REVIEW – Finding the correct travel bag has always been difficult for me. I have found out over time that a one size fits all type bag will usually not work. They are either all way too big or too small for the trip and what I need to bring along. Too many bags would have just a single large compartment and maybe a zipper or two for small things but no real easy way to organize my packing. I also find that the larger the bag is, the heavier it will be. When Peak Design offered up their new 45 liter travel backpack for review I jumped on it because it seemed to be an organized packer’s mecca. Let’s see how it worked out for me.
What’s in the box?
I received the 45 liter Travel backpack along with some additional accessories. You will see full detail pictures of everything below. In addition to the backpack I received the following:
- Wash pouch – complete with hook for hanging up in the bathroom! It comes in sage or black and I received the sage. Dimensions are 26 cm x 11 cm x 15 cm 2.5 liters
- Tech pouch – used to organize and store all your tech cables, batteries and charging adapters. It comes in sage or black and I received the black. Dimensions are 24 cm x 10 cm x 15 cm 2 liters
- Medium packing cube – Dimensions 32 cm x 17 cm x 32 cm 18 liters
- Small packing cube – Dimensions 32 cm x 8 cm x 17 cm 9 liters
Design and Features
OK, be ready for a plethora of pictures. This backpack has a ton of features allowing you to pack and organize your travel gear in many ways. The first picture below shows the backpack that is fully compressed but does have inside all of the travel pouches and cubes. The first thing I noticed and loved was how the backpack will stand on its own. You can see that I received the sage color. The backpack itself is able to compress itself to multiple sizes. The ‘normal’ size is 35 liters which allows it to be a carry on bag for airlines. You can compress it down to 30 liters by simply pressing down the top part of the bag where you see the zipper and it will fold into itself. On the other end of the spectrum you can expand it to a full 45 liters with the side expansion zippers I will show later. The bag has dimensions of 56 cm tall and 33 cm wide. It can be expanded from 23 cm up to 29 cm in depth. On the front of the bag there are 6 external carry strap attachment points with three on the left and 3 on the right side of the bag. On top of the bag there are 4 external carry strap attachments and 2 more on the bottom. You can literally have everything and the kitchen sink hanging off this bag if you wish. The second picture shows you how deep the top pocket of the bag goes. My hand is not very large, but it will easily fit my Samsung S9 and I believe it would also hold a phone as large as a Note or the large iPhone easily. The pocket is heavily lined so that even if the bag where to fall on its face I do not think anything would be damaged inside.
The pack itself is made from 400 d for the shell and 900 d on the bottom both of which are made from recycled plastics. It has a weatherproof construction and waterproof zippers.
The next three pictures show the back of the bag. At the top, you will see a handle. It appears to be made of the same type of material as the seat belt in your car. It is well stitched and made of several layers to give it a nice cushion. The handle does not cut into my hand at all even when fully loaded. There are two fully adjustable backpack straps that are well padded and sit comfortably on the back. The straps both have two external seatbelt-like material where you can also attach hanging things. The bag also comes with a very nice chest strap. Both ends of the strap have metal hooks that are in the middle picture. You simply hook the metal hook over the middle part of the back strap and it is held in place. There are 4 points on the strap where you can hook the chest strap depending on how you like to carry the bag. If you don’t want the chest strap at all, you simply can unhook both sides and store it away. I really like how no plastic buckles are used. Those always seem to be a point of failure. You can also notice that the strap itself is made out of the same seatbelt-like material. It is very soft and strong feeling. I did note that on my trip I could also use that back handle as a pass through on my husband’s rollable luggage handle.
Also on the back of the bag, you will find another carrying handle strap that will allow you to carry the backpack from the back of the bag. I personally found this very handy when pulling the back out of the trunk of a car. Another really great feature for a backpack that can get heavy if fully loaded are the included waist straps. They are cleverly tucked into side panels under the padding in the back of the pack. The second picture shows how one side comes out of its handy slot. The third picture is showing how the waist belt is connected to the front of your waste. It has a metal hook that you simply slide into the opposite loop from the other belt. Once again no plastic buckles that will easily break. You can also see that the buckle is adjustable and made of that same seat belt material. The fourth picture is a picture of a top and bottom magnet on the flaps hiding the waist belt. Each side of the back of the bag has 4 magnets keeping the waist belt tucked away if you do not need it. I would also like to mention there is a very small zippered pouch that is on the left waistband. You could stick a small wallet in that pouch if need be.
On both sides of the bag, you will find additional carry handles. This makes for a grand total of five carry handles. One on top, one on the bottom, one on the back and one on each side. As mentioned earlier, the top and back carry handles are made of seatbelt-like material. The side and bottom handles are made of the same type of material as the rest of the bag. Both sides of the bag also have small zippered pockets. It is an unusual shape for a pocket because the top has the angle you can see by the side carrying handle. It will however also hold my Galaxy S9 phone. You could easily store plane tickets or your passport in there. The third picture shows the heavy duty waterproof zippers that give you access to the main compartment of the bag.
To access the main compartment of the bag, you unzip the two zippers from the third picture above. This causes the back part of the pack with the chest straps to open. The first picture shows you the main compartment. The top flap is a laptop storage area that I will get into more detail later. The main compartment is a huge open space. There are 8 black seat belt material external tie downs inside this compartment. Three on each side and two on top. There are two storage compartments on the bottom. One is mesh and the other is made of the same material as the bag. I found those ideal for storing flat things like jewelry. Keeping things like that there puts them essentially in the middle of the bag where they will not get lost.
The next two pictures show the laptop carrying area in more detail. This space carried my Dell 15 inch XPS with no problems at all. It is well padded all the way around. It has a separate storage slot that closes with Velcro where you could pack cables or the Microsoft mouse that stores flat fits perfectly here. The main laptop area closes with Velcro as you can see in the second picture.
The next two pictures show the front part of the bag opened up. The top flap has two storage compartment areas. The top part is a plastic mesh type area and the bottom part has a flat storage area made of the same material as the bag. The second picture shows you the separate storage slots that are built into that top flap area. Since this is on the front of the bag, it would be very easy to just open that front zipper and get access to this pocket where you could store things like pens, keys or your wallet. The first picture also shows the bottom part of the front of the bag. It has one zippered mesh area like the bottom of the bag and also has a zipper in the middle that allows you access to the main compartment. So you can lay the bag down on the chest straps, open the top of the bag and with one zipper pull get access to the main compartment at the back of the bag.
The next six pictures are showing the medium and small storage cubes. Both cubes are made of an ultralight 40 D nylon shell that is made from 100% recycled plastic. These bags weigh next to nothing but really do allow for some organized packing. Both cubes have expansion zippers that will allow you to increase or decrease your storage capacity as needed. They both also come with a handy carry handle made of seat belt material. The first picture is the medium storage cube. The second picture shows it halfway open. It actually unzips almost completely around giving you full access to the top area of the bag. The third picture shows a zippered compartment area at the back of the bag. The first picture on the second row shows the medium bag (expansion zipper is closed so it is at its smallest size) loaded with 6 t-shirts, and 4 pairs of shorts. The third picture is the fully loaded medium cube and the unpacked small cube. Like the medium cube, this back also has a main compartment zipper that almost opens up the full back and a back compartment zipper. The last picture shows both bags fully loaded but not expanded.
The next two pictures show the wash pouch. This pouch is made of a weatherproof nylon canvas that is made from 100% recycled plastic. It has silicone-coated mesh pockets, a stow-able metal hook for hanging, an external razor pocket that is sealed with a waterproof zipper along with the main zipper also being waterproof. The bag will always sit upright which is really nice. The first picture shows the interior. The middle section that seems ‘fluffy’ is actually a magnetically closed holder for your toothbrush. There are 7 total individual pouches for holding things. You can see it fully loaded up with my stuff in the second picture. You can also see the metal hook showing where I pulled it out of its storage pouch on the side of the bag. It should be noted that the Kickstarter page mentions that the liner can be pulled out and is easy to rinse. The bag I received did not have any kind of pull out liner in it. The bag also has a nice carry handle on the top to make it easy to pull out of the backpack and carry to the bathroom.
The next picture on the left shows the back part of the bag fully loaded with the medium and small packing cubes plus the wash pouch. It all fit perfectly in the bag. The second picture shows the side zippers unzipped and allowing the backpack to be fully expanded.
The next three pictures below show the tech pouch. Like the wash pouch, it is made of weatherproof nylon canvas made from 100% recycled plastic. It has dual grab handles made of the same material on either side of the bottom of the bag. It has a beefy #8 waterproof zipper and will sit upright on its own. It has a total of 21 individual storage pockets. It has external loops that allow it to work with Peak Design carrying straps if you want to carry this over your shoulder separately. This bag is an organized packer’s dream with a slot for virtually everything you can think of. It even has a small pass-through slot for a charging cable so it can go from the external battery you have stored in the main pouch to the phone you may have stored in the outside zippered pocket on the back of the bag. The final picture on the right shows the tech pouch along with a pair of flip-flops fitting nicely into the area on the front of the backpack that has its expansion zippers opened.
The final three pictures below show me wearing the backpack. I am 5′ 7″ tall with a 32-inch inseam. The pack is fully loaded but the expansion zippers are in compressed mode. I have both the chest and waist straps on. The pack is very comfortable and with the waist strap in place, I do not feel much weight at all in my shoulders. My only complaint would be that this pack would get hot if I were hiking around in the heat. It is not anything like an external frame backpack that allows air circulation between the pack and your back.
What I like
This is an extremely well-designed backpack. There is literally a spot for everything and it provides a multiple of ways for you to carry it. There are additional items you can buy separately that I did not get a chance to review. They sell a separate shoe pouch along with three different sizes of camera cubes if you wanted to turn this into a camera backpack. They also sell a rain cover for the bag that stores in its own pouch by tucking into itself. It is lightweight for what you can carry. The backpack, all the straps, the medium and small packing cubes, the wash pouch and the tech pouch all weighed right at 6.4 pounds according to my luggage scale. I love how it is easy to get access to the front or back storage areas through either side of the bag. The straps make carrying a heavy load easy to do allowing for weight distribution to your waist.
What can be improved
I honestly can’t think of anything that can be improved. I am very happy with this bag. Short of finding some really expensive lightweight materials to make it lighter there really is not anything you can do to this bag to improve it. I would happily recommend this bag to anyone who does not feel they have to be able to roll a bag on wheels. Adding wheels and handle to this bag would just add unnecessary weight in my opinion. I would think this is the perfect bag for a person who wants to backpack through Europe.
Price: $235 for the backpack 45L, $399 for backpack 45L + small and medium packing cube, tech pouch, wash pouch, shoe pouch, and rain fly
Where to buy: Kickstarter – hurry the project ends on 9/20/18.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Peak Design.