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Timbuk2 Impulse Review

A sleek but hefty 45-liter bag with durable hardware, useful features, and a highly adjustable harness system
Timbuk2 Impulse
Credit: Timbuk2
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Price:  $199 List | $199.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Ripstop technology, durable components, adjustable harness system, useful features
Cons:  Top pocket is vulnerable to rips, sticky main compartment zipper, tiny water bottle pocket
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 5, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 5.0
  • Features - 25% 8.0
  • Packing and Accessibility - 25% 6.0
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 8.0
  • Durability - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

This 45-liter duffel-style backpack is full of useful features made out of durable materials. The polyethylene vinyl with ripstop technology is thick, sturdy, and easy to clean, keeping the Timbuk2 Impulse looking fresh. The organizational components are minimal and effective, with three main pockets and several smaller mesh zippered ones inside those. The brain pocket is easy to get in and out of, and the bottom pocket is perfect for shoes or dirty laundry. The main compartment is large and has a Y-strap, but the zipper is quite sticky. But if you are looking for a mid-priced travel backpack with plenty of room and a minimal look, the Impulse is a great option.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Timbuk2 Impulse
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Timbuk2 Impulse
Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $199 List
$199.00 at Amazon
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$149.00 at REI
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Check Price at Backcountry
$199 List$160 List
$174.95 at Amazon
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Pros Ripstop technology, durable components, adjustable harness system, useful featuresTapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very lightVersatile, sleek, camera box, vented wet shoe compartmentVersatile, duffel-like ease of use, simplistic features, max volume carryGood suspension, lightweight, affordable, gobbles gear
Cons Top pocket is vulnerable to rips, sticky main compartment zipper, tiny water bottle pocketDoes not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpaddedNo waist belt or sternum strap, no water bottle holder, back panel not very breathable, tallSoft body sags when not stuffed, harness system not fit for long adventuresSquare design protrudes from back, too big for some airlines checked baggage
Bottom Line A sleek but hefty 45-liter bag with durable hardware, useful features, and a highly adjustable harness systemWith its tapered shape and backpacking pack structure, this is the perfect bag for the outdoor adventurist that doesn't want to spend an arm and legWith its convertible camera cube, ventilated shoe compartment, and padded device sleeve, this pack was made for the outdoor photographer on the goA well thought out, user-friendly, and versatile pack fortified by an Ironclad guarantee and cutting edge company ethicsThis is a durable and easy to pack travel backpack, but may be bulky for some airlines or uses
Rating Categories Timbuk2 Impulse REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Patagonia Black Hol... Osprey Porter 46
Comfort (25%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Features (25%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Packing and Accessibility (25%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Timbuk2 Impulse REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Patagonia Black Hol... Osprey Porter 46
Volume of Main Compartment 45L 40L 35L 45L 46L
Measured Weight 3.7 lbs 2.10 lbs 2.10 lbs 3.35 lbs 3.23 lbs
Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 12.16 19.05 16.67 13.43 14.24
Detachable Daypack? No No No No No
Dimensions 20.7" x 14.6" x 6.1" 24" x 13" x 10" 24" x 14" x 9" 22.8" x 8.6" x 14.5" 21" x 14" x 12"
Carry-on Size Compatible? (22" x 14" x 9") Yes No Yes Yes, if squished Must be cinched down
Stuffed Dimensions 22.1" x 14.6" x 7.0" 22" x 9" x 14" 24" x 14" x 9" 22" x 14" x 10" 22" x 14" x 12"
Fabrics YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Polyethylene, Polyurethane Recycled nylon ripstop and recycled polyester lining (bluesign approved) 600D waterproof polyester, 840D ballistic nylon Polyester ripstop with TPU laminate 420D nylon hex diamond ripstop, 420HD nylon packcloth
Frame Type Foam padding with mesh Ventilated mesh Foam padding Foam backpanel Stiff foam
Access Type Large U-zip Top loading Panel loading Clamshell design Panel loading, zips all the way open
Number of Pockets External: 2 zippered, one zippered water bottle, 1 main, 1 hip belt zippered
Internal: 1 laptop, 3 zippered mesh in main, 1 zippered mesh in top
6 zip, 7 no zip, 2 water bottle 3 small zippered, 1 ventilated, 1 camera comparment, 1 main 9 zip, 8 no zip 7 zip, 8 no zip
Laptop Sleeve? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Waist Belt Type Padded Padded None None Padded
Sternum Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, whistle
Different Sizes Available? No Yes No Yes No
Volume Options 45L 18L, 28L, 40L, 65L 35L 26L, 45L 30L, 46L, 65L

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Impulse is a 3.7-pound, 45-liter backpack/duffel hybrid. It is comprised of durable fabrics and trusty hardware. The adjustable harness system gives it a versatile fit, and the minimal look is a crowd-pleaser.

Performance Comparison


Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - with ample space inside and places to clip additional belongings...
With ample space inside and places to clip additional belongings outside, the Impulse is great for larger loads.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Comfort


The harness system on the Impulse is complete with a hip belt, shoulder straps, and a sternum strap — all of which are highly adjustable. Both the hip belt and the shoulder straps have two latch point options for a wider or narrower carry. The sternum strap height is easily adjusted along a daisy chain found on both shoulder straps.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - this the is wider carry latch point for the shoulder straps.
This the is wider carry latch point for the shoulder straps.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The hip belt, shoulder straps, and back panel are equipped with a thin layer of perforated polyethylene foam. While this foam is breathable and comfortable, there is not enough on the shoulder straps or hip belt for prolonged wear. The hip belt has a little more padding than the shoulder straps, but its minimal nature makes this pack best for urban travel. The back panel is somewhat stiff and slightly more padded than the shoulder straps or hip belt, but overall, the Impulse could be stiffer and better equipped with denser padding.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - while the entire harness system is very comfortable, the impulse...
While the entire harness system is very comfortable, the Impulse lacks enough padding for a truly comfortable carry.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Features


It's hard to beat the sleek black-on-black look that the Impulse offers. While it appears minimal, this duffel is chock-full of high-quality features like strap keepers and compression straps.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - this minimal backpack gives any traveler a slick look.
This minimal backpack gives any traveler a slick look.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The PALS (pouch attachment ladder system) on the outside of the main compartment is great for attaching a daypack or a carabiner to dangle your climbing shoes from. The shoulder straps, which tuck away into the back panel with ease, also have an elastic band for more dangle-ability. The removable hip belt has an elastic mesh pocket on one side and a small zipper pocket on the other. Both are convenient, but it's best not to house your valuables in the mesh pocket or anything that could bend easily in the zippered one.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - we love to keep our climbing shoes on the outside of our pack, and...
We love to keep our climbing shoes on the outside of our pack, and the Impulse makes that easy.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Features like strap keepers, grab handles, and compression straps help contribute to the thoughtfulness of this travel backpack. Every strap has a keeper, and the grab handles have plenty of padding. The compression straps do not inhibit the main compartment zipper, which is a detail that is surprisingly overlooked in the travel backpack world. The key strap in the water bottle pocket is bright yellow, meaning you'll never have to fumble for your keys, and the clip is metal rather than plastic.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - details like the metal key clip set this bag apart from the rest.
Details like the metal key clip set this bag apart from the rest.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Packing and Accessibility


The Impulse sports great organization, with a large main compartment, spacious catch-all brain, water-resistant bottom pocket, and an assortment of smaller zippered mesh pockets.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - packing space is plentiful in the impulse.
Packing space is plentiful in the Impulse.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

This pack's top pocket, also referred to as the brain, is relatively large and a great place to dump your easy access items, like phone, keys, and wallet. Inside this pocket is a smaller mesh zippered pocket for added organization, which is helpful, but it could use a divider or two for smaller items like change and chapstick. Our only bone to pick with the brain is that it is not made with ripstop material and therefore left vulnerable to tears if you toss your keys or any other sharper object in there. This pocket is the one you will most likely be in an out of the most, so we feel it should have been made with slightly more durable material.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - it is impressive how much stuff you can put in the top pocket. here...
It is impressive how much stuff you can put in the top pocket. Here we have a book, two pairs of glasses, over the head headphones, chapstick, snacks, and multiple device chargers.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The bottom pocket is a similar size to the top pocket but is made of much more durable fabric. It's a great place to put anything you don't want dirtying up the main compartment, like a pair of shoes or dirty socks.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - you don't always have time to clean off your shoes or do laundry...
You don't always have time to clean off your shoes or do laundry while traveling, which is where this bottom pocket comes in handy.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

The laptop department is found on the back panel and can hold a laptop up to 17 inches. The false bottom and slightly padded back panel offer a good amount of protection, but you can only access this pocket from the side, making it difficult to get into when in confined spaces like an airplane. The main compartment is spacious, with a clothing strap and three zippered mesh pockets for organization.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - the y-strap is very easy to adjust and helps keep your belongings in...
The Y-strap is very easy to adjust and helps keep your belongings in place.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

We love the organization offered by the Impulse, but it has one major drawback: the zippers are very sticky, especially around corners. This is not uncommon with bags made of heavy-duty material, but this backpack would be a lot easier to get in and out of with zippers that glide a bit better around the corners.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - sticky zippers make getting in and out of the impulse somewhat...
Sticky zippers make getting in and out of the Impulse somewhat cumbersome.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Volume to Weight Ratio


Heavy-duty material often equates to additional weight. The Impulse weighs 3.7 pounds and has a carrying capacity of 45 liters — pretty good for such a large bag. While the material is robust and thick, it is still malleable, so the main compartment is easy to stuff.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - this pack can feel quite heavy with all that thick material.
This pack can feel quite heavy with all that thick material.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Durability


The Impulse is made mostly of polyethylene vinyl with a water-resistant coating and a ripstop pattern for added durability. The tarp-like outer layer is easy to clean and resists most scratches, keeping your pack looking sleek for longer. With YKK zipper and Duraflex buckles, the hardware is trustworthy and should be long-lasting.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - timbuk2 does not skimp on the hardware, ensuring a long lasting...
Timbuk2 does not skimp on the hardware, ensuring a long lasting backpack.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Generally speaking, this pack is very durable, but the lack of ripstop technology in the top pocket is problematic. We did not experience any tears during our hands-on testing, but this seems like an oversight as it is the pocket you are in and out of most while traveling.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - be careful not to put anything sharp in the top pocket, or you may...
Be careful not to put anything sharp in the top pocket, or you may rip the lining.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Value


The Impulse falls somewhere in the middle of our lineup both in price and performance, making it a good value. There are a few things to note. This pack is not for you if you are easily frustrated by sticky zippers. But if this pack excels where your priorities lie, like durability and features, it's a great purchase.

Conclusion


Traveling is fun but can be stressful, and having the right tools for your trip can make it all the more enjoyable. If your ideal travel backpack is one that is built to last, offers ample space, and rocks a sleek minimal look, the Timbuk2 Impulse Duffel is a great choice.

Timbuk2 Impulse travel backpack - whether you're going away for the weekend or a week, this 45-liter...
Whether you're going away for the weekend or a week, this 45-liter backpack is a great travel companion.
Credit: Hayley Thomas

Hayley Thomas
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