Cotopaxi’s Most Popular Product Gets Bigger (and Better): Allpa 42L Travel Pack Review

Building on its fun and functional ethos, Cotopaxi beefs up its best-selling product. The Allpa Travel Pack earns big points for clever design, clean aesthetic, and a surprising number of handy — and hidden — features.

I have one piece of gear I’d bring, on every outing: a plush, cozy, warm — and frankly cool — fleece onesie. And while it’s great at any campsite, it has one noticeable drawback: It’s big and heavy.

For car camping trips in the shoulder seasons, that’s no problem. But for any adventure that involves overhead bin space, and baggage fees, that’s a dealbreaker. At least it was until a recent trip to Moab.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 liter travel pack

This month, I managed to pack all the essentials for a multiday gear test — clothes for at least 5 days, toiletries, camp essentials (headlamp, mess kit, power bank), some extra cycling gear, and more. But, most importantly, I had room enough to pack that precious onesie, too.

New this fall, Cotopaxi expands its Allpa Travel Pack line to a bigger, beefier 42L version. Still eking under typical airplane storage limits, the Allpa 42L gobbled up all the necessities, and a few luxury extras, I could throw at it. I used it for a 5-day adventure that required traveling with both gear and my laptop on a small, regional jet.

In short: Despite flying on a plane too small to stand up in, I carried the Allpa 42L on board while others had to gate-check their backpacking packs and small-wheeled carry-ons. And that was with a pack loaded with more gear and clothes than I typically fit in two smaller packs.

The Allpa does a lot for its size thanks to clever but not overwhelming organizational options built inside. All those winning features come with a price — the price — at $220.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L: Carry-On Friendly

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 liter travel pack

No matter how many times I travel, I always stuff my carry-on as full as it’ll go. And I never check bags unless absolutely necessary. So when the call inevitably comes over the airport PA system — “we’re looking for volunteers to gate-check their bags” — I always question whether I’ve gone too far with my bulging carry-on.

So it was on a recent trip from Denver’s monstrous international airport to Moab’s comparably adorable ma-and-pa landing strip. Despite Cotopaxi’s promise that the Allpa 42L was “carry-on friendly,” I had to wonder if that applied to airplanes you had to walk up a staircase on the tarmac to board.

Although I accepted the green gate-check tag, I tore it off at the last second, trusting Cotopaxi’s promise. This was a gear test, after all. I boarded the plane, ducked my head to walk the aisle, and found my seat.

And though the pack — impressively crammed with virtually everything I’d need for 2 nights in town and 3 days biking the White Rim Trail — wouldn’t possibly fit in the overhead bin, I slid it easily under the seat in front of me.

Given the standard size of the seats and diminutive size of the overhead bins on this aircraft, I believe that Allpa 42L would have no trouble squeezing into the typical overhead compartment of other planes.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Packability

Undoubtedly, the pack wins on carry-on-ability. But that 42L capacity can be difficult to understand — what does that mean? Here’s what I stuffed into the Allpa 42L.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 travel pack unpacked

That’s my infamous onesie, two pairs of biking shorts, a wind/rain shell, a jersey, three shirts, four pairs of underwear, dopp kit, MTB shoes, “Into the Wilderness” book, extra sunglasses, notebook and pens, laptop and charger, power bank and phone cord, gloves, beanie, and helmet (clipped to the outside). Also, I stuffed eight pairs of socks in the shoes (approximately 4 days of travel doubled).

And to be fair, I had packed an extra chamois, a coat, and a hoodie. But I ditched them because I hate overpacking.

For reference, here’s what that looked like in the bag (minus the helmet):

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 packed

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L: Organization

Like its predecessors, the Allpa 42L hangs its hat on abundant, but not overwhelming, organization options. The large zippered pocket on the right side makes apparent where the bulk of packing belongs. For those who use packing cubes — I’m a big fan of Eagle Creek — this main pocket accommodates all sizes and adds an extra layer of sanity.

Two smaller pockets grace the left side. The larger of the two works great for extra shoes and a few other necessities. I should note, the flap on this pocket houses an included rain cover, but it will also handle a few smaller, thinner items too. Above it lies another zippered pocket, great for charging devices and other smaller items you don’t need immediate access to.

Outside the pack, a top zip pocket will hold a wallet or passport, gum, and other quick-grab items. I found it was perfect for the dopp kit I needed to cram somewhere (for the onesie).

A laptop sleeve just inside the back panel, accessible from a side zip, will fit a 15-inch laptop. That same soft-lined pocket is subdivided with a sleeve for a 12.5-inch tablet and another for a 6.5-inch cellphone. Though, most of us keep that phone within easier reach.

Finally, the pack has a single bottle pocket to carry a vessel up to 3 inches in diameter. It’s made with 1,000-denier TPU-coated polyester. So while it’s not waterproof or submersible, the outer will shed most mist and light rain (and abrasion) — though the zippers aren’t waterproof.

Allpa Carry Options

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 travel pack

Staying true to the Allpa line, the 42L capacity provides many carrying choices. A removable hip belt, hideaway shoulder straps, and a molded, padded back panel allow wearers a very comfortable backpack option. But take off the belt, unclip and stow the shoulder straps, and the Allpa offers a briefcase handle and removable shoulder sling.

I found the backpack configuration or straight handle carry to work best for most situations.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack Review

I asked Cotopaxi how significant this upgrade to the Allpa line was, and that’s when the brand told me the Allpa was its best-selling product overall. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But from my test, it looks like Cotopaxi avoided changing anything that made the 35L Allpa so great.

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Pros

Here’s everything I liked about the Allpa 42L. Multiple carry options mean I could choose the easiest configuration for the load. Plus, the load lifter straps worked well to make backpack carry as comfortable as possible (especially when crammed full of gear).

Like the Allpa packs before it, the 42L sports several low-profile lash points. I love being able to save interior space by ‘biner-ing a few extra items to the outside of my pack.

Plus, all of the Allpa’s storage pockets are bigger and roomier than you think. The top outer pocket held a full dopp kit in addition to my wallet, keys, pens, snacks, and other quick-grab items. And the zip panels on each of the interior pockets use stretch mesh. So even when you overfill a compartment, the pockets are forgiving enough that you can get away with more than you’d expect.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 liter travel pack

The main compartment worked great for a few days of clothes on my Moab test. And it held a week’s worth of smartly packed garments for less-rugged travel. The two pockets opposite the main compartment held all the miscellany of travel — books, chargers, headlamps, extra cash, etc. And the larger pocket took on a pair of my size 13 shoes no problem — with a little room left over to cram the underwear I forgot to pack the first time.

And while I didn’t use the included rain cover, it looks like a standard pack cover. It’s a helpful addition and can be removed to eke out a little more storage space in a pinch. Also, the laptop sleeve will accommodate all the most common tech you’re likely to need.

Finally, like all Cotopaxi products, the overall aesthetic is sharp and attractive. Even the all-black pack I used — a departure from the brand’s trademark color mashups — looks undeniably cool. The 1,000-denier outer repelled some spilled coffee and what little scuff marks came from being tossed around the Utah desert rubbed right out.

Cons

I like this pack a lot. But there are a few pack features that don’t quite stand up to the rest. First, the removable hip belt. While the Allpa’s convertibility is great, the hip belt stands in the way of on-the-fly changes.

Put simply, while the shoulder straps tuck away nicely, the thicker hip belt can leave you wondering where to stuff it if you remove it. I was able to cram it in the back panel, but it left a noticeable lump.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 liter travel pack

Also, the bottle pocket. On the one hand, this is a super handy addition — one you won’t find on smaller Allpas. But it only handles a bottle up to 3 inches in diameter. When I travel, I prefer to bring larger vessels. This may be an issue for you, or it may not. And if it is, Cotopaxi offers a mesh bottle pocket add-on (plus some other accessories).

Lastly, with the bag’s soft construction, over-stuffers like me will have to be creative to get the main zipper closed. This was no issue on smaller treks, but with that onesie, closing the pack took some extra TLC (tough loving care).

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Pack: Verdict

If you hate checking a bag as I do and you’re not afraid to stuff a carry-on to near bursting, the Allpa 42L is a workhouse you’ll love. It offers tons more carrying versatility and organization than a duffel, but it seems to take everything you’ll throw at it — just like a duffel would.

In short, the story of the Allpa is “everything you’d need, but not too much.” It has loads of organization but not so many pockets the pack becomes confusing. And it’s got lots of lash points but no ugly daisy chains running the length of the pack. There are several carry options, but you can ditch what you don’t use.

And if you don’t mind a small bottle pocket or manhandling an overstuffed pack to close the zipper, the Allpa won’t disappoint. It’s an investment at $220, but if this pack holds up to future abuse as it did across Moab, it makes for a smart buy. Learn more about the Allpa 42L and check out some pack extras on Cotopaxi’s site.

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Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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