If you’re a one-bag traveler or simply are looking for the perfect travel backpack, it can be so overwhelming trying to find the right bag. When searching for a backpack of my own, I came across the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L and, while I wasn’t initially sold on the design or the high price tag, I kept coming back to this bag time and time again.
Eventually, both my husband and I (professional travel bloggers) made the leap to purchase this bag. After over a year of using them in a variety of different ways and destinations across the world, we’re sharing our Peak Design Travel backpack 45L review to help you decide if this is the right bag for you.
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- Gender: Unisex
- Volume: 45L
- Dimensions: The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L has three configurations—either standard (when the bag is 35L); compressed, when buttons near the top of the backpack are snapped closed and therefore, compressing the bag to 30L; and expanded, when the expansion panels along the front of the backpack are unzipped to 45L.
Standard: 22″ x 13″ x 9.5″
Compressed: 22″ x 13″ x 9.5″
Expanded: 22″ x 13″ x 11″
- Materials: Recycled water-resistant 400D nylon canvas
- Weight: 4.55 lb
- Carry-on compatible? For US airlines, the cutoff for carry-on luggage is 22″ x 14″ x 9″ and 45L. The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is riiiight at the cutoff at 22″ x 13″ x 9.5″.
International and budget airlines usually have stricter cutoff limits, though, so if you’re planning to use the backpack on those, you’ll likely need to use the bag in its standard 35L configuration.
Features of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
- Main compartment is accessible via a clamshell design from either the back or two side access panels
- Compression snaps to compress the bag down to 30L or expansion zips to expand it to 45L
- Padded shoulder and hip straps, the latter of which stows under magnetic flaps on the back of the bag for easier carrying and stowing
- Tons of pockets—one soft-lined top pocket for small items, like keys or passports; a front zippered compartment with two mesh pockets (one with extra organizers for easy storage) and two cloth pockets; a padded tablet and laptop sleeve in the back; two large, expandable water bottle holders on each side, both of which include a hidden zippered compartment (for small items, like an Airtag, cash, or a passport); and small, hidden slit for a luggage tag
- Four grab handles on each side, for easier grabbing and stowing of the bag
- Back panel has padding and vents for added airflow and comfort
- Pass-through strap to carry the backpack on a roller bag
- External carry straps to attach bulky items to the bag that tuck into a hidden magnetic pocket on the front
Review of Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
If you want the TLDR on this bag, here goes.
There’s a LOT to love about the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. It’s so well-designed (some may say…. it’s peak design?)—with all of its pockets, access points, and ways to carry this bag, it’s INCREDIBLY versatile and easy to use and transport during travel, whether you’re a photographer, stowing away a bunch of gear, or a traveler, heading out on a multi-week trip. Plus, despite its RIDICULOUS amount of features, it manages to look incredibly modern and sleek—much more so, in my opinion, than some of its closest competitors like the Osprey Fairpoint or Fairview.
That’s not to say that this bag isn’t without its faults, though. For example it, on its own, is quite heavy, which is definitely a pretty big concern for most one-bag travelers; there isn’t an adjustable harness for the chest and hip straps (so the torso length is basically one size fits all); and it’s definitely at a higher price point than some of its competitors.
Want to dive in a bit deeper? Let’s get into it!
Organization of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
While I think the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is an excellent choice for most travelers, where it really shines the most is its incredibly functional and versatile organization.
It has a main compartment that’s accessible from the back (like a clamshell) or via a zippered panel on each side.
This configuration makes it super convenient and easy to access items in the backpack. For example, my husband, Justin, pairs the bag with the Peak Design medium camera cube permanently affixed to the bottom—-whenever we need to snap a photo, he can quickly grab our camera and one of our lenses out of its side panels. Alternatively, when he’s using the top portion of his bag to store his clothing or toiletries for travel, he can easily access those items from the back.
The internal padded laptop sleeve is along the back of the bag and has a thin, flexible divider so that you can store both a laptop and a tablet in it. I’ve seen all kinds of funky solutions for laptop storage in backpacks, including where the laptop is stored in the front portion and in an external zippered compartment on the outside of the bag. I personally think Peak Design’s approach is the best—the weight distribution makes the most sense against your back and I like the extra security of your expensive electronics being zipped away in the main compartment.
The front zippered flap has a total of four internal pockets—two on the front flap and two more on a thin inner panel that’s accessible from both the front flap and on the inside of the larger main compartment. This inner panel divides the front pocket from the main compartment, but also has a zipper. This allows you to unzip it and tuck this panel down if you’d rather not use it and just have one massive main compartment.
I love the top pocket on the front flap- it’s made of mesh, so it’s easy to see whatever you’re keeping in there and there’s stretchy organizers that are perfect for holding small items, like our seemingly countless charging cables and universal travel adapter.
There’s a small external pocket on the front flap that’s perfect for small items that you need readily available, like your passport or sunglasses.
The bag also has two large water bottle holders. This is probably a dumb thing to get excited about, but I LOVE these pockets. I have a variety of backpacks and hardly any of them hold the comically enormous Nalgene water bottles that Justin and I take everywhere, EXCEPT the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. They’re HUGE and can easily accommodate not only my giant water bottle, but also our Peak Design travel tripod in its padded carrying case, several pairs of socks, or even a pair of shoes (yup, I’ve done it before!). They’re even cleverly designed with hidden internal elastic straps so that they lay flat against the bag when not in use.
The two hidden zippered pockets on the water bottle holders are neat in concept, although I always forget about them and haven’t actually used them. I do think they’d be helpful to stash something you don’t want someone else to readily find, like an Airtag in case your bag gets lost or stolen or cash.
There’s also a zippered pocket, with stretchy material, on the left hip strap. While, in a perfect world, this pocket would hold a cell phone (unless you have a teeny tiny Razr phone from 2003, I don’t think yours will fit in there), it’s still a nice touch to keep cash, credit cards, chapstick, or other items you quickly need to grab. The right hip strap has built-in loops to pair with some of Peak Design’s camera-carrying gear, like our beloved Capture Clip (check out our Peak Design Capture Clip review!).
The only real gripe I have about a “storage feature” is the luggage tag slit. This little slit is quite inconspicuous on the back of the bag—and, given the fact that the only reason you’d really need to ever use this feature is if your bag gets lost, I’d be worried that the finder of your bag wouldn’t even notice the pocket was there in the first place. So what’s the point?
Comfort of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
The backpack has several features to make it more comfortable—for example, padded shoulder and hip straps, both of which can easily pack away flat into a magnetic compartment along the back when you don’t need them. There’s also a sternum strap for added support and the back panel both has nice, thick padding and vents for additional airflow.
To be honest, though, the comfortableness of this backpack is the reason I held off on buying it for so long.
I don’t love that there isn’t an adjustable harness to accommodate wearers of different torso lengths. For what it’s worth, though, the backpack is somehow pretty comfortable for both me (a 5’4” woman) and Justin (a 6’0” man) to wear.
The straps are also a bit challenging to operate at first. Instead of having the plastic buckles that we all know and love, the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L sternum and hip straps have aluminum hooks that attach, respectively, to notches in the shoulder straps or a loop in the nylon of the hip strap. All that being said, you do get used to using the hooks after a while and metal is definitely more durable than plastic, so it’s really not that huge of a deal.
Finally, the weight of this backpack is a bit much and heavier than both of the other travel backpacks I was seriously considering (the Osprey Fairview clocks in at just 3.49 lb, while the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L weighs just a smidge less than the Peak Design bag at 4.5 lbs). A pound here or there may not seem like much, but every little bit can really impact the comfortableness (and, ultimately, usability) of the bag.
I previously had dreams of being able to comfortably walk around for miles and miles with my fully packed out backpack strapped on me, like if we wanted to explore a city while waiting to be able to check into an Airbnb. After trying on dozens of travel backpacks, though, I’ve come around to the fact that, unlike my actual backcountry camping backpack, most travel backpacks aren’t necessarily designed for travelers to walk around with 40+ pounds strapped on them for miles and miles and hours on end.
And that’s okay—even when I max the bag out, I can still walk to, from, and around the airport perfectly comfortably, which is really all you truly need! And Justin actually does use the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L as his hiking bag (given we take a lot of photos on the hikes), so it’s definitely comfortable enough to use for long distances periods of time, so long as you don’t have 30+ pounds of stuff in there.
Versatility of Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is SO versatile.
I love the features that Peak Design have added so that you can adjust the volume as you need—using the compression snaps to compress the bag to just 30L or expanding it all the way up to 45L. This lets you easily switch from using the bag as an everyday backpack or for a quick overnight trip to using it for multi-week trips.
If you’re a photographer, you’ll also love the amount of flexibility you’ll have with how you can configure the bag. The main compartment has loops, lining its sides, so that you can easily attach any of Peak Design’s small, medium, or large camera cubes to it.
As mentioned above, Justin uses the medium camera cube in his travel backpack and it’s been SUCH a game changer for our photography—we can take literally all of our camera gear, from our drone to our telephoto lens, wherever we go and with the side zippers, we’re able to effortlessly grab whatever gear we need whenever an opportunity arises. And even with the medium camera cube attached to the bottom of the main compartment, he still has enough room at the top of the main compartment to bring along the essentials for a week-long trip!
You can also carry the backpack multiple ways—either in its backpack configuration or like a duffel bag, by stowing the hip and shoulder straps under the back magnetic flaps and using the long and flexible pass-through strap to carry the backpack on a roller bag. I’d definitely say that using it in its backpack configuration is the most practical and comfortable way to carry the bag, though.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the external design of the bag. The bag, which comes in black and sage green, looks minimal, sleek, and modern. While we can (and do!) use it on hiking trails, it also doesn’t look out-of-place if you’re walking around a cosmopolitan city or into an upscale hotel.
Given that Justin and I are professional travel bloggers, I appreciate that the design screams “smart traveler” as opposed to “I’m a budget backpacker that’s just eaten ramen for my last six meals”, like some of the other backpacks that I was considering, and that we can proudly wear it, whether we’re checking into a cheap hostel or a four-star hotel. I think other digital nomads (and folks who just like to look reasonably nice) will dig it, too!
Usability of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
It’s obvious that this backpack was designed for travelers by travelers—they’ve added so many features that I would have never thought of that makes the bag so much more functional when we’re on the go.
For example, every single side of the bag has a grab handle so that you can easily put it in and take it out of odd spaces, like overhead compartments on planes or narrow storage lockers.
The one very nitpicky gripe I have about this is that the side grab handles are directly over the water bottle holders and therefore, usually inaccessible when you have large objects, like water bottles or tripods, in them. And even when the side grab handles are accessible, given their position on the bag, it feels a bit uneven and funky to carry it around using them.
However, since most travelers aren’t going to typically be carrying the bag around by its side grab handles anyway, this definitely isn’t a big deal.
Peak Design has also added several security features to the backpack. For example, if you’re worried about someone getting to your stuff through the side access panels, you can simply zip up these pockets, flip the zippers inside the backpack, and attach their loops to the internal toggles to keep them “locked” shut. The zippers for the main compartment can also be looped together to make it more difficult for a ne’er-do-well to access your things—you can even add an additional TSA-approved lock on the loops if you’re headed somewhere on the sketchier side.
The exterior of the bag also comes with loops on the top, bottom, and front, which can be used to strap on bulkier items with the included carry straps. We always use the straps to attach our hiking boots to the front of our bags when we’re headed to the airport, but you could also use it to carry a myriad of bulky items, like sleeping bags or sleeping pads. There’s even external carry strap loops located inside of the water bottle pockets so you can semi-permanently attach items like a tripod and not worry that they are going to fall out.
The only significant drawback, in terms of usability, is how “weatherproof” the bag is. Peak Design themselves call the bag “weatherproof” and we’d previously read user reviews that reported the bag was actually waterproof.
But, after recently taking it on a long hike in the rain, I can confirm that the bag is definitely not waterproof—we had accidentally left our passports in there and they got pretty damp. So, I’d definitely recommend treating the bag as being only slightly water-resistant and, if you plan on using this bag in the elements and carrying anything sensitive, like passports or electronics, getting and using Peak Design’s very cleverly designed rain fly in inclement weather.
Durability of Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
The majority of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is made from a heavy 400D nylon canvas, with the exception of its bottom, which is made from a more rubbery 900D nylon canvas for a bit of added protection.
This choice is an interesting departure from the ballistic nylon that most similar bags are made of. However, I think the material choice aids in the design looking as sleek and upscale as it does and makes the bag more resistant to wear and tear. As mentioned above, we’ve had our bags for over a year and haven’t noticed any wear or tear on the exterior of the bag.
The bag is lined with DWR-coated polyurethane liner, which is allegedly to help “weather-proof” the bag. Other than not being totally “weather-proof”, this material feels nice to the touch and has held up to Justin’s and my constant use.
Yet another interesting choice that Peak Design made was to use UltraZip, proprietary zippers developed in conjunction with Zoom, as opposed to the gold standard YKK, on most of its zippers. Peak Design has said that it chose Zoom, due to their feel, test performance, and, unlike an enormous supplier, like YKK, the company’s ability to adapt to Peak Design’s requests.
When the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is brand new or overly full, the zippers can be a bit sticky and hard to zip shut. Otherwise, though, we’ve been impressed by how they handle on all of the bag’s uniquely curved surfaces and haven’t had any issues with them failing (despite my ability to push the bag to its absolute maximum capacity!).
This feels like a good time to mention the Peak Design lifetime warranty. If the bag has any failures or issues that make the bag unusable (unless such issue is caused by misuse, neglect, or intentional damage), Peak Design will happily repair or replace the bag, with little to no questions asked, for free!
Pros of Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
- SO many pockets to help you stay organized
- Multiple access points to make stored items easier to get to
- Inclusion of compression snaps to decrease the volume to 30L or expansion zippers to increase the volume to 45L
- Thickly padded shoulder and hip straps and back panel
- Hip straps that easily stow away under a magnetic flap on the back
- 360-degree grab handles for easy carrying and storage
- Integration with other Peak Design photography products, like the Capture Clip and Camera Cubes
- Clever zipper features for added security
- Sleek and modern design
- High quality and durable materials
- Lifetime warranty
Cons of Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
- No adjustable harness for torso length
- Not waterproof and has a rainfly you need to buy separately
- Heavy as compared to similar travel backpacks
Ultimately, I looked high and low for literally months for the perfect travel backpack. I’m confident that the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is the best choice on the market for me—and for a lot of other travelers who like to explore the world, just like Justin and me.
The only reasons that the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L might not be right for you is if you’re hyper weight-conscious (i.e., like if you plan to travel on lots of budget airlines, like Jet Star, that are stingy about how much your bag weighs), on a tight budget, or if you’re primarily looking for an everyday bag.
Otherwise, I’d say make the leap!
Phew, I hope that this Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L review helped you decide whether this is the right backpack for you. If you have any questions about the bag, put them in the comments below!