Finding a good backpack as a digital nomad is a tricky proposition. First up, of course, it has to have space for your laptop. And then it’s all about access, extra pockets, capacity and durability.
Looking for a great travel backpack can be an arduous task, with lots of options. With the Nayo Smart EXP, we think this might be the bag you’re looking for. The EXP in that title stands for expandable and we’ll find out why soon…
I’ve been using the Nayo Smart EXP as my standard bag while working in Valencia, Spain for the past few weeks. And, I have to say, it’s been a revelation.
Let’s find out why this bag is a great buy for travellers.
The expandable backpack
The Nayo Smart EXP is a 25L bag, but wait…. It EXPands to a 40L pack just by unzipping it! Now, if you’re a regular business traveller looking for a versatile travel bag or carry on backpack, this could be a game changer…
Of course the expandable bag is nothing new. But the NayoSmart EXP basically expands a central compartment for your clothing. If you’re going to be using it for a long weekend, you’ll be using the expanded compartment.
I found this space is perfect for packing a light assortment of clothes, for around 5 days.
Pockets and space
First things first, the EXP has plenty of space for a laptop in a padded compartment at the back. It’s designed to fit a 17.3″ laptop, with a nice padded compartment to keep your computer safe.
There is a quick access pocket on the front of the bag, with a sturdy zip, and the a compartment that has lots of space for papers, books, pens, gizmos and chargers. Having mentioned the charger, the front pocket also has a USB connection, allowing you to put your battery pack inside the bag and charge your phone on the go. A nifty touch…
But, it’s the central compartment that is where things get interesting. The Nayo Smart EXP converts into a bigger bag with a handy fully zip around opening. Once expanded, this central compartment acts like a standard suitcase, with a large main pocket ideal for keeping all your clothes and bits and bobs. On the opposite side are two elasticated pockets, perfect for keeping toiletries, cables/adaptors and other bits that you may need to keep apart.
This expandable bag feature is one of the best selling points of the EXP and what takes it from just another rucksack to a great digital nomad backpack.
The compressed measurements for the EXP are:
- 50 L x 15 W x 31 H (cms)
- Weight (unpacked) 1.1kg
- 50 L x 25 W x 31 L
This is equal to a standard sized carry on bag. In short, we think its the perfect business travel bag, especially for those who don’t want to carry multiple bags.
Is it made for carry on luggage? Well, for many airlines, the NayoSmart EXP won’t fit even the compact measurements. I’m looking at Ryanair and Easyjet here… However, I have taken this bag as a carry on cabin bag on a few flights (BA, Easyjet, Vueling and Swiss) and had no complaints. So far…
Packed full of features
I’ll be honest, when I received this bag I just started using it. I didn’t really inspect it so much, until I came to write the article and this is when I started to find all the extra cool little extras.
For example, in the padding of the rucksack, there is a hidden pocket to keep your travel documents and money safe. Genius!
And, there is also an elasticated strap which can be used to tether the EXP to a bigger suitcase. Who would have even thought of that? A nice touch…
There are also small pockets in the shoulder straps, ideal for quick access to your money or travel pass. It really is the little things that add up to make a bigger picture and the EXP is packed full of cool little features like this…
Sturdy in the real world?
Of course, a good carry on travel backpack also needs to be able to stand up to the stresses and strains of daily life. Us digital nomads don’t just use a bag once a month, they’re in daily use, and normally quite high impact too. Thrown into overhead lockers, stashed under tables, rained on, opened and closed constantly and stuffed to capacity.
So how does the EXP stand up?
This is a solid travel backpack and as I’ve mentioned, has even been used as a carry on cabin backpack on a number of airlines. As I’ve been using this backpack for several years now it actually still looks pretty much as new, despite being stuffed into a number of overhead lockers and car boots.
The zippers have a premium feel and there aren’t too many bits that might catch or rip off easily.
Oh and it’s a nice looking minimalist bag too. In fact, there isn’t much to distract the eye, with a simple but premium looking finish.
If I had to pick one gripe about the EXP from the point of view of a digital nomad backpack… It doesn’t have any handy external netting pockets. You know, the type you can quickly stash a bottle in. This means that if you use a reusable bottle like me, you’ll need to keep putting in the front pocket.
Could I use a carabiner? Well… There aren’t many points where you could clip on a carabiner, save for the handle.
One more thing to add is that the zips don’t have any points where you could use a small padlock. So for me security might be an issue if I had to leave my NayoSmart EXP unguarded in a crowded place. I guess the answer to that is, don’t leave it unguarded. But if you’re using coworking spaces, or staying in a travel hostel, you might want to think of other ways to secure your bag.
Is this the ideal travel backpack?
You know what, it’s pretty damn close. It is definitely the most versatile backpack I’ve owned, and that expandable interior really is very clever. The zips and padding are pretty solid and the construction in general feels good quality.
I have actually used this bag for trips including going snowboarding for a week, and it pretty much got all my kit in. So this could be a useful carry on bag for an extended jaunt to sunnier climes too.
My NayoSmart EXP review rating?
Price and shipping
The list price for the Nayo Smart EXP is
£109.85/$142/€128.20 currently available for $88 on their website. That’s a damn good price for a very versatile and premium feeling bag. At the time of writing, there is currently an very generous discount on the EXP and all of Nayo Smarts travel bags, so take a look.
In terms of shipping. My bag was shipped directly from China and took around 10 days to arrive. The cost for shipping to Europe was a very reasonable $4.99/€4.50 – which also includes the tracking number and updates.