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Thule Subterra 34L Review

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
Thule Subterra 34L
Photo: Thule
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Price:  $160 List | Check Price at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Roll-top, heavily padded, multiple access points to main compartment and laptop sleeve, comes with a packing cube
Cons:  Top-loading, lack of organization for larger items, packing cube is too big
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 25, 2021
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Features - 25% 7
  • Packing & Accessibility - 25% 5
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

With a large bucket-style main compartment and a more organized front pocket, the minimal Thule Subterra is a great option for those on a budget. This pack works well for daily use and travel, rendering it very versatile. The additional padding is surprisingly light and works to keep your belongings safe. The magnetic roll-top offers more space without making the bag feel too large and the multiple access points help the user navigate the large main compartment. This budget-friendly travel bag is a great option for those who prefer a top-loading pack with a sleek minimal look.

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Thule Subterra 34L
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Thule Subterra 34L
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$149.00 at REICheck Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
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Check Price at Backcountry
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Pros Roll-top, heavily padded, multiple access points to main compartment and laptop sleeve, comes with a packing cubeTapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very lightVersatile, sleek, camera box, vented wet shoe compartmentVersatile, duffel-like ease of use, simplistic features, max volume carryGood suspension, lightweight, affordable, gobbles gear
Cons Top-loading, lack of organization for larger items, packing cube is too bigDoes not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpaddedNo waist belt or sternum strap, no water bottle holder, back panel not very breathable, tallSoft body sags when not stuffed, harness system not fit for long adventuresSquare 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 spaceWith 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 legWith its convertible camera cube, ventilated shoe compartment, and padded device sleeve this travel bag was made for the outdoor photographer on the goA well thought out, user-friendly, and versatile pack fortified by an Ironclad guarantee and cutting edge company ethicsThis 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
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Features (25%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
Packing & Accessibility (25%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
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
Detachable Daypack? No No No No No
Dimensions (inches) 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? (22 x 14 x 9 in) Yes No Yes Yes, if squished Must be cinched down
Dimensions When Stuffed (inches) 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
Laptop Sleeve Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Waist Belt Type N/A Padded None None Padded
Sternum Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, whistle
Different sizes? 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.

Performance Comparison


The simple Subterra looks sleek and performs well.
The simple Subterra looks sleek and performs well.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Comfort


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 perforated and curved straps are very comfortable.
The perforated and curved straps are very comfortable.
Photo: Matthew Blake

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.

The back panel is not particularly breathable on this travel bag.
The back panel is not particularly breathable on this travel bag.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Features


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 roll top and luggage strap are two fun features that the...
The roll top and luggage strap are two fun features that the Subterra offers.
Photo: Matthew Blake

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.

We love carry handles, but the top one is hard to use if the pack is...
We love carry handles, but the top one is hard to use if the pack is full.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Packing & 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.

Compartments like the PowerPocket and various zipper mesh pockets...
Compartments like the PowerPocket and various zipper mesh pockets makes organizing your small items easy.
Photo: Matthew Blake

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.

The laptop  sleeve can be hard to access from the main compartment...
The laptop sleeve can be hard to access from the main compartment when packed, but there is side access too.
Photo: Matthew Blake

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.

Unfortunately it's easy for your belongings to get lost in the large...
Unfortunately it's easy for your belongings to get lost in the large main compartment, even with the included packing cube.
Photo: Matthew Blake

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.

The bucket style main compartment requires packing cubes for...
The bucket style main compartment requires packing cubes for organization, so be sure to take that into account if you are looking for an extra light pack.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Durability


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.

Duraflex plastic hardware is built to last, so we know this roll-top...
Duraflex plastic hardware is built to last, so we know this roll-top won't be failing us any time soon.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

The Subterra is a great for every day commuting and single bag travel.
The Subterra is a great for every day commuting and single bag travel.
Photo: Matthew Blake

Hayley Thomas