Thule Subterra 34L Review
Cons: Top-loading, lack of organization for larger items, packing cube is too big
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Thule Subterra 34L
Check Price at Backcountry
$149.00 at REI
Check Price at Backcountry
|$199 List||$175 List|
$174.95 at Amazon
|Pros||Roll-top, heavily padded, multiple access points to main compartment and laptop sleeve, comes with a packing cube||Tapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very light||Versatile, sleek, camera box, vented wet shoe compartment||Versatile, duffel-like ease of use, simplistic features, max volume carry||Good suspension, lightweight, affordable, gobbles gear|
|Cons||Top-loading, lack of organization for larger items, packing cube is too big||Does not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpadded||No waist belt or sternum strap, no water bottle holder, back panel not very breathable, tall||Soft body sags when not stuffed, harness system not fit for long adventures||Square design protrudes from back, too big for some airlines checked baggage|
|Bottom Line||This versatile pack offers multiple access points to the main compartment, a solid amount of padding, and a roll-top in case you need a little extra space||With its tapered shape and backpacking pack structure, this is the perfect bag for the outdoor adventurist that doesn't want to spend an arm and leg||With its convertible camera cube, ventilated shoe compartment, and padded device sleeve, this pack was made for the outdoor photographer on the go||A well thought out, user-friendly, and versatile pack fortified by an Ironclad guarantee and cutting edge company ethics||This is a durable and easy to pack travel backpack, but may be bulky for some airlines or uses|
|Rating Categories||Thule Subterra 34L||REI Co-op Ruckpack 40||Mammut Seon Cargo 35L||Patagonia Black Hol...||Osprey Porter 46|
|Packing and Accessibility (25%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Thule Subterra 34L||REI Co-op Ruckpack 40||Mammut Seon Cargo 35L||Patagonia Black Hol...||Osprey Porter 46|
|Volume of Main Compartment||34L||40L||35L||45L||46L|
|Measured Weight||2.56 lbs||2.10 lbs||2.10 lbs||3.35 lbs||3.23 lbs|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better)||13.28||19.05||16.67||13.43||14.24|
|Dimensions||9.1" x 12.2" x 20.5"||24" x 13" x 10"||24" x 14" x 9"||22.8" x 8.6" x 14.5"||21" x 14" x 12"|
|Carry-on Size Compatible? (22" x 14" x 9")||Yes||No||Yes||Yes, if squished||Must be cinched down|
|Stuffed Dimensions||9.1" x 12.3" x 20.5"||22" x 9" x 14"||24" x 14" x 9"||22" x 14" x 10"||22" x 14" x 12"|
|Fabrics||800D nylon||Recycled nylon ripstop and recycled polyester lining (bluesign approved)||600D waterproof polyester, 840D ballistic nylon||Polyester ripstop with TPU laminate||420D nylon hex diamond ripstop, 420HD nylon packcloth|
|Frame Type||Foam padding||Ventilated mesh||Foam padding||Foam backpanel||Stiff foam|
|Access Type||Top Loading (Rolltop)||Top loading||Panel loading||Clamshell design||Panel loading, zips all the way open|
|Number of Pockets||1 main, 1 laptop, 1 zippered front, 1 mesh in front, 2 small open top and 1 large open top, 1 zippered water bottle||6 zip, 7 no zip, 2 water bottle||3 small zippered, 1 ventilated, 1 camera comparment, 1 main||9 zip, 8 no zip||7 zip, 8 no zip|
|Waist Belt Type||N/A||Padded||None||None||Padded|
|Sternum Strap||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, whistle|
|Different Sizes Available?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Volume Options||30L, 34L||18L, 28L, 40L, 65L||35L||26L, 45L||30L, 46L, 65L|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This 34-liter roll top is a comfortable, stuffable, and affordable option for those looking for something with a little more versatility.
The Thule Subterra, with its mesh-covered and perforated EVA shoulder straps, is very breathable. The shoulder straps are curved and adjustable and fit nicely without riding up into the armpits. The removable sternum strap helps distribute the weight across your chest, rather than hanging off your shoulders. The back panel is stiff and supportive, especially when you're carrying a laptop.
The Subterra is a comfortable bag, but there are a few details that could be improved upon. There is no hip belt or option for one. You can fit a lot into this pack so it would be nice to distribute the weight across the lower half of your body. And speaking of weight distribution, this pack is also void of load lifters. It does not feel as though it is hanging too far off the wearer's back, however, this is a detail that many travel bags have, and for good reason. Lastly, the foam back panel is not very shapely. The foam is comfortable, but it can get warm on particularly hot days, simply because of the amount of surface area making contact with your back.
This travel bag is generally very sleek. There are no excessive pockets on the outside or dangling clips. It works equally well as a gym bag, bike commuter, or professional office backpack, rendering it very versatile. There is even a pass-through panel if you want to use it in tandem with your larger roller luggage. The heavily padded interior ensures that your belongings are safe and the roll-top helps keep moisture out of the main compartment. Both the 30-liter and the 34-liter versions (we tested the 34) are carry-on compliant making this pack hassle-free. The minimal harness system lays flat across the back panel when not in use and the carry handles are strong but incognito.
The Subterra is not meant to be checked. Between the size and the lack of a hide-away strap system, this pack is definitely best to travel with as a carry-on. Roll-tops are generally harder to get into without the wearer noticing, but other than that, there are zero security measures on this pack. There are no zipper loops to ward off pickpockets or even lockable zippers, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Lastly, we love a discrete carry handle, but the top handle on the Thule is so discreet that if your bag is heavily packed, it's difficult to grab. Overall this bag is a basic roll-top, but the features it offers, like additional padding for your belongings, go a long way.
Packing and Accessibility
The Thule Subterra sports one large top-loading bucket compartment, one organizational pocket, a laptop compartment, and a zip-away water bottle pocket. The bucket compartment comes with one large packing cube for organization and the magnetic roll-top allows for extra space without making it feel extra large. The front compartment has a padded, fleece, open-top pocket for your kindle, cellphone, or anything small and fragile, but it is large enough for a notebook. It also has pen storage and a mesh pocket called the PowerPocket. There is a small slit at the top of the PowerPocket for your charging cables to feed through as well as a small elastic loop at the top to ensure a direct line to your electronics. The small mesh pocket on the inside of the flap allows for additional organization. These pockets offer the perfect amount of organization for anything you might need quick access to while traveling but it's important to note that this pocket is an easy target for pickpockets.
The laptop sleeve has SafeEdge construction, meaning that all 6 sides are padded, and can easily accommodate a 15" laptop. It can be difficult to access from the main compartment when your bag is fully packed, but we opted to use the side zipper more often anyways. The zip-away water bottle pocket is such a cool packing feature. It is a tight squeeze for larger bottles, like a 32-ounce Hydro Flask, but the fact that it doubles as a regular zipper pocket is pure genius. The other packing detail we thoroughly appreciate is the contrast-colored interior. Thule chose to make the inside of the Subterra very bright, no matter what color outside you choose, to ensure that you can see your belongings clearly.
Although Thule hit it out of the park with some of its packing features, a large top-loading bucket-style main compartment poses some problems. We appreciate the addition of the packing cube, but it is simply too large and therefore does not offer much in the way of organization. If you are traveling with heavy gear, like a climbing rope, the bucket works great, but things just get lost in this big of a compartment. We definitely recommend multiple packing cubes if you plan to travel with the Subterra.
Volume to Weight Ratio
The Thule Subterra is offered in 30 and 34 liters. The 34-liter performs highly in the volume to weight metric, weighing in at 2.56 pounds. Even though it is full of heavy-duty padding, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that this did not weigh the bag down. Because this pack opens up bucket-style to a very large main compartment, packing cubes are a necessity. This may weigh your bag down a bit so make sure you take that into account while shopping around.
We did not have any issues with the Subterra, other than the fact that our first pack came with a defect. The laptop compartment was not sewn properly and left some of the protective foam exposed. Once we received a new pack we were very pleased with its durability. 800D nylon paired with trusty YKK zippers and Duraflex buckles is a recipe we can trust.
This pack is a great value. From commuter bag to carry-on, it proves to be very versatile. It is also one of the lower-priced travel bags in our test suite. If you are looking for something you can use across the board then this pack is a steal.
The Thule Subterra is a 34-liter travel bag that doubles nicely as a daily commuter pack. The bucket-style main compartment is big and deep and requires packing cubes for organization. The smaller front pocket, however, offers the perfect number of pockets for all your smaller belongings like your cell phone, battery bank, kindle notebook, and pens. This pack is a great option for someone looking for a versatile carry-on for a great price.
— Hayley Thomas
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