Cotopaxi's new Allpa 35L travel pack just exploded its crowdfunding goal and several of my expectations for luggage.
Let's talk travel bags for a minute. A lot of people make them, a lot of them are pretty frustrating. Unless you only take your featherlight steamer set across perfectly smooth airport floors and watch them carried straight onto private helicopters, you've probably been irritated by your bag's limitations at some point. Maybe it's too big to carry comfortably, or too open organize neatly, or too bulky for day use once you arrive, or it lacks easy contact points when pulling it out of overhead stow, or the wheels get caught on thin air.
We all have different expectations from our travel packing, because we're all different traveling snowflakes with different preferences and destinations, but the core concerns are always organization, ergonomics, sturdiness, and portability... and not being bad to look at helps too. Small luggage design is a crowded field, and designers have to anticipate a wide range of handling and transportation, so why do so few travel bags double as reasonable backpacks? You can use a hiking pack for travel - I often do and survive - but the lack of tight organization is a problem. You could use a pocket-filled commuter backpack, but that gets overloaded and shoulder-killing fast. Lugging traditional suitcases around a city is a bummer and a half.
Cotopaxi recognized this niche in the travelling world that traditional luggage, sport packs, day packs, and commuter gear aren't quite filling, and they put their design lab team on the case. The Allpa is a carry-on friendly backpack that's secretly a hyper organized suitcase inside.
The Allpa fits the traditional suitcase clam shell into a soft bodied backpack. Inside are mesh dividers and separate accessory bags for toiletries, shoes and waterbottle. It uses a harness and molded shoulder straps and adapted from Cotopaxi's hiking packs, and they stow into the padded back panel when you want to use one of the multiple side handles instead.
Smaller side pockets let you stash flats and valuables close to the body. The zippered molded hip belt and chest strap keep weight balanced, (particularly valuable when you get away from the stability of frame packs,) and both stash internally to reduce hanging straps when out of use.
This thing also comes with a rain cover and a lightweight day pack for market runs or light hikes. While the wet shower cap feel of bag covers eludes me personally, both of these add ons are genuinely helpful tools to maximize a pack towards more flexible and comfortable traveling.
In use, the zippers are ostensibly protected from theft by loops that cover the pull, and the belt offers multiple loops for "locking" the pack to a stationary point. These are nice gestures for travelers, though most thieves in my experience wouldn't be deterred by a fabric loop - they tend to use extremely calibrated hands, grab and dash, or knives.
All in all the Cotopaxi Allpa is an oddly solitary offering in its niche. It's small enough to travel by your side, densely organized, ergonomically considered, and minimal enough to move through life without raising too much attention. Just prove to us that the zipper really isn't budging and we'd have a winner on our hands.
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Nice design although I recently bought the Aquabourne Ontario from CabinMax which offers similar features at a very competitive price. Ok I admit it may not be as colourful and may not have as good a harness and shoulder straps - but those on a budget should consider it.