This $189 travel backpack has replaced my roller suitcase as my go-to carry-on - here's why I recommend it
- Carrying luggage is one of the least enjoyable parts of travel, so any way to lessen the load is a win.
- The Topo Designs 30-Liter Travel Bag ($189) is a lighter, hands-free alternative to a roller-suitcase and easier to maneuver through airports and small spaces.
- The bag can be carried multiple ways and is roomy enough for a shorter trip while still being carry-on friendly and able to fit under an airplane seat.
- It also has plenty of pockets to keep all your travel essentials neatly organized inside.
Traveling is fun, but packing isn't quite as enjoyable. As a frequent traveler, I am often on the hunt for a good travel hack, and that often involves packing smarter and lighter. One thing I try to avoid at all costs is checking a bag before a flight because I don't want spend time waiting at the baggage claim (or worse, deal with lost luggage).While I love a good suitcase with spinner wheels for shorter trips, even the sleekest suitcase can be unwieldy and a pain to drag around during a long travel day. Plus, there's something to be said for being hands-free when you're trying to juggle your bag(s), phone, travel documents, and snacks for the plane all at once - or when you have to make a run for it to catch a tight connection. The solution: a carry-on-backpack, my new favorite travel companion.Advertisement
The Topo Designs Travel Bag
The Topo Travel Bag comes in three colors (navy, black, and olive green) and two sizes (30 liters and 40 liters). The material is a durable nylon with a water-repellent finish. At $189, it's more expensive than an entry-level suitcase, but more affordable than higher-end or trendy suitcase brands. Style-wise, it's an attractive backpack - sleek, compact, and colorful without being loud. In other words, it's an upgrade from the bulky backpack you used hostel-hopping through Europe after college.
Weight and styleBut it's about more than form; the backpack has function too. One of the big advantages of a travel backpack is weight. The Topo 30L Travel Bag weighs about 42.4 ounces, or under 3 pounds. For comparison, my lightweight hardshell suitcase weighs around 6.5 pounds. On small planes or international flights, luggage weight is more important than size, so a few pounds can make a difference. And because the backpack doesn't have any additional hardware or frame built-in, there's no extra bulk to be carried around, and it's painless to maneuver in small spaces. The Topo 30L, even when full, easily fits under the plane seat in front of you, so if you find yourself stuck in the very last boarding group, there's no need to stress about fighting for overhead bin space. It's truly a carry-on.
Pockets for everythingTopo Travel Bag has a main compartment, and two outside organizer pockets. As someone who likes to have a place for every little thing rather than throwing it all into one giant pocket, inevitably losing track of everything within seconds, the bag had more pockets than I knew what to do with. The Topo Travel Bag 30L is 14 inches wide by 20 inches high by 11 inches deep, and while it only looks slightly bigger than my everyday work backpack, it is surprisingly roomy. The main compartment has a u-shaped opening - it opens all the way flat, similar to a suitcase, making it easy to access and pack. Some backpacks require you to pack everything in from the top; the Topo Travel Backpack's design allows you to readily see everything. I had enough room to pack two pairs of shoes plus flip-flops, toiletries, electronics, and chargers, and about a week's worth of clothing. The main compartment also has two big zippered mesh pockets to hold additional items. There is enough structure in the main compartment that when packed full, the backpack doesn't become a lumpy mess and still holds a pretty firm rectangular shape.Advertisement
The large front pocket also has a u-shaped opening plus a large zippered pocket that's big enough to fit books or magazines. Inside there are two additional smaller pockets that are deep enough to prevent any stored valuables from flying out when the backpack is thrown around.
In addition, on the very front of the bag, there's a zippered organization pocket with a key ring and two zippered security pockets inside for things you want to access quickly, whether that be snacks, sunglasses, or other miscellaneous travel essentials. The heavy duty YKK zippers glide easily, and both the main compartment and large organizer pocket have zipper security loops to deter pickpockets.In the back, there is a dedicated laptop sleeve that fits most 15-inch laptops. The backpack easily fits my 13-inch Macbook Pro with room to spare. Advertisement
Topo bags are all modular, and there are pack bags and dopp kits that easily fit inside. There are also bag attachment clips on the top and bottom of the Travel Bag 30L if you want to attach a smaller Topo backpack on top. The 30L also has a pass-through pocket in the back that can slide over suitcase handles if you are traveling with more luggage.
Versatile carrying optionsTopo Travel Bag 30L: via the stowable shoulder strap, stowable backpack straps, or top and side handles. With a full bag, I personally think the weight with shoulder strap would get uncomfortable fairly quickly, but it's nice to have the option. I am, in general, a backpack person, so I use the those straps most frequently. I've carried it on foot (sometimes running) through towns, public transportation, and airports and ridden a bike with the bag on my back with zero problems. The padded back panel and shoulder straps make it very comfortable to carry, and it is designed well to sit on your shoulders and back without unnecessarily shifting around. There's also a sternum strap and removable waist belt if for a little extra support.Advertisement
The one downside I found is that there is no external water bottle pocket, but I suppose since there are multiple ways to carry the bag, there is no set top and bottom, and it would be hard to have one pocket optimized for every carrying option.
The bottom lineTopo Designs Travel Bag 30L is a great alternative to a traditional roller suitcase, especially for weekend or shorter trips or for travelers who like to be hands-free. Carrying a backpack makes it a breeze to get through airports quickly and eases the burden of having to schlep baggage across towns or hotels. Advertisement
The backpack is roomy enough to hold your travel essentials but still compact enough to fit under an airplane seat. Depending on your needs, there are multiple ways to carry the bag, and it has organization aplenty. Plus, it's just a attractive bag you won't mind having by your side.
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