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Tripsavvy / Suzie Dundas
Room for several nights-worth of gear
Loaded with useful travel features
Separate compartments for laptop, shoes, and sunglasses
Heavy, bulky, and a bit boxy
Industrial/tactical look isn’t for everyone
Side zipper for laptop access is only 13 inches even though the interior sleeve can accommodate 17-inch models
The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack is a pricey but useful bag for those who prefer to travel with just a carry-on.
We purchased the Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Whether you travel once a year or once a month, figuring out what luggage to bring—and whether or not to check a bag—is always part of the planning process. With fees to check luggage ranging from $25 to $100, more and more travelers are opting to go the carry-on-only route. This bag from Oakley offers a hands-free solution to lugging your gear through crowded cities and train stations—plus, you don’t have to check it at the airport. We put the Kitchen Sink Backpack to the test, stuffing it with shoes, laptops, day planners, headphones, and more to assess its storage capacity, durability, and portability. Here, everything we found out after a couple weeks of use.
The Kitchen Sink Backpack is loaded with useful features for travelers, especially those who put their bags through the wringer. The pack’s material feels very durable and heavy-duty to the touch. Both the bottom and the top of the bag are made from rip- and tear-resistant fabric and the buckles are quite strong; in fact, they almost feel like overkill.
Externally, this bag has a few features that proved extremely useful during our testing. One of those is the hard-shell zipper case on the top of the bag. Oakley says it’s designed as a protective glasses pocket, and we were able to safely fit two pairs of sunglasses and one pair of regular glasses. This pocket could also be used for anything else that needs extra protection, from a half-eaten muffin to a small camera.
We also love the separate shoe compartment on the bottom, which is quite large. It is important to note, though, that it shares space with the main compartment—meaning that a fuller shoe pocket leaves less space in the rest of the bag. We were able to fit a pair of men’s hiking boots in this pocket, and would recommend packing your shoes first so you don’t have to fight for space after the main compartment has been filled.
Plastic-coated cables are used for the frame and zipper pulls and there are three large clips on the outside of the bag. While we didn’t find any use for these in urban settings, they could be useful during hiking or camping expeditions as you can use a carabiner to attach water bottles, sleeping bags, or tents.
The pack’s material feels very durable and heavy-duty to the touch.
The Kitchen Sink Backpack has two zippered pockets on each side, rather than mesh pockets which are found on many bags. While these are too small for most water bottles, each has three adjustable straps on the outside which you can use to hold your gear. While we first worried that these straps wouldn’t be secure enough to hold a filled water bottle, we found the opposite: They were so secure that pulling the bottle out each time became an annoyance, requiring all three straps to be undone.
There were really only two design features we disliked. First, the zipper for the main compartment only zips about halfway down each side of the bag, which means you have to dig pretty deep to find items that’ve sunk to the bottom. The second feature that could use improvement is the clamshell case on the top. While it’s a great idea and we loved stowing our sunglasses there, it regularly flops over the opening of the main compartment, meaning you to hold it aside with your elbow or turn it inside out to get it out of the way. It doesn't impact functionality, but it is quite annoying when you’re trying to grab something with one hand.
Depending on your definition of portability, this bag either excels or drops the ball. Even empty, it’s quite heavy, weighing just over 4 pounds. That makes it one of the heaviest we tested and when full, it certainly adds significant heft to your back. However, Oakley has taken steps to make it easier to comfortably carry the weight, with padded shoulder straps that can adjustable to help you carry the weight higher up (like an overnight camping backpack). There’s also a padded and removable hip belt, which should be worn when the bag is heavy. We found it quite comfortable when the bag was full as it helped us avoid shoulder fatigue during a full day of use.
The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack is aptly named with 34-liter capacity in the main compartment. We found this to be more than enough for a long weekend of travel.
The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack is aptly named with 34-liter capacity in the main compartment. We found this to be more than enough for a long weekend of travel as it performs more like a suitcase with straps than a standard backpack. In addition to a pair of shoes in the bottom compartment, we were able to fit three pairs of pants, two long-sleeve shirts, sleep shorts, a hoodie, a windbreaker, a toiletry bag, and a blow dryer. That’s in addition to the laptop we were able to fit in the padded pocket and small accessories (like headphones and a day planner) in the front pocket. If you practice some savvy packing tips, it should be plenty large enough for a few days of travel.
When full, the bag is bulky, but it’s still small enough to count as a carry-on item. It can fit up to a 17-inch laptop in the padded sleeve, which can be accessed from the main compartment or from the 13-inch side zipper on the right. It’s a useful feature for when you need to remove your laptop in airport security lines, but the larger your laptop, the harder it will be to fit it through the 13-inch opening.
The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack retails for $225, but for travelers who aim to travel with just one bag, it’s worth the expense. Plus, when you weigh it against similar offerings from other leading brands like Osprey and Tortuga, you’ll see it’s priced accordingly.
We loved the separate shoe compartment on the bottom ... we were able to fit a pair of men’s hiking boots.
Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack: The Timbuk2 Travel Backpack is much smaller and urban in style than the Kitchen Sink. The bag focuses on sleek lines and a slim profile, rather than bulky external features, so it’s not as well-suited to outdoor pursuits. The Timbuk2 does offer a protective sleeve for laptops (15 inches max) though, so it’s great for urban exploration. The Timbuk2 is slightly smaller at 30 liters and is also significantly lighter. If you don’t need the extra size or rugged features of the Kitchen Sink, then the Timbuk2 bag is a great option. It also retails for $119—nearly $100 less than Oakley’s offering.
SwissGear 1186 Laptop Backpack: If your buying decision comes down to budget, the SwissGear Laptop Backpack is a far more wallet-friendly option than the Kitchen Sink Bag. The tradeoff is that the SwissGear bag feels far less durable and is made for more general backpack use than travel. It does have a laptop pocket, though it’s less padded and can only comfortably hold a 13-inch laptop. If your needs are very basic, however, the SwissGear’s $50-or-less price tag will certainly be compelling.
Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Check out our list of the best carry-on backpacks.
The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack is aptly named, with plenty of room for the average long-weekend traveler. Features like an easy-access padded laptop pocket and protected sunglass case make this a great buy for anyone who has room in their budget.
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