I have had to Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L since it came out on Kickstarter, and this is a review I have been really wanting to write for a while now, but I wanted to make sure I got some good use out of the pack first!
I am a huge fan of Peak Design, and use a lot of their products to include the capture clip, shell (Rain Cover) and Everday Bag 20L and Everyday Messanger bag.
When the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L was announced I was very excited. I was using the Everday Backpack 20L and it just wasn't quite enough space for me. The Everday Backpack was stylish and held all my camera gear but not much more and I needed more space for non-photography gear.
If you haven't heard of the Peak Design Travel Backpack before here is a quick overview video from Peak Design themselves. If you are familiar with the Peak Design Travel Backpack skip down below the video to get my take on the pack!
The Peak Design Travel Line 45L is a pretty big backpack, and it holds a whole lot of gear. As I mentioned earlier I had been using the peak design Everday backpack 20L and it has been great but it just wasn't big enough for me. As you can probably tell from other articles that I have written on Seek Adventure; I like to hike while I do photography. I need a backpack that is comfortable on the trail, can carry my photography gear in addition to extra layers, snacks, water, etc.
With that said, it's pretty big if you are a smaller person. I am just a hair shy of 5 foot 7 inches and just under 150 pounds in weight to give you some scale in these pictures of it on my back:
Some people think its too big for smaller builds. Since I do a lot of backpacking, this is one of my smaller backpacks and I am ok with its size.
The back of the Peak Design Travel Line 45L takes most of the punishment. Every time you want to open the pack you have to either access it from one of the side openings (more on these later) or open it from the back panel that sits on your back while you carry it. In order to open the Peak Design 45L without using the smaller side accesses, you have to lay it on its back, and thus it takes the most punishment from being placed on the ground where ever you are. Despite being placed, thrown dropped, etc. this bag has weathered the punishment I have placed it through very well:
Looking at the above picture you can see one of my favorite parts of this backpack, the little black loops all up and down either side. At the bottom center, there is a small pouch where two straps come out and they can hook to any of these loops. The beauty of these loops is that you can attach literally anything to the pack in an endless amount of ways. The oddest thing I used these loops and straps for was probably a bundle of firewood. I used the Peak Design Travel Line 45L to haul firewood out to some firepits on the beach in Coronado California.
On the sides of the Peak Design 45L, there are two large pockets that you can fit a large Nalgene water bottle or as I have in the above picture a travel tripod for photography. These side pockets are very well designed and lay nice and flat when not in use but expand nice and large when you need to stuff some gear into them.
Also on the sides are the side entry zippers which are another great but smaller entry into the pack when you do not want to take the entire pack off lay it on the ground and access through the large back panel. This side access is exactly like the side access on the 20L or 30L Peak Design Everyday Backpack.
This side access is fantastic when you have the small camera cube attached on the side on the inside and you can quickly pull out your camera. This is how I primarily had my small camera cube set up for access when I first started with the pack because it was very similar to the use of my 20L Peak Design Everday Backpack. Eventually, I stopped using the side access and placed the small camera cube in the base of the 40L Travel Line Backpack and accessed my camera through the back panel like so:
It took some getting used to but I did this for two reasons. While hiking I usually already have my camera out and attached to the Peak Design Capture Clip so I do not necessarily need the quick access to the camera from inside the bag itself. The other issue I had with the side access was that when either my tripod or a large water bottle was in the side pockets it made it a little interesting unzipping the side zips to access the side compartments. My last issue with this was, I didn't like switching back and forth between the different internal camera cube carries. If I was traveling I always put the small camera cube at the base instead of at the side because it is the only way to fit the packing cubed for clothes. The camera cubes use these small clips to hold themselves in place within the main compartment:
The clips are awesome for holding the bags in place but they don't make changing the camera cubes position very quick or easy. As a result, I leave my camera at the base, so I do not have to switch back and forth but I think I would have preferred if Peak Design used velcro on their camera cubes and in the pack. Using velcro would have made it super quick and easy to re-arrange the configurations in the pack.
I kinda went off on a tangent there talking about the inside of the Peak Design Travel Line 45L and the different camera cube configurations so let's get back to talking about the side of the pack. Let's take a peek at the side of the pack without my tripod in the expandable side pocket:
My last complaint about the sides is the side carry handle. Not a lot of people probably use the side handle on backpacks but I really like them for some reason. The side handle on the Peak Design 45L is not exactly centered so when you have the backpack fully packed or something heavy in the bottom of it is really awkward to carry with the side handle. You just can't evenly carry it, I don't like it...
While the last picture above is fresh in your mind lets take note of the two snaps at the top. and how the pack looks in the picture above. Peak Design added a really clever feature to the 45L travel Line backpack and its the top snaps which allow you "shrink" the backpack down a little. Since the 45L is pretty large this lets you make it look a little smaller when you do not have the backpack completely full. So when the snaps are snapped, the profile of the 45L Peak Design backpack changes to this:
As you can see the pack slims a lot and it looks a lot better I think on my back when I am using it as an "everyday" backpack. I have a love-hate relationship with these snaps. I love how the pack looks when I can snap them back and make the profile of the backpack slimmer but the snaps seem to not hold up very well when I have some weight in the pack. Granted you would think when the pack is slimmer you would have less weight but man these snaps tend to un-snap a lot on me and it gets frustrating.
Here are what the snaps look like from the inside:
So whats this pack look like with a lot of gear in it? When I travel for work or short weekend trips I usually have my small camera cube at the bottom, a packing cube in the middle and my toilet kit at the top:
I do own the amazing Peak Design Tech Pouch too (My Tech Pouch Review), and absolutely love it but I actually do not use it with my 45L Travel Line. I love the tech pouch and use it at home to organize my cables but there are enough small pockets in the 45L that I do not need a separate pouch for all my tech. I use the space that my tech pouch would take up and add my toilet kit. I have not purchased the toilet kit from peak design yet, but it's on my list!
Since the Peak Design Travel Line 45L is my first backpack with back access, I love it! Being able to quickly access anything in the pack is awesome without having to dig from the top.
Peak Design has advertised this backpack as part of the travel line so I have to make some comments on what it is like to fly with this pack. I wish I took some pictures of it on a plane with me but I haven't so here is my best description using words. When I have used the Peak Design 45L for travel, I have mostly flown on American Airlines so that is all I have experience-wise for having it under the seat in from of me. The 45L Travel Line does fit under the seat but its a very tight squeeze and if you do this say goodbye to your legroom. Despite it just fitting this is usually how I fly with it since I am on the smaller side I do not mind. Either way, the pack easily fits into an overhead compartment on the airplane so you can grab your laptop and maybe Peak Design Tech Pouch out before you place it in the overhead.
Overall I love the backpack and I use it as my "every day" backpack whether it is being used on day hikes or for day trips to the beach, this is a very customizable backpack that you can use on any trip! I do not leave the house without it!
I will leave you all with a few other pictures I took of the backpack:
p.s. If you work at Peak Design I would love to test your new travel tripod ;-)