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Timbuk2 Wander Review

This is a great travel backpack for short hauls on your back and multiple transitions between transit modes
Timbuk2 Wander
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Price:  $179 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Stylish, high capacity, great for short trips
Cons:  Fragile buckle system on shoulder straps, less comfortable with heavy loads
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 22, 2017
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  • Comfort - 25% 5.0
  • Features - 25% 7.0
  • Packing & Accessibility - 20% 7.0
  • Durability - 15% 6.0
  • Weight Per Volume - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Timbuk2 Wander is an excellent travel backpack for short trips. It is more specialized for short trips where you don't want to check any baggage, as it features a separate shoe compartment and clothing compression straps. It's best suited to airport or train travel where you will need to make quick transitions from one travel mode to another while looking professional, keeping your clothes folded and relatively wrinkle-free. It is designed as a soft suitcase, so the main compartment is easier to pack and secure clothing. It can travel in your hand like a duffel bag, or you can use the shoulder straps for a short-haul through the airport. The shoulder straps were not very comfortable or durable, so this was a limiting factor and knocked the pack down in our review. If shoulder straps are not a big deal for you, this is a stylish and otherwise durable and water-resistant bag that will hold up well through many trips.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Wander, an offering from Timbuk2, is good looking and chock full of features. It's ideal for short trips and is incredibly travel-friendly, making us want to—er—wander.

Performance Comparison

The Timbuk2 Wander, an elegant travel companion.
The Timbuk2 Wander, an elegant travel companion.


The Wander is an attractive travel backpack but not the most comfortable. There is no hip belt for the relatively large 40-liter capacity bag, and the shoulder straps are set wide and tend to pull out and back. The laptop sleeve is integrated into the back panel of the backpack, like many travel backpacks, which adds some rigidity to the back panel. When full, this does not improve the comfort of the backpack. This feature is similar to the Patagonia MLC, making them both better viewed as soft suitcases. The Wander could, therefore, benefit from a shoulder strap, similar to the Patagonia bag.

The Wander could go between suitcase or duffel and backpack modes...
The Wander could go between suitcase or duffel and backpack modes, but wasn’t the most comfortable on our backs.


The Wander is well featured for a travel backpack. It is a suitcase-style backpack instead of a book bag style. It has a separate zippered shoe compartment which can hold at least two pairs of shoes, and a top compartment which holds small electronics or items you might need easily accessible during travel. It has a sleeve for a laptop and papers, folders, and other items that might need to stay flat during transit.

Many useful pockets on the Wander. The top is good for quick access...
Many useful pockets on the Wander. The top is good for quick access to items. The bottom holds a couple pair of shoes and isolates them from your clothing in the main compartment.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

In the main compartment, there is a very well designed compression strap which forks out on both sides to help stabilize and compress the contents. On the outside of the bag, there are compression straps as well. You must unbuckle two to unzip the main compartment; the other two are useful for compressing the bag, but we also found we could strap small, long items to the side using these straps.

The Wander has one large main compartment for clothing and items; a...
The Wander has one large main compartment for clothing and items; a top pocket for small items, and a bottom pocket for shoes.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

The three side handles make this bag very maneuverable despite its lack of comfort on your back. They are robust and easy to grab, making this a great bag for trips where you will be going from one travel method to another to reach your urban destination.

The sternum strap on the Wander was very frustrating to maneuver...
The sternum strap on the Wander was very frustrating to maneuver into position. You can see it involved at least three "moves" to get it in the right spot. Both sides tend to slip down to the bottom of the pack, so you have to scoot the loops up to the middle of your chest if you want to use it. Getting it up and around the shoulder strap buckle is tricky, as shown in the middle photo.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Packing & Accessibility

The suitcase design of the Wander makes it exceptionally easy to pack and unpack. Each compartment has its easy-access zipper, with the shoes separated into a bottom compartment. The electronics compartment is located directly behind the back panel, but it does not unzip like some of our award winners. As a very travel specific backpack, we think the Wander would benefit from a zip-open sleeve to lay your electronics flat without removing them from the pack to run them through the X-Ray machine at the TSA security checkpoint.

The Wander packed everything from our Test Load with ease.
The Wander packed everything from our Test Load with ease.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

We also like that the shoulder straps can be stowed inside the back panel. This is great for those times your bag gets checked at the gate because your flight is full and they've run out of luggage space in the cabin, or if you want or need to check it anyway. This feature makes it feel more like a duffel bag and can be useful for travel in vehicles as well. Other packs that manage this either by stowing the straps in a zippered sleeve or tucking them into the backpanel include the Patagonia MLC and the Cotopaxi Allpa.


The Wander took a major hit in the durability department. It does feature relatively durable fabric, and it got extra points for the excellent quality of the manufacturing, and the sleek, no-snag design. It is made of a highly water-resistant material, which improves the pack's performance in a variety of climates. For example, if you say, are forced to check this bag when your flight is full, and there's no room left for carry-on. Then the luggage sits on the loading tram on the tarmac in the rain for an hour. Because these things happen.

The problem buckle: if that metal gate opens up, the plastic bends...
The problem buckle: if that metal gate opens up, the plastic bends easily and the shoulder strap goes flying off.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

When we first slung this pack onto our shoulder, the strap exploded off the bottom, and we dropped the bag. Upon inspection, the buckle, which is designed to be unclipped so you can stash the shoulder strap inside the back panel, had come unclipped. There is a metal wire latch that closes and secures the buckle, but if this comes unclipped, the plastic buckle will bend open. After a few failures like this, we are sure that buckle will break. And when that happens, it'll need to have a new one sewn in place.

Weight & Capacity

This contender is on par with some of the most competitive travel backpacks in this review concerning weight to volume. The fabric is not particularly lightweight, rather it is quite durable, but the design is simple enough that it has just what you need and nothing more, keeping the weight of the bag down overall.

Very well designed compression strap, forked at either end, keeps...
Very well designed compression strap, forked at either end, keeps clothing secure.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

It also features a relatively high capacity of 40 liters. The only downside to this is that the bag is not entirely comfortable enough to carry a full 40-liter load without feeling strenuous. It will, however, perform well for a quick trip through the airport and various transfers to taxis, rideshares, trains, buses, subways, ferries, rickshaws, horseback, or whatever you find at the other end of your adventure.


The Wander is reasonably priced for a classy and useful travel backpack from this reputable San Francisco based company. This makes it competitive in this review, on par with similarly styled bags.

The Timbuk2 Wander is a great travel backpack for efficient...
The Timbuk2 Wander is a great travel backpack for efficient transitions between urban transit modes. Here, we are walking down the dock to catch the ferry into town.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti


The Timbuk2 Wander is a stylish and well-made travel backpack. It is best suited for professional travelers who need a bag to carry nice clothing and shoes for a few days. It is not the most comfortable to have on your back for a long time, so it is best for trips that require quick travel through crowded airports and several transportation styles. The three side handles make this bag easy to move from plane to train to tram to taxi to metro, and any other urban or suburban transit infrastructure you might encounter on your travels.

The Wander, a great travel backpack for short trips with only a...
The Wander, a great travel backpack for short trips with only a carry on.

Lyra Pierotti
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