Cotopaxi Chuspa Review
Cons: Poorly designed shoulder strap, not good with water, material is not durable, expensive
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cotopaxi Chuspa is cute and generously sized, but it falls short when it comes to comfort and durability.
The Chuspa has a lot of problems in the comfort department. It's very soft and flimsy, so when it's packed heavy or full of sharp objects like textbooks, your body will feel it. Despite this, it does feel pretty decent when worn on one shoulder casually. Worn crossbody, the stabilizer strap helps cinch everything tight to the body, though in this position there is a noticeably boxy-feeling and the bag sticks out from the body quite a bit — it's not form-fitting like many of the other bags in this review. It also hangs quite low, even on longer-torsoed individuals and with the strap as short as it will go. And the strap itself is hardly padded: it's made from thin webbing, and the shoulder pad is thin and chintzy.
Packing & Organization
The Chuspa is decent in regards to organization, though it's very flimsy, which adds an element of awkwardness when packing it with heavier things. There are lots of pockets, perhaps too many, and none of the internal ones have a zipper, which doesn't impart a feeling of security when it comes to small or valuable items. The exterior water bottle pocket is a nice feature for sure, but if you pack to the gills and use all the pockets, this bag starts to get pretty misshapen. It's sadly just not a great design.
This bag fits a 15" laptop with ease, and there's a Velcro strap to secure it in place. The interior has two more large compartments and two mesh pockets, so there's ample room for other devices and cords. The laptop sleeve is padded, but it still doesn't feel particularly structured, as we've been harping on this entire review. When doused with water during our testing, the outer material soaked up water like a sponge. The two zippered front pockets had pools of water inside them, but the interior stayed surprisingly dry due to a water-resistant liner and "wings" on the front flap to protect the openings on the sides. We wouldn't trust this bag to make it through a serious downpour, though.
Ease of Use
Most things with this bag are straightforward and easy, but the strap system is really poor. The buckles are plastic and cheap, and making adjustments is confusing. We figured it out eventually, but there's no discussion of how they work on the manufacturer's site. The straps are also hard to adjust when the bag is weighted, and the shoulder pad is tiny and thin. The front flap can be partially secured via two embedded magnets, but they aren't very strong and, if the bag is too full, they won't line up. To supplement the magnets, there is another plastic clip attached to elastic that also secures with a magnet. For most situations, this is adequate, but when compared to other designs, it's hard to find this one appealing.
Wear & Tear
This bag is best suited for a light and casual user. The outer material is supposed to have a DWR-finish, but in our water tests, it was highly porous, soaking up moisture like a thirsty sponge. With no noticeable coating or barrier, the material stains easily, especially in a light color like the one we tested. If you like this bag and want it to stay nice looking, forget the fun bright colors and go for black.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Weighing just 1.47 pounds with 15 liters of capacity, this is the one area where the Chuspa scores well. However, the flimsiness of the bag is a little off-putting. For its capacity, we would have hoped for more internal structure built-in or be made from a more robust material, even if that upped the weight a bit.
We wanted to love this stylish bag, but after months of testing, the performance just didn't justify the rather hefty price tag. Cotopaxi is a conscious company with good ethics and appealing giveback programs, so some of your dollars go to a good cause, but, unfortunately, that isn't enough of an incentive for us to overlook the design flaws of this good-looking messenger bag.
The Chuspa is large, lightweight, and mega cute with some fun features like an external water bottle pocket and lots of compartments. However, after being put through countless tests and commutes, the design flaws stood out more to us than anything else. The strap system is subpar, the material is flimsy, and the supposed water-resistant exterior can't take much water. If you want something stylish and spacious that you only plan to use here and there, this is probably fine; but if you plan to use your bag every day, on a bike, or in spotty weather, there are better bags to consider.
— Penney Garrett