The Timbuk2 Never Check sold me on the importance of a good travel backpack

For someone who travels a lot, I can be downright reckless when it comes to packing. I’ve found myself hurling clothes, toiletries and assorted cables into bags on more early mornings than I care to mention.

That haphazard approach naturally extends to the bags I’m throwing my things into. I’ve always just relied on my everyday backpack as a carry-on. I mean, why not, right? It does the trick day to day, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t work on the road. Writing this piece backstage at the TC Tokyo event, however, I finally recognize the error of my ways.

Two weeks traveling around Asia for various work things was as good an excuse as any to get my stuff together when it comes to packing, and this gift guide was a good way to light a fire under my ass to actually do it. The whole thing started as a list of accessories — battery packs, plugs, cables and the like, but at a certain point it dawned on me that I would, you know, need a place to put them.

After a few hours of online research, I finally landed on the Never Check backpack. It’s right there in the name, really — and Timbuk2 makes a good bag. This much we know for certain.

A good travel backpack has to walk a delicate line — it needs to be small enough to be stashed under the seat in front of you and expansive enough to fit all the crap you need for a one-day trip: laptop, toiletries, clothes, running shoes. It’s a big ask for a little bag.

The Never Check performs the task better than any backpack I’ve owned to this point, courtesy, in part, to a zipper-expandable main compartment. Unzip it and you give yourself an extra two inches of storage space. It’s a clever touch, similar to the compression packing cubes I also picked up for the trip.

The bag’s dimensions aren’t small, but they’re not overwhelming, either. I could certainly see defaulting to it as an everyday bag. It’s got deep pockets and accessory holsters to spare, along with nice touches throughout, including a secret laptop pocket and wax-covered zippers to keep out the rain.

The looks are nothing to write home about, really. It’s boxy and black, with bright blue lining inside — more utilitarian than flashy. It’s also more than I’ve traditionally paid for a backpack at $200. But it’s been a reliable companion for those 20-mile-a-day walks around Tokyo this week.