Nomatic Navigator Backpack 15L Review

Overall Score:8.4

The Nomatic Navigator Backpack 15L is a feature-rich laptop bag with a slim profile and a comfortable carry. During the past 8 weeks, we’ve enjoyed using the Navigator although it does have a few minor quirks. For fans of built-in organization, this bag is well thought out and hard to beat.

Durability: 8.0
Functionality: 9.5
Performance: 8.5
Aesthetics: 9.0
Value: 7.0

Capacity: 15L

Weight: 1225 g

Main Material: Nylon & Tarpaulin

Dimensions: 30 x 17 x 48 cm

Manufacturing Country: Vietnam

Warranty: Lifetime

Length of Test: 8 weeks

Acquisition: in exchange for our honest feedback, Nomatic sent us the Navigator Backpack 15L with zero expectations. As always, the content of this review wasn’t shared with the company prior to publishing. Just know, our job isn’t to tickle the ego of a gear brand… its to provide you with the insights you need to make a sound buying decision – nothing more, nothing less. 

Countries: Thailand

Climate(s): Tropical Savanna

Weather: Hot and Humid (highest temp 30 C), Light Rain

The Nomatic Navigator is designed for:

  • Everyday carry and travel.

It’s not designed for:

  • Minimalist one-bag travel.
Durablity

Build Quality

Construction: as a premium bag, the Nomatic Navigator is solidly built with a 500D Kodra nylon that has a soft hand-feel and decent weather resistance. For added protection, the bag itself is semi-rigid as its lined with a thin layer of padding – which also helps the Navigator maintain its shape when empty.

As for the hardware, the bag utilizes custom spec’d materials that were developed in-house by Nomatic; from blacked-out aluminum sliders to water-resistant zippers, everything feels of quality and works smoothly. 

With that being said, we do have concerns over the longevity of the zippers (only time will tell how durable they are). However, we understand why Nomatic didn’t use YKK AquaGuard zippers – they would’ve been too “sticky” around the corners and lets face it, no one likes sticky.

Functionality

Main Feature Set

Back Panel: covered in a moisture-wicking Spandura fabric and plush with molded EVA foam, the Navigator’s back panel rides comfortably when worn high and tight. As for structure, it provides a fair amount of rigidity with just enough flexibility – meaning, it’ll never barrel or lose shape, regardless of the contents inside the bag. 

During use, we’ve truly preferred the Spandura fabric over the standard aeromesh that many manufacturer’s use. It’s a hell of a lot more durable, better at managing moisture, and quite frankly, much better looking. 

If the use of Spandura over aeromesh has you concerned about ventilation, don’t be concerned my friend. There are several air channels to aid in moisture evaporation, at least in theory. In truth, we’ve never noticed any discernable difference between ventilated and full-contact back panels – the Nomatic Navigator included.

Side note: for all you traveling urbanites out there, a horizontal luggage pass-through strap is included – no comment on how well it works, as we gave up on rolling luggage many years ago.

Shoulder Straps: the Navigator’s S-shaped shoulder straps are amply padded with a closed-cell foam that’s comfortable out of the box – no break-in time required. In use, they feel great when loaded out with typical EDC essentials and lightweight photography gear  – no complaints here.

As for the sternum strap, it’s adjustable via a ladder-lock system to seven different heights and comes with a reliable YKK buckle. Thoughtfully, it also comes with a built-in web keeper for dangle-free carry. 

Laptop Compartment: accessed via a J-shaped zipper opening, the Navigator’s interior laptop sleeve is a breeze to access. There’s no latch to fiddle with or weird overbuilt contraptions, just a simple and well-padded sleeve that’s suspended by ~5 cm (2″) off the bottom of the bag.

Fit wise, the sleeve worked well with our Huawei Matebook 13″ and is capable of safely storing up to a 15″ laptop. And if your daily carry happens to include a small tablet, there’s more than enough space to store one on the outside of the sleeve.

For added usability, there’s also a pass-through slot for charging your gear while on the go. It connects all the way to the main compartment where you can store a power bank.

Main Compartment: with a pocket for every dongle, the organization in this compartment still manages to be simplistic and non-prescriptive – it’s mind boggling. Normally we dislike bags that are hyper-organized, but Nomatic’s designers did a great job at balancing non-intrusiveness with compartmentalization. 

With pockets for days, below is what the Nomatic Navigator gives you in terms of organization:

  • 5 elasticized mesh pockets
  • 1 RFID safe zippered pocket
  • 1 zippered mesh pocket
  • 2 pen slots
  • 1 water bottle sleeve with external access

External Pockets: we promise, these are the last pockets that we’ll mention…

In the front, there’s a zippered kangaroo pocket that has very little dimension – depending on what you pack inside, the volume will cannibalize some space in the main compartment. Therefore it’s best to pack flat or small items items that’ll fit into a slim pouch like a Topo Accessory Bag S. In terms of organization, the pocket features a keyring loop and an extremely hard-to-access security pocket that’s entirely redundant (we never used it and likely never will).

Moving to the top of the bag, there’s a fleece lined quick-access pocket that’s an ideal storage space for easy-to-scratch items such as sunglasses or a phone.

Expandability: while maintaining the Navigator’s slim profile, you can easily expand the bag’s capacity to 21L via a U-shaped zipper that runs the perimeter of the bag.   

In all honesty, we usually find expandability (outside of roll-tops) to be gimmicky but we were surprised by the practicality of this design. For day-to-day use, we didn’t find this feature to be necessary as it just adds more weight and a potential point of failure. Although for travel, there are definitely situations in which expandability can be useful.

Grab Handles: on the top and sides of the Nomatic Navigator, there are padded grab handles made of a silky smooth seatbelt-like webbing – long story short, we’re in love. 

We’re not ones to obsess over the form factor or tactility of grab handles, but damn… these are nice. If you could touch a cloud, that’s what they feel like – heavenly, just pure divine intervention. Thank you, Nomatic.

From a utility perspective, side handles are extremely useful for travel – think taking the bag out of an airplane cabin or manipulating the bag while cramming yourself into a small taxi seat. Needless to say, we’re fans and wish more bags featured this type of silky smooth goodness.

External Straps: on the face of the Nomatic Navigator, there are four low-profile hypalon loops that act as attachment points when combined with the two included lash straps. Each strap has two aluminum G hooks that securely fasten to the loops in an X configuration.

We typically lashed our rain jackets onto the outside of the bag and never had any issues with slippage – even when riding a motorcycle on Thailand’s crazy and unpredictable roads.  

As a bonus… just like the sternum strap, the lash straps come with web keepers to minimize any excess dangle.

Performance

Practical Utility

Carry Comfort: since we live in a rural area of Thailand, we tend to spend more time in the actual jungle rather than the concrete jungle.

Naturally, we tested the Nomatic Navigator’s harness and suspension system on light day hikes through local rice farms. And while this clearly wasn’t the intention of the bag, it handled well-groomed trails with ease and was comfortable to carry for hours at a time. 

So, if you’re interested in this bag for urban-focused travel or EDC, comfort is a clear strong suit. And for travel, the Navigator is definitely versatile enough for some light exploration in the outdoors – meaning you won’t have to buy another floppy packable daypack to go out and get some fresh air.

Aesthetics

Design Elements

No doubt about it, the Navigator is a great looking bag. It has a Blade Runner inspired look that manages to be professional enough for the boardroom, while stille being laidback enough for casual use. Aesthetically, the Navigator is a solid all-rounder for most urban environments.  

Our only gripe with the aesthetic choices are the reflective stripes. While they are practical for bicycle or motorcycle commuting, we find them to be unnecessary and distracting from the bag’s otherwise clean silhouette.

As for colorways, don’t get your hopes up: it’s only available in black.

Value

Primary Alternatives

The Nomatic Navigator is a premium offering that’s priced well above most of its competition.

Do we think it’s worth the price? Honestly, that’s hard for us to judge and is completely relative. If you’re digging the aesthetic, prioritize built-in organization, and don’t want to go spend another $150 on pouches, then the Navigator may be of good value for you. 

On the contrary, if you’re a pouch fiend and already have your kit dialed-in, then going for a more minimalistic bag with a slightly lower cost might be a better option for you.

Regardless, Nomatic has a solid return policy that’ll let you test out the Navigator 15L bag for 30 days before deciding whether or not it suits your needs. 

The primary competition (read: alternatives to consider) for the Nomatic Navigator are:

Daypack Main Fabric Vol. Weight Load Style
Navigator Ballistic Nylon 15L 1225 g Clamshell
Granville 400D Nylon 16L 750 g Half-Zip
Arro 16 420D Cordura Nylon 16L 926 g Half-Zip
Synapse 19 525D Ballistic Nylon 19L 752 g Half-Zip
Urban Assault 500D Cordura Nylon 18L 816 g Tri-Zip
8.4/10 Rating

Overall Verdict

The Nomatic Navigator Backpack 15L is an overall solid laptop bag for everyday carry and urban-focused travel. It’s feature-rich and has enough pockets to give every dongle in your arsenal a loving home. For us, the overabundance of features and pockets, make the bag a bit quirky to use – but nothing that causes alarm or annoyance.

We’ve definitely enjoyed using it around town, even though it has been a departure from our typical minimalist carry.  

As for recommending it, this bag is expensive. That said, if the Navigator happens to be within your budget and organization is a top priority for you, then we recommend giving it a try and taking advantage of Nomatic’s generous return policy if it doesn’t work out. 

What We Liked

  • Comfortable for day-to-day use with everyday carry essentials.
  • Interlocking zipper pulls are a neat feature for theft deterrence. 
  • The top and side grab handles are conveniently placed and flawless. 
  • Water bottle compartment is waterproof.

What Could Use Improvements

  • Minimizing some of the organizational redundancies.
  • Making the internal zipper pulls and the water bottle fastener a high contrast color.
Longevity

Usage Timeline

Excellent

Initial Usage

Build quality is solid and the bag is pretty comfortable to carry, but we’re a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pockets. 

Excellent

Excellent

8 Weeks of Usage

Durability wise, everything is still going strong – no issues to report. The organizational style has grown on us, although we still think there’s too much going on. 

Excellent

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