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Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Review

An excellent urban travel backpack, durable, comfortable, and even stylish.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List | $199.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fun, stylish, comfortable, durable, simple and streamlined
Cons:  No obvious place for wallet or passport, pocket design less intuititve
Manufacturer:   Cotopaxi
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 22, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Features - 25% 8
  • Packing & Accessibility - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Weight Per Volume - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The Cotopaxi Allpa is an excellent travel backpack for airline travel, long weekends, and international travel where you want to be light on your feet. It stands out for its stylish look; a look we found helped us blend in while in particularly colorful nations. It is useful for the casual business traveler as well, but the organization scheme is less optimized for this purpose that other bags in this review. 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.

Color Updates

See one of the new colors for the Allpa 35L shown above.

January 2020


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cotopaxi Allpa is an excellent travel backpack. It is super comfortable for long hauls, modular for use on airplanes or as a pseudo-duffel, and outrageously durable. The feature set is useful and simple, and it's a thoughtful, enjoyable travel backpack you will enjoy for a long time.

Performance Comparison


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

Comfort


The Allpa is among the more comfortable packs in this review. It has excellent suspension, and the back panel is soft, with ventilated fabric; the contoured shoulder straps have a sternum strap to fine-tune fit, and the generous hip belt is made of firmer, supportive foam.


The size (35L) and shape of the pack also help keep your luggage close to your back, which also improves comfort. The organization scheme, with the laptop sleeve against your back and a toiletries pouch on top of the pack, also contributes to carrying comfort because it keeps heavy items close to your back—and your fluffy, puffy, lighter weight clothing fills out the outer space furthest from your back. Good news for ergonomics—and your shoulders!

The generous suspension on the Cotopaxi Allpa made it one of the more comfortable travel backpacks.
The generous suspension on the Cotopaxi Allpa made it one of the more comfortable travel backpacks.

Features


The Allpa is full of useful travel features, and you can even purchase one of several "bundles" that include extras like laundry and shoe pouches, a water bottle attachment, and even a separate (and very charming) brightly colored day pack.


If Cotopaxi didn't already make you feel good about purchasing their goods because of the 1% they give back to poverty and community development, then their collection of useful accessories certainly will. Their useful extras are lightweight and very thoughtful—so much so that we often snagged them for use in the other packs we were testing… that's not cheating, is it? The feature set in the Allpa is also very well thought out. It has a padded electronics sleeve close to your back with a color-coded zipper that helps distinguish it from the internal access zipper on the other side of the bag. We were able to fit a laptop AND a tablet in that compartment, separated into two sleeves (a smaller one for the tablet).

We were able to fit a laptop and tablet in separate sleeves in the Allpa.
We were able to fit a laptop and tablet in separate sleeves in the Allpa.

The internal compartments are organized like a soft suitcase, with a large compartment for clothing on one side, and some smaller compartments on the other side, with the two halves laying open like a suitcase.

The simple organization scheme of the Cotopaxi Allpa was useful  and we especially liked the internal compression straps for the clothing compartment.
The simple organization scheme of the Cotopaxi Allpa was useful, and we especially liked the internal compression straps for the clothing compartment.

We liked the top zippered compartment for our toiletries. It has a sturdy fabric liner that inspired confidence if our shampoo bottle were to explode—at least it would likely keep our clothes from getting stained. That same compartment has a series of zippered mesh compartments, useful for a variety of things like headphones, cords, and a wallet.

The large top pocket had lots of useful features  and we liked to put our toiletry bag here to keep it separate from our clothing.
The large top pocket had lots of useful features, and we liked to put our toiletry bag here to keep it separate from our clothing.

Our main gripe with the bag was that there wasn't a dedicated place for key items like a passport and wallet that we want to keep accessible but also secure. We like pockets that are close to our back or have some system that allows ease of access for airport travel while being relatively obvious if a pickpocket tried to get at it.

That said, in terms of security, we loved the webbing loops over the zippers. This system allowed us to tuck the zipper pulls behind the webbing to make it difficult to figure out how to unzip the bag if you aren't familiar with it. For serious security, we would still use a luggage lock, but this gave us great comfort in crowded areas. The Allpa comes with a rain cover, but we often left it behind because the outer fabric is waterproof enough for most trips (though the zippers definitely are not).

The rain cover fit well when the Cotopaxi Allpa was packed full  but was sloppy and loose when not full.
The rain cover fit well when the Cotopaxi Allpa was packed full, but was sloppy and loose when not full.

The suspension system can be tucked into the back panel, making the bag much more streamlined and free of danglers. For casual use, we often tucked the hip belt away to simplify the bag, using it more like a day pack with only shoulder straps.

Packing & Accessibility


The Allpa takes a fairly classic travel backpack design: electronics sleeve next to the back, a main compartment that opens with a circumferential zipper, and a collection of thoughtful travel features and organizing pockets. This bag is geared more toward general travel, and not optimized for business or office use, though it has adequate features for our electronics-heavy modern lifestyles.


It's effortless to use for clothing, shoes, toiletries, electronics, and all the necessities. The only items we found ourselves fumbling for were our wallet and passport. We were either struggling to access these items, zipped in to smaller compartments in the main compartment or the smaller top pouch. The system for these items was not intuitive.

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

Otherwise, we loved the thoughtful color-coded zipper to let you know which side your laptop was zipped into, as well as the top pocket for easy access to small electronics.

The soft structure of the Cotopaxi Allpa meant we could easily stuff it into a wonky shape that was hard to fit in to the luggage sizing box.
The soft structure of the Cotopaxi Allpa meant we could easily stuff it into a wonky shape that was hard to fit in to the luggage sizing box.

It is important to note that there is not much structure to this backpack, so it is easy to overstuff or pack in a lopsided manner, which can make it difficult to fit into the carry-on luggage test bins at airport check-in counters. If your items inside are mostly soft, however, the pack will likely cram into place—and there are internal compression straps in the largest compartment that can also help reduce bulk.

Durability


The Allpa is made of rugged 1000 denier, TPU coated polyester; this is seriously burly fabric. The zippers were also a very large gauge, inspiring tremendous confidence. The Allpa is made to last a lifetime of travel adventures. In our testing, we had no issues. The mesh fabric is the most likely thing to give out, but even that was thick enough to endure the occasional zipper snag.


Weight Per Volume


The flip side of a strong performance in the durability metric can mean a compromise to the overall weight of the backpack. Weight per volume was the weakest metric for the Allpa, but not by much.


The simple design and use of mesh where possible ensure that this pack is 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 Cotopaxi Allpa could even squish under the seat in front of us on plane rides.
The Cotopaxi Allpa could even squish under the seat in front of us on plane rides.

Value


If all you look at is the price tag, the Allpa may not seem like a great deal. However, this is a super durable piece of luggage that we think will be with you for a long time—for its durability and also for its timeless style and simple, streamlined utility. And with all of that, you get the do-gooder feeling of having contributed to a certified B corporation that puts 1% of profits toward addressing poverty and supporting community development.

Conclusion


The Cotopaxi Allpa is a simple, streamlined, durable, comfortable, thoughtful, and thoroughly enjoyable travel backpack for a variety of adventures. We loved this pack as a carry-on for airline travel, as well as for more local trips by car, train, donkey, etc. It transitions from a very comfortable backpack into a burly mini-duffel by stowing the suspension so it won't catch on anything. Cotopaxi also includes thoughtful accessories in a variety of "bundle" packages, as well as a rain cover—and who doesn't like cool accessories! If all of that isn't enough, Cotopaxi also leads the way in ethical business practices, backed by their impeccable design and manufacturing so that you know you're also buying a piece that will last a very, very long time. Ethics are great—and they're even better when a company makes products built to last, thereby minimizing waste as well.

We even liked the Allpa for camping  it helped us keep organized in our tent!
We even liked the Allpa for camping, it helped us keep organized in our tent!


Lyra Pierotti