A while back, the folks in charge of BoardingArea.com asked if we would be interested in doing an honest review of Nomad Lane’s Bento Bag. We agreed. We were not compensated for this review, however we did get to keep the bag.
Nomad Lane’s Bento Bag is marketed as a travel bag that packs like a suitcase, but can work as a personal bag that can potentially fit under the seat in front of you on most planes (each airline would make its own determination if it’s OK to fit under the seat of the plane you’re on).
Not long afterwards, I received the Bento Bag and was immediately impressed with how it was packed. It was in a THICK cardboard box and the bag itself comes in a cloth drawstring bag that can be used to keep dirt and dust off it when not in use.
The bag is roughly the shape of a suitcase, 17″ wide x 10″ high x 8″ deep, with small metal “feet” on the bottom to keep the bulk of the bag off the ground. It weighs less than 2.9 pounds and has an overall bag volume of 24 liters.
Handles are permanently attached to the bag, and there’s an adjustable padded shoulder strap that can be connected if you’d rather use that.
The bag opens like a suitcase so you have two main compartments for storage.
The Bento Bag has a large pocket in the front that has LOTS of storage spaces in it. It also has several internal pockets, including a zippered one for more security. A key leash is also included.
There’s a smaller pocket in the back. The back of the bag also has a carry-on sleeve so you can slide it over the handle of your carry-on bag. When actively using the bag in that position, the small back pocket becomes sort of “hidden,” for extra security.
There are also 2 medium zippered pockets that zipper open from the top of the bag. Heads up those 2 bags take up part of the space of roughly half of one of the main compartments, but the other main compartment more than makes up for it; it’s very roomy.
The Bento Bag also comes with some extra storage bags such as a zipper quart-sized bag, 2 bags that might be good for shoe storage, and a free-floating bag with even MORE pockets! 😉
How I used it
I used the Bento Bag twice – once as an overnight bag, and once with enough stuff to see if it could work for 2 nights/a long weekend.
On the overnight trip, the bag worked beautifully. I was able to pack a T-shirt, shorts, underwear, pajamas, slippers, a full set of (travel-sized) toiletries, a 15″ laptop and its accompanying hardware (cords, mouse, etc.), and an iPad Mini (and its 6′ power cord).
On the 2-night trip, I was able to fit *almost* everything in – everything similar to the last trip, plus a “nicer” pair of shoes, a bathing suit, plus a pair of culottes and a “nicer” blouse. With this, the bag was stuffed to the gills and my bag of toiletries and a beach towel just couldn’t fit; they went into a different bag we were using for that trip.
Joe and I still aren’t flying as much as we did pre-Covid, so I wasn’t able to try to use the bag on a plane.
What I thought
Overall, I was very impressed with the bag itself. It feels well made; the lightweight fine weave water-resistant nylon of the bag is thick and the nylon and metal zippers are not flimsy at all. It feels like a sturdy bag that will last a good, long time. The handles and shoulder strap feel very strong (their website says they use a leather replacement that’s animal-friendly. It also weighs less and has the same tear-resistant properties as leather). I did think the strap that holds the two handles together felt significantly flimsier than the rest of the handles and straps. Granted, that strap has limited work to do – just hold 2 handles together. But with the rest of the bag feeling as if it’s made so well, it was just a surprise that this one strap…didn’t.
The shoulder strap is adjustable and is comfortably padded.
The bag has a LOT of pockets and pockets within pockets. I adore pockets. 😉
As I’ve said in a recent post, I’ve become a big fan of packing cubes in the past few months. I tried to incorporate them into the Bento Bag, but unfortunately, didn’t do very well. Things fit into the bag easier without the packing cubes.
Also – and this is more of a “me” thing – when I travel, I always bring my pillow. It’s a full-sized Tempurpedic pillow, so it’s the size of a typical pillow but can squish a whole lot. It easily fits into my American Tourister under-the-seat “personal” sized suitcase, but there’s no way it would fit into a Bento Bag. Again, this is 100% a “me” thing and I’m not counting it as a con because I know most people don’t travel everywhere with their full-sized pillow.
Overall Pros & Cons
- Feels like a well-made, sturdy bag
- Easily holds everything for an overnight trip
- All those pockets!
- The strap that holds the handles together feels flimsy
- Can’t really hold 2 days’ worth of stuff
- Doesn’t lend itself well to packing cubes
The Bento Bag is available in jet black (with your choice of bronze or silver zippers), navy (bronze or silver zippers), juniper green (bronze) and Positano plum (bronze). currently retails for $248 and is available on this page of Nomad Lane’s website.
Feature Photo: Nomad Lane
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary