Timbuk2 Impulse Review
Cons: Top pocket is vulnerable to rips, sticky main compartment zipper, tiny water bottle pocket
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$199.00 at Amazon
$104.29 at REI
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|$199 List||$160 List|
|Pros||Ripstop technology, durable components, adjustable harness system, useful features||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 pocket is vulnerable to rips, sticky main compartment zipper, tiny water bottle pocket||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||A sleek but hefty 45-liter bag with durable hardware, useful features, and a highly adjustable harness system||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||Timbuk2 Impulse||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||Timbuk2 Impulse||REI Co-op Ruckpack 40||Mammut Seon Cargo 35L||Patagonia Black Hol...||Osprey Porter 46|
|Volume of Main Compartment||45L||40L||35L||45L||46L|
|Measured Weight||3.7 lbs||2.10 lbs||2.10 lbs||3.35 lbs||3.23 lbs|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better)||12.16||19.05||16.67||13.43||14.24|
|Dimensions||20.7" x 14.6" x 6.1"||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||22.1" x 14.6" x 7.0"||22" x 9" x 14"||24" x 14" x 9"||22" x 14" x 10"||22" x 14" x 12"|
|Fabrics||YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Polyethylene, Polyurethane||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 with mesh||Ventilated mesh||Foam padding||Foam backpanel||Stiff foam|
|Access Type||Large U-zip||Top loading||Panel loading||Clamshell design||Panel loading, zips all the way open|
|Number of Pockets||External: 2 zippered, one zippered water bottle, 1 main, 1 hip belt zippered
Internal: 1 laptop, 3 zippered mesh in main, 1 zippered mesh in top
|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||Padded||Padded||None||None||Padded|
|Sternum Strap||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, whistle|
|Different Sizes Available?||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Volume Options||45L||18L, 28L, 40L, 65L||35L||26L, 45L||30L, 46L, 65L|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Impulse is a 3.7-pound, 45-liter backpack/duffel hybrid. It is comprised of durable fabrics and trusty hardware. The adjustable harness system gives it a versatile fit, and the minimal look is a crowd-pleaser.
The harness system on the Impulse is complete with a hip belt, shoulder straps, and a sternum strap — all of which are highly adjustable. Both the hip belt and the shoulder straps have two latch point options for a wider or narrower carry. The sternum strap height is easily adjusted along a daisy chain found on both shoulder straps.
The hip belt, shoulder straps, and back panel are equipped with a thin layer of perforated polyethylene foam. While this foam is breathable and comfortable, there is not enough on the shoulder straps or hip belt for prolonged wear. The hip belt has a little more padding than the shoulder straps, but its minimal nature makes this pack best for urban travel. The back panel is somewhat stiff and slightly more padded than the shoulder straps or hip belt, but overall, the Impulse could be stiffer and better equipped with denser padding.
It's hard to beat the sleek black-on-black look that the Impulse offers. While it appears minimal, this duffel is chock-full of high-quality features like strap keepers and compression straps.
The PALS (pouch attachment ladder system) on the outside of the main compartment is great for attaching a daypack or a carabiner to dangle your climbing shoes from. The shoulder straps, which tuck away into the back panel with ease, also have an elastic band for more dangle-ability. The removable hip belt has an elastic mesh pocket on one side and a small zipper pocket on the other. Both are convenient, but it's best not to house your valuables in the mesh pocket or anything that could bend easily in the zippered one.
Features like strap keepers, grab handles, and compression straps help contribute to the thoughtfulness of this travel backpack. Every strap has a keeper, and the grab handles have plenty of padding. The compression straps do not inhibit the main compartment zipper, which is a detail that is surprisingly overlooked in the travel backpack world. The key strap in the water bottle pocket is bright yellow, meaning you'll never have to fumble for your keys, and the clip is metal rather than plastic.
Packing and Accessibility
The Impulse sports great organization, with a large main compartment, spacious catch-all brain, water-resistant bottom pocket, and an assortment of smaller zippered mesh pockets.
This pack's top pocket, also referred to as the brain, is relatively large and a great place to dump your easy access items, like phone, keys, and wallet. Inside this pocket is a smaller mesh zippered pocket for added organization, which is helpful, but it could use a divider or two for smaller items like change and chapstick. Our only bone to pick with the brain is that it is not made with ripstop material and therefore left vulnerable to tears if you toss your keys or any other sharper object in there. This pocket is the one you will most likely be in an out of the most, so we feel it should have been made with slightly more durable material.
The bottom pocket is a similar size to the top pocket but is made of much more durable fabric. It's a great place to put anything you don't want dirtying up the main compartment, like a pair of shoes or dirty socks.
The laptop department is found on the back panel and can hold a laptop up to 17 inches. The false bottom and slightly padded back panel offer a good amount of protection, but you can only access this pocket from the side, making it difficult to get into when in confined spaces like an airplane. The main compartment is spacious, with a clothing strap and three zippered mesh pockets for organization.
We love the organization offered by the Impulse, but it has one major drawback: the zippers are very sticky, especially around corners. This is not uncommon with bags made of heavy-duty material, but this backpack would be a lot easier to get in and out of with zippers that glide a bit better around the corners.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Heavy-duty material often equates to additional weight. The Impulse weighs 3.7 pounds and has a carrying capacity of 45 liters — pretty good for such a large bag. While the material is robust and thick, it is still malleable, so the main compartment is easy to stuff.
The Impulse is made mostly of polyethylene vinyl with a water-resistant coating and a ripstop pattern for added durability. The tarp-like outer layer is easy to clean and resists most scratches, keeping your pack looking sleek for longer. With YKK zipper and Duraflex buckles, the hardware is trustworthy and should be long-lasting.
Generally speaking, this pack is very durable, but the lack of ripstop technology in the top pocket is problematic. We did not experience any tears during our hands-on testing, but this seems like an oversight as it is the pocket you are in and out of most while traveling.
The Impulse falls somewhere in the middle of our lineup both in price and performance, making it a good value. There are a few things to note. This pack is not for you if you are easily frustrated by sticky zippers. But if this pack excels where your priorities lie, like durability and features, it's a great purchase.
Traveling is fun but can be stressful, and having the right tools for your trip can make it all the more enjoyable. If your ideal travel backpack is one that is built to last, offers ample space, and rocks a sleek minimal look, the Timbuk2 Impulse Duffel is a great choice.
— Hayley Thomas
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