This Nike Backpack Is the Best Travel Bag I’ve Ever Used


Through all my years spent both reviewing products and flying the friendly skies, nothing has unseated my travel companion: an unassuming Nike backpack. I’ve yet to encounter a designer duffle, teched-out tote, or gorpy hiking pack that comes even close to its practicality. In a sea of quality travel backpacks, my trusty sidekick—which Nike actually sells as a gym bag—is an airport hack unto itself.

This is coming from a guy (me) who tends to put big-fit form ahead of function in my everyday life. I’ll ignore the toasty puffer designed to fight brutal NYC winters for a handsome (but drafty) overcoat; I’ll rack up a Saturday of steps in hefty thick-soled loafers instead of the ergonomic sneakers that keep my dogs from barking. But as soon as the TSA’s involved, I become a man of reason. On a plane, train, or automobile, I’m in peak comfort mode: a hoodie and loose-fit pants. And I never rack up qualifying miles without my trusty teched-out, pocket-stuffed Nike backpack.

The pack’s official name is the Nike Utility Elite Training Backpack—a slightly aggro moniker that alludes to the intended gym bag usage. But you can’t tell me its no-nonsense details aren’t built for flight. For starters, with a 32-liter cargo capacity, the pack is ludicrously capacious in the most helpful way possible. Using all that available storage is easy, since the bag unzips around three of its four sides and the interior features an adjustable divider for keeping, say, shoes from touching clothes. The Nike Utility Backpack opens like luggage, looks squared-off like luggage, and has a handle on one side like luggage. It might as well have its own Clear account.

Nike

Utility Elite Training Backpack

The five external pockets—six if you count the mesh water bottle stash spot on the side—come in different sizes and shapes, letting me easily organize everything from phone chargers (plural) to emergency granola bars and ibuprofen rations. Inside the backpack you’ll find a dedicated laptop sleeve, a mesh pocket, and a small zipper compartment toward the top that’s lined in a fleece fabric, making it a de facto sunglasses pocket. In case that’s not enough, the looped webbing running down either side of the bag means you can carabiner gear onto the bag with abandon.

And since this is Nike, the performance factor is on point. The Nike Utility Backpack’s poly-nylon body wears a water-resistant treatment for shrugging off rain, and its straps feature gentle foam padding against your body. Those front-facing Max Air bubbles don’t do much, to be honest, but no matter—the backpack is comfortable to carry even when packed to bursting.

That this pragmatic black cube won’t turn heads as you shuffle through PreCheck or out on the streets is, ironically, a win for me: sometimes there’s a benefit to not standing out in a crowd as an out-of-towner. What the Nike Utility Backpack sacrifices in style points is offset by its cleverness: it’ll keep everything I need for an LA-to-NYC schlep in arm’s reach, even when I don’t spring for the Economy+ upgrade. And since I’ve gotta be me, it’ll also have a flex-worthy emergency fit stowed inside, in case Delta loses my checked luggage.



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