Are you a photographer like me or do you love traveling and backpacking around the world? If you are any of the two or both, then you will definitely love the new Travel Backpack 45L from my favorite gear company, Peak Design. The backpack has enough pouches and cubes to meet all your traveling and photography needs regardless of where you wish to travel or for how long. I have made multiple trips to test this backpack and, in all honesty, I have never been more impressed. That is why I am starting this multipart series that will review the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L from all possible perspectives.
Today, I am going to review this backpack from a traveler’s point of view. I have used the backpack to travel by plane to and from a major city overseas with the sole purpose of testing how it would perform on a real spin. Our aim is to move away from the many fictitious product reviews you stumble upon every day on the internet; I will only tell you how I saw the bag perform in real life scenarios. Enough said: Let’s dive right in and see the pros and cons of the Travel Backpack 45L. Please be our guest.
The Pros of Travel Backpack 45L
Just like other products from Peak Designs, this backpack comes with many unique features that made my trips both convenient and fun. I can write a book about the awesomeness of this backpack but since we don’t have space- nor the time- I will review eleven features that I believe you will really benefit from. So, let’s do this.
1. It makes packing effortless.
With a shoe pouch and 2-zippered packing pockets, packing and unpacking this backpack is as effortless as you would wish it to be. The peak design camera cubes which I bought separately- made it easy for me to pack my drone and my camera for my trips outside the hotel. I kind of threw in all the patches that I carried with me and to my amazement, I could effortlessly trace anything I needed super-fast. Back in the hotel, I would just open the back and all my stuff would be exactly where I wanted them to be for easy unpacking.
2. It handles and spreads the weight impressively well.
The last thing you need as a backpacker is an uncomfortable backpack that kind of pulls you back or that spreads the weight unevenly. The Travel Backpack 45L comes with newly-designed shoulder straps that work impeccably well. The backpack sat comfortably on my back to the extent that I didn’t to use the waist strap. What’s more, it has the nicest pivot ever; never at any point in my trips did I feel the discomfort of unevenly spread weight thanks to the pivot. That’s without forgetting the immense weight of my stuff.
3. Its Tech Pouch is super cool.
I mean, just how convenient and awesome can a tech pouch be? I had to remove mine both in the plane and at the airport and my phone, boarding pass, passport, and other important devices and documents remained safe and conveniently accessible. Throwing it on the front pouch of the seat allowed me access to all my stuff. I have been a victim of phone misplacement on planes so I must admit that the tech pouch got me all excited about this backpack.
4. Its wash pouch is elegantly simple and highly functional.
This backpack has a wash pouch whose hanger works pretty well- I could easily access all the items I needed therein. Comparing it to the sea summit that I recently reviewed, this pouch hangs thoughtfully at the eye level. The hook was tight enough to hold everything in place so I didn’t need to struggle to hang or retrieve my toiletries.
5. Its perfectly-positioned camera cube simplified everything for me.
I found the Travel Backpack 45L to be more like a bigger version of my 30L backpack, particularly in terms of its side accessibility and size of its camera cube. In this regard, everything worked in the exact fashion I had figured it in my mind. The backpack did not disappoint for the times I swung it over to the sides in order to access my camera. Mine was a micro four-thirds camera and the camera cube handled it really well. That made it easy for me to shoot videos and take stills during my trips.
6. Its sun glass pouch is of perfect size.
My shades fitted perfectly well in this pouch which kept them safe from dust and breakages. Of course, being small meant that it hadn’t any space left for any other item but I felt like it served its purpose perfectly well. The pouch made it easy to access the sunglasses. That’s all anyone would ask for in a sun-glass pouch, right?
7. It has a nice tripod or water bottle compartment.
Perfectly designed Tripod pouch, but we used as water bottle compartment is small but it served its purpose really well. I had no issues with my water bottles so I take that as an upside for as far as backpacking with the Travel Backpack 45L is concerned. The tripod that I use for logging, on the other hand, fits in like a glove and didn’t need any straps to keep it in. All I needed to do was expand the side pockets and space would open up for such stuff.
8. It snap-reduces so I could use it for city exploration.
The versatility in this bag is simply unbeatable. After my trips, I could snap reduce this backpack into a day bag for my city explorations. I was unloading the bulky stuff and the things that I didn’t need for my city explorations and just like that, my backpack would be transformed into the small bag that I needed. This particular feature really impressed me because I felt like I had two bags of different sizes in just one backpack.
9. The packing cube has its own dirty clothes compartment.
This is a life saver. Believe me. I forgot to carry a bag for my dirty clothes which, upon arrival, nearly gave me a panic shock. But as I sat there freaking out, I realized that the Travel Backpack 45L comes with a packing cube which has its own dirty clothes compartment. I didn’t have any issues with my dirty socks and underwear for the entire trip; that was such a relief.
10. The design is completely incognito.
Unlike other camera bags that will sell you off at the airport and on the streets, the Travel Backpack 45L is completely incognito. No one will even as vaguely figure out what you could be carrying in the backpack or what your career could be. Mine was a black-colored backpack and it looked more like a travel bag than a camera bag. If you like to walk along the city streets without people turning heads trying to guess what you carry in a bag, then you will love this backpack’s incognito design.
11. The front compartment was really convenient.
Accessing all the things I needed from the front compartment wasn’t a problem at all. I figured a very convenient way of arranging stuff therein such that I could access the things I needed without having to open the bag fully. I ensured that the most important stuff was at the top pockets and then the others followed in their order of importance. My chopstick, microphones, business cards, memory cards, and other essentials were always in the top pockets.
Peak Designs showed us a very important trick about keeping the zippers open which, I must admit, made it even more convenient when accessing my stuff. All I needed was to open it just a little, dip my hand in the compartment, feel the item I needed at that particular time, grab it out, and I would be good to go. To me, that designing was impeccably good.
This bag makes everything convenient. It gave me the best value of my money.
The Cons of Travel Backpack 45L.
Unfortunately, every great product has a few flaws or features that would need a few improvements. I promised to be extremely honest in this review so as hard as it is for me (I really love this backpack, remember?), I will discuss the few features that would disappoint other travelers and photographers. Can you recall the cons I pointed out previously when I made my way to Boston? I will highlight some of those cons here as well. So, let’s dive right in:
1. When over-stuffed, the back kind of pushes outwards.
I honestly don’t know if the problem was me or the bag; help me decide here. I had packed a lot of stuff in the backpack including my surface laptop, drone, documents, clothes, and my camera and that, I guess, made the bag to bulge. Sometimes I could feel like the laptop was pressing my lumbar and other times I would feel like some of the contents were pushing outwards. That was somehow uncomfortable, even though the pressure on my back was so insignificant that I had to dig deep to find this con, otherwise I wouldn’t remember it. And in all fairness, the contour of my back also had a part to play in this discomfort.
2. Sometimes, though rarely, the waist straps would come out.
Just like the first con, I had to really dig deep in order to come up with this one. I would take the blame for the few times that the waist strap came out because I was the one who left it fully open, making it pop open. The good thing is that I figured out a way of keeping the strap intact. I realized that instead of leaving the straps fully open, folding then inwards and then tucking in the waist strap underneath the other straps helped to prevent it from coming out. I guess if you borrow this hack or maybe come up with a better one, you will find this con totally irrelevant.
3. The backpack’s handle isn’t well positioned.
Well, this isn’t too big a concern because you might not need to use the handle many times but I will have to point it out anyway. I had a hard time trying to pull the backpack from under my plane seat as the handle couldn’t exactly pull the bag’s weight towards the direction I wanted it to go. Most of my stuff was in the front compartment including the camera and its components and that, I guess, concentrated most weight on one side. The handle, therefore, could not hold the backpack upright as I wanted but instead weirdly tilted at an angle.
4. The straps need some loosening.
In order to tighten my grip on the backpack, I needed some space between my knuckles and the back of the backpack. Unfortunately, space isn’t enough and mind you, I don’t have big hands. For those with really big hands, your fingers will often touch the top part here at best because they might not even fit in there, to begin with. You probably will be hitting the handle most of the time.
5. The zippers clearly need to be improved.
The zippers, on the other hand, have bigger problems than I initially thought. Well, I love the zippers on the backside because they are strong enough for a camera backpack but I have an issue with how they are configured. The exact same zippers that I was using to open up the front are the same that I was using to open up the side access. I know that most of you guys were complaining about the zoom zippers particularly in regards to their strength so these ones might feel like a big upgrade. But I am not impressed. Simply its not a YKK zipper I guess.
That is not all: Putting a finger in any of the zippers is almost impossible. They are so small that even if you wished to open up the zipper using your index finger, you most likely wouldn’t manage to. The manner in which the zipper loop is done is equally unimpressive.
I’m not sure if you noticed that the site access everyday backpack had two zippers that were opening towards different directions, one on each side. That makes unzipping very easy and convenient. But with Travel Backpack 45L, you must pull the zippers up to close it in a manner that they both converge at the top and both down to open it. There aren’t any options here. I thought that this was limiting and awkward in a way but I don’t know if you will share the same sentiments as me. I’m also not very sure if this particular con will affect you as it did to me.
6. The backpack doesn’t fit under an economy class plane seat.
This isn’t really a problem for those of you who board bigger, comfortable planes. In the business class, for example, comfort levels would be satisfactory. As for my economy class seat, the backpack kept sticking far out and consequently eating up my leg space. I realized that the only way I would sit comfortably with this backpack was to keep it in the overhead spaces, something that I’m not a fan of. The flight attendant might also tell you to place your bag in the overhead because it will be disturbing other passengers. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to fly economy class with all the passengers in your neighborhood carrying as big luggage as the one I was carrying.
7. The bag hasn’t much traction.
As you may already know, I love placing my travel bags under my plane seat so that I can easily grab it and access whatever contents I need when on the flight. In that realization, I love my bags having a non-slippery material whose traction is undeniably good. I also love the handle strong and big enough for my fingers. This backpack isn’t slippery but I didn’t exactly like its traction. Its handle, on the other hand, is at the wash pouch and not at the top, which is equally cool and weird. I love where the handle is positioned because the bag looks classy but again, it complicates matters when I want to hold it firm at the top in order to access its contents. I had to devise a way of removing my passports at the airport without looking awkward.
It would be very cool if this backpack had two handles, one at the top and one at the wash pouch. I understand that it had to be one handle for the design to appear as good as it does but I’m still annoyed that I couldn’t perform my signature move of grabbing the backpack by the top handle. But even with that, my greatest concern was that my zippers were not fully closed and the main separate here wasn’t fully closed (I mentioned this before). I was always wary of my stuff falling out when I held the backpack in this weird by the wash pouch position. That never happened to me but I feel like that would be really embarrassing if it happened to you.
8. The locking mechanism for the shoulder straps doesn’t work well.
With my body size, I feel like I need a backpack with a firm locking mechanism: A backpack whose shoulder straps are adjustable and lockable so as to secure the excess straps. But this bag doesn’t have the kind of locking mechanism that I would exactly benefit from. Its mechanism includes a simple plastic that I would close in but it would leave me with some loose fabric on the ends. There isn’t a way to kind of lock it down nicely.
Summary: 5 Key Takeaway Points.
1. This backpack has an impressive capacity, weight distribution, and storage safety and that gives it a great value for money.
2. Accessing your laptop, camera, drone, documents, or any other items that a traveling photographer may need is easy and convenient. This combined with the fact that you will carry it incognito makes the backpack legit.
3. The camera cube which is big enough for all your photography accessories improves the quality of this bag.
4. On the flipside, the zippers for this backpack need some serious upgrading in order to match the bag’s overall quality.
5. Lastly, the backpack’s lack of a top handle is a big letdown for travelers.
The parting shot:
I am someone who uses a lot of camera gear and who loves to travel quite a lot; my hope is that when you look at me using the backpack, the bag will get some great deal of legitimacy.
This review is the most honest all over the internet. I hope that it will answer most of the questions that you could be having about Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. I understand that I may not have exhausted all your prospective questions so I encourage you to drop them in the comment section below.