Honest CabinZero Backpack Review: 42L ADV vs. ADV Pro

The amount of luggage options out there is overwhelming. But once we found our CabinZero travel luggage it was love at first sight. Our CabinZero 42L ADV backpacks review includes all the reasons we knew it was a true match. (And all the reasons it was confirmed after months of use.)

We are also comparing the ADV vs. ADV Pro for you in the 42L size (the largest size) because we have one of each. We make it easy to make your choice!

Disclosure: Cabin Zero sent us these products for our honest review. There may also be affiliate links in this post, which means we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase. We only recommend products or services we personally use and recommend.

Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

Cabin Zero Backpack Review: the ADV 42L and ADV Pro 42L

Dan (6’2″ in height, for reference of where the bag hits his body):

He has the Absolute Black ADV 42L bag.

Mikkel (5’1″ in height):

She has the Mossy Forest, green ADV Pro 42L bag.

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Similarities: 

  • They have the same volume.
  • They are currently available in the same four color options. (Absolute Black, Mossy Forest, Sahara Sand or Atlantic Blue)
  • Both are water resistant.
  • Each has an exterior water bottle pocket.
  • Both have a space for a laptop.
  • They each have lockable zippers.
  • Each has side clips that go over the zippers. (This is great to hold the bag together if you check the luggage and there’s a rare, rare case the zipper breaks. The zippers are really high quality though.)
  • Both have Okoban tracking tags.

Main differences between the two:

  • The ADV weighs 3 oz. less than the ADV Pro. (Barely noticeable.)
  • Interior organization in the main compartment is slightly different. The ADV Pro has a bungee cord system with a buckle inside and ADV has an angled pocket. Mikkel still can’t figure out what to use the bungee cord system for inside a bag. (If you know, let us know!)
  • The ADV has a straight zip panel on the front while the ADV Pro has a U-shaped one. It truly doesn’t make a difference to us! It’s simply a design difference in our eyes.
  • While both have a space for a laptop the ADV Pro space is padded. The ADV laptop compartment isn’t padded.
  • There is a difference between the two airflow systems of the straps and part of the backpack that goes on your back, but since we never switch backpacks and only know our own we’d never know the difference. (The ADV Pro is Thermoform and the ADV is Airmesh.)
Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

Price of Our ADV CabinZero Backpacks

ADV 42L: $131.00

ADV Pro 42L: $167.00

There’s also an “ADV Dry” waterproof backpack. The design is totally different as is the purpose so we’ve left that bag out of our CabinZero backpack review.

We compared this to some popular luggage options…

Eagle Creek Utility Pack (40L): $199.00

Osprey Kamber (42L): $190.00

Away, least expensive, smallest carry-on (39.8L capacity): $275.00

We know the “Away” carry-on is a hard case with wheels, while the Eagle Creek and Osprey options are also backpacks. But we thought it was worth including since Away luggage is very popular right now.

➡️ Shop CabinZero Backpacks

Reviewing Pros and Cons of our CabinZero Backpacks

Truly there are few cons. The more we use the bags the more we love them and all there is to appreciate about them. And there are many more pros than the few cons that have come to mind throughout months of use.

CabinZero Backpack Reviews: Pros

We’ve realized a few things as owners of Cabin Zero backpacks for months now. Here are the pros we appreciate about our carry-on backpacks. (Note if it’s a feature only available on the ADV versus ADV Pro, we’ve indicated so.)

The soft yet quality material (as opposed to a hard case) is a dream

You don’t really think about how much space the suitcase in itself takes up until you have a soft backpack, like the Cabin Zero ADV Pro, that fits into tighter spaces than your old luggage, including a packed car trunk and overhead compartment on smaller airplanes.

Note there is an aluminum frame within the bag. You hardly notice it when you wear it but it’s there for support, which is a bonus. (You can take it out if you like, but we keep ours in the bag.)

We love that it’s so easy to take into big cities, from New York City to Lyon

It’s so simple for us to carry our Cabin Zero backpacks on and off any subway. We just put them on our backs and rush through the stations (as any New Yorker does) including stairs, escalators, and narrow passages.

Rolling suitcases are such a pain to wheel around and through a place like NYC with a ton of other people. Rolling luggage is also annoying to roll through European cities with a ton of cobblestone.

We carry our CabinZero luggage and it’s a breeze.

They save room in our cars

We travel by car a lot whether for a few days within North Carolina or weeks at a time up north or just road tripping on the coast. We often need to pack the car full of camera gear and who knows what other crap. It all takes up most of the space in our trunk.

The Cabin Zero bag fits in our trunks so much better than any hard case luggage has. (Dan has a Jeep Wrangler and Mikkel has a Toyota Prius.) It’s nice to be able to have more flexibility to pack our car trunks in various ways for road trips and be able to fit more items in the car because of it.

Our CabinZero Backpacks have many hidden pockets inside

We LOVE pockets and compartments that keep us extra organized. There are even mesh zipper areas inside that we’ve used to organize medicine, underwear and socks, etc.

The smaller top compartment on the front of the bag is a great place for keeping phone charger cords, headphones, and such.

We love the “stowaway straps” that you can zip into a compartment to hide them or keep them out to be a backpack

This is ideal for packing it in a car when you don’t need the straps laying out, potentially getting caught on another item in the car. Or the same for the overhead compartment of an airplane. Or especially if for some reason (like you have too many carry-ons) you need to check it.

(We’ve never checked our backpacks but that’s because we travel and pack light and they always fit as carry-ons.)

Each backpack has two handles: one on the side and one up top

This is great when you tuck those backpack straps away and simply want to carry it in your hand. We use the top handle when it’s lighter and we’re resting it on the floor for a minute, vertically. Or to pull in and out of the trunk of the car.

We use the side handle to carry it horizontally if we’re moving it from the house to the car, onto a plane, etc. Dan is carrying it in his right hand in the photo below because he had a small additional backpack on this particular trip.

He also has this shoulder strap he purchased a few years after owning the CabinZero backpack. It’s simply so he has another way to carry it across his body if he wears a small backpack (with his iPad in it and work stuff) on his back. Luckily, there’s two clips on the CabinZero backpack that are intended for this purpose.

Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

The Colors are Awesome

We wanted luggage on par with our appreciation for good branding that was simple as we’re not over-the-top people or travelers. (There’s real beauty in it because simple branding is often much harder than loud, cluttered branding.)

Dan’s favorite “color” is black so of course, he went with black. But I love any bag that stands out if it’s in a group of luggage, like on a baggage claim belt yet blends in enough to not scream “take me!” if it doesn’t belong to the person eyeing it. I chose green.

The Design is Sleek and Clean

CabinZero’s branding is nicely reflected in its products. They look so great and professional looking, in fact, that Dan has felt confident on more than one occasion to go straight from the airport to a business meeting. He brings his CabinZero backpack into an office and conference room and doesn’t think twice.

Similarly, we can bring it into a luxury hotel and not feel like we’re backpackers that were hiking in the woods for hours like some more “rustic’ backpacks made for adventure seekers whose primary accommodations are often on campsites.

No Flight Attendant Has Ever Questioned the Size of our Backpack Carry-Ons

Gone are the days of getting the side-eye from gate attendants checking us into a flight. We used to get looks, wondering if our roller bag carry-on luggage really would fit in the overhead compartment.

It was awful getting those pink tags to check our bags, gate side! We have never had that issue with our ADV Cabin Zero backpacks and we’ve had ours for years.

It’s always nice to simply hand the gate attendant our ticket, hear them say “have a nice flight” and be on our way.

They Fit in Overhead Compartments on Airplanes

I mentioned that’s part of why it was started and perhaps that’s why it’s such an important feature of their site. You can easily check out which bags fit on which airplanes for Cabin Zero products before you buy too. It’s genius. (See “Check Out CabinZero” at the end of our post for a link to the exact area of their site where you can find the information.)

The photo below is on a really small plane, a one-hour Delta flight from RDU in Raleigh, North Carolina to LGA in New York City. They fit on the flight without issue.

Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

The Bag has a Tracking Tag

There’s an Okoban tracking tag on the backpack, the “Global Lost & Found Solution” Sure, if someone steals your luggage and is a bad person they’re unlikely to return the bag.

But if you lose it for some reason and a kind soul finds it, he or she can look it up from the obi number and find that you’re the bag’s owner. (Note you must register your Cabin Zero backpack with Okoban when you get it for this to work.)

This is not the same thing as an Apple tag. If you want to be able to geolocate your bag, you’ll need to buy Apple Air Tags for that.

CabinZero Backpacks Have a Laptop Compartment

This rocks because we often take our MacBooks when we travel (especially domestically) . They easily fit into both our Cabin Zero backpacks and carry on to the airplane, eliminating the need to carry an additional laptop bag.

You Can Lock the Main Zippers

I’m from nearby New York City so I lock my luggage more often than Dan, who is from Western New York. I’m more of a skeptic than he is. 🙂

To lock the luggage, all you have to do is buy combination locks that fasten to the zippers.

  • It has an exterior plastic loop if you want to clip carabiners to it. (Including keys.) And we have.
  • They are water-resistant. Because haven’t we all gotten caught in the rain traveling with our luggage or backpacks at some point?

They’re Lightweight

They are lightweight and comfortable. We can carry them for extended periods of time.

It has an Exterior Pocket for a Water Bottle

The exterior water bottle pocket is deep enough to hold a good size bottle.

Be kind to the environment and travel with a refillable bottle. Here are the two we recommend:

  1. Memo bottle: We love it because it’s flat, so it fits in a pocket, on the side of a backpack, in a purse, etc. very easily and comfortably.
  2. MiiR bottles: They’re insulated and keep the liquid at the temperature you added it to the bottle in for HOURS and hours. They rock. We also love that the wide-mouthed bottles are easy to get ice cubes into. Use code “SOMETIMESHOME” for 15% off your order.

The Top and Front-Loading Zippers Create Easy Access

This is a wonderful option if one of us has to go into the overhead compartment during a long flight to get something out of a backpack.

Zippers on our Cabin Zero Backpacks Extend more than a Typical Backpack

This is nice because it gives us the feeling of it being like a suitcase and a backpack when we lay the CabinZero flat to open it at a hotel.

CabinZeros come with a Warranty

Every bag comes with a 10-year warranty. (You can extend the warranty to 25 years if you follow them on social media. No joke.) Understandably, normal wear and tear is not covered under their warranty.

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Cabin Zero Backpack Reviews: Cons

Shoulder Straps: Maybe just One Sometimes

I wish the backpack straps would function a little better with only one shoulder strap once in a while. Our workaround: simply partially open the compartment zipper revealing one of the two straps.

Sometimes we all have to get creative in life, right? And it works for me so the con sort of becomes obsolete.

You Can’t Hide the Lower Strap when the Backpack Straps are Out

The belly strap (the one that horizontally clips around your stomach) is a little bit of a nuisance sometimes. There’s not a way to tuck only these back into the compartment that zips when you fully expose the stowaway straps.

Dan did, however, find a workaround! He simply clips it around the Cabin Zero luggage away from his body, as pictured below. Voila!

Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

Wheels are Not an Option

It’s a little obvious that the backpack doesn’t have wheels. It’s a backpack, not rolling luggage. This is such a minor, teeny, tiny con.

The only time I’ve ever thought about it is when I am carrying a ton of stuff to the car and wheels may help. But then we think about how much easier carrier it is for these carry-on bags to be on our backs, as designed, and we are reminded that’s the beauty of the backpacks.

Unpacking at a Hotel is Easier than Living out of your CabinZero

It’s not that easy to live out of your Cabin Zero backpack at a hotel. The positive aspect of this, though, is it encourages us to unpack into the dresser drawers and closets, which we like.

Plus then we don’t feel like high school or college students anymore. (And we shouldn’t because though we’re kids at heart we are, in fact, and on paper, adults.)

Tips for Traveling and Packing Cabin Zero Backpacks

We’ve learned a thing or two having used our Cabin Zero backpacks countless times. Here are some of our favorite tips:

  • Register your backpack’s Okoban tracking tag as soon as you get it or you’ll just procrastinate! (Not that one of us knows from experience or anything.)
  • Sometimes it’s easier to clip the sides before you zip it to help hold the flap down to the rear of the backpack if it’s stuffed! It helps you zip it.
  • If your backpack is filling up with contents quickly and you don’t think you can fit more in it, you can. Just zip it up, grab the top hand and shake the contents down. Gravity will work in your favor and there will magically be more room at the top of the backpack when you lay it down again and unzip it a bit.
  • There’s a good chance the backpack fits underneath your seat. So if you’re on a short flight that is short on overhead storage and you want to give your overhead space up to a poor soul who needs a space for his or her rolling hard shell, clunky bag, you may make their day. (But check on your particular flight. We’ve never been on a flight where the backpacks won’t fit overhead. But have been on some flights where they won’t fit underneath the seat.)

What’s Different about CabinZero?

We can’t complete our CabinZero backpack review without highlighting why it’s different.

The thing that most struck us about CabinZero bags is their design. We alluded to this as one of our “pros” about the bags but we need to reriterate it.

They’re mostly offered in solid colors; the bags are like delightful color blocks. Another thing that was greatly appealing to us is their largest bags fit in overhead compartments on planes, meaning we would have a lot of success using them as carry-ons.

It’s our preference to always travel with carry-on luggage. This was HUGE for us. The harmony of a beautiful, well-designed bag that fits in overhead compartments was a dream realized.

Why was CabinZero started?

Cabin Zero was started by Neil Varden, an avid traveler himself. He wanted a bag that wouldn’t break on him after numerous trips abroad that his previous luggage couldn’t handle. It had to be easy to carry around, look great and, importantly, fit in the overhead compartment on airplanes.

Every moment not spent waiting for luggage at an airport baggage claim is a moment to spend seeing the actual city you’ve landed in, after all. They believe luggage shouldn’t hold you back and we do too.

We love that Cabin Zero luggage propels us forward.

How We Discovered CabinZero Backpacks

Due to the abundance of travel products, the options at the New York Times Travel Show can be overwhelming. Yet a standout product will catch your eye. New luggage was on our minds while browsing the exhibitor booths a few years ago. The big names in luggage were exhibiting there, including TravelPro.

But we’re not ordinary travelers and we were on the hunt for luggage to reflect our needs, personalities, and uniqueness.

That’s when I walked past Cabin Zero. I almost instantaneously backed up to talk to them as if I was a cartoon character doing a double-take. I thought maybe I had found a match for Dan and my travel needs! And {spoiler alert} we did – our Cabin Zero backpacks have been our favorite travel necessity ever since.

We want to get into the nitty-gritty of our backpacks including cost, pros and cons, and our conclusion. But before we do that we wanted to provide some background about Cabin Zero and what makes it unique.

Conclusion for our Cabin Zero Backpack Review

We truly love our Cabin Zero backpacks. They quickly became our travel necessity after we started using them and we’ve been using them for years now.

Some things we disliked at first were things we ultimately understood as design decisions that maybe became pros, not cons, over time. We cannot imagine not having these backpacks now.

Through repeated use and appreciation for everything listed above, we became Cabin Zero fans. We have been converted to backpack travelers. The Cabin Zero ADV backpack is perfect for a sophisticated traveler that stay in mid-size budget hotels AND luxury resorts. And that’s us.

We like that our two carry-on bags are slightly different so we’re not matchy matchy! (Especially when we’re traveling together, walking through a city or airport with them on our backs.) The colors and front zippers on the backpacks differ. They’re light, easy to use, store and look great.

The only con that comes to mind when we’re not picking them apart for an article is wheels. But all of their advantages, and especially being able to throw them on our backs and be more mobile and swift on the go, far surpasses that notion.

Cabin Zero backpack and travel luggage is the best carry on option for travel. They have the best aesthetic for your carryon bags in supreme solid colors. Organization is a breeze with compartments in their soft case options. Designed for men and women, available in black but also yellow, green, red, teal: colors easy to find at an airport. Click through to learn about this chic suitcase alternative for when you are away from home. #sometimeshome #travelbackpack #cabinzero #carryon

Check Out Cabin Zero Online

We encourage you to look at Cabin Zero backpacks and products. They also sell an array of school backpacks, belt bags, companion bags, and some accessories.

  • They offer free delivery for North American orders over $62.00 (as long as you’re not in a highly remote country, for which there is a small fee). They offer free delivery in the UK.
  • You can “Shop By Airline” from Cabin Zero’s website top menu if you need to ensure your bag will fit on a particular airline. Simply navigate to the “Cabin Bags” drop-down menu and click an airline.

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Mikkel is co-owner and editor of Sometimes Home and Sometimes Sailing along with her husband, Dan. She is a professional photographer in addition to writing about their travel adventures to encourage and motivate others to book their next trip and explore the world.

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