OnePlus Explorer Backpack review: Meet my magical new gear bag

OnePlus is known for flagship phones that don't break the bank, high-quality accessories, and they already make a pretty great backpack (opens in new tab), which is why when they announced alongside the OnePlus 6T that they were releasing a new backpack with a higher capacity and a slicker look, we all sat up and took notice. The OnePlus Explorer Backpack is beautiful, durable, and one of the hardest items to acquire this holiday season, which makes me all the more grateful for the one on my desk.

The Good

  • 2 laptop pockets, including a padded rear sleeve
  • Good-sized accessory pockets on front and back
  • Water resistant CORDURA is nice (Slate Black only)
  • Well padded shoulder straps and back
  • Fidlock keeps the main compartment secured

The Bad

  • Begging for invite codes
  • Fidlock doesn't always line up if the bag isn't full
  • Phone in "hidden pocket" can dig into your back

Not like, love

OnePlus Explorer Backpack What I love

Explore with me!

The Explorer doesn't look like a backpack that can fit much inside it, but filling up this Slate Black CORDURA-covered pack takes a lot of time and a lot of stuff. The deep main compartment has a laptop sleeve with a securing strap, a zippered accessory pouch, and is secured with a long, long zipper, a stiff fold-over flap, and a Fidlock snap fastener with a signature OnePlus red strap.

4 phones, 3 chargers, 2 laptops, and 1 still half-empty bag

I regularly had trouble filling up this cavernous cavity without just stuffing a hoodie in with all my chargers, cable bags, phone stands, headphones, and the random Bluetooth speaker. Seriously, this thing felt like a bottomless pit when packing it up for my Thanksgiving trip home. On the back of the Explorer sits a very well-padded, easy-access laptop sleeve, great for pulling out your computer at the cafe or TSA, and I greatly preferred using this sleeve to the one in the main compartment.

The wide, shallow front compartment — waterproof with a draining vent for damp umbrellas — is a hair on the small side for comfortably holding larger headphones, but it's been the perfect size for snacks or quick-access cables. Since it's waterpoof, it's wonderfully easy to wipe it clean with a wet paper towel or a Lysol wipe if some dirt or crumbs get inside.

Two smaller exterior accessory pockets — a deep pouch on the front and a "hidden" phone/wallet pocket sandwiched between the laptop sleeve and your back — and a narrow, slightly stretchable water bottle pouch round out the Explorer's 8-pocket lineup, and between these 8 pockets, you'll be able to pack just about everything you could ever want. The shoulder straps aren't quite as padded as the back wall of the laptop sleeve, but I still felt zero discomfort carrying my loaded bag from place to place on my journey.

This bag has been a treat, holding everything I need for work and then some without feeling cramped, bloated, or heavier than Jacob Marley's chains. This water-resistant, travel-ready bag is everything I'd hoped for and more, and I have no doubts it will serve me for years to come.

So, we're back to this nonsense?

OnePlus Explorer Backpack What I can do without

Brand power

When the Thunder Purple OnePlus 6T arrived on my doorstep for our hands-on, I squealed with delight upon seeing the Explorer arrive with it. This is a striking, precise, subtly nerdy bag that I had been dying to try out, but I also thought there was no way I'd be able to get my hands on one for a while. See the Explorer's biggest flaw isn't a lack of pockets — though it could use another accessory pouch near the bottom of the main compartment — it's that you can't just get online and buy it (opens in new tab). You need a golden ticket first.

Once upon a time, when OnePlus was a fledgling smartphone maker, the invitation code system made sense. OnePlus wouldn't end up with a surplus of phones and a loss of revenue if all the phones they made were spoken for. The most devoted fans in the OnePlus community could easily obtain codes when they needed to upgrade, since the way you obtain an invite code (opens in new tab) is by winning one from OnePlus's social media accounts or begging for one in forum threads (opens in new tab).

OnePlus isn't a start-up anymore. Invitation codes aren't needed for anything but hype.

Invitation codes made earlier OnePlus phones harder to buy for anyone that wasn't a die-hard fanboy, and die-hard fanboys are the only people who are going to be able to easily buy the OnePlus Explorer for a while, and even many of them will bebegging to split an invite code with someone.

OnePlus Explorer Backpack

That's a shame, too, because this a great bag whether you're a OnePlus fan or not, and I look forward to using it for the foreseeable future. The feeling of exclusivity is a great one, but when someone asks me how much my OnePlus Explorer Backpack is, having to tell them "Oh, it's $100, but you gotta get invited to buy it" sounds exactly like the pretentious gatekeeping it is.

4.5 out of 5

The OnePlus Explorer Backpack is modern, sleek, and it can carry all the tech and snacks I need smartly whether I'm just leaving for the coffee shop or a week-long multi-city adventure. It's exactly what I needed and I wanted out of my next gear bag, and it more than earns its $100 price tag. I just wish my owning it didn't require a massive stroke of luck.

$100 at OnePlus (invitation code required) (opens in new tab)

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • How the hell do you even get an invite code???!!!!
  • Win one from OnePlus via social media/OnePlus forums enagaement, or beg for one in the forum thread linked in the article. You can also "split" some invitation codes, meaning someone buys a backpack with your original code, and once they do, you get a new code.
  • Invitation code for a backpack, seriously?
  • Seriously. And it is seriously the worst thing about the bag.
  • Obviously am more impressed at the length of the article for a 'simole' backpack. The invitation code thing is a nonstarter. Just like when they did it with their first phones. They should have learnt that by now. If I wanted a restrictive environment I'd have bought an iPhone or an Apple products.
  • I'm prolific. It's part of my charm. 😎
  • I already purchased a 6T. How do I get a code?
  • Same here. I bought mine a few weeks ago directly from OP.
  • I coulda sworn they said... (goes back and listens to OnePLus Explorer launch again) OH! It wasn't that OP6T users where getting invite codes before the end of the year, it was that OP6T attendees at the annoucement event in New York would get one. Well, damn, that's even worse. My apologies for getting your hopes up; I misheard the livestream.
  • No worries Ara. Thanks for the heads up. You're awesome!!
  • What's fidlock? Is it a Fingerprint ID lock?
  • The flap folds over and slicks into a "Fidlock", which requires you to pull the red strap down to release the lock and open the bag. OnePlus claims its a security thing (it does make noise when it opens/closes most of the time), but really, I think it's just annoying especially when you realize that "Oh, there's no pockets on the flap and the main compartment is zippered shut anyway underneath this stiff flap."
  • Invitation code aside, I'm a little dubious about the waterproof pocket for storing your umbrella. Being able to turn it inside out is a good thing, but the drainage vent seems like a bad idea unless you're okay with water leaking out of your backpack. I feel like it would be better if there were a sponge that could be wrung out and dried.
  • I'm a little dubious of it, too, which is why I instead use it for cable and snacks. But that was the intended purpose of the pouch so it was worth at least a mention.
  • It's butt ugly...
  • I think it looks good. It'll look better once I get these patches sewn on, though.
  • I just got the Explorer Backpack in green a few days ago. It's very well made, and seems really durable despite not being made of Cordura like the black one. I got an invite code by going onto the OnePlus forums and simply asking if anyone had one they weren't using. Turns out, when you buy one you automatically get another code to use or give away. Being that the backpack costs $99, there are plenty of people with invitation codes they can't use. I've offered mine to two people now who've passed because of the cost.
  • I was surprised the Morandi green wasn't CORDURA, but I also just thought the black looked better overall. Codes aren't quite as scarce as they were during the OP2/OP3 days, but not just letting people buy the backpack is complete nonsense. OnePlus has one of the most devoted fandoms in the smartphone industry, and while invite codes show us the kindness of fans helping each other get their prize together, it is NOT a good look, especially when they got up on stage and said "oh, hey, we want this to be that secret signal that you're a OnePlus fanboy, so we're bringing back invite codes so the normies can't have them!"
  • Hi loucap. think I might want a code. I think I'm gonna try to buy the bag this next week mind if I use it?
  • I love this
  • Hi does anybody have a code I could use. I'm interested in buying
  • I got one :D. Asked/PMed the moderator who was helping distribute them.
  • So if you buy it could you send me the generated code that you get after buying please?
  • anyone got a spare code?
  • Has anyone actually tried to purchase products as advertised by OnePlus? Especially so called "Sales, Bundles, Discounts on products. From my experience, they do not exist. I love the emails i receive that state there is going to be this huge sale or a discounted product on a certain date at such and such time. What a crock of crap. There may be a slight chance the OnePlus may have 1 item that was advertised, but the norm reads "Out of Stock" And there are the accessories, no longer in stock.
    I cannot believe all the positive hype that OnePlus is receiving.
    One is better off with a $50.00 phone from Walmart. To receive any kind of repair service one must give up their first born.
    This company is horrible and very deceiving.