Topo Designs Travel Bag Review | 40L Backpack For Carry On Travel

Topo Designs Travel Bag Review | 40L Backpack For Carry On Travel


– The Topo Designs Travel
Bag is a 30 or 40 liter, heritage-style looking pack depending on the size that you choose. If you’re new to the channel – I’m Tom, the founder of Pack Hacker. And we love helping people optimize
their travel experience with guides and reviews
just like this one. So if you’re new to the channel, consider subscribing. Let’s jump right in to the Topo Designs’ Travel Bag. [upbeat music playing] Overall this pack has a
really strong heritage vibe, and it kind of reminds me of
bags that were made in the 70’s, or something like that –
with the bright colors and the boxier shape to go along with it. At the time of this review the Travel Bag comes in three different colors. You have Ballistic Black, Olive, and Navy – what we have going on right here. Typically we would travel with black since it’s a little bit more subdued, but all the colors going
on here feel totally Topo. And you can see based on a
lot of their other products, they have a lot of bright and
saturated colors going on. So if you like that look, great! If not, there is a black version as well. From a branding perspective, we have a white logo on
the front of the pack, which is pretty classic
to Topo Designs. So a lot of their products will feature this little white tag on a lot of the areas. And a small Topo tag on the interior. Also if you want to use
the messenger strap, there is a logo there as well. Overall we think this pack is slick, and it achieves the look
that it’s going for. However aesthetics are always
in the eyes of the beholder. So we polled our Instagram
audience over at Pack Hacker, and here are the results. From a materials perspective on the exterior, the main
fabric is 1000D nylon. It’s important to note
that the 1000D nylon here is not Cordura. And you will see Cordura used on a lot of other Topo Design bags; especially the ones
that are made in the US. Then towards the bottom here, we have kind of a
ballistic weave going on. So that’s going to add a
little bit more durability, as you’re setting this
pack down on the floor. Also included is 400D nylon pack cloth. And then the liner is a 210D pack cloth, with a brilliant fluorescent color – you can really see your gear and what’s going on inside the bag – which we definitely dig. Some of the colorways also
offer 1680D ballistic nylon, which is kind a different look and feel, than this ordinary 1000D nylon. All the zippers on this bag are YKK, and the main compartment offers a really beefy #10 zipper. You really can’t get much better, on the durability and quality front there. Also Woojin and Duraflex hardware are used in the plastic bits across the bag – at the strap adjusters where
the harness system attaches, where the sternum strap attaches – so they’ve chose some
really quality hardware across the entirety of this bag. And as we mentioned before, Topo produces a lot of their bags in the USA. However, this travel bag has
been produced in Vietnam. Kicking it off with the
external components, let’s start with the harness system. And as you can see from right now, everything is completely hideable. So you just unzip this, and it’s quite easy to
pull the straps out. So the straps attach with this
Duraflex clip, right here. So to be honest this
harness system is so-so. We have a couple of nitpicks with it, so let’s get right into it starting with these straps. Overall these are decently comfortable – there’s some thick and padded foam here. However we have seen foam on the market that is a little bit more dense. So it’s not 100% ideal, although it definitely
is really comfortable. There are also some load
lifters at the top here which are really great to pull that load closer to your back; it’s ideal on a pack of this size. So anything about 35 liters and up, we start to look for those load lifters. On the straps you also have
D-rings at the bottom for additional attachment options. And then you have this Molly-like material, just two little Molly pieces here, that can be used to attach
additional accessories. So that is really awesome – a ton of room for modularity and customizability on the
Topo Designs Travel Bag. Also on the straps there’s an
option to attach, and remove, a sternum strap. We’re not 100% set on
this type of attachment, because it’s easy to pull off. We typically prefer a more
permanent attachment point – whether it be a buckle or something else – because we have lost a
couple of sternum straps while testing bags other than this one, with a similar set up. As we mentioned earlier, this entire harness system is hideable, which is super great and convenient. And perfect for air
travel when you don’t want a ton of those additional
straps whacking around, or you want to check this bag. There’s one little ‘gotcha’
with the clips though – make sure to not twist them up. And make sure that the Duraflex clip, the opening is faced towards the inside, so towards you. Also below there is a hip belt
that is non-detachable. However it is hideable
which is really great, as Topo gives you the option to do this. We think anything 40 liters and up should at least have an
option for a hip-belt, and we are super excited that
Topo has included it here. You will find strap keepers
on the hip belt to manage much of those excess straps, however you will not find strap keepers on the shoulder strap adjusters. So just note that. And one last gripe with
the harness system is the frame sheet, or lack thereof. When wearing a bag of this size we definitely prefer a bit more structure. Although popping your laptop
in the dedicated compartment will help with that
structure a little bit, this is overall a little bit
more of a bag than a pack. With that being said, there are three different
ways to carry this thing. And the first one is the harness system
which we just covered. Next are the three grab handles on three of the four sides of this bag – really makes it a lot easier to carry. And the straps are
somewhat padded as well, so they’re comfy. Lastly you can carry this thing as a messenger or duffel. This method of carry may be why Topo didn’t
include a stiff frame sheet. A lot of us at Pack
Hacker prefer backpacks. However if you like to
carry bags of this size – in a messenger or duffel style – please let me know in the comments as to why you like that
or you prefer that, a little bit more than backpack carry. We’d love to learn from you, and why that system works for you. On the front of the pack you
have two strips of daisy chains going down here for
additional attachment options, plus you get that pop of color. And lastly, you have two attachment points to attach other smaller Topo bags to this bigger travel pack. Our day pack fits well here; however, it makes everything quite large. And without a solid frame sheet, or a more robust harness system, the carry isn’t quite ideal – especially if you have a
fully packed additional bag, on the back side of this. You’re going to start running
into weight issues, that should be handled by a harness that’s a little bit more robust. Plus it obstructs you
fully opening the bag, when the smaller pack is attached. Kicking it off with the
dedicated laptop compartment on the exterior – this thing is seriously small. Sure you can fit most
15-inch laptops in here – and we’ve tested with
a 15-inch MacBook Pro – however it is a little less than ideal as you have to kind of
diagonally shove it in, and then shimmy the laptop in, in order to get the right fit. Once it does go in, there is ample space inside of the pouch and the pocket itself; however just the zippered opening area is a little bit too small. Moving on to the front of the pack – we have a quick grab’s organization pocket that is vertical. There’s some really great stuff going on in the interior here. So you have two zippered pockets that fill out the bottom half. And then you have a keyring
for keys on top of that. And then this whole pouch, not to mention, has a lot of room in it, and can be used as a
stand alone pocket itself. Maybe you want to shove a
compressible jacket inside, or just any type of things
that you want quick access to. One thing to note here are these zippered compartments. And this is an excellent call, especially when you have a
vertical pocket like this. So on a lot of other bags, you’ll see some type of organization here that’s not zippered. And a lot of the times your gear can fly around inside of the pocket if it’s just a free-floating
pocket or pouch, especially if it’s on the side. So we like that Topo has included additional zippered pocket options here. And behind that front pocket there is a big horseshoe compartment opening going on here as well, with some additional organization inside. This is also a #10 YKK zipper, so a super-durable zipper. And also to mention here, that paracord can be
weaved through a loop to make it a little
bit harder for thieves, and people with grabby hands, to access your stuff quickly. There’s a zippered pocket towards the top, which is great for situating flatter items like documents or larger notebooks. Then you have a 1/3 and
2/3 partition pocket here, for additional organization. Onto the main compartment of this bag – we also have #10 YKK zips which are super strong and durable. All the zippers on this pack also have zipper pull
tabs you can grab on to as you’re unzipping the bag, which makes it a lot easier
to tear open quickly. The bag fully opens up
in that horseshoe style, and you’re greeted with a
couple of mesh partitions here on the front. So these are great for socks, underwear or just any other flatter,
smaller-like items that you want to compartmentalize. And there’s one sneaky
thing on the back here – this entire area opens up, offering a separate compartment as well. So that’s super handy. There’s a lot of compartmentalization, and partitions, going
on inside of this bag. Then moving on behind the top flap – you have an additional
divider partition here, with two of these 210D pack
cloth pockets going on here. And on the interior they still
have the red zipper pulls. However it is thinner paracord than what’s found on the outside, to keep things a little
bit more minimal and slick, on the inside. And now we can open up this divider to the main compartment here. So basically, it opens up to a giant bucket on the inside. The zippered partition here is nice – and it kind of acts as a
stand alone compression system that protects the space on
the other areas of the bag, and all those other divider
pockets that we’ve seen, and already walked through. So if you want to jam your clothes in there and compress it down that totally works. However we always recommend
using packing cubes – especially because it makes organization of a larger pocket like this a little bit easier. And the partition is totally optional – so if you don’t want to use it, it’s easy enough to kind of roll up, and stow towards the bottom of the bag. We love the way the Peak Design
Travel Backpack handles this, as they have a similar
feature going on here. But you can roll it up and stow it inside of a dedicated pocket, at the bottom of the bag. So it’s overall a really slick system. It’s fine with the way Topo does it. However you’re just going to
have some excess fabric, that could potentially flap
around, as you’re trying to organize the interior of your pack. As for packing cubes, any will do. However Topo offers
a couple of different sizes, that’ll fit nicely in here as well. Be sure to head over to packhacker.com – we have an entire guide on packing cubes. So be sure to check that out, if you’re looking for what to get. The last thing to mention here is the boxier shape of the pack. So if you like that look on the outside – great, definitely roll with it. If not, just know that there’s
some great functionality to a pack of this size and shape as well. So with more of the corners, it makes it easier to optimize
every little piece of space inside of this bag, versus other packs that
curve a little bit more. Those aren’t quite as space optimized, as we see here with the Topo travel bag. At the time of this review, I’ve been testing the Topo
Designs Travel Bag for two weeks – mostly as a daily driver on the bike, and going to and from
the co-working space, and of course, loaded
up with a ton of gear. Overall I’ve really enjoyed
the organizational features that this pack offers, even if the frame sheet and harness system is a little bit lacking. There are no durability
issues to report as of yet, except for a small fraying piece of fabric on the Topo logo here. And we have seen this crop up with a couple other of their products. Other than that, we don’t
really have any concerns around anything that affects the usage, or how long this thing is going to hold up. So we have great confidence that it’s going to continue to perform, as we use it and test it for longer. So to wrap this thing up
with some pros and cons – the Topo Designs Travel Bag offers some really great
and thoughtful organization. Topo uses quality materials
and construction throughout. The fluorescent liner on the interior makes it easy to spot your gear, and really turns the light
on inside of the bag. For some of the cons – the harness system is subpar, especially for a bag of this size. The laptop compartment is
a little bit too small, and you need to shimmy 15-inch laptops, just to fit them inside. Lastly the sternum strap
doesn’t permanently attach, which increases the
likelihood of you losing it. Overall the Topo Designs Travel Bag offers some great organization, thoughtful design features, and a pointed heritage aesthetic. If you can get past the laptop compartment not being an ideal size, and have no problem with the less-than-optimal harness system – there are a ton of pros
going on with this pack, and it could serve your one-bag
travel needs very well. Thanks for taking a look at our review on the Topo Designs Travel Bag, see you in the next one.


27 thoughts on “Topo Designs Travel Bag Review | 40L Backpack For Carry On Travel

  1. I don't think I've seen a single instagram poll give a positive consensus. Do y'all track that? I'd be curious to know what was the highest rating.

  2. I prefer backpack style when traveling with just my husband or friends but when traveling with kids if a pack has a messenger it is nice to be able to throw over my shoulder and over my pack. A common scene in my family is me with a backpack on the front of me and back of me and one slinged over my shoulder. But again I agree with y’all, I would way rather pack one backpack travel style!

  3. Always liked Topo’s ethics (use of renewable energy, good supply chain etc). And I think their use of colour in their bags is great. I like Cotopaxi for the same reasons. But there always seems to be one or two things with their bags that make you pause or get something else which may be a similar price but slightly better. Still I like this pack and it would be something I would look at for a travel bag.

  4. I've had three travel bags by Topo: the original travel bag (which was 33L), then the 30L and 40L. They made great improvements over the old original bag. Grab handles, organization, depth to the outer pockets. I could have made the 30L work but moved up to the 40L for family travel (dad carries the extra stuff). I love the boxiness as mentioned. NOTE: the 30L does not have a hip belt (but you don't really need it). I have no issues with the shoulder straps, but I only carry for travel (airports, train stations, hotels).

  5. Do you have a suggestion on how to lock bags like this with zippers that are not lockable? I like the design but not being able to secure the bag with a combination lock is a concern for me, especially when if I opt to check it in.

  6. I love this bag. I got the same size and color earlier this year. It is my 2nd one bag travel bag and I think it is a much better bag overall than my Osprey Fairview 40L. Thanks for posting the review.

  7. Loving the organisation and clean lines for this one, and would be a huge contender for carry on, plane to accomodation travel.

  8. Same feelings again. The backpack looks stylish, it's pretty functional and it is perfect for carry-on flights but why so overpriced. Not a thing for a student to buy 🙂

  9. I honestly don't get the instagran polls, what's wrong with your instagran audiences tastes? Lol this bag not only looks sick, but also looks quite minimal on your back.

  10. Hey there, I came across a youtube channel that has stolen some of your content. Here's the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Fs5x9hdvWw

  11. We would love if you could test out Standard Luggage Co Carry-on Backpack (35-45L) and compare it with the Topo Designs Travel Bag. Similar characteristics, appearance and size/capacity (black).

  12. hello pack hacker. i love the look of this bag (i have the 30L in ballistic black). I want the 40L version but you say it's not comfortable to carry? Do you think putting in a frame sheet (one from ebay or another back pack company) would be a thing to make it more comfortable or would this be a tacky solution? it seems like there is space in either A. the laptop sleeve or B. the sleeve where the straps would go if you were to pack them away. thanks for all the great reviews!

  13. Question to anyone: have you ever actually stowed the harness with a system like this? And when? Seems like a fairly common feature but I can't imagine myself taking the effort.

  14. I think it would be cool to have two review scores for products. One that takes the cons into account and one that excludes the cons if said cons aren't too important for the user. Great review and this backpack looks very well designed!

  15. I'm a fan of duffle carry for travel simply because it's easier for me to set it down and pick it back up if I stop at a restaurant in the airport or train station and it can be easier to stuff under a seat and retrieve stuff from in certain cases. Also sometimes they are better for packing clothes I've found it's easier to stuff a duffle than most backpacks. Although usually I'll put a day bag in my duffle if I decide to carry one.

  16. I’m looking for a backpack that fits international carry on rules and Anti-Theft zippers. What do you recommend?

  17. I have the 30L Topo Designs Travel bag in Ballistic Black. I love it but it feels too small to use for 2 weeks overseas trip, so I've been drooling over 40L model for months. It looks so big online. I finally saw it IRL today and my impressions were: 1. it's not massive 2. it feels super durable 3. I want one for my china/japan trip this september! my boyfriend has the Standard Luggage 45L backpack which has similar features and design but this feels so tight compared to that.

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