Bags within bags, the Peak Designs 45L Travel Backpack has the organized photographer in mind. We took this Best in Show winner on planes and around town for this first look review.
A few weeks ago, Peak Designs sent us an early sample of the upcoming 45L Travel Backpack — their newest bag that raised $5.2mil on Kickstarter. In that time, we’ve packed it, organized it, and stuffed it in overhead compartments on cross-country travel.
These packs boast a wealth of internal, adjustable organization and retails for $300.
In short: This pack impressed us before we ever tried it out, as it won GearJunkie’s Best In Show award at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. After a few weeks’ use, we stand behind the selection. Peak Designs clearly put a lot of thought into all the little details here, with photographers at the forefront. It’s a great travel option with loads of customizable organization. The only drawback is size — it’s heavy for an everyday pack and may be larger than some users need.
Peak Designs 45L Travel Backpack Review
When the bag first showed up in our office, we passed it around in awe of its heft. The bag weighs 4.8 pounds when completely empty. But the pack also comes with a huge assortment of smaller bags to help organize all your gear, plus a stout camera cube and a handful of other accessories. With all those add-ons — still unpacked — the bag’s heft jumps to 8.14 pounds.
Still, if you’re not afraid to haul a few more “LBs” around, this is one of the most feature-rich bags we’ve seen. From our initial impressions, Peak Designs seems to have thought of everything you’d need in a camera-friendly travel pack.
Travel Backpack Features
For starters, we love how the brand engineered the Travel Backpack’s straps. They’re designed around little puck hinges that allow both the waist strap and shoulder straps to completely disappear into hidden pockets that secure with magnets.
From here, two handles make the pack a small travel duffel. While this borders on over-engineering, we found it to be really clever.
Meanwhile, the pack’s quick-access camera pocket worked as advertised and was easy to operate. I packed a full-size Canon with lens attached and had no trouble getting it in or out. The stealthy pockets on the front were also a nice touch and offered a perfect spot for headphones, memory cards, and a place to put my phone when sending the bag through airport security.
I’m not sure if Peak Designs had checked bag protocols in mind, but I had to gate check the bag when boarding a full flight earlier this month. I tucked all of the straps into their neat little enclosures and was pleasantly surprised to see everything in its right place at the baggage claim carousel.
One feature you won’t find on this pack that we would have liked is a removable hip belt. It’s stowable, but it’s not quite as simple as a removable belt. While great for bigger loads, hip belts are not always necessary, and it’s nice to take it off to prevent it flopping around. Not a big deal, but something to note if you’re weighing this pack against other options.
We also ran up against one other drawback to this pack’s design: The side “tripod pocket.” Peak Designs shows several images of users stowing a tripod in the side pocket. But when we tried this, even a modest travel-oriented tripod was difficult to cram into the side pocket. And without a strap at the top, it wobbled while walking, making the carry awkward.
Travel Backpack Add-Ons
In addition to the pack, Peak Designs offers a few organization kits you can buy separately.
Removable camera cubes let you lay out your ideal compartments for lenses, camera body, filters, etc. While these are handy in many cases, they lack a variety of sizes. When we packed a mirrorless camera, we had to stuff extra items to keep the camera from jostling around.
There’s also a small Tech Pouch that can hold a GoPro or gimbal. For non-tech, Peak Designs also offers cubes for clothes, a Wash Pouch for toiletries, and another pouch for shoes.
All of these extras are designed to fit inside the 45L Travel Backpack in a variety of configurations.
If you’re looking for a bag with all of the bells and whistles and don’t mind the tradeoff of a bit of extra weight, the Peak Designs Travel Backpack is an excellent option.
Though the $300 price tag is an investment, it’s not over-the-top expensive. And for the money, you get a pack that allows you to set it up according to your needs. If you’re not a photographer, it might have more specialized features than you’re looking for.
But if you’re into shooting stills or video, the 45L Travel Backpack affords you peace of mind when traveling and ease of use while in the field.