The Patagonia 23L Black Hole Pack is a versatile and tough little backpack that can be used for a wide variety of activities, from taking your laptop to a meeting to carrying essentials on a day hike. I nominated the Black Hole as the best-on-test bag for commuting.
Padded laptop and tablet compartments
No hidden wallet/passport pocket
Paler colours may dirty quicker
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The name Patagonia have given this pack, which to me implies that things disappear once they enter it, is a disservice – because, actually, for a small bag, the Patagonia 23L Black Hole Pack has a lot of capacity for organization.
For starters, it’s designed to carry a computer and tablet safely, which it achieves effortlessly. But there are also internal pockets, for safely keeping things where you can put your hand on them quickly.
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Plus, big, stretchy outside water-bottle pockets on each side double as storage space for a lightweight rain jacket, or as somewhere to stash treats from the farmer’s market.
The Patagonia 23L Black Hole Pack is good for day-to-day commuting, but also for hiking and biking on trails. As well as a tough, weather-resistant and lightweight exterior, the Black Hole’s outer fabric is a shiny PVC-free laminate that’s unbelievably wear-resistant, and the laminated face repels dirt and sheds water.
• RRP: $129 (US) / £100 (UK)
• Weight: 580g /1 lb 4.5oz
• Volume: 23L / 1,404 cu in
• Sizes: One size
• Colours: Smoulder blue / Pumice / Black / Purple
In the field
After a year of using this pack to haul my laptop and other gear on monthly domestic and international trips, using it on regular commuting journeys to my local co-working space, and taking it out on the occasional hike, the laminate still looks as good as new. My pack is black. Presumably, if you buy a lighter color like Pumice, the recycled polyester ripstop on the women-specific shoulder straps and recycled webbing haul handle will get dirty a bit quicker.
The lightly padded sleeves inside the main compartment are big enough for a 15” laptop and a tablet. The tablet sleeve has a microfiber face that kept it from scratching the glass on my iPad. Internal organization pockets held my charging brick and cords as well as my keys. I use the front pocket, which accordions, to carry stuff I’d otherwise have in my purse.
While the Patagonia 23L Black Hole Pack doesn’t have a handle at the nape of the neck, the front-mounted haul handle make it easy to grab off the floor or off the overhead rack on a plane, train or bus.
Vermont-based writer, photographer and adventurer, Berne reports on hiking, biking, skiing, overlanding, travel, climbing and kayaking for category-leading publications in the U.S., Europe and beyond. In the field, she’s been asked to deliver a herd of llamas to a Bolivian mountaintop corral, had first fat-biking descents in Alaska, helped establish East Greenland’s first sport climbing and biked the length of Jordan. She’s worked to help brands clean up their materials and manufacturing, and has had guns pulled on her in at least three continents.