For as long as I’ve been a pack and carry aficionado, I have lusted over the holy grail of minimalist packs, the Arc’teryx Nomin Veilance. At first glance, most non bag lovers and even long time pack devotees will say “WHAT?!, $800 for THAT?” and rightfully so, as the Nomin doesn’t look anything near spectacular or as sexy as a stack of 40 $20 bills. But that’s where the beauty of this pack is, the simplicity, clean lines, quality of materials employed, alien technology and the uttermost attention to detail in its handmade craftsmanship. It’s like good Scotch, if you know, then you know.
Yes, I have wanted a Nomin for many years, but I have never had the ba…guts to drop $800 for a new pack or $500 for a pre-loved one. Despite having spent as much as $3,000 in a year in bags, it has been much easier to trade $200-$300 of my hard earned coin for a pack, than $500 in one shot. I mean, $500 is what I spent on my last trip, 3 days in Mont Tremblant including food, Airbnb and lift tickets, so naturally it has always been a pill that’s tough to swallow.
But one day, in a galaxy not too far, far away, I came across a very interesting comment on a Nomin sale post on a Facebook group (The Perfect Pack). The comment daringly and unapologetically stated (and I’m definitely paraphrasing as the comment was deleted) “Now that the sale is complete, here’s a pack with all the Nomin features for 1/8th the price”. SAY WHAAAT? So, given I was headed to Canada anyways, I decided to take a 1.5hr detour and pick up this $80 Nomin fighter from the local MEC.
Enter the MEC Vapour Day Pack. The Vapour is a low profile, lightweight and minimalist pack from MEC, the somewhat Canadian equivalent to REI. The Vapour is part of their house brand portfolio and designed for casual wear.
At first glance, the pack resembles a Granville 16 more than a Nomin, and this is further emphasized when your fingers first land on the 210D Nylon. The fabric is semi rigid with an xpac feel to it, but harder, which is a bit noisy when handling it but quite silent when wearing. The pack itself does not hold its shape unless fully packed, and even then it’s hard to achieve the wrinkle, dead space free look of the stock photos. The bag is very light (1.21lb), and for its carrying capacity it feels and looks like a much smaller pack. Please note that this is simply a contrasting observation and not a negative opinion, as the first interaction with the Vapour was quite pleasant. The pack is available in Black and Moonlight Blue, which in the flesh resembles an Ikea bag blue.
If not a Nomin alternative, what is the Vapour, then? The Vapour is an excellent every day, all around urban pack. It’s light, simple, good looking and comfortable. Its design lines are clean and tidy, and the final product is the reflection of minimalist-minded engineering, where the majority of the work consisted in a streamlined execution. At 22L, the Vapour was a great overnight bag, allowing me to store a full change of clothes, toiletries dopp, 15” MBP and other pouches. The simple design is very welcoming to use, the build quality feels top notch, zippers are tight and buttery, straps are comfortable and it’s waterproof qualities complete a well-rounded package. For those who like having every feature possible, this might be a challenge as the Vapour does not sport a sternum strap, waist/stability belt and won’t stand on its own, but it is the simplistic, clean design that makes this bag stand out.
Talking about simple, the design consists of the following:
Main compartment, which is simply a cavernous storage space. This main section is easy to access via the top, double YKK clamshell zippers. The zippers only go down half way, but I did not experience any challenges organizing my shhtuff.Laptop compartment, single space section to accommodate up to 15” laptops.
Front pocket, small enough for documents, wallet or keys.
Straps are curved, clean and comfortable.
Last but not least, all seams are taped and YKK zippers are water resistant.
Who is this pack for?
In my humble opinion, the Vapour is a great choice for those looking to carry a sleek and well-made pack to school, office, city travel, flying and pretty much any situation that does not require your pack to be abused. The fabric’s finish is barely on the shiny side, but this is normal on a TPU laminated pack. Also, this is a good, less expensive alternative to the Arc’teryx Granville 16, as its 1/3 it’s price, 6L bigger and made just as well. In my experience, it has blended well in the office (even though it’s a bit big for my edc carry), performed like a champ on my trip and is my new go-to overnight pack.
Who is this pack not for?
Those of us who have champagne taste and beer pockets, trying to substitute the Nomin with anything else that is not a Nomin Veilance. I also see it having a hard time performing as an outdoors pack; it’s definitely a city creature.
While the Vapour is not a Nomin alternative, the pack holds its own ground with excellent build quality and a streamlined design. It will definitely stay in my lineup, will see daily use and at $80 I won’t be concerned about damage, wear or tear. One thing that the Vapour has done for me, though, is confirm my vital need for a Nomin in my life, and who knows, this year might be the year.
So there’s one thing certain about the Vapor, and it’s that it is not a Nomin, nor a Nomin fighter and the only quality they both share is their minimalist design. But that’s not a bad thing, as they are clearly aimed towards different audiences and hey, they got me -
MEC Vapour Daypack Specs:
Material: 210-Denier high-tenacity nylon with waterproof TPU lamination
Arc’teryx Veilance Nomin Specs (for sh*ts and giggles)
Material: Coated Technical Weave