Salt Lake City airport one day, I reached my limit.  My laptop bag had a catastrophic malfunction and the shoulder strap broke.  Luckily for me,  I was near a small store in the SLC airport which sold travel luggage.  One of my buddies had recently switched to the backpack and told me he loved it.  So I stopped in the store, bought a backpack and transitioned all of my belongings from my laptop style bag to my new backpack.

My new backpack was just a step above my laptop bag.  Yes, my arms were free but the workmanship on the bag and the functionality was terrible.  Several times while using the bag, I had the zippers at the top of the bag by mistake which caused the backpack to clam shell open while walking, spilling the contents of my bag (including laptop) all over the floor. After about the second time this happened to me, I was reconsidering the backpack as a functional work tool.

I could have switched to a tactical backpack like the ones made by GraniteGear or Eberlestock but that wasn’t the look I was going for.  I needed something a little more professional  that didn’t scream tactical but could function as both a work bag and an urban bug out bag.  I see guys from time to time in airports rocking suits or dress clothes with coyote colored cordura nylon backpacks.  It strikes me as a weird look in the business world.  The flip side to this is using a black professional bag with limited functionality.

Also Read: 3 Things You Need For Urban Survival

While passing through the Atlanta airport a few months back, I realized that I needed to get a power cord for my iphone mophie charger.  I went into one of those gadget stores in the airport and that is when I saw the TimBuk2 Aviator Backpack for the first time.  My first thoughts were that this pack looked like a pack for one of those big city bicycle delivery guys.  The sense of quality with the Timbuk2 bag was immediate to me.  The clasps and buckles were put in places that made sense to me.  The size and look of the bag were perfect for what I was looking for.  It had the functionality of a tactical urban bug out bag but the look and feel of your typical laptop/professional bag.  The price tag of $179 – scared me from making an immediate purchase, I decided to research the bag a little more before I made a full commitment to the bag.   After reading several reviews on Amazon and other websites, I felt that the quality of TimBuk2 bags was well known.

Made in China

The bags are all designed in the San Francisco area and manufactured in Asia.  Although I am not a huge fan of buying Asian made products,urban survival bag there are some things that are hard to find manufactured in the United States or Canada.  Luggage and packs fit into that category.  I did find out that if you want a custom bag from TimBuk2 that only you have, they make those bags in San Francisco.

So, I broke down and bought the TimBuk2 Aviator pack from a local store in Texas about 8 months ago.  I have been using the pack almost every day since I bought it with no malfunctions or problems.  The Timbuk2 Aviator pack has two main compartments with just nylon material separating the two chambers.  This allows you to over pack one compartment and use excess room from the other compartment while keeping things separated.  In addition to the two main compartments, the pack also has  a small compartment on top of the pack as well as a small compartment on the side of the pack.  These compartments are rather small but are useful for holding extra pens, headphones, a small knife and fire starter.  Although the Timbuk2 Aviator pack material feels like it would be water resistant as is, it also has a side compartment which contains a rain fly that covers the whole pack.  I haven’t had to use the rain fly yet but felt that the small amount of weight it adds to the make is worth it.

Also Read: How to Choose an Urban Survival Bag

Specs (From Manufacturer)

Width – 14.2 in     36.0 cm
Height – 20.1 in     51.0 cm
Depth – 5.9 in     15.0 cm
Weight – 4.4 lbs     2.0 kg
Volume – 1,709 cu in    28.0 l

The Compartments

The top main compartment has plenty of room for most office essentials (ipad, mouse, emergency bivvy, etc.) and also has a slot for a laptop doomsday preppers survival bagwhich slides the length of the pack along your back (I can fit two laptops in mine).  The bottom main compartment also has plenty of room for laptop chargers, folders, books, etc.  Each compartment has what I call back up straps.  Once you zip them shut, Timbuk2 has added clasps which keep the bag shut in case you have a catastrophic zipper failure which happened to me with my last bag.  I can report that I have had no issues with the TimBuk2 bag popping open at an inconvenient time.

I had such good luck with the backpack that I decided to get the whole luggage set.  I promise you that I am not the type of guy who buys sets of luggage but when I found out that they made a carry-on roller bag and a larger type roller bag for checked luggage, I wanted the whole set.  Both bags have been great on trips.  Two things that I really like about the Timbuk2 carry-on luggage and the larger roller bag are that both bags have a top compartment which comes standard.  This is particularly important with the carry-on bag (Timbuk2 Copilot) because when you are going through airport security, you can put all of your pocket contents (watch, wallet, keys, headset, smart phone, etc.) into this top compartment prior to going through security.  This is much easier to use rather than one of those little round tubs provided by TSA.  This will save you time and a headache when your bag comes out the other side of the x-ray machine.  Rather than having to quickly stuff all of your contents from that little tub back into your pocket, you can just grab your carry-on bag, find a nice place to sit down and sort your EDC “Everyday Carry” from your top compartment of your luggage back into your pockets at your leisure.

Also Read: What Does Urban Farming Look Like?

The other thing that I like about their larger “checked” luggage bag called the Timbuk2 Aviator Wheeled Backpack, is that it comes with shoulder straps.  So if the need arose where you had to carry that bag over rough terrain, you could simply pop out the straps and carry it like a backpack.

Final Thoughts

I used all of these products on several occasions.  The Timbuk2 Copilot and The Aviator Backpack are items that I use each week for work Urban Survival Bug Out Bagwhile I am traveling.  I feel that I can speak with authority when I say, they are high quality & high functioning products.  If you switch to the aviator back pack for work or school, people might think you rode in on a bike but they won’t think you are a mall ninja.

– Rugged
– Well Made
– Black but does not look tactical
– Extra clasps to keep compartments closed
– Lots of room for a work bag
– Could double as Urban Bug Out Bag
– Built in Rain Fly (Water Resistant!!!)

– Made in Asia
– The extra clasps which make it more secure also make it harder to open

All Photos by The SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog Team

7 thoughts on “Survival Gear Review: Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack”

  1. I own this bag as well along with several other Timbuk2 bags. One of the best reasons to buy a bag of theirs is the customer service. About two years ago I was in Denver and went to the local Timbuk2 with a bag that had a zipper problem. The bag was several years old and looked it, they didn't hesitate to swap me out on the spot for a new more expensive bag for FREE.

  2. For made in the USA I run an Umlindi Pack from Hill People Gear (CO). Pricey (2-3x as much depending on where you find the Aviator). It'll take 30lbs of gear without an issue. Yoke based pack straps for excellent weight distribution. A bit less tacti-cool looking. Pack itself is more of a backpack setup. You can add the waist belt. If you do it runs PALS (so you just have the slits). You don't see all the MOLLE web hanging off of it and most people look right over the slits.I end up looking more like some urban office dude who just likes to hike on the weekends. 🙂 Not the most inconspicuous pack, I'll admit, but it gets the job done. They have excellent customer service as well.


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