Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack Review
Despite its bulkiness, the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack offers a ton of space and some interesting organization for a one-bag travel backpack.
- Removable and height-adjustable hip belt accommodates different body types
- Harness system is comfortable, even with this large bag fully loaded
- Useful internal organization—Cotopaxi didn't go for the standard two-giant-bucket design
- The bag can get bulky quickly and lose its shape based on how you pack it out
- The lockable zipper features end up getting in the way more often than they're helpful, at least in our testing
- Internal mesh dividers stretch and don't compress, which can make the clamshell hard to close
4.19 lb (1.9 kg)
TPU-Coated Polyester Shell
21.5 in x 13 in x 9 in (54.6 x 33 x 22.9 cm)
Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), Ballistic Nylon, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware, Polyurethane, Polyester
Laptop Compartment Size
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With its signature Cotopaxi look and massive amount of storage space, the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L could be a solid contender for your next one-bag travel backpack.
A couple of members from our team have been testing the Allpa 42L for the last month in Michigan, Minnesota, and Kentucky—so we’ve had plenty of time to get a feel for this backpack and how it functions in different adventures and travel situations.
Let’s dive right in.
Materials & Aesthetic
The 1000D TPU coated polyester gives the Allpa 42L that signature Cotopaxi look—similar to the smaller Allpa packs, including the 35L Allpa we’ve reviewed a while back. This material is weather-resistant and quite grippy, which can be a good or bad thing. Although it’s great that it stays in place when you set it down, that grippiness can also make it more difficult to jam it into an overhead compartment or under your airplane seat.
Plus, at 42L, this bag is a little bit larger, so you’re bound to encounter those inherent big-bag-little-space problems when trying to fit this thing into tight quarters.
While the material on the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L is durable and weather-resistant, it does scar easily. After a month of testing, we’re stuck with some permanent marks on the front of the bag.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Cotopaxi product without the llama logo. We’re digging the black-on-black logo on the Allpa 42L we’ve been testing. The llama is shinier than the rest of the matte black material which makes it stick out just enough.
Side note: if you’re wondering why the llama logo, Cotopaxi picked this because llamas are happy, versatile, outdoor-focused, and seem to make people smile. It’s a simple reason—and that’s good enough for us.
At the time of this review, the Allpa 42L comes in two different colors: the black version we’ve been testing, and a more colorful indigo option. If you know Cotopaxi, then you know that the folks over there love mixing up their colorways—just check out other Cotopaxi gear we’ve reviewed like the Teca Windbreaker and the Batac 16L Daypack. And while we usually go for more subdued colorways that blend into the crowd, we appreciate that they offer some unique, fun options.
Of course, we’ve polled our Instagram audience on the overall look of this bag and the result was loud and clear—80% of you guys you liked it! That’s pretty impressive.
Wrapping up the rest of the materials on the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack, we have 840D ballistic nylon on areas of the bag not covered by the TPU coated polyester. This is durable and rugged nylon gives the bag some great flexibility.
This pack also features durable and chunky YKK zippers—some of the best out there. Along with Duraflex buckles on the hardware, including the sternum strap clips and the clips that attach the shoulder straps to the bag.
The harness system on the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L is solid. And comfortable. The shoulder straps have some super spongy and cushy foam, which keeps this thing riding nice even for long stretches.
You’ll find load-lifters at the top of the shoulder straps, which is an important feature for a bag of this size. Load-lifters lift the load by pulling the pack closer to your upper back, making for a more balanced carry. They also help you get the bag totally fine-tuned if you adjust it with the shoulder straps and hip belt. These load lifters also have a fabric sleeve on the front, so you can stuff the excess strap inside to get a cleaner look. Gotta love that #DangleFreeExperience.
On the front, there’s an adjustable sternum strap that slides along a rail that follows the curve of the shoulder straps. We like this style of sternum strap because its adjustable, but also securely fastened to the bag.
Moving down the straps, the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L has Duraflex buckles that allow you to clip and unclip the shoulder straps from the bag and stow them away. We’re digging this option—especially for situations where you’ll be checking the bag or just want a more streamlined package while you’re carrying it in duffle mode or by the handles.
Hidden behind the back panel is space for a hip belt. We’re really glad Cotopaxi included a hip belt option on the Allpa 42L—it’s pretty much mandatory for a bag of 42L and, in our opinion, any bag over 35L.
One of the biggest complaints with the Allpa 35L is actually that the hip belt is not adjustable or removable—so we’re excited to see that it’s both removable and adjustable (height-wise) in the Allpa 42L. The adjustability will also accommodate longer torsos much better than the 35L version does. We love that Cotopaxi is listening to its customers and reviews like ours to constantly work toward a better overall experience.
On the back panel of the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack, a decently stiff frame sheet gives the bag a little bit of structure. There’s also some breathable padded mesh on the back to help avoid that dreaded swamp back as much as possible—although with backpacks (as we always say) you can’t avoid it completely.
Now, let’s talk about some of the other external features, shall we?
First, the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L has four handles—one on each side of the pack. The two side handles are made from a simple nylon webbing-like material, while the top and bottom handles have more padding making them more comfortable to grab.
No matter which handles you grab, the weight of this bag seems to stay pretty centered and evenly distributed—it’s the little things, ya know?
On the right-hand side of the backpack, you’ll find a water bottle pocket. While a dedicated spot for your water bottle is nice to have, the pocket isn’t super-stretchy or large, so it’s optimal for smaller water bottles of coffee tumblers.
Next, you’ll find a variety of lash loops on the outside of the bag—handy for attaching carabiners or other accessories. These attachment points add some nice functionality without making the bag look too much like an outdoors or hiking backpack.
There’s also theft-turn zipper loops on the outside of the Allpa 42L—helpful for keeping your bag secure, but they’ve been a little cumbersome for us. We’ve found ourselves leaving the bag unzipped just a little since the security loop get in the way of fully closing the pack. And fishing the zipper through the loop takes a little longer than we like when getting in and out of the bag frequently. That said, it’s a handy feature for some security and peace-of-mind, so your mileage may vary.
Lastly, messenger mode. To get the Allpa 42L into messenger mode, you basically attach a strap to the lash points on the outside of the pack. Like we mentioned earlier, you can stash away the backpack straps to make a cleaner package, but this thing is still pretty bulky to wear crossbody or use as a duffle. It is, however, better than some other bags we’ve tested of a similar size.
Inside the Pack
Okay, on to the inside of the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack—which has some useful internal organization for a backpack this size.
Starting at the front, the quick-grab pocket at the top is quite large—it goes down about a third of the bag and has some built-in dimension. We’ve been using this quick-grab pocket for toiletries, tech gear, and other things we need easy access to in transit. There’s also plenty of organization going on.
On the front flap, we’ve got three equally-sized liner pockets with a bit of elastic at the top to hold items inside. On the back, there’s a zippered mesh pocket with two more liner pockets inside—one covers about two-thirds the width of the pocket, and the other about a third. You’ll also find a simple but robust key clip in here, too.
Next up, the laptop compartment. When you’re wearing the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L, access to the laptop compartment is on your right side. We like this pocket a bit more than the 35L version’s laptop compartment—where we had trouble even fitting a 15-inch laptop without a case on it. The compartment is way bigger on this 42L version and we like that the sleeve is smartly positioned towards the center of the bag to protect your computer from unexpected drops.
There’s also a liner pocket on the front side of the laptop compartment. It’s slightly padded and a good spot for a tablet, notebook, computer charger, or any other tech accessories you can fit—although flatter items seem to be better. Now, we do want to point out that this is a horizontal pocket in a vertical bag. There’s an elastic strap to help keep your things in place, but we wish there was a zipper instead—without one, your things can get jostled around and fall out into the main capacity of the laptop compartment.
On the opposite side of the Allpa 42L, you’ll find another zipper that looks a lot like the laptop compartment zipper. But this one opens up into the main compartment of the bag.
We really dig that you can access the main compartment of the bag without fully opening the clamshell and the mesh dividers (we’ll get to that shortly). However, we’ve often found ourselves confused as to which side was the laptop area and which side was the access to the main compartment. That’ll probably get better if you pick up this bag and get used to using it, but you may need to make a mental note in the beginning.
Moving onto the Allpa 42L’s main compartment—it opens up fully clamshell-style. Like a suitcase.
On the right side of the opening (the part that’s closer to your back when wearing it), you pretty much have a giant bucket that’s sectioned off with a mesh divider. This is the compartment that’s accessible from that back zipper that’s opposite of the laptop compartment. We love the size of this compartment and it offers ample space for packing cubes—you can cube it out and organize it however you see fit. You can also put a bunch of clothes just free-floating in here, although we generally prefer packing cubes.
There’s also a small zipper pocket hidden inside this main bucket. It’s a nice place to stash valuable items.
The left side of this clamshell is where the bag gets interesting. Cotopaxi doesn’t leave you with another empty bucket on this side. Instead, there’s some clever organization going on. Including a pocket that feels like a built-in packing cube—which is nice for clothes or anything else. Of course, you could also use packing cubes here for additional compartmentalization.
There are two pockets on this side of the main compartment—a smaller one up top, and a larger on underneath it. We’ve been using the smaller pocket, which has mesh so you can see what’s inside, as a place to store the messenger strap and rain cover when not in use. The larger pocket is the one that’s packing cube-like. And it has another zippered pocket on mesh flap—ideal for flatter items.
With this setup, it can be tempting to overpack each side—and since the mesh on the top is a little bit stretchy, you can easily get into a position where you can’t quite close the main clamshell (without jumping on it like in the movies—do people really do that?). It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s definitely something to be aware of. If you’re fully packing each side, you might have trouble zipping this thing shut.
Durability & Testing
Our founder, Tom, and video editor, Mark have been testing the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack in Minnesota, Michigan, and Kentucky over the past month.
Generally speaking, we like the improvements we’ve seen on the 42L Allpa compared to the 35L version—including the adjustable hip belt and the improved harness system.
We do have some qualms with the size of the bag and how it packs out, though. It can start to feel bulky quick. There’s plenty of fabric, but not a ton of structure. And when you’re packing this thing full, you may find certain parts of the bag bulging out. We typically prefer bags over 40 liters to have some structure to them.
At one point in our testing, we had the Allpa 42L fully packed out on a flight to Minnesota. One part of the bag was sticking out so much that it actually made it difficult to shove the bag into the overhead bin. Granted, it would have been easier if we had spent more time making sure everything was completely flat, but a more padded and structured bag will obviously hold its shape no matter what you put inside.
- Really digging the entire harness system
- Feels like just the right amount of organization for a larger travel bag
- The materials feel sturdy and durable
Harness system is very comfortable, but the bag gets bulky quickly, depending on how it’s packed.
The materials feel sturdy and durable, although some permanent marks have developed on the exterior fabric.