Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus 38L Review

The Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus offers a ton of space, but utilizing all the pockets together takes some planning to avoid losing out on space.

Our Verdict

8.0 /10
Great info

Form

87/100

Design

80/100

Value

73/100
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Pros

  • Large capacity for weekend trips
  • Attention to detail is commendable
  • Includes a built-in hip belt

Cons

  • Some pockets cut into the main compartment
  • Baida Nylon isn’t the easiest to clean
  • Shoulder straps feel a bit lacking with the increased capacity

Technical Details

17 %

Carry-On Compliance

View 28/162 Airlines

69 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    38l

  • Weight (lb)

    3.3 lb (1.5 kg)

  • Dimensions

    21.65 in x 14.96 in x 9.45 in (55 x 38 x 24 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Polyester, Nylon, YKK Zippers, Leather

  • Manufacturing Country

    Philippines

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Bellroy 3 Year Warranty

Full Review

Smarts and stylishness effectively working together is a good way to earn a thumbs up from us, which is why we liked the Bellroy Transit Backpack. We praised its optimized layout and organization, and we further complimented the style and build quality. Some of you might have looked at that review and thought, “But what if it were bigger?”

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Usage 2
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | No, we didn’t shrink; this is just the bigger Plus version.

Wonder no more, folks, as we’re taking a look at the Transit Backpack Plus in this review. It has a bit more of everything when it comes to capacity and organization, as befitting the additional 10-liters it gains from the regular 28-liter version. However, there is a bit of a balancing act necessary to make full use of this travel backpack. There are also some hits and misses we’ve observed throughout the testing period, including a sub-optimal harness system. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Materials & Aesthetic

On the surface, it’s not immediately apparent that this large travel backpack is from Bellroy. That changes once you look closer or touch the fabric. There are fewer leather bits, though that’s most likely because there’s more fabric than leather on a big backpack like this. The Marine Blue fabric here is much more eye-catching than the leather bits, making the latter more of a trim rather than accent pieces. None of these is to say that Bellroy dropped the ball when it comes to styling. We still think the Transit Backpack Plus is a good-looking backpack with just the right amount of tasteful lines and design features.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Logo Material
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | The gray tag makes the Bellroy logo look more subtle.

It’s a bit of a shame that we got it muddy through numerous bike rides, but we like to think of each drop as a badge of honor earned through the daily grind. Unfortunately, the Baida Nylon isn’t the easiest fabric to clean compared to, say, tarpaulin or other more water-resistant types of nylon. It’s not impossible to clean, though, and a deeper clean with soapy water and some elbow grease will bring it back to pristine status.

Blue might not be the best color to hide subtle stains. For that, the other colorways available at the time of writing might serve you better. There’s Black, Charcoal, and Lunar—the latter two accentuate the leather pieces more, by the way, if that’s your thing.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Dirt
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | The mud is purely cosmetic, and the fabric and the hardware held up well against it.

We’ve got nothing to report in terms of damage—even with the noticeable mud stains, nothing has fallen off or frayed up. At the very least, the Baida Nylon is not only good to the touch but durable as well. The water-resistant YKK zippers zip up and down without a fuss, and the magnetic buckles are just as satisfying as you would expect, enough that you might fidget around with it if you feel like using the sternum strap.

The way the Transit Backpack Plus’ is put together is up to par with what we’ve come to expect from Bellroy, though we did find a few chinks in the backpack’s armor. We’ll be diving more into the individual features to see where there are weaknesses in the quality, plus which design choices we liked and which we didn’t.

External Components

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Fitnote
Left: Tom Wahlin, Height: 6’2” (188 cm), Torso: 19.25” (49 cm) | Right: Lauren Maternowski, Height: 5’6” (168 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm)

One of the few (but major) aspects of the Transit Backpack Plus where Bellroy could have done better is the harness system. At 38 liters, the Transit Backpack Plus is firmly within travel backpack territory. To cope with this, it does have a fairly comprehensive harness system, complete with a sternum strap and hip belt.

Bellroy has ticked the right boxes for the harness system. The shoulder straps are densely padded, the sternum strap is mounted on a sliding system that adjusts easily, and the hip belt is padded and stows away completely behind the back panel. The cherry on top is that the buckles on the latter two are magnetic, though we still prefer the typical side-release buckles. The bag felt comfortable to lean against as well, thanks to the well-padded back panel that has a ribbed pattern and curved shape.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Harness System
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | The harness system comes complete with a hip belt.

Unfortunately, the overall result doesn’t feel adequate for the 38-liter capacity. It felt like the backpack felt it was riding low, probably because the aluminum adjusters slid loose, undoing our preferred strap length a lot of the time. We wish Bellroy scaled the shoulder straps to fit the bigger capacity, though it doesn’t make the Transit Backpack Plus completely unwieldy.

There are top and right-hand side handles to move the backpack around short distances. At the Transit Backpack Plus’ size, the top handle’s positioning does give it a noticeable tilt, but nothing too problematic unless you’re dedicated to carrying your travel backpack by hand all the way.

You also get a luggage pass-through, and it has a rather neat—yet subtle—design. A small amount of fabric shrouds the strap’s top portion. There’s a bit of elasticity inside that gives the pass-through a degree of adjustability Of course, it still works as a luggage pass-through as intended, yet we appreciate the nice touch.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top and Side Handles
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | You can carry it using the top and side handle.

Water bottle pockets seem to be non-existent on the 38-liter Transit Backpack Plus, though that’s not the case. Bellroy made both left and right side pockets built into the bag’s sides. This gives the backpack a more streamlined profile at the cost of space in the main compartment. Our 18-oz YETI Rambler is a respectable size, so having two of them on either side takes away a decent amount of room, as we’ll see later.

You can use both or either of the side pockets as quick-grab pockets if you so desire. We used one of them for a bunch of car accessories we keep for rental cars, so we don’t mix them up for our other everyday carry items. The size is meant for water bottles, making them good for chunky items like those, though we caution against putting fragile items like sunglasses inside because they can get squished like our protein bars were. We ended up with crumbs, so it’s best not to test it with glass.

Inside The Pack

For your other everyday carry items and more fragile accessories, there’s a top quick-grab pocket. The interior material is stretchy, allowing it to fit more gear if needed. This pocket is also less likely to face pressure compared to the side pockets, which is ideal for sunglasses, smartphones, and stuff you generally don’t want bent or broken. In charge of keeping it nice and secure is a self-locking YKK—quite handy if you have a power bank inside and want to route a power cable through a small gap in the zipper.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top Pocket
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | It’s less crowded in here—great for your sunglasses.

In case you carry a travel notebook with you and like to get analog with your writing, the front pocket has you covered in that department as well. Inside are two pen silos, which we think is a good combo for a pen and a pencil, and a liner pocket for small travel documents. The interior space is wide enough for a full-sized moleskin notebook, and we reckon you can get away with more depending on how thick your notebooks are. You also get a key clip, and we think this is one of the weaker parts of the Transit Backpack Plus. The clip feels a bit plasticky, and the ribbon feels similar to what we’d use on a present. It gets the job done, though it could be better.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Front Pocket
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | Chuck your notebook inside the front pocket in case you want to get some writing done.

Next is the laptop compartment. Befitting from the 38-liter capacity, it fits our 15-inch MacBook Pro without any issues, and it can also fit the newer 16-inch versions if you have that. The opening is about the width of the backpack, so we were extra cautious not to let anything small fall inside. The compartment is relatively deep, and fishing out something small is a hassle worth avoiding, even with the fairly bright interior fabric.

Inside the laptop compartment is a zippered pocket, which we used to store our tech pouch. Fitting our tech pouch inside this pocket is great as it means we don’t have to place it inside a separate compartment from our laptop. In case you don’t use a tech pouch, this compartment can act as one for your charger and mouse, plus some smaller dongles and adapters you want to throw inside.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top Down Laptop Sleeve
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | The laptop compartment’s additional pocket is now zippered too.

Finally, we have the main compartment, and there are plenty of pockets for organization inside here as much as there are outside of it. The whole compartment opens up fully clamshell-style, granting you unrestricted access to the cavernous space inside. This is great for easy packing since it’s very similar to how you would do it with a larger suitcase. In fact, the inside of the Transit Backpack Plus resembles the inside of a suitcase thanks to the hold-down straps.

On the front side is a zippered mesh pocket at the top for small accessories like gloves, socks, or some toiletries if you don’t use a separate Dopp kit. Behind that is a wide compartment for flat items like sandals or flip-flops. The bottom portion of the front side appears to be another mesh pocket, but it’s just a bit of see-through mesh for visibility and ventilation of whatever’s inside the wide compartment. Not much structure to this panel unless you have your sandals in, but the rest of the main compartment’s walls do hold up well for easier packing.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top Down Mesh Pocket
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | The front panel gains additional structure from our rigid sandals.

There are more pockets on the opposite side, in case you were wondering. There are also side pockets inside the main compartment (not to be confused with the water bottle side pockets). On the left is a diagonally-cut mesh pocket where you can throw in the beefiest power bank you can find and on the right side is a zippered mesh pocket for the small cables that can plug into that power bank. Lastly, in case you’re not a fan of packing cubes, there’s a built-in hold-down strap to keep your clothes tied down.

That’s a lot of pockets for one bag, and it’s appropriate for a 38-liter travel backpack. You’ll want the best of both worlds when it comes to space and organization, and we think Bellroy was heading in the right direction. However, the Transit Backpack Plus does come with a catch: space and organization require a bit of careful planning to utilize fully.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top Down Main Compartment with Harness
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | We can max the space out with this much gear if the other compartments are filled minimally.

Some of the other pockets on the Transit Backpack Plus eat away at a portion of the main compartment. The stretchy top quick-grab pocket and side water bottle pockets are built into the body, and you’ll have to factor in the interior side pockets if you wish to occupy all of them. Even the top pocket of the laptop compartment can eat away a decent chunk of the space. Furthermore, the mesh pockets on the front panel can bulge out if packed in too tightly.

As a result, packing the Transit Backpack Plus does require some planning if you want to max out all of the available compartments. In our case, our setup of two large packing cubes, a large Dopp kit, and a rolled-up hoodie works. But if you throw in, say, two large water bottles on each side, then it might not work as well as before. We totally dig the amount of organization Bellroy has thrown in the Transit Backpack Plus; you just have to find your Goldilocks zone of packing to maximize its potential.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Top Down Main Compartment Without Harness
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus | There’s less space for packing cubes depending on how you use the other compartments.

The Transit Backpack Plus feels like it hit a lot of the correct marks when it comes to a great travel backpack, and in a lot of ways, it did. The amount of space and organization is enough for a weekend trip, and it was able to take in the rather large Aer Dopp Kit 2. We do think there is a surplus of organization inside, and it will be up to you on how to best use it while making the most of available space. We also think the harness system could use an upgrade, with a particular focus on the shoulder straps and the aluminum hardware. The current straps don’t make the Transit Backpack Plus unbearable, just not optimal.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Tons of organization all over this bag including a tech pouch, packing straps in the main compartment, and mesh pocket for storing clothes
  • Side water bottle pocket conceals the bottle to keep a sleek and clean look
  • Hideaway hip belt helps distribute the weight of this bag
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • The bag got decently muddy after a bike ride—the Baida Nylon can be hard to clean, though it feels nice in the hand
  • As usual, digging all of the small Bellroy touches on the bag
  • Top drop pocket is convenient and stretchy
1 Month of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • This bag has been on a trip from Michigan to California at this point
  • Noticed that the backpack straps can become loose randomly—aluminum hardware can slip
  • We enjoy the pockets and compartments, though “tub style” packing with packing cubes is harder if they’re all utilized
mm
By Tom Wahlin
Created July 31, 2021 • Updated July 31, 2021
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