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Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Review

A stylish and comfy travel backpack which is plenty durable and perfect for urban travel
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List | $166.72 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fun, stylish, comfortable, durable, simple and streamlined
Cons:  Not enough organization in easy access pocket, no obvious place for wallet or passport, pocket design less intuitive
Manufacturer:   Cotopaxi
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 11
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Packing & Accessibility - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Cotopaxi Allpa is our Top Pick for Light & Easy! It is a simple travel backpack with a stylish look for both domestic and international air travel. We found that this pack is best used for the pleasure traveler rather than the business traveler as the organization is a little less geared towards keeping dress shirts unwrinkled and laptops properly cushioned. It is a very comfortable backpack with excellent suspension, including a well designed hip belt that can be stowed if you don't want it flapping around during transit. The shoulder straps can also be stowed, reducing the pack's profile for stashing in a trunk or airplane overhead bin.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The comfortable and durable Cotopaxi Allpa is a gorgeous backpack for urban travelers looking to remain stylish while hopping from plane to train. Its simplistic design makes traveling for fun a breeze. However, its non-intuitive organizational scheme makes it a less than ideal choice for a more structured business traveler. That said, the fun colors, durability, unbeatable comfort, and endless packing options will have you enjoying this bag for a very long time.

Performance Comparison


The Allpa is fun  stylish  and comfortable.
The Allpa is fun, stylish, and comfortable.

Comfort


With its soft yet firm tuckaway harness system and generous back panel foam, the Allpa is among the more comfortable packs in our test suite. The ventilated fabric on the back panel allows for breathable long term wear. The contoured shoulder straps come complete with a sternum buckle to help fine-tune the fit, and the dense foam hip belt offers additional structure and support.


The rectangular shape and internal compression straps of the Allpa allow you to fasten heavier items down, keeping them closer to your center of gravity. This makes the pack feel lighter (though it is already quite light!) and helps customize weight distribution. The laptop sleeve is strategically placed in the back panel foam, offering a little more structure to an otherwise flimsy pack. There is a slimmer bucket-like pocket, which spans the entire length and width of the pack behind the two smaller zipper pockets, placed further from the back for lighter, fluffier clothing items like a puffy jacket. Overall the intended weight distribution and ample yet breathable padding offer some pretty serious comfort when wearing this pack for extended periods of time.

The generous padding and convertible suspension make it one of the more comfortable travel backpacks.
The generous padding and convertible suspension make it one of the more comfortable travel backpacks.

Features


There are no nifty bag tags, water bottle pockets, or long daisy chains to be found on the Allpa, although they did throw a few gear loops on the face for good measure. It is meant to be sleek, stealth (aside from its bright colors!), and frill-free, so its useful travel features are either inside the pack or can be purchased separately. Cotopaxi actually offers very nifty "bundles," which include extras like laundry and shoe pouches, a water bottle attachment, and even a separate day pack for those who don't want to carry their entire suitcase with them wherever they go.


If Cotopaxi's contribution to community development and ending poverty doesn't already make you feel good about purchasing their goods, then their collection of useful accessories certainly will. Who doesn't like a set of toys that work flawlessly together? Bear in mind that these accessories are sold separately, so if the idea of building your own perfect pack does not appeal to you, then the Allpa may not be the right choice.

The strategic placement of the laptop sleeve lends more support to an otherwise flimsy structure.
The strategic placement of the laptop sleeve lends more support to an otherwise flimsy structure.

As far as the included, or built-in features, Cotopaxi made sure to give us the essentials. The clamshell design and mesh zipper compartments allow for full visibility into the pack when it is open. The side closest to your back is one large bucket. It was smart of them to put compression straps here to mitigate sag and ensure that everything stays put once packed to your liking. On the opposite side, there is a similar sized compartment split into three separate mesh pockets for a little more organization. One of these pockets even comes with a rain fly which fits perfectly over the pack.

The rainfly fit nicely over the pack and offers additional waterproofing.
The rainfly fit nicely over the pack and offers additional waterproofing.


Sometimes we found it a little difficult to decide where our items belonged inside the Allpa. The organizational scheme is not particularly intuitive, but this allows you to get creative regarding your packing strategy. All the pockets on the inside are divided with mesh and zippers, and we liked the top outer zippered compartment for our toiletries. The sturdy fabric liner provides somewhat of a barrier in the event that a shampoo bottle were to explode. That same outer compartment has one medium-sized mesh zipper pocket. Unfortunately, it does not offer a ton of organization, but it's a good spot for some big headphones and your wallet, as long as you are not worried about pick-pocketing. This part of the pack is the easiest to access on the go, so some smaller pouches to keep things organized in there would go a long way. We also greatly appreciate the placement of the laptop and tablet sleeves, which can be found on the back panel for safekeeping.

The easy access pocket is a great spot for your on-the-go items  as long as you are not worried about theft.
The easy access pocket is a great spot for your on-the-go items, as long as you are not worried about theft.

Our main gripe with this bag is that there isn't a secure yet accessible place for phone, keys, wallet, and passport. These are essentials during travel, and you often need them lickity split! We prefer pockets close to our backs for items like this to avoid any kind of theft when we're far from home.

While Cotopaxi may not offer a secure but easy access spot for these items, they do, however, offer some pretty creative security measures for the pack overall. There are webbing loops over both outside zippers to deter pick-pockets from targeting you as their next mark. This system allows you to tuck the zipper pulls behind the webbing, making it much harder for thieves to stealthily unzip your pack. For serious security, we still recommend using a luggage lock, but this gave us great comfort in crowded areas. Unfortunately, given that it is quite involved to get tabs back into place, the tendency to become lazy and leave them out during times that you are in and out of the bag often is high. This leaves the bag not fully zipped and, therefore, much less secure.

While the zipper webbing is a creative security system  we found that it was a hassle to push the tabs through and often left the pack slightly unzipped as a result.
While the zipper webbing is a creative security system, we found that it was a hassle to push the tabs through and often left the pack slightly unzipped as a result.

The back panel has a designated opening for each strap of the suspension system, which makes tucking it away quick, easy, and customizable. This is helpful for making the bag completely dangle free. For casual use, we like to tuck the hip belt away using it more like a day pack with only shoulder straps.

We love that the harness system tucks away separately and thoroughly so we can enjoy wearing the pack  sans hip belt  around the city.
We love that the harness system tucks away separately and thoroughly so we can enjoy wearing the pack, sans hip belt, around the city.

Packing & Accessibility


The Allpa is a clamshell design travel backpack. It opens up to the main compartment hamburger style with a circumferential zipper. There are two main compartments on each half of the pack, one side being the main, larger, bucket style space while the other offers a little more organization via multiple zipper pockets. This bag is geared towards general travel, and not optimized for business or office use, as it lacks the structure and more traditional organizational scheme.


Packing your standard clothing, shoes, toiletries, and electronics is a breeze. However, due to the simplistic nature of this pack, we consistently found ourselves unsure of where to safely store our phone, keys, wallet, passport, or any other items needed often while traveling. The only choice is to place them in the smaller pockets inside the main compartment, which is not easily accessible or opt to put them in the outer pocket, which isn't super secure. The system for these items is not intuitive. Otherwise, we love the thoughtful color-coded zipper to let you know which side your laptop is zipped into, as well as the top pocket for easy access to small electronics.

The Cotopaxi Allpa gobbled up all of our travel test load.
The Cotopaxi Allpa gobbled up all of our travel test load.

Due to its lack of structure and clamshell opening, this pack is particularly easy to overstuff. While the compression straps do, in fact offer compression, we found that the propensity to fill the Allpa lopsidedly is high if you are not packing with intention. This makes it difficult to fit into the carry-on luggage test bins at airport check-in counters and, in turn, can make your travels less efficient. If your items inside are mostly soft, however, the pack will likely cram into place.

The soft structure of the Allpa means it's easy to pack into a wonky shape that is then hard to fit into a luggage sizing box.
The soft structure of the Allpa means it's easy to pack into a wonky shape that is then hard to fit into a luggage sizing box.

Durability


The Allpa is made of very durable fabric; 1000 denier and TPU coated polyester. The large gauge zippers glide with ease, even around sharper corners, which inspires confidence. This pack is made to last a lifetime of travel adventures. During our time with it, not one stitch popper or zipper snagged.


The weather-resistant material came in handy and did its job; however, it is worth noting that the zippers are not waterproof, and neither is the canvas, so a small amount of moisture seeped into the bag after extended periods of time in the rain and snow. After getting rained on, tossing the bag around while camping, and placing it on the asphalt streets of Denver, the color stayed vibrant, which is much appreciated, considering that Cotopaxi's fun aesthetics is part of the appeal.

After much abuse  the gorgeous colors remained vivid.
After much abuse, the gorgeous colors remained vivid.

Volume to Weight Ratio


We often pay for durability in weight. What we mean by this is the more durable the fabric, the heavier it tends to be, which of course, affects the weight of the pack itself. Weight per volume was the weakest metric for the Allpa, but not by much. This 35-liter bag weighs 3.6 pounds.


The simplistic outer shell and smaller overall frame of the Allpa allow for less material and, therefore, less weight. The mesh on the inside pockets and dividers also contribute to helping keep the bag a bit lighter. This design allows the pack to be as light as it can be while still featuring extremely durable materials where it matters most — like on the entire exterior of the bag.

The light weight materials inside the pack make up for the more heavy durable fabric on the outside.
The light weight materials inside the pack make up for the more heavy durable fabric on the outside.

Value


The Allpa may seem a little pricey at first glance, but its durability makes it worth the while. This heavy-duty piece of travel gear will be with you for a long time, not only because of its ability to last that long but because of its timeless style and simple, streamlined utility. Overall, we think it's worth the price, not to mention that do-gooder feeling you will get after contributing to a certified B corporation that puts 1% of profits toward addressing poverty and supporting community development.

Conclusion


If you're looking for something simple, easy, comfortable, and durable, then look no further than the Cotopaxi Allpa, our Top Pick for Light and Easy. If the easy to use practicality of this pack doesn't sell you on it then maybe its visual aesthetics will. It comes in a variety of fun colors if you like making a statement, or if sleek black on black is more your style, then you're in luck because they have that option too. Whether you're hopping from plane to train in New York or longtail to tuk-tuk in Thailand, this comfortable yet burly mini duffel will do the trick. The easily stowable suspension system makes the pack multiuse, and the various handles allow for effortless maneuverability. The fun and easy theme continues with thoughtful accessories in a variety of "bundle" packages, as well as a rain cover. If all of that isn't enough, Cotopaxi also leads the way in ethical business practices, backed by their impeccable design and manufacturing, so you know you're also buying a piece that will last a very long time. Ethics are great — and they're even better when a company makes products built to last, thereby minimizing waste. Sounds like a win-win to us!

Cotopaxi pays special attention to all the little details  the Allpa even comes with a durable rain fly.
Cotopaxi pays special attention to all the little details, the Allpa even comes with a durable rain fly.

Hayley Thomas