I’m a fan of Peak Design bags. I used the Everyday Messenger every day until the Everyday Backpack came on the horizon and then I switched because I generally prefer backpacks. All the bags have worn very well with only a bit of mud here and there to indicate their age.
So the prospect of a backpack from Peak Design that’s designed for travel and photography is enticing. It’s available by itself, and it can be used that way, but it’s designed to be used with Peak Design’s new Packing Tools. I’m a packing cube nerd so my ears pricked up as soon as I heard about Peak Design’s. More on these later.
Travel BackPack 45L Review
Unlike some backpacks, Peak Design’s Travel BackPack has a very clean-looking exterior. Like the company’s other bags, it has modern urban styling and looks more travel bag than camera bag.
Its shell is made from weatherproof 100% recycled 400D nylon canvas and the zips are weatherproof (and lockable). The bottom section is made from 900D nylon to make it tougher.
Meanwhile, the interior is durable water repellent (DWR) impregnated and PU-coated to help keep rainwater at bay. If you want even more protection, Peak Design offers the Rainfly as an optional extra cover.
In its default configuration, the Travel BackPack has a volume of 35L and meets international maximum carry-on dimensions. However, dual expansion zips enable the capacity to be increased to 45L if required.
In addition to the usual backpack-style shoulder straps, every side has a carry handle. These are especially useful when you’re lugging your gear on and off buses or planes.
There are also a couple of magnetic flaps that can be used to hide-away the main straps if you need. These flaps also conceal the waist belt, which is padded and has a useful pocket.
Like the main straps, the waist belt pivots around a large pin which means they move to suit your shape and movement.
The main access point for the largest compartment is from the back. This means you have to take the pack off your back before it can be opened fully. As well as helping to deter opportunist thieves, this means that the back of the pack and the straps stay clean and you don’t get mucky when you carry it.
Once opened, you can see the entire contents of the main section.
The back flap also houses the laptop (up to 15-inch) and tablet sleeves. If you leave the main compartment zip openings at the top of the bag, you can access your laptop or tablet quickly when you’re out and about.
Both sides of the backpack have access points. This will be familiar to anyone who uses a Peak Design EveryDay BackPack. It means you can swing the bag around on one shoulder to access the contents of the main section without putting it down.
As the Medium and Large Camera Cubes also have side access, you can access your camera gear directly via the BackPack’s side openings.
The front of the bag has an organisation section with several zip-closing pockets. It’s this section that is expanded by undoing the two expansion zips. This is ideal for storing clothes that you want kept flat and it would be nice if Peak Design could introduce a Packing Cube that’s designed to fit it. The Small Packing Cube will fit in, but there’s lots of additional space. Meanwhile the Medium Packing Cube is too wide.
I have an Eagle Creek Pack-It Garment Folder (Small) that’s perfect for the job. It keeps your clothes flat and slides into the front compartment perfectly.
Cleverly, the pockets in the panel that backs the main compartment can be opened from the front or the main compartment.
The uppermost pocket on the front side of the organisation section unzips to reveal four stretchy pockets to organise essentials like your passport, pens and the like.
If you don’t need all the inner pockets, the panel between the main compartment and the front section can be unzipped, rolled down and stowed in a pocket at the bottom of the inside of the bag. This means that you can then access the main compartment from the front or the rear of the backpack.
Like the EveryDay BackPacks, the Travel BackPack 45L has a pocket on either side. They have gusseted expansion and there’s plenty of space for a water bottle or a tripod. They can carry a 3 Legged Thing Leo tripod without straps but a tripod that doesn’t collapse quite so small needs an extra strap (not supplied) to hold it steady.
Concealed at the back of the side pockets are two small zip-closing pockets that are ideal for your passport or phone, anything that needs to be kept safe but within easy reach.
As I’ve already mentioned, the Travel BackPack 45L can be configured to give 35L or 45L capacity. However, it can be compressed down to 30L by closing two sets of press-studs at the top. I find these a bit fiddly to use so I tend to use the bag in its 35L or 45L set-up.
Peak Design refers to its main compartment as having ‘3-cube-unit’ capacity. That means it can accommodate 3 Small Camera Cubes or 1 Small cube and 1 Medium Cube or one Large Cube.
Clips keep the Camera Cubes securely in place. These are fiddly to undo and remove to remove the Cubes. There’s definietly a nack to them. However, in this situation, I’ll take fiddly over too easily removed any day.
The current range of Peak Design Packing Tools includes the Small Camera Cube (6L), Medium Camera Cube (12L), Large Camera Cube (18L), Tech Pouch, Wash Pouch, Shoe Pouch, Rain Fly, Small Packing Cube (9L) and Medium Packing Cube (18L).
Peak Design’s Camera Cubes come in three sizes, Small, Medium and Large. So far, I’ve only used the Medium Cube. According to Peak Design, there will be more Travel bags to come and the Camera Cubes will be compatible.
It has a weatherproof exterior made from recycled 400D nylon canvas and a high-density foam sub-lining that makes it seem pretty tough.
Inside there’s a collection of thin FlexFold Dividers that allow you to customise the storage. It’s large enough to house a double-grip full-frame DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted, along with three or four other lenses or accessories. Of course, if you want to use the Backpack’s side access option, you need to configure the interior accordingly.
Handles on the top and bottom allow the Cube to be carried separately. It also feels solid enough to be used as store for your kit when it’s not in use.
This has a capacity of 2L and opens like a clamshell with a zip around three sides like a traditional wash bag. The outer is made from 200D recycled nylon canvas and is weatherproof.
Inside it has a concertina-like design to allow you to organise your cables, storage drives, pens, memory cards and batteries etc. Handily, there’s an external zip pocket with a button hole to enable a cable to pass through from the main section so you can charge your phone from a stored power bank.
It’s a very nicely made, stylish and useful pouch. However, I’ve been using a Bagsmart Design Slim Travel Cable Organizer for the last couple of years and I like the fact that this opens flat so you can get a good look at all the cables etc within. It’s fiddlier to put the cables away, but they’re easier to find.
This clamshell-style 2.5L toiletries bag will sit upright on a shelf but there’s also a storable hook that allows it to be hung. Inside there are seven TPU-coated nylon mesh pockets to organise your stuff along with a magnetically-sealed toothbrush pocket. Two of the mesh pockets are house inside a zip-closing pocket for extra security.
On the outside, there’s another zip closing pocket that could also be used for your toothbrush or a razor.
As wash bags go, the Peak Design Wash Pouch is pretty pricey, but it’s nice thought out, has lots of organisation options and is made to last.
Available in 9L (Small) and 18L (Medium) capacities, these cubes are for storing your clothes. To get the maximum use of space, pack the cube with the expansion zip open and then close it to compress everything down.
Peak Design suggest that up to around 10 T-shirts will fit in the Small Cube, while the Medium Cube will hold double that, but size, style and fabric has an impact. They’re a step-up from the Amazon Basics Packing Cubes that I’ve been using to date, but there’s a price hike too.
This pouch packs down very small in it’s integrated pocket and weighs just 48g. However, it opens to hold up to 9L. If you’re lucky you may get a couple of pairs of shoes in, but it depends on size and style. I managed to squeeze in my partner’s hefty size 11 walking shoes but I can get two pairs of my size 5 shoes in there.
This pouch is more about protecting the rest of your kit from your shoes, or keeping your shoes together, than it is compressing them.
This 45L rain cover weighs just 94g (3.3oz) and packs into its integrated carry pouch which can be connected to exterior attachment points on the Travel Backpack 45L. It’s made from 70D Ripstop Nylon and has silicone and PU coatings. The bottom panel is reinforced for extra durability.
It fits like a shower cap and can be deployed on the BackPack in a matter of seconds.
Whether you stuff a 45L bag full with camera gear or clothes, once it’s full, it’s going to be very heavy. Probably a little too heavy for me, but the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L allows you to configure the storage and use the space as you need it.
Although Peak Design hasn’t made the length of the Backpack’s harness adjustable, I find it comfortable to wear. What’s more, my partner who is a foot taller also finds it comfortable. The straps are a little fiddly to adjust in length at first, but they’re broad and have dense foam to lighten the load.
One problem I have with some backpacks is that the waist belt is too wide. This can make me feel strapped to the bag rather than the other way around. Thankfully, I think Peak Design has got the width right. I also like the fact that the belt can be stashed away very easily.
One small criticism of the belt, however, is that the broad section could do with being a little longer to make it easier to see and access its pocket.
I like using the Packing Tools. I love the fact that I can effectively unpack in seconds just be pulling out a few Cubes. However, it would be nice to be able to tell the difference between the Tech Pouch and the Wash Pouch more easily. Like the Backpack itself, they’re both available in black or sage green, so my advice would be to buy them in different colours.
Setting yourself up with a full travel kit based around the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L isn’t cheap but with the right combination of Travel Tools you’ll have a versatile bag. It can be used for travel and for more everyday use. The Medium Camera Cube allows you to carry a good collection of kit while the Large Camera Cube should ensure you’ve got most eventualities covered.
The Backpack and the Tools have a very high-quality look and feel. All your kit feels nicely protected and there’s a good level of customisation. It would be nice to have a couple of straps supplied with the bag to clip onto the external loops. These would be useful of securing a tripod, for example.
This is the first bag in Peak Design’s Travel range and the company is promising more based around the Camera Cubes. I’d like to see a backpack that fits the Medium Camera Cube in the same way that the 45L Backpack fits the Large Cube.