Peak Design creates carry gear with photographers in mind, but they’ve developed a line of bags that are versatile enough for both photographers and the everyday traveler.
In fact, the internet raised five million in crowdfunding dollars to help Peak Design launch an innovative 45L Travel Backpack with the help of one of Apple’s former designers.
So, what’s so special about it? With this backpack, Peak Design combined the versatility of a traditional travel backpack with the functionality of a camera gear bag. It’s an all-in-one bag for all your travel needs. It’s small enough to pass for carry-on luggage but big enough to store your camera gear and your daily travel needs.
For me, it seemed like a dream come true. But does it live up to all the hype?
After more than a year using the pack, my short answer is an astounding yes. The Peak Design Travel Backpack boasts an incredibly clever and well-thought out design. But, of course, every bag has its drawbacks.
Peak Design Travel Backpack Review: Quick Answers
- This is an all-in-one travel backpack.
- It’s convertible to daypack size.
- The small 45L size suits carry-on luggage rules. Forget those long check-in lines at airports.
- It’s large enough to store camera gear and a small amount of clothing and other necessities.
- The bag has a gobsmacking number of pockets (including hidden ones!).
- There is back, front and top access.
- The durable straps tuck away easily into magnetic pockets.
- The backpack is made of a 100-percent recycled, weatherproof nylon shell.
- You get a lifetime warranty.
Who Is the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L For?
- Short-term travelers
- Fast travelers who only bring carry-on luggage because airport lines are the worst.
Who Isn’t the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L For?
- Long-term travelers. Once you get your camera equipment into the bag, there isn’t much room for anything else other than a few days’ worth of clothes and supplies.
- Heavy packers. This backpack isn’t designed for heavy loads. It won’t break, but you will be uncomfortable.
Peak Design: Who Are They?
Peak Design is, first and foremost, a camera gear company that evolved into all things carry. They started up in 2010 in San Francisco when the founder, Peter Dering, got sick to death of awkwardly carrying around DSLRs while traveling. He started to tinker with some ideas to make packing options more versatile and to make moving around with cameras a more relaxed experience.
Since then, they’ve become, in my opinion, one of the best backpack brands today. What makes Peak Design extra unique is that all of their products (and there are more than 100!) are entirely crowdfunded on Kickstarter. They are free from corporate tie-wearers who’ve probably never picked up a backpack or camera in their lives. Their investors are their customers, which means they answer only to what their consumer base wants and needs: versatility and outstanding quality.
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L Features
There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting in the airport check-in line as people drop off their kitchen sinks and the family dog. Especially when your backpack is only a smidge too big to pass for carry on. The default 35L setup of the Peak Design Travel Backpack meets international carry-on luggage rules, so you can check-in online and go straight to the gate. Forget the annoying hordes.
The interior of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L features a zippered dividing panel. You can either split the bag into two sections or keep it as one. This is a useful feature if you don’t want to find a pair of stray dirty underwear wrapped around your gear!
One of the best features of the Peak Design Travel Backpack is the delicious amount of pocket space. I really like pockets. But some of the pockets are better than others. Let me break them down for you.
- Front Panel Pockets—The Travel Backpack’s front panel has four mesh pockets perfect for small and flat objects. No complaints here.
- Side Pockets—The backpack also has expandable, easy-to-reach side pockets for things like water bottles. Okay, so they’re actually designed to carry tripods. But tripods tend to weigh you down a bit, so I would generally strap them to the top or bottom of the pack to balance out the weight a little more evenly. Storing them at the sides is asking to be unbalanced. There’s nothing I loathe more than a wonky backpack. While they’re handy for holding cylindrical things, these pockets are a big fail in terms of what they’re designed to do.
- Hidden Pockets—I try not to carry my valuables around with me in my backpack. However, when I’m moving from A to B, it’s pretty much unavoidable. That’s why I always look for backpacks that offer hidden or hard-to-access storage. The Peak Design Travel Backpack does this so well. It has hidden pockets with expertly concealed zips. With this backpack, I feel confident that I can safely stash away my cash or passport in a place that even a seasoned pickpocket would have trouble spotting.
Laptop and Tablet Storage
Most of us If you’re on the go with a camera, there’s a high chance you’re going to need a laptop when you’re ready to hit the editing desk. From my experience, it can be a hassle to carry around a laptop in a classic “backpacker’s” bag, especially if it’s a top-loader. The Peak Design Travel Backpack has a purpose-built space that you can slide your laptop or tablet into. You can access this section quickly and easily through the main back zip.
Front, Back and Side Access
I love the easy access to the main compartment of the Travel Backpack. You can get into your stuff through zips at the front, back and sides. The side access is particularly handy when you need to quickly dive in and grab your camera without messing up your stuff.
Likewise, I really like the Peak Design Travel Backpack’s flexibility; it’s two bags in one. While the default 35L size is to carry on the plane, you can use the expanding and compressing zips to customize your load. If you have more equipment than usual and feel like you need a little more space, bring the zip out to the 45L maximum capacity.
Durable and Tuckable Straps
The straps on the Peak Design Travel Backpack are wide, well-padded, and relatively durable. For a standard haul, they’re fine; however, they have a limit. When I’m carrying an extra heavy load, I do sometimes feel like they might snap. Just be careful.
The best part about the straps is the magnetic tuckable pocket they come with. Unlike other backpacks, you don’t have to mess around with zips in a panicked frenzy when you’re running late and trying to check the Travel Backpack onto a flight.
Made from Weatherproof Materials
The Peak Design Travel Backpack has awesome weatherproofing. It’s made with 100-percent recycled 400D nylon that brings its rain game to the next level. Rain seems to follow me around. I’ve been caught in a few torrential downpours with this backpack, and not one single raindrop made it into the backpack interior. That’s a pretty important feature to have when you’re carrying around a bunch of expensive camera equipment.
Compatible with Packing Accessories
Peak Design has a lot of extra packing accessories that are compatible with—and perfectly sized for—this backpack. If you want to get super organized and don’t mind spending a bit extra, I recommend buying some of their packing tools to use with it.
Dimensions & Specifications:
|Capacity||30L min, 35L normal (max carry-on size), 45L max|
|Inner Dimensions||21” x 15” x 5.75”|
|Laptop Carry||16” x 11” x 1”|
|Tablet Carry||9.5” x 7.5” x 0.6”|
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L Review: Pros and Cons
As part of this Peak Design Travel Backpack review, let’s look at both the pros and cons of the bag. While the team at Peak Design got a lot of things right about this backpack, they also got a few things wrong about it.
It’s super versatile and takes organization to the next level. However, I am not convinced it works as three bags in one. I also don’t believe it’s a good bag if you’re a photographer or videographer hitting the road long-term.
- Packed with Features—There are actually so many features that I was overwhelmed at first, and it took me a while to find them all and figure out what they were all for. They’ve almost thought of everything, to varying degrees of success. My personal favorite features are the side access option and those hidden pockets.
- Great Storage—The storage is up there with some of the best I’ve ever seen in a backpack. I love that you can choose whether to have one or two compartments in the main section of the bag. If you opt for two compartments, you can unpack one side without disturbing the other. This is great news for people like me who can’t handle the stress of packing and repacking.
- Stylish but Unassuming Design—Personally, I like the simple, timeless, unassuming look of this backpack. It comes in two great colors: black and sage. I love being able to recognize my bag from a distance, but I also find overly glitzy or colorful bags a huge eyesore. That said, the Peak Design Travel Backpack is a little bulky. I have heard a few people describe it as a time capsule. Different folks, different strokes.
- Comfortable—If you’re not trying to carry a massive load, the Travel Backpack is pretty comfortable. It’s especially suited to less-strenuous trips. I wouldn’t hike Kilimanjaro with it strapped to my back.
- Weatherproof—In case you didn’t know already, cameras and water don’t mix. So, when you’re buying what is essentially a glorified camera bag, you want to make sure it keeps the weather out. I haven’t had any problems at all with water getting into this pack. It’s been dry as a bone even in some pretty awful conditions. I’d say this is a big pro!
It’s pretty clear that the Peak Design Travel Backpack does check a lot of boxes, but I must say there are several things that I don’t like about it. I’m a bit of a backpack perfectionist, so I find it hard to put the cons at the back of my mind.
- Not for Everyday Use—Peak Design markets this backpack as three bags in one. With three adjustable sizes, they suggest you can use the small configuration as a day bag. I don’t think the design lives up to this claim. At its smallest, Peak Design’s Travel Backpack is still 30L. In my opinion, that’s way too big for a day bag. I would never opt for something over 20L for an everyday backpack. That said, Peak Designs does indeed offer a 20L and 30L Everyday Carry backpack. So for those looking for a set (one-day bag and one-travel bag), that could be an option.
- Lack of Space—Peak Design advertises their Travel Backpack as a packing solution that seamlessly fuses the traditional backpack with a camera gear bag. However, there is not enough space to store both camera gear and all the day-to-day living stuff you need for a long trip. This bag suits me fine when I’m going somewhere for a week or two. If I’m going anywhere for longer, I always take a bigger bag.
- Chest and Waist Straps—The chest and waist straps do the job, but they don’t perform well under a heavy load. This bag’s chest and waist straps are adequate for your average day hike or foray into a city, but they don’t offer the support you need to climb Everest.
What Materials Is the Peak Design Travel Backpack Made Of?
The Travel Backpack shell is made of a sleek 100-percent recycled 400D nylon canvas. This high-tech material is weatherproof.
Aesthetics: How Does it Look?
The Peak Design Travel Backpack has an aesthetically clean design that comes in either black or, my personal favorite, sage.
The rigid sidewalls keep it upright and help it retain its shape. These keep the bag looking nice and slick. They also keep everything more balanced. Unlike a softshell backpack, you can quickly stuff all your things into this bag, and you won’t get that annoying issue where everything gets pushed to one side. The days of zip battles are over.
While the bulkiness of the Travel Backpack does not lend itself to beauty, I like the unassuming vibe. It doesn’t scream, “I’m a camera bag, steal me!” I’ve said it once, and I’ll repeat it: If you’re carrying around a whole heap of expensive gear, you don’t want to stand out.
Comfort: Is it Easy to Wear?
Let’s be clear in this Peak Design Travel Backpack review. The backpack is comfortable up to a point. If you’re carrying a regular load, this bag is perfectly suitable. The straps are wide and well-padded, so they’re easy on the shoulders. The hip and chest straps aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, but they do the job.
If you’re looking for something that’s comfortable enough for general, low impact backpacking, the Peak Design Travel Backpack is probably a good option for you.
It does start to get pretty uncomfortable if you’re carrying an extra heavy load, however. The straps don’t have the in-built support for it. If you’re looking to do some more intense adventuring, this bag isn’t going to be your vibe at all.
As the Peak Design Travel Backpack is for less strenuous activity, this pack doesn’t have the ventilation systems that purpose-made trekking backpacks might have. I have to admit I’ve overdone it a bit with this backpack before, and my back got super sweaty.
If you’re keeping things relaxed but feeling a little warm, you can tuck the hip straps away to get some more ventilation up around your back. However, that may be a bit too much of a compromise for some users’ comfort.
Organization: How Does it Stack Up?
The Peak Design Travel Backpack is up there with the best of ’em in terms of organization. Peak Design has thought long and hard about what travelers need and how they want to use their bags.
There are so many pockets that I’ve occasionally lost things from being too organized. Once you’ve mastered where everything is and have developed some muscle memory, this backpack really does help keep everything in order.
Durability: Will the Peak Design Travel Backpack Last?
Peak Design makes excellent quality products. This bag will last you a long time provided you use it correctly and treat it with respect. However, if you try to overload it, don’t be surprised if the shoulder straps eventually come away. They are just not made for super heavy loads.
A big plus: If you get any problems with the bag along the road, Peak Design offers a lifetime warranty. Unless you’ve obviously mistreated it, they will fix any of the backpack’s defects free of charge.
Price: How Much Does the Peak Design Travel Backpack Cost?
This wouldn’t be a Peak Design Travel Backpack review without exploring price. The Peak Design backpack costs $299.95. However, if you want to add on some extra Peak Design accessories, you should plan to spend at least an extra $100.
It is most certainly not a cheap option, but overall, you get what you pay for.
Peak Design is a small design company that is huge on quality. The company is not known for budget price tags. Rather, it makes well-designed packs from more sustainable material than your average backpack. And it also seems to have excellent policies around fair payment for their factory workers in Asia.
On top of all of that, the company offers a lifetime warranty. Taking all that into consideration, the price of the backpack is fair. The prices of the accessories are arguably too high, though.
Warranty: What Kind of Warranty Does Peak Design Offer?
Peak Design is all about making the best products and minimizing waste. That’s why it offers a no-strings-attached lifetime warranty. Within reason, Peak Design will fix your bag for free if it develops a defect or you discover any factory flaws. If you have a problem with your Travel Backpack, visit Peak Design’s Warranty page on their website to take the steps needed to repair your bag.
Shipping: Does Peak Design Ship their Bags Internationally?
If you’re in the US, Peak Design’s standard shipping is free and fast. And, if you need your bag in a hurry, you can pay $40 to get it to your door even faster.
Also, if you’re outside of the US, you’re in luck. Peak Design has five warehouses globally. Wherever you are, you can be reasonably sure you’ll be on the same continent as one of their warehouses.
International standard shipping is fast. It depends where exactly you are, but you can expect your backpack to arrive within four to ten business days.
Most International shipping is cheap. If you’re in the UK, you actually get FREE shipping. You will pay around $4.95 to $25 for shipping to most locations in Europe, Asia, Oceania and Canada.
Unfortunately, shipping costs are significantly more expensive for Africa, Central America, South America and Mexico. You’ll pay $64.95 to get your Peak Design Travel Backpack shipped to these regions.
Peak Design Travel Backpack Accessories
As part of this Peak Design Travel Backpack review, let’s dive into what the backpack has in terms of accessories.
The Travel Backpack is a pretty simple setup on its own. If you want to take it to its full potential, you’ll need to think about investing in some accessories. Peak Design is huge on extra accessories—or packing tools, as the company likes to call them.
Although the advantage to Peak Design packing tools is that many are purpose-built for the Travel Backpack, I think they are too expensive to be worth the price. But I’ll run through your options and let you make up your mind.
The Wash Pouch is nothing more than a glorified toiletry bag. It has a whole bunch of super-organized mesh pockets and a unique, magnetically-sealed spot for your toothbrush. Sure, toiletry bags are definitely an essential travel tool, but at $59.95, I don’t care how fancy it is; that just seems too expensive for what you’re getting.
Who doesn’t love a packing cube? What I like about the Peak Design products, in particular, are the internal dividers that help you keep your clean and dirty clothes separate. By buying on-brand, you know the Peak Design Packing Cubes are made to fit perfectly with your Travel Backpack. However, you can also make sure a cheaper, generic packing cube will fit into the backpack with an old-fashioned tape measure.
The packing cubes are available in small and medium sizes. They come in at $29.95 for a small and $39.95 for a medium.
These days we all carry a bundle of tech everywhere we go. When I move around, I often find it challenging to make a designated space to keep my cables, batteries, SD cards, and whatnot without damaging them. The tech pouch offers an excellent solution to this dilemma.
Its origami-like pockets allow for high efficiency use of space, so you are almost guaranteed to find a spot for your tech. You can also pass a cable through the external zip pocket for easy charging. I picked up one of these myself and I love it.
It was, however, $59.95. Although it is a wonderful accessory, this high price will always make me pause and really consider if it’s worth it.
Another major dilemma I face whenever I travel is finding a place to store my shoes. I generally only pack two pairs—one for hiking and another for hanging around town. I never know where to put the extra pair whenever I’m moving from place to place.
Even when I manage to squeeze them into my Peak Design Travel Backpack, I hate getting the disgusting city grime from the bottom of my shoes all over my fresh clothes. I’ve tried wrapping them in plastic bags, but they always get holes in them. It’s just not ideal.
You can fit one to two pairs of shoes into the Shoe Pouch, size depending. When you don’t need it, you can fold it to a minuscule size or use it as an extra durable storage bag for something else.
It’s only $24.95, too.
Given the Peak Design Travel Backpack is first and foremost for photographers and videographers who happen to love traveling, the Camera Cube is an excellent option for an add-on accessory. Like the other accessories, this packing tool is specially designed to fit the unique contours of the Peak Design Travel Backpack.
The Peak Design Camera Cubes help you keep organized and keep your gear safe and sound. It’s often a hassle to carry around camera equipment. I gave up on it for a while after breaking half a dozen cameras and losing too many lens caps. That’s a thing of the past now, thanks to the Camera Cube. The Camera Cubes have movable pockets so you can store your filters, lens caps, and other small stuff as you like it. The medium and large sizes also have dual side zips for extra accessibility.
You can choose from small, medium, or large. It comes in between $49.95 to $89.95, depending on size. If not a little on the high side, it’s a reasonable price for a camera bag, especially when it’s protecting something so valuable.
You guessed it. The Peak Design Rainfly is specially made to fit the Peak Design Travel Backpack. Even though the Travel Backpack does a pretty good job of keeping the water out by itself, you never know when you might hit particularly inclement weather.
It comes in at $44.
Peak Design Accessories Bundles
Although the packing tools are of high quality, I still think the prices are a little too expensive. However, you can save 10 percent if you buy a backpack and a couple of packing tools together on Peak Design’s website.
Peak Design Travel Backpack Review Summary: Final Thoughts
This bag promises the world to travelers who shoot video or do photography. A camera bag meets a classic backpacking bag—who wouldn’t want that?
I had high expectations of the Peak Design Travel Bag. And, in many ways, it’s one of the best bags I’ve ever tried. Its organization and storage are amazing, and its comfort and aesthetics are pretty outstanding, too.
At the same time, it’s not perfect for every type of trip. But then again, no bag does.
It’s a well-designed pack for shorter, non-strenuous trips. However, if you want to do some serious hiking or you’re going to travel for longer, this backpack isn’t great for that. There isn’t quite enough room to store everything you need.
That said, given that most airlines allow for one carry-on item and one personal item, a combo of the 45L Travel Backpack (for clothes, etc.) and the 20L or 30L Everyday Backpack (for camera gear, etc.) might be just what you need. This is my current two-bag setup and I love it.
Hopefully this Peak Design Travel Backpack review helps you decide for yourself. Maybe it’s exactly what you need for your next adventure!