Today were taking a look at the TOPO Designs Travel Bag 30L. As the name suggests this is the 30L version of the backpack. It also comes in a larger 40L version which has a larger size but mostly exactly the same design. I opted for the 30L because I am used to a smaller backpack for travelling. 20L is what I have found to be the optimal size for myself personally but I know some people prefer a larger capacity backpack especially for longer trips. The TOPO 30L bag is really well built with some solid features and quality components that make it an absolute joy to travel with.
The bag comes in 3 colours of which I have the colour called ‘Ballistic black’. It’s made from a water resistant 1000D Nylon. However water still will penetrate through the zippers and seams if exposed to enough water. The front of the bag it has 2 rows of vertical daisy chain webbing. Which I found especially useful when paired with the HEROCLIP. During my trip in Krabi I switched to some water shoes from Decathlon. I used the HEROCLIP to hang my sneakers on the back of the bag with the daisy chain webbing. There’s a small vertical access pocket on the front of the bag which inside has 2 more vertically zipped pockets and a small clip for keys.
The next larger front pocket has 2 slip pockets inside and I found this one useful for storing my passport wallet and nintendo switch while travelling. It’s also surprisingly expansive. And can expand to fit even the TRTL pillow. In addition to the two slip pockets theres a single large zippered pocket at the top section. I didn’t use this pocket much but I imagine it would be useful for documents or other slim items. Moving onto the main compartment you’ll find a large spacious area for your main items. And on the inside flap there are 2 mesh zippered pockets. I used them mainly for organizing random documents and papers I picked up while travelling.
The bag has 3 main grab handles which make it very easy to grab whether you store it in the overhead bin or under your seat. The zippers are nice and smooth and if you look closely you’ll also notice that there are some loops at the end of each zip. This is a security or rather a deterrent to pick pockets. Slipping the zips under here makes them much more difficult to open without you noticing. Some other interesting features of this bag are that it can be carried in a sling form. The straps can unclip and tuck away into their own pocket. The bag comes with a sling strap that attaches to two dedicated buckles.
Around the back you’ll also see there’s a dedicated laptop compartment. This perfectly fit my 13” macbook pro without any trouble. But I have seem people say that a larger laptop needs to me slipped in on an angle to get it into the narrow pocket opening. In front of the laptop compartment is a luggage pass-through sleeve if you want to carry the bag along with a rolling suitcase.
In addition to all this you’ll see some clips and buckles around the bag. There is one on the top and the bottom of the bag which are designed to attach a smaller TOPO designs backpack if you wish. At the bottom of the bag are two more buckles which you can use to clip a slim waist strap that comes included. I found these buckles to be a little difficult to clip and unclip for quick use. But it might be something that just takes some getting used to.
The backpack straps are very comfortable and have a load bearing adjustment on the top that works well. There’s also some vertical daisy chain webbing on each strap and a sternum strap that fits into the webbing. It sits in the webbing in a fairly loose but secure manner which makes it feel like it could fall off when not in use but during my travels it didn’t come loose or fall off so I think it’s pretty secure.
Now onto some of the things I didn’t like about this bag. The first and perhaps the biggest issue is that the bag itself while empty weighs 42.4 oz or 1.2kg which is almost the same weight at my macbook. This weight caused me to carefully consider my packing weight as I was flying with a budget carrier. And budget carriers always weigh carry on bags in Australia. So it took me a few configurations to keep my bag under the 7kg (15lbs) carry on limit. The other small thing I didn’t really like about this bag is the clips they used to connect the straps to the bag. They’re not particularly easy or quick to clip and unclip if you wanted to convert the straps into a backpack style in a hurry.
Finally in terms of price the bag is USD$199 (AUD$288) which is not cheap but it is comparable to similarly featured and sized backpacks. For the quality and features that you get with this bag I can certainly highly recommend it as a ‘one bag’ for travel. Overall I really enjoyed using this bag as my carry on travel backpack and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It’s just a touch heavy for me as I prefer my bags to be at or below 2lbs (1kg) while empty. But it is extremely well built and I know it will last for a very long time.