The Cotopaxi Allpa’s $190 sticker price may seem high for a carry-on piece. But a clever combination of design, organization, and features may actually save travelers money on baggage fees in the long run.
Comfortable suspension, durable construction, great organizational ability, and legal carry-on sizing: The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L has all the ingredients of a great travel pack.
It provides safe and comfortable carriage. Better, an internal compression system and “personal item” outer dimensions mean airline passengers will save on extra baggage costs. With careful planning and packing, the wise traveler can avoid baggage fees — even on the strictest airlines.
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Review: A Pack for Travel
Customers know Cotopaxi for its brightly colored soft goods, and the Allpa is no different. The exterior TPU-coated, 1,000-denier polyester, 1,680-denier ballistic nylon is available in four colors. And the interior is lined and has contrasting trim.
The bag’s main #10 YKK zipper opens the pack suitcase-style, revealing one large zipped compartment on one half of the bag and three smaller zipped compartments on the other. There is an externally accessible laptop sleeve with an internal divider on the back panel. An externally accessible zipped compartment with internal pockets sits at the top of the front panel.
The main exterior zippers on the pack’s body feature a “security loop.” This piece of webbing spans the zipper coils and zipper pull in the closed position to help prevent casual theft.
The frameless suspension system’s back panel, contoured shoulder straps, and hip belt are all non-removable. But the shoulder straps and hip belt stow behind the back panel. There is a small zipped pocket on the hip belt, and the shoulder straps have a fully adjustable sternum strap.
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L has a verified weight of 3 pounds 11 ounces.
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L in Use
The internal structure of the pack makes organized packing unavoidable. Two horizontally oriented compression straps press flat the large zipped compartment, ideal for clothing.
And the front panel side, with one main lower and two smaller upper zippered compartments, housed all else, including toiletries and electronics. The computer compartment easily swallowed my 15-inch laptop as well as magazines (or a tablet) in the internal, Velcro-strapped sleeve.
Pro tip: Load the laptop compartment before tightening the internal compression straps. This prevents deforming the computer sleeve, which makes sliding contents in and out difficult. Finally, there are clipping points on all four corners of the front panel.
The suspension system comfortably carried 25 pounds. And although the Allpa includes a rain cover, the pack shed rain well on its own. I doubt the cover is necessary except for in the heaviest of downpours. There is a webbing handle on every side of the Allpa, which allowed briefcase-style carriage. The suspension’s back length isn’t adjustable, but it fit my 6-foot-tall, 165-pound frame well.
How the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Saves on Baggage Fees
The 35L Allpa meets requirements for carry-on baggage, and the hideaway suspension components make for easy and snag-free upper compartment stowage. But what was surprising is that, with careful packing, the Allpa qualifies as the free personal item on many airlines.
The 20 x 12 x 13-inch exterior dimensions may lead one to believe the pack is too big, even as a maximum legal carry-on. But the Allpa is a soft-sided bag. With judicious packing, even with 4 days of winter clothing (I wore my big puffy), I have yet to fail at fitting the Allpa 35L into the personal item test slot. Traveling to and from two Outdoor Retailer shows, I have successfully dodged all baggage fees.
This ability to fit personal item dimensions is a huge deal to a freelance writer like me, drastically reducing travel expenses and maintaining profitability.
The secret sauce lies in the rectangular shape of the bag as well as two internal compression straps in the largest internal compartment. Compression straps reduced the height of clothes, the flexible nature of the Allpa ensured the packed bag qualified as a personal item and fit under the seat, and the rectangular shape made the absolute most of the available volume.
The allowable dimensions were usually a few inches less than the dimensions of the bag, but the Allpa never failed to shrink down to the necessary length, width, and height. Some of the stricter guidelines for personal items state they can’t be backpacks. So I stuffed the shoulder straps and hip belt away after arriving at the airport and carried it by a side handle. Not once did a ticket agent question the Allpa in that configuration. Winner!
Cotopaxi Allpa: A Wonderful Travel Pack
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L has proven to be a wonderfully functional travel pack. It organized all necessary items and carried them comfortably.
Although it probably wasn’t a design objective, the Allpa also saved me tons of money in baggage fees. It fits the personal item sizing requirements, even stringent ones, with planning and careful packing.
And if you need to haul more gear, it still functions as a maximum legal carry-on.