Reviews You Can Rely On

Cotopaxi Chuspa Review

Large, attractive, and decently featured, though it leaves a bit to be desired, especially in regards to the shoulder strap
cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review
Credit: Cotopaxi
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $100 List
Pros:  Stylish, large volume, lightweight, exterior water bottle pocket
Cons:  Poorly designed shoulder strap, not good with water, material is not durable, expensive
Manufacturer:   Cotopaxi
By Penney Garrett ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 15, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
  • Comfort - 25% 4.0
  • Packing & Organization - 25% 6.0
  • Electronics - 15% 5.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5.0
  • Wear & Tear - 10% 2.0
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Cotopaxi Chuspa is a cute and stylish bag with a large interior capacity and good pocket variety. With a 15" padded laptop sleeve, a 15-liter capacity, and a crossbody strap for cycling or scooting, you can haul a lot of stuff wherever you need to go. We aren't impressed by the shoulder strap design, and the material, though DWR-treated, is not water-resistant or particularly durable. If you are hard on your gear, this isn't the bag for you, but if you need something soft, casual, and attractive, or are a Cotopaxi fan, it may be an acceptable choice.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cotopaxi Chuspa is cute and generously sized, but it falls short when it comes to comfort and durability.

Performance Comparison

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - the chuspa provides a lot of space and comes in some really fun...
The Chuspa provides a lot of space and comes in some really fun colors, but overall it didn't stack up.
Credit: Penney Garrett


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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - there's decent padding on the back of the chuspa, though the lack of...
There's decent padding on the back of the Chuspa, though the lack of integrity means pointy objects are still very noticeable when the bag is full and the shoulder pad is small and thin enough to be laughable.
Credit: Penney Garrett

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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - the chuspa has a lot of pockets, but it doesn't carry well if you...
The Chuspa has a lot of pockets, but it doesn't carry well if you actually use all of them, and the flimsiness of the bag causes it to bulge awkwardly.
Credit: Penney Garrett


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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - after our water tests, the front pockets on the chuspa were filled...
After our water tests, the front pockets on the Chuspa were filled with water. The interior stayed dry, but this didn't leave us feeling very confident.
Credit: Penney Garrett

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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - most things are simple with this bag, though the strap system and...
Most things are simple with this bag, though the strap system and front flap closure didn't impress us.
Credit: Penney Garrett

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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - the chuspa is gorgeous when its brand new, but the material isn't...
The Chuspa is gorgeous when its brand new, but the material isn't conducive to very heavy wear and tear.
Credit: Penney Garrett

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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - this is a large and lightweight bag, but it left us unsatisfied...
This is a large and lightweight bag, but it left us unsatisfied overall.
Credit: Penney Garrett


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.

cotopaxi chuspa messenger bag review - as much as we wanted to love this bag, it just didn't happen.
As much as we wanted to love this bag, it just didn't happen.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Penney Garrett
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More