Gear Review: Cotopaxi Allpa 42 Travel Backpack
Too Long; Didn’t Read
- Cool design, more personality than other packs
- Superb interior organization
- Durable materials and high-quality components
- Highly water-resistant, also comes with rain cover
- Comfortable harness
- Large laptop/tablet compartment
- Breathable back panel
- Detachable and stowable shoulder straps and hip belt
- A little pricey
- Hip belt needs pockets and more cushioning
- Somewhat heavier than other packs
- Looks floppy when empty
I’m a little biased towards the Cotopaxi Allpa 42; it’s my current travel pack!
The Allpa (named after the Quechua word for “earth”) suits my needs, I like the design and color scheme, and I respect the company’s mission. The interior organization comes with zippered mesh covers that actually negate the need for packing cubes (although I’d recommend them anyway).
While it is pricier than some other packs, it’s a solid travel companion, especially if you can find it at a discount.
The front of the Allpa 42 is made of durable and highly-water-resistant TPU-coated 1000D polyester, which gives the bag its characteristic rubbery sheen. This material performs very well but can also be a turn-off to some, as it does look rather floppy when empty.
The side and back paneling are made of more typical 840D ballistic nylon, which is very strong and abrasion-resistant.
Floppy or not, this is a bag that’s going to stand up to the rigors of any kind of travel, from an overhead plane compartment to the back of a tuk-tuk.
There are four grab handles on the pack, on each side. You will also find four “lash points” at the corners, where you can attach caribiners and other small equipment.
On the right side of the Allpa 42 is a water bottle holder, which from my experience can comfortably fit a bottle up to 3″ in diameter (so something like a 24oz. bottle). A 1L Nalgene, for reference, is 3.5″, and it’s next to impossible to fit one in there. Being as Nalgenes are one of the most popular water bottles for travelers and hikers, I feel like a stretchier pocket would increase the utility of the pack. As it is, however, it will accomodate just about any other kind of bottle.
Aside from the material itself, the components on this pack are all high-quality. The zippers are heavy-duty YKK and the buckles are high-quality Duralast. This sounds like splitting hairs, but these are the real deal and will last much longer and under much more duress than lower-quality components. From personal experience, the last thing you want is a zipper coming unthreaded or a buckle breaking on your pack. One of those things that seems insignificant but is actually very important.
If you look closely, you’ll find little loops stitched over the ends of the zippers. This is actually a safety feature. You can tuck the zipper pulls down under those loops, and that way no one can casually walk by and open your pack. This kind of opportunistic theft is common and these loops are a simple yet effective safeguard.
You have one top compartment on the outside of the pack, the “brain,” which holds a keychain clip and several small compartments, including a zippered one.
Unzipping the pack and laying it flat, you see one small interior pocket on the upper left side, with a larger section below that. The larger section has a small zipper compartment on top of it. On the right is the main compartment, complete with a small hidden pouch along the “spine” of the unfolded pack.
The laptop compartment lies flat against the back, as it should be. This allows your heavier electronics to be located closer to your body, distributing weight more efficiently. It also offers a higher degree of protection for your laptop.
The website says the compartment is capable of holding a 15″ laptop, more than enough for my 13″ Asus ZenBook and its protective case. Out of curiosity, I tried to fit my old 17″ behemoth in there, and to my surprise it just barely fit (though I would NOT recommend traveling with a laptop of that size). The compartment also features smaller sleeves for a 12″ tablet (or travel journal) and a pouch for your phone and charger.
The harness is pretty good, though not the best. Cotopaxi seems to have gone for low profile with the straps, so they don’t have as much padding or structure as other packs I’ve used. Having said that, they’re spongy enough and pretty comfortable. This is not a pack you’d take with you on the Appalachian Trail, and it wasn’t designed as such. After all, the most you’ll be doing with the Allpa 42 is walking across a large airport or a few blocks from the cab to the hotel.
The shoulder straps come with load-lifters, which help support more of the pack’s weight. You can disconnect these straps and tuck them behind the breathable back panel for when you’re boarding a plane or other tight space.
The hip belt is made of the same low-profile but comfortable material, and can be completely detached from the pack by velcro. The hip belt helps transfer over 60% of the pack’s weight from your shoulders.
About the Company
Cotopaxi is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and named themselves after a volcanic mountain in Ecuador that the founder spent a lot of time exploring as a kid. They chose the llama as their symbol as a nod to the Andes Mountains.
Cotopaxi’s motto is “Gear for Good,” and they are B Corp. certified, meaning they ethically source their materials and labor. This also means that 1% of their profits go to charities in the areas in which they make their products, in this case the Philippines and China (the Allpa 42 in particular is made in the Philippines).
While I would usually be wary of a product made overseas but still costing more, I give Cotopaxi a pass because, by all accounts, they do pay their workers a living wage. They’re a company that does good on top of making quality products, and I respect that.
Notes from the Road
I’ve been using the Cotopaxi Allpa 42 for over a year now, and while I have a few quibbles, overall the pack has performed very, very well! Its 42 liters of storage space have served me well, even when I’m hauling my drone and my camera in addition to my clothes and toiletries.
It is carry-on size with the notable exception of one time: on a flight from Philadelphia back to Richmond earlier this year, we boarded a sardine can of an aircraft called the Embraer ERJ145. The Allpa 42 did NOT fit in the overhead compartment on this plane. These are narrow, 50-passenger regional jets, and the overhead compartments are just too small. Luckily, we were able to have it checked for free, so it didn’t completely defeat the purpose of one-bag travel. Otherwise, I’ve flown with this bag many times and this is the ONE time the Allpa 42 has not been carry-on compliant.
Overall, I’ve been very happy with my Allpa 42! I look forward to many years of traveling with it.
This gear review of the Cotopaxi Allpa 42 is just the first of many to come. Look out for reviews of other travel backpacks, as well as other pieces of gear in the future.
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