The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack is a small and lightweight bag that’s still rugged enough for an outdoor adventure.
The pack has a large interior capacity—one of the largest for a carry-on-sized bag that you will find on the market—but it still has a slim profile without a lot of extra bulkiness and excessive straps.
The Allpa is a bag that’s beloved by many, and I love the Cotopaxi brand, but they’re more well-known for their clothes, not backpacks. Hence why I needed to do a full Cotopaxi Allpa review.
When I first saw this bag, I was immediately sold—so I just had to get my hands on it to see if it would live up to my expectations.
But, as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover…
Light Packers or Weekend Travelers: This is a pack for the minimalist adventurers out there. While there is a decent amount of open space in the pack, your average traveler would be hard-pressed to fit more than a week’s worth of clothes and accessories in this travel backpack.
Digital Nomads: A padded laptop and tablet compartment make it easy for storing tech items safely and securely. A separate zipper makes this area accessible from the outside of the bag, a great feature when writing or researching on the go, and an interior sleeve protects your most precious electronics from being scratched.
Versatility Seekers: You can comfortably carry the Allpa like a suitcase through narrow airplane aisles, or wear it as a backpack while hiking. This pack is marketed as a backpack, but with its 3-sided zipper and stow-away straps, it’d be best described as a suitcase-hybrid.
Weight Watchers: When weight is important, this pack fits the bill. Whether it’s hiking or weekend trips, this pack won’t add much much mass to the load you have to haul.
Expensive Equipment Exercisers: True dedication to an outdoor sport or hobby means lots of specialized – and often expensive – equipment that needs to be lugged around. Made from TPU coated polyester and nylon, this pack is basically glorified fabric with no firm structure or internal supports. Expensive or bulky equipment is likely to get banged up in no time. Let’s just say that this is one bag I do not want to pack my nice camera in.
Over-Packers: This back is 35L and that means only 35L. You can’t force a carry-on-sized bag to fit a checked-bag-sized haul. If you are a heavy packer or going on a longer trip, consider getting a larger travel pack. More than 2 pairs of shoes with your clothes? Choose a new bag! Other packs in the Cotopaxi Allpa line go up to 70L.
Wanderlusters: The maximum trip length recommended for this travel pack is two weeks. I personally think one week would be testing the pack’s limits, especially if you need more clothing than just bathing suits, shorts, and flip-flops.
Tall People: I’m not very tall, myself, but other taller individuals have reported that the hip belt sits higher on the waist than your normal pack would, making it rather uncomfortable. If you are over 6’2, definitely heed this warning and go a different route.
Who Is Cotopaxi?
Entering the market in 2014, Cotopaxi is a fairly new brand, making everything from activewear and jackets to gear and accessories, providing a one-stop-shop for outdoor adventure needs.
Named after an active stratovolcano in Ecuador, Cotopaxi is a company focused on manufacturing a variety of outdoor products while they “Do Good.” Davis Smith, the company founder, states that his goal was to combine his desire to travel with his passion for aiding the world’s most impoverished areas.
The company aims for sustainable product designs and materials and operates ethical and fair-wage factories. The majority of Cotopaxi travel packs, like the Allpa backpack, are manufactured in a fair-wage facility in the Philippines.
The Del Dia line of bags are all designed and manufactured by workers in the Philippines using 100% left-over and reused fabrics and materials. Additional products, such as t-shirts, sweaters, and jackets are all created in factories found across multiple countries including India, Cambodia, Bolivia, and China.
Cotopaxi even donates 1% of its annual revenues to the Cotopaxi Foundation, which awards grant money to nonprofit organizations and is ultimately aimed at helping underprivileged communities around the world.
While the money does not go directly to a charity or a community, the website does state that the mission of the foundation is to aid the impoverished and ensure the company can continue its sustainability and local/world improvement initiatives.
All of this sounds great until you realize that the amount donated to these nonprofits and companies ends up being a mere $55,000 of their estimated $5.5 million yearly revenue. But at least it’s a start, which is more than most other companies can say.
At first, I loved the bold colors, the durable rubber on the outside of the pack and all the organization options made available by the interior mesh pockets.
I was sold on it almost instantly. But, I hate to say it—that didn’t last very long.
The features of the bag, individually, are all fantastic. However, when looking at the bag holistically, it feels like the features don’t integrate with each other very well.
I have three main beefs with this bag:
This bag is floppy at best, and unless it’s completely packed, it doesn’t maintain its structure. This means it can be difficult to open and close without the bag seemingly “falling apart.”
The mesh pockets are great, but if you put a heavy item in one of the top pockets, the lack of structure means the top half of the bag will completely collapse onto the bottom half.
There is some zipper confusion—meaning there are too many zippers in the same area of the bag, which can cause issues when trying to open different pockets. I found that I often opened the wrong pocket, even when I thought really hard about which zipper to use!
But with all that said, they still made a pretty great entry-level backpack that’s suited to all kinds of different adventures. Whether you’re backpacking Europe or taking a weekend trip to the mountains, this bag will do the job.
Cotopaxi made sure the 35L travel pack was sized perfectly for carry-on travel, meaning you can skip airport lines and baggage carousels.
This backpack is an internationally approved carry-on size, meaning that you can take this pack with you straight on and off the plane, anywhere in the world. No early arrival or baggage claim required.
The interior of the Allpa 35L travel pack is all mesh, meaning you can easily see and find everything quickly. Five zippered mesh pockets give you places to organize and store all of your items, and the mesh is easier to wash and dry than alternative fabrics would be in case of internal spills or leaks.
However, these mesh sleeves don’t hold their shape very well which in turn allows your gear to shift or bounce around. Furthermore, the mesh is very prone to snagging or tearing. I’ll get into this more shortly.
The slotted back panel on the Allpa 35L pack allows the shoulder and hip straps to be unclipped and completely tucked away beneath the panel, creating a sleek and smooth piece of luggage. This is ideal for dealing with bus and airplane overhead bins; you never have to worry about a strap snagging or catching on something!
With four reinforced handles on the exterior of the pack, this bag is easy to carry even after stowing away the tuckable shoulder and hip straps. Carry it with two hands or like a one handled suitcase.
Laptop & Tablet Storage
One of the nicest features of the Allpa pack is the side-accessible laptop compartment. This fabric-split section can stow both a laptop and tablet, and it’s easy to access your electronics while passing through airport security or while on the go.
While no specific dimensions for the laptop and tablet section are reported, I can tell you a 15″ computer fits with room to spare—you could potentially even fit a 17″ laptop, but don’t quote me on that.
While the exterior of the Cotopaxi backpack is made of TPU-coated polyester and ballistic nylon, there is no interior structural support (or back supports for heavy packs), essentially making this bag an unsupported clamshell.
The nylon is somewhat water-resistant but is definitely not waterproof. In fact, the company provides a rain cover with all 35L Allpa bags, but some larger packs in the Cotopaxi Allpa line don’t even include that.
This is definitely not a top choice for trips that involve visiting rainy or wet climates or a lot of outdoor activity in general. For that, check out the Osprey Talon 33.
The interior sections of the main compartment are all zippered mesh. This may be convenient for being able to see inside each compartment, but the zippers are close together and, if not handled with care, can catch on and tear the mesh easily.
The sturdiest part of the bag is the compression straps and hip belt. The shoulder straps are thick and fairly comfortable, while the waist belt is padded so it doesn’t dig into your hips.
The rear panel of the pack is made of air mesh to allow your back and shoulders to breath and more airflow to circulate. This ultimately increases comfort and reduces sweatiness—but it doesn’t get rid of it entirely.
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L travel pack has a super sleek design. With no visible front zippers, this bag is quite attractive with clean exterior lines. Depending on the color, the material can appear shiny, making it look a little too cheap for my liking (and this is not a cheap bag), but certain colors hide this sheen fairly well.
The ability to hide the compression straps and carry the pack sideways as a suitcase is a nice touch that adds to the clean lines of the bag, and is also especially useful when squeezing through tight spaces like airplane aisles.
Overall, the Cotopaxi Allpa line definitely targets millennials with its clean lines and bold, simple colors.
Wide compression straps, a padded hip belt, and a sternum strap combine to give the Allpa pack a secure and comfortable fit. The sternum strap leaves a lot to be desired, but from my experience, this is common with a large portion of travel bags.
This pack isn’t the greatest at handling heavy loads. If you’re trying to over-stuff your bag and take it on a long trip, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be smiling for long.
I, personally, wouldn’t mind adding an extra pound or two if Cotopaxi decided to add an internal frame or something similar for more support. But for those focused on a lightweight bag and light packing, these straps are about as comfortable as it gets.
The air mesh fabric on the back panel of the pack makes it somewhat breathable, and you’ll have less sweat to deal with than some other competitors on the market (but trust me, sweat still exists).
I did find some taller individuals who mentioned that the padded hip belt on the Allpa sits too high on their waist. While hard for me to weigh in on (sorry, I’m only 5’5″), this is probably something people above average height should take into consideration.
With only six total compartments, the Allpa 35L travel pack is not the ideal tool for prime organization. The pack is comprised of two sections: a smaller compartment on the back, padded for your laptop computer or tablet, and the main compartment on the front.
The main compartment is separated into four zippered mesh pockets: two small, one medium and one large. There is one additional mesh pocket accessible from the top of the bag.
While this and two smaller interior mesh pockets are great for organization and small item organization, those three pockets are all you have for non-bulky items. There is definitely not enough room to store your wallet, earbuds, and all the other items you want within easy reach.
The single large section that occupies roughly half of the bag’s volume makes it difficult to stay organized, and all of your stuff shifts around during travel.
There is one additional tiny pocket on the padded hip belt, but that is useless for anything other than chapstick or a (singular) key. There are no water bottle holders or organizational clips (unless you want to purchase those separately). No hidden pockets to hide passports, money, or other valuables.
Essentially half of the bag is a giant, open, zippered mesh clamshell compartment, which might be ideal for shoes or large equipment, but not at all useful for further organization or even finding your items easily.
While the ballistic material makes the Allpa 35L more durable than a normal backpack, the overall durability of the pack is unlikely to hold up to the test of time.
The interior mesh pockets are easily torn, and heavy or bulky items will wear on both the mesh and zipper of the interior pockets, specifically the large compartment which essentially could have half of your total backpack’s weight pressed against it.
The main compartment of the 35L pack is also sealed by only one large zipper that completely unfolds the backpack like a suitcase; this makes it easier to pack and unpack, but it also means one zipper failure could render the whole pack useless.
With an unclear product warranty (see below), I know I don’t want to risk a couple of hundred dollars on mesh pockets and one zipper.
The Allpa 35L travel pack might be too simple for its own good.
The only accessory this pack comes with is a rain cover. No detachable pockets, day packs, loops, or holders. Nothing extra. No frills or thrills. Just the rain cover, which is neon yellow.
I guess the plus side here is that your bag will be easy to recognize in a crowd.
Cotopaxi does offer a few additional extras on their website that are compatible with the Allpa 35L pack:
Shoe Bag: This nylon shoe bag is an optional extra that allows you to keep your dirty shoes from touching the rest of your gear. However, this accessory seems a little strange for a smaller 35L bag, and I wonder if it’s at all necessary. If you’re packing this light, it’s unlikely you’re bringing extra shoes.
Mesh Laundry Bag: Again very self-explanatory, and again, seemingly unnecessary. I completely understand the allure of segregating your dirty laundry, but there are many more economic ways to do it.
Snap-On Mesh Water Bottle Sleeve: I don’t know what it is about mesh, but they seem to love it. To me, this is ripe for getting snagged or torn while traveling, especially since it’s on the exterior of the pack.
However, all of these items must be bought as a bundle. In other words, you can’t buy the shoe bag separately, but you can buy it with the laundry bag and the water bottle sleeve.
There are different bundles, though. And, to be fair, they don’t cost much extra.
To be honest, Cotopaxi’s attempt to add security features to this bag is weak.
In order to discourage theft, the backpack has “theft-proof webbing” for its outside zippers. I find these straps to just be annoying and, quite frankly, more of a hassle to deal with than they are worth.
But some credit should be given for possibly thwarting a quick pickpocket attempt.
While I am annoyed at the lack of outside pockets, I will admit that the Allpa’s zipper-free front panel also discourages theft. Also, the lack of outer pockets means you won’t forget to leave anything unzipped for wandering hands!
While this bag is about average in price compared to other highly rated 35-40L carry-on travel backpacks, I am ranking the Allpa 35L travel backpack lower than average based on the pricing of other bags in the Allpa line and the quality of the bag itself.
I don’t think this bag is worth the price tag. On top of that, the 35L travel pack is currently the second-highest priced travel backpack that Cotopaxi offers, only being exceeded by the Allpa 42L pack.
Both the 50L and 70L bags, which are very similar in design to the 35L one, are less expensive than the 35L travel pack.
Is this a good example of price gouging on their most popular bag?
The real mind-boggling price difference is in comparison to the nearly identical 35L Del Dia travel pack which is $20 cheaper than the regular 35L pack! Sure, it’s not made of their ballistic nylon material, but when neither bag is waterproof, both look the same, and one is both environmentally friendly and cheaper, why not save the money (and the Earth)?
While no warranty is explicitly stated for any product, you can find a “Good Guarantee” Section listed on their website. The “Guarantee” states that you can contact the company to help resolve any issues you have or replace products, but it doesn’t say if there is a fee or what costs might be associated with that solution.
Overall, it looks like the company might do something, but it isn’t clear or explicitly stated what that something is. I’m also assuming this promise applies to all their products, but again, that is not unequivocally listed.
That said, Cotopaxi is brand I know, love and trust, so I feel certain their customer service would fix any issues you might encounter.
If you’re located in the United States, shipping is reasonably priced. In fact, if you aren’t in a rush and can wait two weeks, you are able to score free shipping.
In a pinch? There are four other shipping options between $10-$50 that can get your pack to you as soon as the next day!
International Buyers Beware! While shipping prices aren’t listed until you add the item to your cart, a few quick trial addresses show very high shipping fees for non-American customers.
Shipping to Canada was over $80 and most of Europe was higher than that. Australia was one of the cheaper countries but still around $30-50, which was equivalent to the more costly shipping options available in the United States.
Unless your heart is set on this bag, I’d suggest international customers save themselves some money and invest in a different outdoor brand that doesn’t charge you 50% of the backpack price in shipping.
Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack: Final Thoughts
With an overall average rating of 2.4 stars (based on the above sections), the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack is a completely average pack. Essentially a carry-on duffel bag with five interior pockets, this 35L pack is nothing special and this reviewer (hi!) is feeling a little let down by it.
It’s too bad, too, because Cotopaxi is a great brand and I love what they do. Unfortunately, I just don’t think this bag was their greatest creation.
Its carry-on size is nice for speedy traveling or a quick trip, but packing for more than a week seems virtually impossible. Its lightweight design is great, but the lack of structure or internal frame makes the Allpa line seem uncomfortable for hiking, carrying odd-shaped equipment, or taking long trips.
Similar in concept, the Peak Design 45L pack is carry-on sized, and also has tuckable straps and a separate laptop compartment. However, it also features tons of pockets, weatherproofing, and some fun accessories, not to mention adjustable compartments and up to 10 more liters of volume!
The Peak Design bag is designed to give you everything you need and want from a carry-on travel pack, and, IMO, is far superior to any pack you might find in the Allpa line.
For more info, check out my full Peak Design 45L review. But if you’re still sold on the Allpa, you can use the button below to get more info from the official Cotopaxi website.