The Best From Our Tests: A Review of Cotopaxi's Allpa 35L Travel Backpack

This carry-on backpack is a top choice among TripSavvy editors

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Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

It's been years since I first heard about Cotopaxi's Allpa 35L travel pack. My running buddies loved it, as did my climbing friends and friends and family that were looking for a solid carry-on or car camping pack. But it was a particular friend—and fellow gear reviewer—who highly endorsed this pack that made me give it a serious look. He told me he'd been on a "somewhat obsessed" mission to find the best travel pack for his needs, and Cotopaxi's Allpa 35L was it.

So for the past six months, I've been testing this pack on road trips from California to Colorado and the Midwest, flights around the West Coast, including a wedding in Oregon, and fly fishing trips around the Western U.S. A team of editors also tested it in our New York City lab against 26 other highly-rated and recommended carry-on backpacks. And according to my experience—and our lab testing—this is the best travel pack you can currently buy.

Here's why.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

5
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Amazon

It fits all your essentials for a week

We should first say the 35L (35 liters) pack is the mid-size version of the Allpa, which also comes in sizes 28L and 42L. Cotopaxi says the 35L is ideal for weekend adventure trips but could also work for trips up to a week for the light or strategic packer. Our lab testers easily packed it with two pairs of pants, three shirts, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag.

"The bag itself is great to pack because although it is fairly 'unstructured,' it has enough shape where you can easily tuck things into corners to fill it out," one tester reported. "I definitely had ample space for packing more stuff."

For the wedding in Oregon I traveled to, I had no problem fitting a pair of shoes, two laptops, a jacket, three pairs of pants, five shirts, and a Dopp kit.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

The design is organized and thoughtful

While the capacity was definitely adequate—and even the heaviest of packers would likely find enough space for a weekend trip—the design is where this bag truly excels. Now in its second version, the latest Allpa line is lighter, more durable, and still packed with organizational and design features that have created a cult following. "I loved the organization solutions and design of this bag," one of our testers raved. "The zippers on the exterior allowed easy access into the bag's main compartment. The shape was perfect for fitting items of different shapes and densities. And I loved all the various pockets and access points."

Simply put, this pack has design features convenient for the modern traveler.

The outside of the pack has shoulder straps that can be tucked away behind the back padding and removable padded hip straps that can also tuck behind the same back padding. Grab handles on all four sides make it incredibly easy for snagging and tossing. And multiple attachment points allow for carrying additional items outside the pack with carabiners. The two exterior zippers are also clutch for grabbing items quickly (like a rain jacket) without fully opening the pack.

Inside, the pack has loads of organizational features. Our testers thought they were a bit unstructured but also smart and convenient. One side of the clamshell opening features two small and one mid-size pocket. I found the mid-size pocket particularly suitable for storing dirty running and hiking clothes and socks, while the smaller pockets are excellent for sunglasses, chargers, or other quick-grab items. The other side of the pack features a main compartment where I stashed most of my clothes and shoes. There's also a padded laptop sleeve for laptops up to 15 inches and a separate tablet sleeve. Simply put, this pack has design features convenient for the modern traveler.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

It's lightweight and comfortable to carry

Our testers found this pack "super comfortable." Cotopaxi employs a low-profile harness system that helps distribute weight, including the aforementioned padded shoulder and hip straps and a sternum strap connecting the shoulder straps. The back padding is also super plush. "I was so pleased with how the straps contoured to the shape of my shoulders and chest," a tester reported. "The material used on the back of the pack is mesh, which boosts comfort." Bonus for Cotopaxi also decreasing the weight of the pack, which now weighs 3.5 pounds.

When someone asks me my recommendation for an ideal travel pack, this is the first I recommend. It simply checks all the boxes

This doubles as an excellent gear organizer for climbing, fly fishing, hiking, or other outings because of its comfort and adjustability. The lightness and organizational capabilities make it ideal for long approaches to the crag without getting your gear jumbled. I also found it helpful for longer days on the river when I needed to carry plenty of fly fishing gear, food, clothing, and, OK, fine, beer as well.

The material is high-quality and durable

Like the weight, Cotopaxi's rendition of the Allpa has amped durability. It features bomber TPU-coated 1000D polyester and 840D ballistic nylon paneling. (For all you non-gear heads, that's a very intense and strong material that's also often used for climbing crash pads and landing mats.) Our testers tossed the fully-packed bag around the testing lab and experienced no durability issues.

"Seems super durable to me with no visible damage after the throwing test," one tester said. "Also, the rubbery material on the exterior part of the bag seems like it would be resistant to a lot of types of damage, and it would stay relatively clean."

I've huffed my Allpa through brush, against rocks, and haven't been exactly gentle with it while tossing it in and out of trunks on road trips. I've also loaded it down with some weight. And so far, it doesn't show any damage.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L testing

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

The versatility justifies the higher price

At the time of publication, this pack is $200. "I think this is a great price for this bag," our lab testers concluded. "I could get so much use out of this bag. It is also very stylish and super comfortable."

This bag can also double as your car camping or road tripping pack. We also see it being ideal for van life storage. And it could also serve as a gear bag for climbing, kayaking, fishing, or other outdoor gear. Cotopaxi also offers a lifetime warranty and repairs and trade-in for gift cards.

Who Should Buy the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Backpack

This pack fits the many needs of various types of travelers and adventurers. When someone asks me my recommendation for an ideal travel pack, this is the first I recommend. It simply checks all the boxes, and if you're looking for a smaller or larger version, Cotopaxi has that in the 28L and 42L versions. But you don't have to be a frequent flyer, road-tripper, or traveler to benefit from this pack. Climbers could use it. Anglers could use it. Campers could use it. We even see it as ideal for the organized soccer parent taking snacks and extra clothes to the match or park. We also love that this pack comes with a rain cover.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy's Outdoor Gear Editor. He grew up in the Midwest taking family road trips to the mountains. Stuffing a car full of various travel bags and packs is something he's done (or helped his parents do) nearly his entire life. He's traveled to five continents, taken vans and busses across East Africa and South America, and road tripped multiple times around the U.S. A notoriously horrible packer and organizer, Nathan appreciates that Cotopaxi's Allpa gives a little organizational and packing guide but still leaves it up to him. Besides the Allpa, his current go-to travel packs are Topo Design's Global Travel Bag 40L and Mystery Ranch's Mission Rover 45L.

In our lab, we tested the Cotopaxi Allpa alongside 26 other travel backpacks for capacity, design, comfort, durability, and value, giving each tested pack a rating on a five-point scale (one was the lowest and five was the highest). This backpack earned a perfect "5" score in each category, making it a standout among the bunch and confirming our real-world experience with it that this backpack is truly top of its class for travel backpacks.

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