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KeySmart’s Sleek Urban21 Daypack: A Rugged Winner for Traveling Light

By Brian E. Clark

Keys can be a pain, especially if you have one for the front door of your building, another for your apartment, one for your mailbox, still others for work, your car, your workout locker and on an on.

So Michael Tunney, a former robotics engineer in the automotive industry and founder of KeySmart, invented the Swiss Army Knife-like key organizer that’s about the size of a pack of gum.

Tunney doesn’t like to sit still, however, and has turned his engineering skills on daypacks, many of which he found too bulky, flimsy and poorly organized.  The result is the Urban21 ($239), a slender, tough and smart-looking daypack designed to keep your belongings safe whether you’re headed for the office, school or galavanting around the globe.


I tried one out on a couple of recent airline trips, when I was also lugging a bigger carry-on. At 21 liters, I found the Urban21 a nice alternative to a larger daypack that I might have had trouble jamming under the seat in from of me.  The Urban21 had plenty of room for my Mac Pro in an interior slot as well as additional space for paperwork, some other essentials, and snacks.

Best of all, there was a separate waterproof, hardshell top on the daypack to protect my glasses, phone, wallet, and headphones. This section also has RFID blocking technology, so nasties can’t digitally steal your credit card data. And if I wanted to take off a jacket or sweater – or just store a hefty Sunday LA Times – the pack has a handy outer front pouch. 

“Michael’s a clever guy,” said Andy Bedell, a spokesman for KeySmart and high school classmate of Tunney’s. “After the success of the key holder, which he launched via Kickstarter in 2012 with more than $300,000 in backing, he focused on creating a better daypack, which he thought would be a great next step.”

Bedell said the Urban21 is was ergonomically crafted to be slim and fit well on a user’s body. It has a HexBreathe™ back pad designed with comfort foam and porous mesh that ventilates sweat and heat to keep wearer’s backs cool and dry.  And it has rugged, waterproof zippers and parachute-quality stitching.

Bedell said Tunney went to the big Consumer Electronics Show and looked at numerous anti-snag, rip-stop materials to make the pack long-lasting. While there, he also found magnetic clasps that connect the front pocket to the pack.

The Urban21, Bedell noted, also has some discreet, inner pockets for hiding important documents like a passport.

The only criticism I had for the daypack was that the side pouches for carrying water bottles were cut a little low, which made it a little difficult for them to stay in when the pack wasn’t upright.  But Bedell said that the problem will be fixed in future designs.



Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. He also writes a weekly travel column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.

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