ISM Backpack Review [Updated 2021]
(A Stylish Modern Backpack)

ISM Backpack review: ISM backpack
Credit: ISM

Our Verdict

The ISM Backpack is the ideal companion for those looking to consolidate their daily carry without compromising on durability, versatility and of course, style.


  • Super stylish

Everyone from the fashionista to the businessman and even the occasional traveler would love to flaunt this backpack.

  • Durable

The materials used would allow the bag withstand the rigors of daily use.

  • Water resistant

The bag has a water-resistant exterior and weatherproof aqua-guard zipper to protect your tech devices and other items from water.

  • Separate laptop compartment

There are two sleeves in the tech compartment for your laptop and tablet.

  • Travel friendly

A benefit of having a versatile pack, it comes with luggage strap to attach to your suitcase.

  • Comfortable

EVA foam and padded straps with ventilation on the back ensure all day carrying comfort.

  • Lifetime warranty

Aside being well made, this bag is backed with a lifetime warranty so you can get full value for your money.

  • Lightweight and minimalistic

Its low-profile design makes the bag easy to navigate busy areas with and transition well for travel, work and every other occasion.

  • USB pass-through

There’s a built in USB pass through at the left side of the bag which lets you charge your phone on while keeping the power bank inside.



  • No external water bottle pocket

In order to maintain the streamline profile, there’s no external water bottle pocket but you can easily use one of the pockets inside the main compartment.

  • Quite pricey

The price tag is not for those on a budget.

    • Poor customer service

    Some buyers on their Facebook page have complained about not receiving their bags nor response from ISM after payment.


    • Durable

    The construction and the quality are superb courtesy of durable materials and zippers used in the bag.

    • Water resistant

    The bag can repel water if exposed to a drizzle or spill.

    • Beautiful vintage design

    There are colorful designs as well as very laid-back minimal options to suit your preferred style.

    • Thoughtful details

    The interior of the bag is so bright so you can easily find your items, the bag can stand on its own and comes with different loops to attach extra gear.

    • Comfortable straps

    The padded mesh straps make for a comfortable wear.

    • Lightweight

    The bag is light, slim and easy to navigate with, even in busy places.

    • Slim profile

    Unless you overstuff the bag, it looks slim and cute against the back.

    • Lifetime warranty

    The bag come with a lifetime warranty so you’re guaranteed to have the best experience and peace of mind as you carry your bag everywhere.


    • No external water bottle pocket

    In order to maintain the streamline profile, there’s no external water bottle pocket but you can easily use one of the pockets inside the main compartment.

    • Quite pricey

    The price tag is not for those on a budget.

    • Poor customer service

    Some buyers on their Facebook page have complained about not receiving their bags nor response from ISM after payment.

    ISM Backpack Review 2021

    Looking for a stylish and well-designed daypack? This ISM backpack review is an honest look at everything this bag can (and can’t) do!

    Granted, it’s a very beautiful backpack but aside from the looks, what else does it have to offer?

    Can it be trusted to stand the test of time and how versatile is it for short trips and EDC?

    ISM Backpack Review: Twitter image
    Credit: Twitter

    There’s also the issue of how light it is, and whether it can accommodate all your daily items, including your laptop without being too bulky.

    All other questions you may have along with the juicy details are revealed in this  ISM backpack review right away.

    ISM in a snapshot

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack design details
    Credit: ISM

    ISM is a San Francisco brand synonymous with minimalistic and stylish modern designs as seen in their infamous classic backpacks and basic travel accessories.

    The founder, Justin Kwong, set out to design a stylish and functional bag that is also neural and versatile for every environment and the result was the luxurious ISM backpack!   

    Also, ISM sells accessories like powerbanks and water bottles that function well with the backpacks. 

    If you love products from luxury brands like Tumi, Longchamp, or Armani, then you’ll love what ISM has to offer as all their bags are made at the same factory.

    Table of Contents

    Design & Quality

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack front view
    Credit: ISM

    If you’re big on looks and quality, this one knocks it out of the park. The backpack shines for its high quality full — grain leather and water-resistant nylon fabric that has excellent durability while also spotting a premium, head-turning aesthetic.   

    It’s casual, but still appropriate in a professional setting. It’s minimal, but has just enough compartments and pockets for your laptop and daily carry. 

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack black and gold
    Credit: ISM

    The ISM backpack comes with two color hardware – gunmetal black or gold zipper with matching logo trim. Personally, I prefer the one with the gold accent because it serves as a pop of color contrast and style against the black exterior.    

    What’s more?

    The ISM backpack comes in two sizes (big and small), has a discreet side flap to charge your electronic on the go, and is backed by a lifetime warranty.

    Materials & Construction

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack front and back view
    Credit: ISM

    The quality of the ISM backpack is superb and immediately apparent.

    The bag is primarily made from full grain leather and nylon exterior that are both water resistant with leather trim details around the bag.

    EVA foam and paddings on the leather straps with a breathable back panel help keep your back ventilated, and then you have nice waterproof AguaGuard YKK zippers so your tech and valuables do not get wet.

    The premium material and feel won’t wear out anytime soon even if you use this bag every day because it comes with the quality stamp of being made at the same factory as brands like TUMI, Longchamp, and Armani.

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack side view with features
    Credit: ISM

    I really appreciate it when a brand includes nice and thoughtful details to help users get the most out of the bag and from my research on the ISM backpack review, I can say they didn’t disappoint in this regard.

    One of such is the dark navy fabric lining which serves as contrast to break the all-black interior to enable you see and locate items easily.

    Another thoughtful feature is the dedicated pocket for a power bank and a cable passthrough on the left side of the bag so you can charge your phone whilst on the go.

    I also love the back panel that allows you to attach it to your suitcase handle, keeping it secure when you’re rolling your bag.

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack powerbank pocket and USB cord passthrough
    Credit: ISM

    The addition of a separate laptop compartment, multiple pockets for organization, adjustable leather straps with paddings and a nice leather wrap handle makes the backpack functional to daily use. 

    With a volume capacity of 17.2L and 17 x 12 x 5 inches measurement, the bag weighs at a light 1.8lbs, and can fit a 16-inch laptop all in a neat and organized layout.

    However, there are design features I can’t help but miss in this backpack like an antitheft rear pocket to secure sensitive items like a passport and a water bottle pocket. 

    Nonetheless, this is a luxe quality backpack that you can trust to last you for a long time but if anything happens, you can bank on their lifetime warranty.

    Fit & Comfort

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack back view
    Credit: ISM

    The bag shows a recurring theme of keeping things streamlined, light and almost minimal. And as a plus, the ISM backpack makes for a comfortable wear.

    The adjustable leather straps on this bag are padded with EVA foam and breathable mesh to keep the bag cushioned and comfortable. 

    Also, there are some mesh padding on the back of the bag that serve as air flow channels to add a good degree of ventilation you’ll appreciate when stuck in a long queue waiting for your order. (Oh, the good times).

    It’s not strange that the bag lacks sternum/ waist strap and other load lifters because frankly, they are not needed. See, the bag isn’t overwhelmingly big, so even when its fully packed out, you won’t find it uncomfortable to wear. 

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack luggage strap
    Credit: ISM

    There’s also a supple leather grab handle on the top of the bag that is makes the bag easier to carry.

    Located at the middle of the back panel is a leather luggage strap you can attach to your rolling wheelie, if you tend to travel frequently.

    Lastly, the interior of the pack being a dark blue shade serves as a welcome contrast to the all-black vibe which allows for high visibility, great for locating things in low light. 

    Storage & Organization

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack front view
    Credit: ISM

     For a simple-looking bag, the ISM backpack offers a lot of organization with 4 internal pockets, 1 external pocket and a spacious compartment.

    Front pocket

    This is a convenient place to dump your work badge, keys, phone, wallet, M&M’s, Chapstick, stickies and pens etc. for quick and easy access. 

    ISM Backpack Review: The inside of the ISM Backpack
    Credit: ISM

    Main compartment

    This compartment is quite large with additional 2 flat pockets, 2 wide pockets as well as a conveniently located quick access zippered pocket for small items to help you stay organized.

    You can place your power bank, water bottle, chargers, sunglasses and what not in any of these pockets. Personally, I don’t appreciate keeping your water bottle within the main compartment but I guess it’s a small price to pay for the clean aesthetics.

    Additional quick access Pocket

    Inside the main compartment is a zippered pocket with gold details just like the one on the exterior to help you organize those miscellaneous things you’d need a pouch for.

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack tech compartment
    Credit: ISM

    Tech compartment
    This dedicated compartment comes with two padded sleeves for your tech and documents (meaning it doesn’t take up valuable space in the main compartment and offers extra protection from other contents in the bag).

    You can fit a 16inch laptop and the additional can hold your tablet as well as papers/folders, you don’t want getting crumpled in the main compartment.


    ISM Backpack Review: Twitter image
    Credit: Twitter

    Summary of the ISM backpack – a well-made product with a moderate price tag for a luxe product.

    At $225, the ISM backpack is not cheap but also not exuberantly expensive like a luxurious bag should be.

    If you consider the long-lasting materials used and how its functional, super stylish, comfortable, organization friendly and backed by a lifetime warranty, the price is justifiable.

    Note: The smaller version (10.8L) is cheaper at only $195 when compared to the 17.2L version.

    Warranty - MAP Guarantee

    The ISM backpack comes with a lifetime warranty!

    This essentially means that if your bag gets damaged due to manufacturing defects, or component breakdowns whether it be in the zippers, materials, straps, or handle, they will fix it, or send a new bag to you, at no cost to you.

    Note that the warranty does not cover damage caused by accident, normal wear and tear, abuse of the backpack, or the natural breakdown of colors and materials over extended time and use. 

    You can learn more about it here.

    Users Thoughts/Reviews

    ISM Backpack Review: Facebook image

    If you want a backpack that looks professional and polished, but wouldn’t look out of place in a casual, or work environment, the ISM backpack is your guy. 

    From an aesthetic point of view, its stylish, sleek and minimalist. From a functional point of view, it has enough place for your laptop, tablet and all other tiny things that you are likely to have in there.   

    However, the ISM backpack isn’t the best deal out there, at least when compared to top competitions like the AER Tech backpack. For one, the ISM backpack has limited carry space and organizational system in comparisons.  

    Also, some users have bemoaned the lack of hidden quick access pocket at the back of the pack. For a travel backpack, I think a hidden pocket won’t compromise the design and would allow you to place your passport, wallet or any small valuables safe.

    Another complaint is with the storage. The bag is not expandable, so when you overstuffed your bag, it might end up looking bulky and comfortably tight.

    Then there’s the issue of poor customer service. Lots of buyers on Facebook have complained about not receiving their bags nor helpful response from ISM.

    So, if you have to buy an ISM backpack, it’s best you buy from a reputable retailer like Amazon where you will actually get what you pay for and on time. In order words, try not to buy directly from ISM at the moment to avoid any headache.

    It’s due to these unsavory reasons, especially with the brand’s  poor customer service  that I rated the bag a 3.2 out of 5 in this ISM backpack review. 

    Overall, the ISM backpack is a luxury bag with useful functionality that’s built to last and users were generally pleased with their purchase from reviews on the ISM backpack.

    Alternative to consider: The ISM Backpack (Small)

    ISM Backpack Review: The ISM Backpack Small
    Credit: ISM

    The ISM backpack comes in two sizes: a big and small with identical compartments, construction, features and functionality.

    The obvious difference between the two is that this one is smaller (10.8L) with a lower profile and comes with a burgundy-colored interior.

    For perspective, the small ISM backpack measures at 15 x 11 x 4 inches, weighs only 1.3 lbs. when empty and fits a 13.5″ laptop.

    If you’re a bit shorter, you might find that the small backpack is more suitable.

    That said, it spots the same quality, shares similar features and is equally aesthetically pleasing as its bigger counterpart as detailed in this ISM Backpack review. 

    Final Thoughts

    From this ISM backpack review, we have seen that the bag is a comfortable, lightweight and beautiful stylish you’d love to be seen with.

    With a solid material choices, robust construction, adequate internal organization and other needed features, it transitions well from work to travel and theme pack wanderings. 

    So, what’s your take on the ISM backpack in this review? Let me know in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you.

    This article is not sponsored in any way by any company. This backpack have been independently selected by myself and my team. And the only thing I receive is a small commission from our affiliate program if you buy any of them through the links and buttons on this page. It doesn’t cost you a penny. But it really helps me out as this money goes to paying for maintaining the website, editing software, my time, team and everything else that goes into preparing this post.  

    8 thoughts on “ISM Backpack Review | A Stylish Modern Backpack”

    1. Wow, this piece of kit looks amazing!

      I bought a “laptop” backpack a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe how huge it was! It’s great and all, but I do need a stylish backpack for just my tech stuff (not for everything else I own).

      Shame it’s so pricey. But you’re clearly getting good quality for it. I’ll keep an eye on it till the time I have some spare money.

      Thanks a lot for a well-written and quality review.

    2. This backpack has a simple design, but it looks stylish and elegant. I definitely like its look. It’s also spacious. I would not mind that it doesn’t have a compartment for a water bottle. I don’t carry a water bottle with me all the time anyway. I think that this backpack is great to take to the work place. With the luggage strap, it’s also convenient to travel, for example on a business trip. When I lived in Europe, I went on many business trips and a bag like that would have come in handy at the time, if I had known about it 😉

    3. Thanks a lot for your review of the ISM Backpack. As always, your site is my #1 place to go when I need to read a review or two. I like this one a lot. It looks cool and it seems to be a high-quality product as well. The laptop compartment is very important to me as well the fact that it is water resistant. I like how you always give a set of realistic pros and cons. Helps me to make a better decision. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    4. This got to be one the best backpack I have seen, at least for what I like about it. I love the sleek look of it but I do enjoy the space and easy access of more outer pockets however this one does have easy access keeping everything within out of sight.
      I do love that it can carry a full 17″ laptop which is what I will always have and that it can easily attach to my suitcase is handy but not a requirement for me.
      But the power pack pocket along with the external USB port I think is very convenient and even becoming a necessary item today.
      I do enjoy an external water pocket because it’s used so much I prefer not having to open it too often. I find it’s a lot more convenient to have it than not.
      And having it water-resistant is a great feature I think is a necessity as well today due to the electronics we carry. Get caught out in the rain one time can be very expensive.
      This is a very cool laptop however the water bottle may be a big stopper for me. I will have to think about it some more for sure. Thank you for this review I appreciate it.

    5. Hi Femi, This is really a beautiful travel item. I agree with you; the bag looks very elegant and luxurious, but still comfortable. I can see that the quality is high, and this makes it attractive to me.
      Being very much for sustainable products, I would always go for a bag that will not easily fall apart, and I think the price is not bad for such a travel bag. Absolutely beautifully made! Thank you very much for the detailed information!:)

    6. Hi Femi!
      I like this backpack despite how pricey it is for me. I’m personally a fan of backpacks and now I have 5 in my collection for all occasions. I like that ISM backpack has a compartment for laptop and several pockets-it is so practical for a business trip. By the way, my favorite color of a backpack is black, because it fits every style of clothes.
      Thank you very much for your detailed review as always!
      All the best,

    7. Hey Femi,

      What a wonderful review of a sleek looking backpack! Your review had literally everything I needed to know about this sexy looking bag! If only I knew about this with all the travelling I did, I wouldn’t have chronic shoulder pains to deal with! arrgghh! The price point is quite high on this but if I were to buy, I would definitely buy the bigger size even though it costs more, it is better value for money.

      By the way, your site is an awesome resource of all the products I ever need a detailed review of. Keep on doing great work!


    8. It would be a great backpack if you ever got it. Look at their facebook comments – a complete scam. I ordered one two months ago – no product delivered and no response from the company. Ultimately had to have Citibank dispute the order. That’s the same issue that others have reported. Don’t do it. Go to a reputable company like REI or Patagonia – that actually have humans with a heart responding to problems.


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