A few weeks ago I announced a giveaway contest for a Patagonia Atom. Maria won the contest, and I shipped the Atom off to her (she lives in Canada) via UPS. And then it came back. And I shipped it off to her via the USPS. Despite the best efforts of Canadian Border Control & Customs, she finally received it. I asked if she’d write up a quick review, and she not only did that, but took several photos as well; here’s her review. (Click on any of the photos for a close-up) —

Thank you for the fun little Atom!  It’s a treat, not too big, and I do not feel overwhelmed by the typical small backpack.

So in my opinion:

Pros:

Black bag has pale grey pocket liners inside, a thoughtful touch which makes it easier to find small items.

Waist strap can be unlatched and stowed in base of bag where openings are included for such.  It’s a tight squeeze, even when the bag is empty.  (Perhaps it needs to be broken in more?)  Too bad the superfluous strapping could not be taken care of too.

Small key strap on the inside top end of the interior zippered mesh pocket in the main pocket.

Second smaller pocket is lined with plush fabric – great for small electronics, a phone or IPod type-device.  I was able to fit my older model mobile plus a Canon point and shoot inside.

Interesting to have the mesh fabric covering the back…as I am sensitive to heat and humidity – it will be an experiment if this mesh helps the bag and / or me from getting too “sweaty” when out and about in the summer temperatures.

The main shoulder strap has a zipper pocket which holds my 59ml bottle of Purell® brand hand cleaner.  My old fat mobile fit, but was a tight squeeze.  At least I’d be afraid of struggling and then to drop the phone if I used it here.

Small enough that it would stay secure to your side with the waist strap – perhaps for riding a bike?

If you wanted to store a light jacket – it would have to pack up very small.  My size small “fleece” jacket would not fit in the main compartment, unless I only wanted to carry a packet of tissues and a space key along too.  (Yes, I know – “fleece” takes up more room than expected.)

Cons:

You need to carry some weight in this bag to keep it steady.  It’s so small and light, that it could easily blow in the breeze.  (Not really a con, but for those super-minimalist types, something to note.)

The outer compression straps seem a little useless.  For such a small pack – what can you carry in it that need to be compressed or what can you really carry securely on the outside that can be held down by the straps.  A fleece maybe?  And that is a strong maybe.

It will take me a few days to decide to like the straps or at least learn to ignore them.

For comparison to the Tom Bihn Side Effect (shown packed on left, and to the right) – of course it holds more, but without placement structure unless you use organized pouches or some such.  Small pieces can get lost in the shuffle, sink to the bottom.   I could pack more into it – but why?  With all the little pieces, I would have to sit down and take items out and put them in my lap in order to dig around the bag and find things.  I was not able to comfortably place a fleece jacket in the main compartment.  I do not have an IPad to check a fit. (Note: an iPad will fit into the Atom’s main compartment, but it’s a tight fit. -Kevin)

I could take this as an overnight bag / combo hand bag.  Although that would be pushing it.  Of course, that challenge I shall try tomorrow when I am away for one night.

Compared to the Side Effect (which I packed to the extreme, yet could still zipper it) – I was able to carry a Leuchtturm medium black notebook (size 145 x 210 mm) and my glasses in their hard sided case in the Atom. (They are old and I have a new pair on order and am not that worried carrying them as is wrapped in a cleaning cloth in the packed Side Effect.)  In addition, the bag also accommodated my Canon point and shoot camera, and a larger pen in a leather case.  (My small “Bullet” Fisher space pen gets lost in the larger Atom bag.)  I could not fit all of this plus a small toiletry bag in the main compartment, but placing loose smaller items – it still fits.

As a day pack, great little pack!  As a side seat bag for travel – OK for the minimalist who wants a tad more than an Eagle Creek pouch or a Bihn Side Effect.  Of course, it holds less than the Co-Pilot.  But it is easier to carry and may even be worn underneath a coat if not packed too tightly.  I’ve yet to try this at an airport of course, wondering if the gate crew would ask you to remove your coat to see if you carried any padding, at least if it were not obvious?

I wouldn’t mind seeing an exterior pocket, no outer straps, and less cumbersome waist straps.

So in conclusion – I’m really pleased with it, and grateful especially after the initial adventure it took to get here.  It’s certainly casual of course, and I wouldn’t take it out to a fancy place for dinner….but for out and about every day – it serves me well.

Note: if you’re interested in the Atom, here are its specs from the Patagonia site:

  • Teardrop pack shape positions the load behind the shoulders
  • Single-strap design makes getting to your things simple; just spin it around front
  • Zippered main pocket has internal zippered mesh and stretch-woven pockets
  • Convenient zippered pocket on the shoulder strap is lined to protect valuables
  • Breathable, moisture-moving 3-D spacer mesh pads the shoulder strap and back panel to keep you cool
  • Adjustable buckles allow you to lash items to the exterior
  • Body: 420-denier 100% nylon oxford plain weave. Base: 840-denier 100% ballistics nylon. Lining: 200-denier 100% polyester. Stretch-woven pockets: 92% nylon/8% spandex. All treated with a Deluge DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • 309 g (10.9 oz)
  • Made in Vietnam

Patagonia doesn’t give the bag’s dimensions, given its shape; it’s about 13″ tall, ~8½” wide at its widest point, and ~2″ thick.

The Atom sells for $39; see it at the Patagonia site: Patagonia Atom sling pack

For comparison’s sake, the Bihn Side Effect sells for $30 and measures 8.7″ x 5″ x 2″; I’d liken it to a small tote or clutch. See it here: Tom Bihn Side Effect I happen to have a Side Effect, and it will be the subject of a full fledged review sometime in the future.

-Kevin

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4 Comments on Reader Review: Patagonia Atom daypack/seatside bag

  1. Michael W. says:

    Wow, great review Maria, I think you could pinch hit for Kevin, you really hit all the details that the product summaries leave out!

    [Reply]

  2. Maria says:

    Thank you Michael! That is quite a compliment. Yet I must admit to copy the example of Kevin who covers everything is easier than thinking of it all as an original concept from the start. :) So I had a good teacher.

    Speaking of my own spelling etc, I shall correct the penultimate paragraph review line from “I would mind seeing an exterior pocket, no outer straps, and less cumbersome waist straps.” – to ” I WOULDN’T mind seeing…”

    Sorry about that!

    Cheers.

    [Reply]

  3. ET says:

    These are cons:
    Too bad the superfluous strapping could not be taken care of too.
    At least I’d be afraid of struggling and then to drop the phone if I used it here.

    Pro:
    It’s so small and light, that it could easily blow in the breeze. (Not really a con, but for those super-minimalist types, something to note.)

    [Reply]

  4. Michael W. says:

    @ ET, if you think the regular Atom is light, check out the Lightweight edition Patagonia offers under the Sling name:

    http://www.patagonia.com/us/pr.....8796-0-604

    I’m glad they give it a different name to avoid confusion. The dimensions seem the same as the Atom, but the pockets aren’t lined. I have one and will be trying it out as a take-out, seatside bag on my next transpacific flight. (take-out = stowed in main bag until boarding, seatside is more obvious = at my seat not overhead). I trial packed it and it is just about right for my seatside items – but that is partly because I pack a size medium jacket and am using a non-bulky, thinly line Alpine windjacket from Patagonia, anything larger or thicker wouldn’t leave much room for anything else.

    [Reply]

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