Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L Review
The Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L condenses a lot of space and organization into a dual-carry package but isn't super comfortable in either mode.
- Large main compartment is easy to pack
- Simple yet secure water bottle pocket
- Offers both backpack and crossbody duffle bag mode
- Zippers slide almost too easily
- Somewhat saggy structure affects comfort
- Doesn’t excel at either carry mode
2.47 lb (1.1 kg)
17 in x 9.25 in x 7.6 in (43.2 x 23.5 x 19.3 cm)
Recycled Polyester, CCBS Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
The Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L benefits from having two separate ways to be carried. There are shoulder straps for backpack mode and a crossbody strap for duffle mode. However, neither deliver the level of comfort we’re expecting. The simplistic harness system is almost too basic, which is weird considering other backpacks do just fine with similar setups or go overboard with extras like load lifters, waist belts, and sternum straps—extras which the F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L lacks.
Still, this smaller iteration of the F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L feels a lot more size-appropriate for its harness system. It’s not as saggy as the 45-liter version, so the weight feels more centered and easier to tame while you’re on the move. You do lose capacity, but you can still fit a lot of clothing and gear (a weekend’s worth, at least) in a much more focused package that’s better for carrying comfort.
So, on the one hand, it’s not as comfortable as other backpacks, but it also carries better than the 40-liter version. Confused? Don’t worry; we’ll be diving into the details below.
The F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L’s main fabric is an abrasion-resistant recycled polyester. Away doesn’t detail this fabric’s denier or water-resistant coating. We can tell you that it has a tarp-like finish, which grants it some weather resistance in case it gets splashed outdoors. We’re more concerned with its durability, though. Our experience with the larger 45-liter version getting marked up earlier in its testing period left us expecting the same with this one.
Fortunately, that hasn’t happened at the time of writing. The fabric still looks quite pristine after two weeks of use, with only the occasional strand of pet fur sticking, which is easy to brush off. It’s still the same material, though, so we’re still careful not to rough it up too much when using the bag outdoors. It’s a bit of a shame because Away’s usual aesthetics is very classy and clean, so we wish they went for a more scuff-resistant material.
By the way, if you notice a more matte texture forming an “A” on the fabric, that’s not your eyes fooling you or shoddy photography on our part—that’s part of the design. Away keeps the looks clean, simple, and subdued for their convertible backpacks. You won’t find the shiny zipper elements or leather pulls as you would with the Backpack, Small Zip, or Daily Crossbody. Instead, things are kept all-black, stealthy, and almost utilitarian.
If we have any other complaint besides the fabric, it’s the CCBS zippers. While they haven’t broken or jammed in testing, they are rather slippery. They open a bit too easily in some cases, with the sliders gradually gliding and shimmying on their own over time. Admittedly, this is more of a nitpick than a serious issue. If anything, easy-to-open zippers are preferable over ones that are too stiff and snag all the time.
The 25-liter capacity may sound very daypack-like, but the F.A.R Convertible Backpack feels larger than that. To that end, four compression straps allow you to cinch it down further. Buckle them up and pull on the straps to compress the bag. Once you need to pack up and want all of that capacity, the buckles offer a quick and convenient way to decompress.
There’s a water bottle pocket on the right side in case you want to stay hydrated on trips (and you should, by the way). Away went for a simple mesh and elastic design that simply works, with no cinch cords or buckles to complicate things. Just insert your 18 or 21-ounce travel water bottle, and you’re good to go. If you want to secure your bottle further, you can use the bottom compression strap to cinch it down. Alternatively, loosen the top compression strap and thread it through your bottle’s handle.
On the opposite side is a padded carry handle. Thankfully, this handle isn’t an afterthought; by that, we mean Away didn’t settle for a rough strip of nylon and call it a day. Cheaper travel bags might have that, but not this one. More importantly, the bottle we stowed on the opposite side didn’t just slide out as soon as we carried the bag by this handle. It will if we jostle the bag enough, but you can mitigate that with the two solutions we just mentioned.
Now we’ve arrived at the harness system. Since this is a convertible bag, there’s more than one part to this system, and we’ll check out the backpack shoulder straps first. They’re relatively narrow compared to the bag’s large profile, and the amount of padding isn’t particularly encouraging either. What’s more, there’s a notable lack of additional straps.
Extras like load lifters and a hip belt are understandable omissions since those are mostly found in very high-capacity backpacks, not those in the mid-20-liter range such as this one. What’s strange is the lack of a sternum strap. Sure, daypacks like the TOM BIHN Zeitgeist and Day Owl Slim Backpack can do without one, but those are in the 10-liter range, nowhere near the F.A.R Convertible Backpack’s 25L capacity. To be fair, we don’t think it’s a strict must-have on this particular bag, though carry comfort would benefit from having one.
As for the crossbody strap, it’s even less appointed. There’s no padding to cushion the bag’s weight on your shoulder. Plus, it attaches via gatekeeper clips, which slot through narrow loops on the left side of the bag (the one where the side handle is). We find gatekeeper clips finicky to unfasten most of the time, and the experience here is no different.
Unfortunately, that’s how the shoulder straps mount as well, and you need to undo them so you can stow the straps behind the back panel. You don’t have to do this if you’re okay with them dangling while you’re using the crossbody strap, but do you really want to risk them snagging on something expensive?
Lastly, there’s also a pass-through on the back panel itself that lets you slot the bag on a roller luggage handle. It’s a convenient feature if you plan to pair the bag with a rolling suitcase or carry on, and a lot of people do that.
We really notice the lack of a sternum strap when carrying the F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L. A saggy feeling pulls you back, and, try as we might to tighten the shoulder straps, there’s just no getting around it. It’s not the worst; just noticeable enough for us to wish there was a sternum strap to pull the weight forward. To be fair, part of that saggy feel is due to the bag’s relatively soft structure, not just the lack of extra straps.
It’s a bit of a shame because, despite the thin-looking padding, the shoulder straps themselves are comfortable. The only nitpick we have is the lack of strap keepers. After dialing in our preferred adjustment, there’s a noticeably long slack dangling at thigh level. Overall, it’s a much more daypack-like bag to carry around than the 45-liter version, but some other bags in the same 25-liter range best it in comfort.
Using the crossbody strap results in an unbalanced carrying style—which we expect with something this big and heavy to one side. It’s part and parcel with the carrying style, so we won’t harp on it too much. However, we still think that Away could’ve added some padding, perhaps in the form of a removable shoulder pad, because it can get really heavy once this is packed full.
Without that padding, we’d only recommend this style in scenarios where backpack mode is too inconvenient. Maybe you take the subway a lot, and the crowded spaces offer too little room to put a pair of shoulder straps on each time you put the bag down. In other words, it’s mostly a backup—just make sure you have the crossbody strap stowed somewhere in the bag when the time comes.
Inside The Backpack
So far, the F.A.R Convertible Backpack 25L really struggles to impress in terms of carrying comfort and fit. However, where it begins to shine is in terms of space and organization. First of its many compartments is the one at the front that opens in a wide C shape. Inside, there are a lot of pockets that you can use to store bulky gear since the compartment is quite deep, as evidenced by the tucked-in spaces around the sides.
Looking around the bag, we find a slip pocket at the back for a small e-book reader with an adjacent see-through zippered pocket. However, as tempting as it is to use these for smaller items like an AirPods case and some dongles, we feel they’re too deep for that. Instead, we recommend using smaller pouches to keep those kinds of items together.
As we alluded to, a zippered pocket near that front compartment; be careful not to miss it. Since it’s embedded along the front seam of the bag, it blends well; but it’s there, trust us. Despite its rather stealthy location, it’s surprisingly roomy and can fit a smartphone, passport, wallet, and keys. Once you get used to finding it, it’s also quicker to access versus the front compartment.
The laptop compartment is also easy to miss since the left side of the bag (with the handle) overhangs the back panel, creating a welt that obscures the zipper track. Again, it’s a minor quirk you’ll overcome fairly quickly.
Yes, it’s a side-opening laptop compartment, which means it can be tricky to pull a 13-inch MacBook Pro out in tight spaces where there’s little room to maneuver horizontally—think airline economy seats or packed buses. And yes, it’s only rated for up to a 13-inch laptop, which is pretty small for a 25-liter backpack. On the plus side, it’s well-protected with ample padding, though the bag’s relatively soft structure means your laptop partly becomes reinforcement.
The duffle-style opening (or clamshell, if you prefer) offers a wide view of the main compartment, making it very easy to pack. Packing cubes and pouches slot in easy, though it’ll still be up to you how you’ll maximize the rectangular space. The side walls stay upright fairly well, even with the bag’s soft structure. However, the flap includes a huge zippered mesh pocket, and loading it up with used clothing (like we did) can collapse the side wall where it’s hinged.
Away conservatively estimates there’s enough room for one to two days of clothing. With our way of packing, though, we were able to bump that up to five days. That said, this is very “your mileage may vary”, and many factors come into play, such as the type of clothing you pack, how fast you go through them, and how tightly you’re willing to pack them.
On that note, if you’re not the kind of traveler to use packing cubes, Away’s got you covered with built-in hold-down straps. This is a staple in most luggage bags, and it’s a good inclusion for those who want to pack shirts and pants without cubes. We particularly like that the straps are anchored in a Y shape to better cover the edges instead of just being a straight strap running across the compartment.
- Material is a bit floppy but seems like it’ll stretch when the bag is packed full
- Zippers are smooth and quick to open, though they feel a bit loose
- Digging the subtle branding on the front
- Material is in great shape, though we had scuffing issues with the 45L version, which is made with the same material—can’t knock this bag for it, but something keeping in mind!
- Zippers are almost too easy to open
- Good amount of space in the main compartment