Initially, I found the STM backpack review to be somewhat of a challenge mainly because i wanted to put it through some real world paces before I committed to an opinion one way or another.  It’s one thing to pack it up, place it on your back and say, “hey, that worked” or “no, it didn’t work” but that’s too easy.  No, to really get a sense of what it’s like requires some good usage or perhaps use another pack as a comparison.

Over the last month-and-a-half, I’ve had the opportunity to do just that.  I took one backpack to comic-con, lugging it around for a week packed with clothes, electronics and camera equipment. Then, took another on a week long business trip to Chicago where I carried a pack around in the humidity wearing business attire and dress shoes.

IMG_9940

The reviewed pack – is the STM trestle (stmbags.com) designed in Australia and the competition was an older model Brenthaven trek backpack.  They both retail for around the same price (about $119.95) but have seen both listed for more and for less, though the Brenthaven seems to have more variability in pricing.

While the Brenthaven pack has more volume capacity and can hold about a 15 inch laptop vs the 13 of the STM, generally, I don’t need that space AND the smaller form factor is more convenient in tight areas.  If I’d had the STM at Comic-Con with me, I wouldn’t have had as many issues getting through the convention hall.  Everything is so cramped in there that having a bulky backpack means you’re pretty much hitting someone all the time.  Having the Brenthaven meant i over packed, so not only was the pack bulky, it was heavier than it really needed to be.  It’s a fine line as I’d rather be more prepared than less but as an example, I probably got out my laptop once even though I carried it everywhere for 4 and a half days.  That’s a waste of energy and back pain.  The main time the larger pack came in handy was the flight to San Diego.  I packed a couple days worth of clothing and basic toiletries which would have been more difficult to shove in the STM. But, that is the exception not the rule.

As for the trip to Chicago, I loved carrying the STM.  The straps and back support felt very comfortable and seemed to generate less fatigue.  Generally, I carried the same amount of equipment as I have with the Brenthaven and felt physically better and less worried about hitting someone with the pack.  It went with me through airports, in the plane, under the seat and most importantly, it was with me during some hot humid weather.  The air channel system kept me cool on those hot days and I felt good about not showing up to meeting with gobs of sweat on my back or on my shoulders where the straps hit.

Brenthaven (bulky) | STM Trestle (svelt)

Brenthaven (bulky) | STM Trestle (svelt)

The pack has plenty of space for all my basic travel needs – laptop, iPad, chargers for both, extra batteries and lightning cables for the phone, pens, paper, glasses, plus room for things picked up at the airport for flights (sandwiches, water, maybe some chips when I’m feeling like i need some extra carbs).  The strap on the back that can be used for attaching to a handle of luggage is quite handy if you don’t feel like carrying around.

 

The pack feels durable and looks nice.  We’ve not had it long enough to really test the durability over time so, we’ll have to follow up on that in some future post. Here are some of the main specs and some feature we like (bold):

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luggage strap

Laptop space: 9.5 x 12.8 x 1.0in; 23.0×32.5×2.5cm
Capacity: 720in cubed; 12L
Weight: 1.6 lbs; 12L
Materials: MAIN Cotna 320D/640D poly;  LINING 200g nylex / 200D water resistant poly
“oversize” zippers
side pockets for small items
small zippered pocket on top (I used for sun glasses) 
free registration with reward tag
lifetime warranty
luggage strap
Price $119.95

For me the price seems just a wee bit high but not crazy high.  I really like the pack for what it does and for my perception of the quality of the build.  Again, checking the quality is a longer term process with some real use but it has a good feel thus far.

Please check out the accompanying video – we’ll show you the move from one pack to another, talk about the features and take you briefly to the STM website for a peek at some of their other products.