- Buyer's Guide
5 Reasons Why the Peak Design Travel Line Should Be Your Next One Bag
In an increasingly growing market, with new players tossing their candidates into the ring seemingly weekly, Peak Design knew they had to come correct with their new travel line. And they’ve delivered in spades with their efforts garnering three Best in Show awards at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, including one from Carryology. After spending some time with the line, it’s clear to me that there is not an individual feature or component that is significantly better than what’s found on other bags. Instead, what Peak Design has done is put together a product that is a summation of best-in-class features and design, across the board – and that is something to marvel at. Let’s look at five reasons why you should consider the Peak Design Travel Line as your next One Bag.
See: The Making of the Peak Design Travel Backpack
There’s as much going on in the back of the Travel Backpack as there is in the front. At first glance, it looks like your standard back panel and backpack strap setup but upon closer inspection, you realize how much thought has been put into it. And why not? After all, the rear panel is the primary interface for most of a trip.
First, we see the pivot hinge system from Peak’s other bags, like their popular Everyday Backpack. This is both on the shoulder straps as well as the pair of hip straps and combined with the magnetic flaps it allows you to quickly stow and deploy the straps as needed. The hip straps simply flip up and tuck away without any part peeking out. The shoulder straps take a few tries to master but once you realize you need to flip them over, and start the tuck-in at the lower portion, you’re all set. There’s a wing flap on each side that holds two very strong magnets and they have just the right amount of attraction to keep things secure but won’t fight you if you want to unlatch them.
Unlike detachable ones, this setup does not force you to decide whether or not to carry a hip belt with you. Let’s face it, for a bag this size, with a loaded weight, you’ll want that support. Besides, removable straps are rarely executed very elegantly. A major side benefit to the rotational attachment is how it aides in ergonomics. The human body sways its hips independent of the torso, so having the waist belt attached to a rotating pivot allows the user and the bag to move the way it wants.
Besides convertibility, the back panel rocks a carry handle for quick interactions to and from a trunk or the overhead compartment in an aircraft. This duffel carry handle also acts as a passthrough if you are pairing the Travel Backpack with some roller luggage. Lastly, the wings can be tucked in to effectively reduce the surface area of the rear panel, making the bag less sweaty to carry.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack wants to help you travel whether you are checking in a bag, carrying it as a maximum legal carry-on, or pairing it with other luggage. We already discussed being able to stow away the rear straps. To make the bag adaptable, they’ve gone to great lengths to further allow the user to customize it to their needs. For example, two pairs of snaps at the top of the bag allow you to cinch it down to a daypack (30L). Alternatively, you can unzip the front expansion panel giving you an additional 10L of space (45L total).
The Travel Backpack features two side pockets that can accommodate even the largest water bottles. Thoughtfully, they’ve made them expandable so they sit flush against the side of the bag when you don’t need them. Nice and clean. They each also feature a hidden zip pocket, perfect for stowing that small item you need to keep close at hand.
The admin panel is accessible through front and rear access but if you are the type to want a large trunk to dump everything into, you can unzip it (either side works) and stow it away in the internal pouch.
The ability to mix and match from their packing cubes that are specifically designed as a system is the ultimate expression of customizability. Now, you can use cubes and inserts with any bag, but the way this system is designed, it’s very clear how you can mix and match it for your needs, and they all perfectly fit. Want to carry a full professional photographer’s kit? Go with the large camera insert. How about some clothes for a week abroad? A medium and small packing cube is your ticket.
Speaking of the “system”, allow me to wax poetic for just a minute. Designer Art Viger told me during the unveiling of the Travel Series that they approached and designed the accessories as standalone products, wanting them to be just as good as any other Peak Design product, and not just an afterthought. Easy to say but does his statement hold water? After spending five minutes with the bags at Outdoor Retailer, the answer is “yeah”. After spending five days with them, the answer changes to a resounding “hell yeah”. I am almost afraid to say it, but I think for many people the accessories may be a stronger draw in the line, maybe even over the Travel Backpack.
Let’s start with the seemingly innocuous packing cubes. They are designed as minimally as a cube needs to be (40D nylon shell), while maintaining strength and features where needed. They are quickly expandable with a zipper, while the main compartment has a quick open that you execute by grabbing the two tabs and pulling. There’s also a dedicated “dirty” compartment which keeps your dirties from stinking up your fresh clothes.
The Wash Pouch is the best one I’ve ever seen. It stands on its own, despite the small footprint, meaning you can keep it in that tiny Airbnb bathroom with not much counter space (we’ve all been there, right?). If space is still at a premium, just use the included hook to attach it to a rack or door. It rocks dedicated pouches for your toothbrush and razor, which keeps them separated from your toiletries while maintaining quick access. Speaking of the toothbrush compartment, it closes magnetically for quick retrieval and storage and can be flipped inside-out for easy cleaning. The zippers are beefy #8 and are waterproof, and it’s a rare case where you probably are happy for waterproof zips to keep liquids inside the bag from leaking out.
Like the Wash Pouch, the Tech Pouch is also free-standing. It uses an origami/accordion style internal divider system that changes the way we (literally) view and access cables and chargers. Rather than a large panel of items, secured with Velcro, or a bag of cables tangled together, each item has a home in the Tech Pouch and you can spot them at a glance, from above. It has dual grab handles at the bottom of each side for quick deployment from your pack. And a cable passthrough allows you to top up your phone while the battery stays put in the main compartment and your phone remains easily accessible from the side pocket.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the existing Peak Design straps are compatible and can connect to the cubes and pouches. Finally, Peak is forward-thinking and have hinted that the packing cubes will be compatible with future Peak bags, but also are made to be compatible with most other bags as well.
Despite having so much storage and compartments, the access to each one is very clean and straightforward. First, let’s examine the main compartment. It’s accessed through the back which means that the straps and back panel, the parts of the pack that actually rub against you, are kept clean and tidy. This does mean that the front of the pack may experience some abrasion or get dirty from being laid down, but at least it’s not rubbing off on you.
All the compartments are quickly accessible through a pair of simple zippers, each one appropriately sized for the task. Some compartments even have dual access, so for example you can access some of the admin panel pouches from the front or the main body and you have dual side access, just like in the Everyday Backpack if you want to quickly grab a camera or even your headphones before take-off. There are no buckles, compression straps, or other hardware to undo or get in your way. Simple, clean, and quick access is the name of the game here.
Through the use of varying thicknesses of foam, along with polyethylene boards and aluminum stays, Peak has designed a bag with some very specific goals in mind. Peak has gotten some flack for the weight of the Travel Backpack but this was a conscious sacrifice made to perform the way they intended. What does this extra weight gain you? First, the bag keeps its structure and won’t collapse and deform on you when you are loading it or carrying it. I have carried a few one-bag packs that were lighter but collapsed into themselves when being carried, especially in a duffel configuration. There are many not obvious advantages to the structure design as well. For example, it helps to protect the bag by adding protection between sharp corners from gear you’re carrying and the ground. It also improves the access experience by protecting the zippers and keeping them aligned. Lastly, the bag maintains a consistent look whether it’s empty or full.
What does this all mean? While many companies produce great bags, it’s usually the case that they focused most of their energy on a few things. Maybe they want to make it really rugged. Or organization is their selling point. Or they might want an awesome suspension. Most of the time, this means some features deemed less important may be overlooked or a barely passable solution is implemented. Have you ever had the experience of an otherwise great bag sour because the zippers were cheap? Or how about buckles that are tough to engage and release? A difficult-to-adjust sternum strap? What sets the Peak Design Travel Line apart is every specification, hardware component, and feature has been carefully considered. That’s what makes it the total package and worth considering if you are looking for a one-bag travel pack.