Briggs & Riley Large Cargo Backpack Review
At 33 liters, the Briggs & Riley Large Cargo Backpack doesn’t feel all that bulky to carry, though its small main compartment gussets impact accessibility.
- Doesn’t feel bulky despite its 33-liter size
- Stands on its own even when empty
- Plentiful and granular organization for small gear
- Main compartment gussets could be wider for accessibility
- Metal zippers are jangly
- Lockable zippers lacking on main compartment zippers
3.2 lb (1.5 kg)
Ballistic nylon outer fabric
19 in x 15 in x 8 in (48.3 x 38.1 x 20.3 cm)
Ballistic Nylon, Nylon, Leather, YKK Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
The TUMI Briefpack and Travelpro Maxlite 5 Laptop Backpack work well for travel because they both have rigid structures and well-organized layouts. In some ways, they feel like rolling luggage minus the wheels, which makes sense since both brands also make those. While neither backpack has charmed us in the way other travel backpacks have in terms of polish and functionality (and, in the case of TUMI, price), they can be viable options, especially for those who want the familiar rigidity of luggage.
Briggs & Riley is another brand with a full suite of travel bags, ranging from large luggage to small slings. However, we’re taking a look at their @work Large Cargo Backpack (KP436-4 if you want to be specific), a backpack that sits in the middle of their lineup. It’s highly compartmentalized, with separate main and laptop compartments, plus four zippered pockets on the outside for smaller gear. Plus, it’s structured enough to stand on its own even before you pack it. Why is that important? Let’s head down and find out.
The outside fabric of the Large Cargo Backpack is 1600-denier ballistic nylon—quite the heavy denier and just a smidge lower than the 1680D we like on travel backpacks like Aer’s Travel Pack 3. For those who don’t know, denier is a measurement of the thickness of the fibers in the fabric. The heavier the denier, the more abrasion resistant the material tends to be. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the bottom line is that the Large Cargo Backpack feels tough.
You also get slick 600-denier ballistic nylon at the bottom and rubberized corner guards to give the pack additional strength. Its overall boxy shape helps give it a cohesive structure that allows it to stand up, which is worth mentioning because it makes day-to-day use much easier. Say, for example, you’re in a crowded terminal with limited floor space. There’d be no need to lay the bag on its side or prop it against a wall when you need to take gear out.
Also worth mentioning is the jangliness of the zippers . All of the exterior zippers on the Large Cargo Backpack are metal, and a lot of them come in pairs. There are no rubber or cord pulls to dampen the noise, though, so they can and will make noise from time to time. Jangly zippers are a universal pet peeve here at Pack Hacker because they can make one feel self-conscious. Nothing says, “look at me!”, better than the clinking of zippers while the rest of the cabin tries to catch on some sleep. On the plus side, they are YKK zippers, so you can bet they’ll work reliably.
If you’re wondering about the blank badge at the top, don’t worry, they didn’t forget a logo. It’s a monogrammable leather nameplate that you can customize upon purchase. We chose to keep it blank to keep the aesthetics minimal. Customization is quite limited, with only up to three letters or numbers and no special characters allowed. There’s also a small “@” logo in the corner that signifies the @work line this bag belongs to—subtle, and we like it.
Also included is a luggage tag that attaches to the side of the Large Cargo Backpack. We like its snap-fastened cover to keep your personal information from plain view. Admittedly, it’s a bit old-school for us as we’ve moved to use smart trackers like Apple’s AirTag or Tile’s Slim, though it’s a nice inclusion if you haven’t made that switch.
Up at the top is a large grab handle for picking the bag up from the floor. We wish side handles were also an option, yet their absence isn’t a dealbreaker. What you do get is a pair of zippered side pockets. While they’re quite slim, they can fit slender bottles like an 18-ounce Hydro Flask. Built-in gussets provide enough expansion, and they grip bottles in place securely. However, having a bottle in one of these pockets feels bulky since they stick out considerably.
Flip over to the back of the Large Cargo Backpack, and you’ll find thick padding and mesh—lots of it—covering the entire back panel, save for the horizontal and vertical air channels running across. The mesh helps carry comfort by ensuring hot air flows away from your back. That said, it’s not a perfect solution, as you’ll probably still sweat on a hot summer day, yet it’s a way to mitigate that.
Built into the back panel is a luggage pass-through. Don’t see it? It’s the entire half just below the horizontal air channel. That’s a very seamless integration, and more to the point, a luggage pass-through is handy for those traveling with rolling luggage.
The harness system on the Large Cargo Backpack is rather simple. You get more of that mesh and padding underneath the straps, plus strap keepers to keep slack in check—and that’s about it. There are no load lifters, waist belts, or sternum straps. It’s a pretty barebones setup as far as travel backpacks come and go. Fortunately, that doesn’t translate directly into discomfort.
It turns out that the harness system isn’t a huge factor in how comfortable the Large Cargo Backpack is to carry. No, the more noticeable characteristic at play is the pack’s shape. Unlike TUMI or Travelpro’s offerings, the Large Cargo Backpack feels smaller. It doesn’t jut out from the back, meaning there’s minimal sagging sensation.
We like to wear travel backpacks like these on the tighter side since the flush fit helps prevent heavy loads from sagging. However, since that’s not a big issue with the Large Cargo Backpack, a looser adjustment may work just as well. Those with smaller torsos might want to stick with a tighter fit, but that’s not the end of the world, considering it’s a large 33-liter backpack.
Inside The Backpack
The Large Cargo Backpack has three front pockets, one at the top where the nameplate is and two below, stacked on top of each other. The frontmost pocket of the lower ones is quite flat inside, so it’s better for travel documents like a passport, tickets, and those pamphlets they give you on tours (be sure to read them on the trip home!). There’s no organization; that’s where the pocket behind it comes in.
Inside you get a ton of organization. There are two liner pockets on the front side, an RFID-safe pocket on the back side, plus two pen pockets and three lip balm-sized slip pockets. We like the relatively bright beige-colored interior Briggs & Riley went for on top of the healthy amount of organization inside. If we had to nitpick, though, we would’ve liked it if the liner pockets were a little tighter. Instead, they’re quite loose, so gear inside them can fall out if the bag gets jostled around.
The upper pocket serves as your quick-grab pocket for items you need to access frequently. You can also use the side pockets for that purpose, so long as you’re not using them to hold your bottle. However, since this pocket is close to the top, it’s much easier to reach, plus there are two additional pen loops in case you need to write something down quickly. There’s also a unique serial number inside that you can scan to keep track of your bag in case it gets lost.
The laptop compartment unzips all the way down to the sides, which is a bit overkill considering there are already gussets to stop it from fully unfolding. Regardless, you get a wide enough opening to take advantage of the available room inside. There’s a padded laptop sleeve (compatible with up to 17-inch laptops) at the back and a smaller tablet sleeve at the front. You can also occupy the middle with other slim accessories like a cooling pad. In our testing, though, the tablet sleeve is already enough if you only want to bring a travel keyboard as an extra.
Moving on to the main compartment, the first thing that stands out to us is the lack of lockable zippers. Strangely, the laptop compartment’s zippers are lockable, so we wonder why Briggs & Riley didn’t do the same here. It’s a shame because, while laptops are generally more expensive than clothing, they’re all important to us.
The zippers go down nearly the same distance as the laptop compartment’s zippers. However, the gussets for the main compartment feel too small to make use of this, giving you an opening that’s too small for the amount of space inside. To be clear, you can still get packing cubes and clothing inside without much problem, but it would be much more convenient if the opening were bigger. However, loading the front top pocket with heavy items can make the front panel pull forward even more, enlarging the opening—it’s not a fix per se, merely an observation.
As we mentioned earlier, the Large Cargo Backpack stands well on its own, even when empty. Coupled with the squared-off shape of the interior, it’s an ideal packing experience when loading it up with packing cubes and pouches. Built-in organization options include a document sleeve at the back (which you can use for another tablet or a 13-inch laptop) and two liner pockets at the front side. It’s worth noting that the latter two have elastics; we only wish that were the case in the front liner pockets, as well.
- Boxy design stands up on its own
- Decent amount of padding on the back panel and shoulder straps
- Digging the leather accent
- Bag still in great shape overall
- Wish some internal pockets were tighter to keep gear in place
- Ample mesh padding makes for a comfortable carry even when the bag is heavy