Peak Design Travel 45 Review
Cons: Heavy, expensive, finite amount of space
Manufacturer: Peak Design
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The sleek, minimalistic construction of the Peak Design Travel Backpack offers a timeless aesthetic for the business or pleasure traveler. With its easily stowed harness system and ample padding, this pack couldn't get much more comfortable. Its innovative use of magnets and removable lash straps offer a variety of ways to wear and pack your bag and getting into it on the go is a breeze with the various side zippers, back flaps, and easy-access pockets. The thick padding and durable materials ensure that the pack and your belongings are proficiently protected from rowdy TSA agents, dirty plane floors, bus luggage racks, and pretty much anything else you could put your pack through. With such well-thought-out features and stellar durability, it's no wonder this backpack ended up at the top of our review.
The Travel Backpack scores highly in most of the categories we deemed important, and comfort is no exception. The EVA foam shoulder straps have a slight curve enabling them to sit further in on your shoulders without choking out your armpits. The thick adjustable hip belt offers the option to disperse the weight across the entire upper body and tucks away when not in use. The shoulder straps and hip belt tuck away separately behind magnetic flaps with such ease that you can actually tuck the hip belt away, or pull it out, while the pack is on your back. This feature came in handy often as we thoroughly enjoyed wearing the pack in a more casual manner, sans hip belt, while bopping around the city.
The high-density foam is not only found in the shoulder straps and hip belt but the actual body of the bag too. This gives the Travel Backpack some serious structure and padding, basically eliminating the possibility of pack sag or items poking you in the back. Due to its rigid nature, the bag tends to sit the same way on your back no matter how full it is and always remains the same size, unless you utilize the compression features.
The panels which store the shoulder and hip straps are made of a flexible foam so you cannot feel them when they are tucked away. The back panel is made of a breathable textured fabric that allows for a little space between the pack and your back. This helps keep you cool when strutting your stuff in the summer heat. Most travel backpacks have some sort of breathable mesh here also to allow for optimal airflow, and this may have offered a little cooler of a carry. However, the magnetic strap flaps may not have worked so efficiently with a mesh outer liner.
We absolutely love the comfort level this pack offers and how much attention was paid to the details during its construction. Every last strap has a home, and every pocket has a function. From its weatherproof, lockable zippers to its swivel harness system, this pack truly had us swooning, not to mention its sexy, sleek physique. One feature we could not stop fawning over is the pair of lash straps the Travel Backpack comes with. It is covered with small tabs, like miniature gear loops, so the ways in which you can use the lashes are infinite. And to really ice that lash tab cake, they even have their own secret magnetic pocket for the user to stow them in when they're not in use.
We love a good water bottle pocket, and boy does this bag pack a solid pocket for your water bottle — two in fact! They are located on either side of the pack and have the perfect amount of stretch and depth to accommodate even a 40oz Hydro Flask. These pockets, with the assistance of a lash tab, make a great spot for a tripod too. Not only that, they both have forward-facing zipper compartments for small items you need easy access to. The closeness to your body plus zippers that face forward make these pockets the perfect spot for valuable on-the-go items like your passport, wallet, phone, etc. And if that isn't secure enough, there is also a stretchy zipper pocket on the hip belt too.
The harness system is on a swivel hinge, which allows the straps to not only tuck away but glide into place with such ease it gave us butterflies. You can even remove the hip belt from its designated flap while the pack is on your back. There are four very comfortable handles you can use to manage the pack while the harness system is not in use, and the handle on the back panel slips nicely over a rolling bag if you are traveling with additional luggage. The inside of the pack comes with a mesh divider with two separate zipper pockets, which can be accessed from either side or rolled up and stowed away when not in use. On the inside of the front panel is a great stretchy mesh zipper pocket filled with extra organizational features like pen pockets. If there is one thing Peak Design didn't skimp on with their Travel Backpack it is their easy-to-use features.
If the plethora of different secure mini compartments, stellar harness system, perfectly constructed water bottle pockets, and unlimited ways to use the lash tabs don't sell you on this pack, then maybe its ability to sync flawlessly with Peak Design's other travel trinkets will. We just so happened to have one of their camera packing cubes and couldn't be happier with the way the Travel Backpack accommodates it. The packing cubes come with a simple mounting system that clips to inconspicuous tabs within the bag to ensure your expensive gear isn't getting tossed around — pure genius.
Packing and Accessibility
Peak Design has done it again. Just like comfort and features, they really blew this section out of the water. You can get into this front or back loading pack from any angle. The main compartment divider pockets are accessible from anywhere within the pack and the easy access, yet secure, zipper pockets for your valuable on-the-go items make traveling both efficient and safe. We really couldn't have asked for more. The only place this pack falls short is in its ability to carry a large load. It is a 45-liter bag, but due to its rigidity, you cannot overstuff it like some of the other softer, more flimsy packs in our review. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it ensures that the bag is always the same size, so you know you'll always be able to use it as your carry-on. Not to mention the structure of the pack ensures your belongings are safe. That being said, if you are headed out on a backpacking trip across Europe for two months and only bringing one bag, this one simply may not be accommodating enough.
We mentioned that the pack is front and back loading. What does that mean, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like! Not only can you access the pack from the circumferential zipper in the front, but the back panel actually zips completely open as well. This makes accessing items you know are in the back of your pack, like your laptop, that much easier when the mesh divider is in use. The Travel Backpack also has side zipper panels that allow you to get into the right and left side of the pack without having to open the front or back flaps. We found this very useful when we wanted to slip our camera gear out or grab a sweater. Placing our rain jackets and sweaters, or larger items we might need quickly, on the sides made grabbing them on the go a breeze. This came in handy more times than we can count.
The inside of the pack is quite simple but offers the perfect amount of organization. It is one big bucket with one mesh divider. The divider is made up of two pockets, which can be accessed via zippers from both sides. This makes packing and looking for your belongings a breeze. If you don't want to use the divider, it can actually be rolled up and stuffed neatly into a pocket at the bottom of the pack. Literally everything can be tucked away when not in use. We love this attention to detail.
The Travel Backpack is already quite dense, but in the event that you need it to be a bit smaller, it offers further compact-ability via one circumferential compression zipper and two compression snaps located at the top of the bag. We also realized, and we're not sure if this was just a happy accident or an intentional feature, but the lash straps can help compress the pack if more compression is needed.
There is nothing more nerve-wracking than digging around in your pack at the top of the security line for something as vital to travel as your passport. Many travel backpacks offer small zipper pockets at the top outermost part of the bag, which is great and easily accessible, but far from secure. During our time with this test suite, we paid special attention to the security of the packs, as we want to make sure you can take them anywhere safely. Lucky for us (and you!) Peak Design ensures that there's not just one, not two, but three small pockets close to the body for items like keys, passports, cash or credit cards. There are two located in the water bottle pockets and one on the hip belt. Ahhh.. hear that? That's the sound of worry-free travel.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Well, folks, we have finally come to a section where Peak Design falls a little short. Let us be clear in saying that this by no means made us like the pack less; it merely reiterates the importance of using the right tool for the job. All that thick EVA foam keeping your belongings safe and providing comfort comes at the cost of a little additional weight and a little less space for stuff. This pack weighs in at well over four pounds and holds roughly 45 liters.
This bag is so comfortably structured, and the weight is so evenly distributed that it doesn't feel particularly heavy — but it is not as easily stuffed as some of the more flimsy or structureless packs we have had the pleasure of testing. If you are looking for a lightweight backpacking-across-Europe type pack, as much as we hate to say it, the Travel Backpack is probably not the right tool for the job.
Since Peak Design is on the more expensive side of the travel gear spectrum, we are happy to announce that their packs will last you a very long time. We took their Travel Backpack camping and climbing, flew with it for weekend getaways, and even ventured out on some city bike rides in search of urban photoshoot destinations. The weatherproof 400D nylon canvas proved durable in all types of weather, although a small amount of moisture will penetrate the bag if left in heavy rain for extended periods of time. The only visible representation of wear on the pack was small scuff marks on the anodized aluminum and stainless steel components. After roughing the bag up a bit, the hip belt buckle was slightly scratched, but that by no means compromised the function, and the pack itself was unscuffed.
The thick EVA foam holds its own and helps keep this pack true to its original shape. The 900D weatherproof bottom liner kept the bag dry even when we set it on rain-covered concrete, and the woven nylon webbing showed no signs of failing. The zippers are a combination of YKK and ZOOM zippers. This was an interesting choice, as most high-end travel gear comes equipped with just YKK zippers. That being said, both zippers continue to glide with ease and have proven time and time again to be weatherproof, so we have no complaints.
While this pack is among the most expensive in our test suite, we truly believe you are getting what you pay for. The organization, ease of use, and straight-up minimalistic physique are definitely worth the money. The name Peak Design really says it all. As far as design features, they really hit the peak, especially for those traveling with camera gear or expensive tech equipment. We understand that sometimes breaking the bank for a bag is just not in the cards, but this travel pack was built to last. Forking over the cash on the front end will save you from having to do it down the line again when a less durable pack nears the end of its shorter life.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack exceeded our expectations with flying colors in almost every department. It's no surprise that this stellar pack, not so sneakily, edged its way into our hearts and earned top marks. The comfort, organization, convertible nature, and purposeful construction of this aesthetic pack make it a winner. While it may not be perfect for every travel occasion, it will be sure to come in handy for weekend getaways and business trips. It is especially useful for those who need a safe space for their camera gear, but it is also comfortable enough for long bike rides, hikes, or snowshoe adventures in search of the perfect photoshoot destination — clearly, we're speaking from experience. We could go on and on about how this pack tickles our fancy, but to sum it up, if you travel for business, frequently take short trips, or need a carry-on camera backpack to use in tandem with your more spacious luggage, then consider your research done because this is the pack for you.
— Hayley Thomas
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