Nomatic McKinnon Cube Pack review: travel smart

This compact cube transforms into a backpack, providing a lightweight way to transport kit and clothing

Man carrying a Gomatic McKinnon Cube Pack
(Image: © George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

This expandable cube pack is perfect for transporting compact camera kit and clothes for a short trip abroad as transforms into a lightweight backpack. You can also collapse it into a cube and store it in a larger camera backpack so that you have access to a much lighter backpack when you reach your destination. Its durable and water-resistant material means you can be confident that the kit and clothes will stay dry during wet weather.


  • +

    Lightweight and compact

  • +

    Fits in a larger backpack

  • +

    It’s a backpack in its own right

  • +

    Saves you extra airline luggage charges

  • +



  • -

    No padding on straps

  • -

    Flimsy upper section

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Nomatic produces a wide range of camera backpacks, several of which are designed with input from photographer Peter McKinnon to suit the specific requirements of travel photographers. 

The McKinnon Cube Pack 21L is the latest in the McKinnon branded line from Nomatic and it’s a clever hybrid between a camera cube and a backpack. This dual functionality enables you to pack key photography gear into the Cube Pack and then stow the cube in a larger backpack such as the McKinnon Camera Backpack 25L.  You can then extend the Cube Pack into a lightweight backpack (or ‘go bag’) when you reach your destination. 

McKinnon Cube Pack: Specifications

Volume: 7 L
Size (H/W/L): 13 x 34 x 18 cm
21 L
Size (H/W/L): 45 x 34 x 18 cm
Weight: 0.6 kg
Material: Water resistant 

If you want to avoid extra luggage costs when flying with certain airlines then you can pop your camera kit in the Cube and store some clothes in the expanded backpack section and then stow the Cube Pack in the space under your seat (whereas the larger McKinnon Camera Backpack 25L would have to go in an overhead locker, which would cost you extra).

The McKinnon Cube Pack 21L is both a camera cube and a backpack. The backpack section is collapsed and stored in a zipped compartment above the cube (enabling you to fit the cube inside a bigger backpack if required). 

By unzipping the backpack section you can carry your camera gear in the 7L cube and pop clothes in the extra 14L space created by the backpack. The backpack section also has an interior zipped pocket which provides the perfect place to safely store your passport.

Here’s the Cube Pack in its collapsed state. The backpack component is collapsed and stored in a zipped section.  (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

McKinnon Cube Pack: Design & Handling

In its collapsed cube state, you have 7L of storage space for various bits of camera gear, such as a small DSLR and lens plus charger and a few accessories. The cube section has velcro (hook and loop) dividers that can be redeployed to fit your kit (or the dividers can be removed completely to create even more space.)  

When you first expand the cube into a backpack you need to clip the supplied shoulder straps onto the cube. The material of the expanded backpack section feels flimsy (as it needs to collapse into a small space) but it is durable and water resistant so your kit (and clothes) are safe and dry even on a rainy shoot.

The backpack section features a zippable pocket which is perfect for safely storing travel documents and passports. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

The zips to all sections are sealed so no water can get into the surprisingly generous 21L storage space provided by the expanded Cube Pack. The Cube forms the base of the backpack and this is much more rigid and padded than the extendable backpack’s material, so your expensive camera gear at the base of the backpack is safe from being damaged as you travel.

A chest strap offers an additional element of support, though the mobile photography contents of my backpack were so light that I didn’t need it. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

McKinnon Cube Pack: Performance

To test the McKinnon Cube Pack 21L I used it to transport my camera gear, clothes, and iPad from London to Krakow (in Poland) for a three-day shoot. I was shooting with the iPhone 15 Pro Max so I packed a range of mobile accessories into the Nomatic’s Cube section including a Hollyand Lark M1 wireless mic kit, chargers, and a Joby GorillaPod and smartphone mount. Check out the supporting video I made for this review to see the Cube Pack on location.

The 7L Cube had plenty of space for my gear and I didn’t need to reposition the dividers from their default layout. In the expanded backpack section I packed spare clothing (and slid my passport into the supplied zipped interior pocket). 

Due to the small space taken up by the Cube (even when expanded into backpack formation), I was able to fit it in the space under the seat in front of me on the plane for free. It would have cost £20 to pay for overhead locker space. As a bonus, I didn’t have to worry about fighting with other travelers to access the overhead lockers before leaving the plane as my bag was close to hand by my feet. As a result, I had one the quickest transit from a plane through passport control to exit the airport than I’d ever experienced!

The shoulder straps on the McKinnon Cube Pack are much thinner and less padded than those on conventional backpacks, but despite filling the 21-litre space with kit and clothes the backpack was very lightweight and easy to carry. 

The padding on the back of the pack added a level of comfort as I wandered the streets of Krakow. On the first day of my trip, it rained a lot (which created wonderful reflections for night shots of Krakow’s frequent flow of trams). Fortunately, the Cube Pack’s water-resistant material kept my kit and clothing nice and dry. 

I managed to lock myself out of the storage safe provided by my hotel so I had to carry my passport with me at all times (rather than leave it in my hotel room).  Thanks to the backpack’s internal zipped pocket my passport was safely and reassuringly stored up against my back, two zips away from being pinched by a potential thief. I was able to fit my iPad and a keyboard into the top section of the Cube Pack so I could type up my review while flying back from my Polish trip.

In its collapsed state the Cube Pack can fit inside a larger backpack such as the McKinnon Camera Backpack 25L. You can then expand the Cube Pack and use it as a lighter and smaller day backpack. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

McKinnon Cube Pack: Final Verdict

If you like to travel light and avoid the hassle of checking in your luggage then the McKinnon Cube Pack is the perfect travel companion for those short photo shoots abroad. By placing the backpack by your feet on a plane you can make sure your valuable camera gear (and passport)  is never out of site and you can walk straight through the airport without waiting for larger items of luggage to be unloaded. 

You can also collapse the backpack into a Cube formation and store it in larger backpacks, then use it as a lighter camera gear backpack when you reach your destination.  A versatile storage and transport solution for photographers who like to travel fast and light.

The Nomatic McKinnon Cube Pack enabled me to travel lighter and faster than I could with larger camera backpacks. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Read more: check out the latest best camera backpacks or the best camera bag for travel.

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George Cairns

George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.