Review: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L and 'Packing Tools' are pricey but versatile
1 Review: Peak Design Travel Backpack
|The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is the core item in the brand's new travel line.|
The Internet has been abuzz with excitement over Peak Design's new travel-oriented bag line which revolves around a 45L carry-on-sized backpack and set of organizational 'Packing Tools'. The system is for those who love Peak Design gear and want to travel with their camera gear and personal items packed into just one bag.
The system is for traveling with camera gear and personal items packed into just one bag
The Kickstarter for said line of bags launched in July and crossed the finish line with over 10 times its initial goal raised. In more direct numbers, that's 5.2 million dollars raised, with an initial goal of $500,000. Wow.
The whole kit I tested: Travel Backpack 45L (right), Packing Cube (top-middle), Shoe Pouch (bottom-middle), Camera Cube (top-left), Tech Pouch (middle-left), Wash Pouch (bottom-left).
For the sake of this review I'll be looking at the Travel Backpack 45L, on page one. On page two I'll look at the rest of the system, including the Tech Pouch, Wash Pouch, Shoe Pouch, Rain Fly, Packing Cube (small), and Camera Cube (medium). Combined these items add up to $545.
It's important to note this bag and its accessories should be viewed almost as a gear carrying ecosystem, not unlike owning a Macbook, iPhone, AirPods, etc. These products are designed to be used together, but I believe its important to remind both myself and anyone else interested in these bags you certainly can choose to use other brands alongside the different pieces of the Peak Design (PD) ecosystem. I'll go in depth with the main bag, then share my notes on the each of the smaller items, and lastly return to how all of these things fit together.
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
The most important part of the Travel Line is the backpack itself. It's big, sleek, and surprisingly boxy, though I'll get to why that's not such a bad thing later. As mentioned, this bag is oriented towards travelers, photographers, videographers and anyone in between. It blends some design principles of a traditional 'backpacking' bag with the sensibilities of a camera luggage bag, sans-wheels.
- Carrying Capacity: 30L - 45L
- Height: 56 cm (22")
- Width: 33 cm (13")
- Depth: 23 - 29 cm (9" -11")
- Weight: 2.05kg (4.52lb)
- Back panel and dual side loading/access
- 2 Expandable side pockets with drainage holes
- Front access organization panel with 5 zippered compartments
- Passport/travel document pocket in back panel
- Laptop/Tablet sleeve in back panel interior, fits 15" laptop
- Storable hip and shoulder straps
- 12 gear attachment loops across bag
- 400D weatherproof, 100% recycled nylon canvas outer shell
- 900D weatherproof bottom liner
- Durable water repellent, polyurethane coated interior
- Weatherproof zippers for back, front and side panels
- Padded ultralight foam around entire bag
Compared to other bags
There aren't a lot of direct competitors to the Travel Backpack, but two that comes to mind are Osprey's Porter 46 Travel Pack and Mind Shift's Firstlight 40L. These two bags represent the different focuses that Peak Design is trying to blend: a long distance travel backpack (Osprey) and a camera gear bag (Mind Shift).
The Porter is nearly identical in size, fits many of the same things and weighs only 1.5kg, or .5kg less than the Peak Design - it also costs $140, less than half of Peak Design's $300 price tag. That being said, the Porter doesn't have quite the gear readiness of Peak Design's bag and is also missing the 900D bottom liner, though it does boast 420D weatherproof nylon, as opposed to PD's 400D.
|Peak Design's Travel Backpack 45L packed with the Camera Cube (medium)|
Meanwhile, the Firstlight has 5L less carrying capacity and an interior depth of 18.5cm compared to PD's 23cm at the low end. The Firstlight also costs $330, $30 more than Peak Design but the key difference here is that the Firstlight comes readily equipped with padded dividers in the main compartment of the bag - not the case with the PD option. With the Firstlight you lose some of the flexibility and travel-focus of Peak Design's bag, but you actually end up spending less in the long run if what you're looking for is a gear-focused bag.
Design and construction
This bag really surprised me out of the gate. Design-wise, it boasts a simple facade that has all kinds of pockets, straps, and secret stash areas. The boxiness of the bag seems like a departure from Peak Design's more angular, triangle-based design you see in the Messenger and Everyday Backpack. This bag doesn't ask for attention in its appearance.
|The Travel Backpack has a simple design with little flashiness.|
In the Black version (tested here), everything blends together seamlessly. None of the straps, loops, or zippers call attention to themselves and everything has a James Bond-esque coolness to it. The Sage color also looks classy.
Nothing feels flimsy and all the zippers are smooth. Every strap feels like it belongs and helps the user carry the bag in whatever method is most convenient in the moment. I particularly appreciate the addition of the duffel-style strap in the center of the back panel. I'm a huge fan of Peak Design's padded handles on both the tops and sides of their bags so to see another one in another place I didn't realize I wanted it until I had it is a joy.
|Back of the Travel Backpack 45L, note the duffel handle in the middle|
I think the area that Peak Design seems to excel the most is producing bags that feel sturdy and warrant the trust we give them with our gear. Another stellar addition here is the 900D weatherproof bottom liner, something you rarely even see in more outdoor-oriented bags.
The only design flaw that really stands out to me is the hip straps' locking mechanism feels particularly unfamiliar. I like that Peak Design chooses to use hard metal joiners, like for the sternum strap, but for me I would've been perfectly happy with a hard plastic buckle.
|Hip Strap||Sternum Strap|
I actually found this bag to be much more comfortable on my shoulders than my backpacking bag from REI. The hip straps aren't quite as load-bearing, though I still find they take some of the weight off my shoulders and I think part of this is to do with the fact that a) I'm skinny, and b) the metal hook used to secure the hip straps doesn't have quite the same tension as a buckle.
That said, the magnetic latches that allow you to store the hip straps in the back panel are super helpful for keeping things streamlined without a bunch of straps flapping in the wind when you're moving around. And yes, this bag weighs more than others, I didn't find it to be excessively heavy but ultimately that's going to depend on how you pack it.
|Strap storage, brought to you by: magnets!|
I first used this bag (along with the medium sized camera cube) like a gear suitcase traveling from Seattle to Portland to shoot a wedding and found it more than adequate for moving my equipment in a safe, comfortable manner.
I later used it without the camera cube as my main pack to travel around Europe for a few weeks and it was also pretty great. I opted to keep all my clothes and miscellaneous belongings in the main backpack and then carried Peak Design's 10L Sling separately to keep my camera, extra lenses, journal, Kindle, etc. protected. Although it's not really possible with the 10L Sling, Peak Design's 5L sling can fit inside the Travel Backpack no problem, though you won't have the same side panel access you could have with the camera cubes.
There are a lot of features packed into this bag and they take time to learn
The compression down to 30L is nice for those who want to use it, but I found the bag still felt too large for use as a 'day pack', even compressed down. The compression is achieved by folding two buttons on the top of the bag back onto their button counterparts, making the bag more angled down its face. There are a lot of features packed into this bag and honestly one of the biggest hindrances of enjoying them is they take time to learn. I'd highly recommend anyone interested in using using this pack for extended travel consider taking it out on a short weekend excursion first to learn some of the ins and outs. I didn't initially realize that the front zipper panel with 4 zipper pockets could actually be rolled up and stowed for a more simple 1 compartment approach (see below). The thing I like most about this bag is it stands upright on its own, unlike some of Peak Design's other packs.
|The pocketed divider can be stowed to create one big main pocket with immediate front access.|
Conclusion: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
Overall, I really enjoy using this bag and think I'll be relying on it more to come in the future. The build quality is stellar, it's stylish but subdued and it offers a lot of possibilities in terms of approaching how you carry all your stuff with you.
On it's own this backpack offers a really awesome option for traveling light. It can fit enough to live out of, but doesn't make you feel like a turtle. The sturdy design of the bag gives buyers a chance to manipulate the space within it as effectively as possible, unlike other backpacking bags that require you to stuff things in from the top down.
What we like:
- Stylish design
- Lots of space and versatility
- Comfortable fit
- Packed with tons of features
- Durable and naturally protective
What we don't:
- Too large for daypack use
- Features can be overwhelming at first
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L rating:
Head to page 2 for a breakdown of the rest of Peak Design's Packing Tools and our overall conclusion.
Editor's Note: a previous version of this article stated that a 32oz Nalgene bottle would not fit in the side pockets of this backpack. This was found to be an error with the preproduction model used for reviewing and was removed from the review.
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