EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L (CTB35) Review
The EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L’s (CTB35) soft structure maximizes space while managing its weight with a supportive hip belt.
- Yoke pocket is convenient storage space during airport security
- Supportive harness system includes a stowaway hip belt
- Spacious even among similarly-sized bags
- Removing laptop from compartment requires horizontal clearance
- Hip belt stowage is a bit tight
- Slightly saggier than other EVERGOODS Civic bags
4 lb (1.8 kg)
20.5 in x 8.75 in x 14 in (52.1 x 22.2 x 35.6 cm)
Back panel length 19 inches
Nylon, Polyurethane, HDPE Plastic, Aluminum, YKK Zippers, DWR Coating, VELCRO®
Laptop Compartment Size
The folks over at EVERGOODS know a thing or two about putting together a solid travel backpack. We’ve seen our fair share of them. Thus far, they’ve done a good job nailing the crucial characteristics that we look for, such as carrying comfort, space, and organization—three aspects that sound simple but are tricky to balance on large travel bags.
Meet the Civic Travel Bag 35L, also known as the CTB35. Though it’s not perfect when it comes to balancing the three aspects we mentioned above, it has its niche carved out nicely. The bag’s 35-liter capacity is maximized and decked out with thoughtful and easily accessible organization. At the same time, it’s also more comfortable to carry than its larger sibling, namely the Civic Transit Bag 40L (CTB40), a bag that—though also comfortable to carry—we wish had a hip belt. That said, EVERGOODS’ decision to use a lighter denier fabric means a slight compromise in structure, compounded by the bag’s large size.
The change in fabric is but one of the many details affecting how the CTB35 performs as a travel bag. There’s plenty more to go through, so let’s dig right in.
Materials & Aesthetic
The CTB35 has a very mature, almost industrial look to it—a look that it shares with many of the brand’s gear. EVERGOODS’ approach to styling may not excite those looking for the most eye-catching design, but it appeals to those looking for the opposite: sleek, inconspicuous, and stealthy. Well, as stealthy as a large 35-liter travel backpack can be.
The black-on-black aesthetic is a look that we absolutely dig because of its versatility. Whether we’re walking down a busy city street or trekking through a trail, the subdued looks of the CTB35 can blend just about anywhere. There are no other colorway options, and the only (easy) way to give it some personalization is through the front loop logo patch.
This is a fun signature feature on most of EVERGOODS’ gear. It’s two-by-two inches in size and compatible with their Hi-Vis Patches, which are very reflective. Of course, you can custom make your own; just remember to have yours hook-sided.
Looks aside, the more important question is, does it still have that trademark quality we’ve come to expect from EVERGOODS?
The short answer is yes, but with a key difference. Gone is the usual 500-denier nylon we’ve seen on most of their bags, like the CTB40 and Civic Panel Loader 28L (CPL28 V2). In its place is lighter 420-denier high tenacity nylon with a water repellent finish. Side by side with the 500D fabric of the CPL28 V2, this fabric feels slicker because of its tighter weave.
It still feels strong enough to be used on a travel bag, but not anything too crazy like being dragged across boulders and gravel. According to EVERGOODS themselves, the fabric uses the same yarn as their 500D fabric, only more tightly woven, which results in a lighter package. Those last two words seem to be the key terms here, as the CTB35 weighs a relatively hefty four pounds when empty. We’d imagine that’d be a higher number if they didn’t make the change.
Combined with the 420-denier liner (with polyurethane coating), the bag has a pretty good structure, though not as good as the CTB40’s. The difference the relatively small reduction in denier makes is more apparent once we compare it to the smaller CPL28 V2. When empty, the CTB35 is floppier than the CPL28 V2, not only because of the lower denier but also because it’s bigger and therefore has more fabric to deal with. That said, the CTB35’s structure feels rigid enough for long-haul travel.
Before we get into the CTB35’s other external features, we have to note the hardware involved. The zippers are all YKK-branded, and the buckles come courtesy of Duraflex. Both are reputable brands with which we very rarely find issues. With something as big as a travel backpack, you really don’t want any of the many moving parts to be unreliable, so we’re glad none of them are.
Let’s go over the harness system, and where better to start than the bread and butter of any good backpack: the shoulder straps. The straps are densely padded with Zote foam and feel spongy and thick. There’s a pass-through for tubes around the top of each strap in case you want to equip a water bladder for hands-free hydration.
Along the shoulder straps are sets of daisy-chained loops where a sternum strap mounts. It’s not as granular as the sliding on-rails type, which we prefer, but it does the job well enough for the CTB35. It uses a simple side-release buckle, the kind we like.
The CTB35 also comes with a beefy hip belt. It’s well-padded like the shoulder straps, with a simple but effective side-release buckle in the middle. It’s not stiff, though, and can flex and pivot up to a certain degree for a better fit. It can also be tucked away when you don’t need it.
Tucking away the hip belt does take some shimmying. This is partly because the slip pockets are relatively tight and partly because you want to make sure the buckle and straps sit flat inside. It’s a bit fussy to do; not the fastest straps to tuck away, though we like that the option is available.
One of the features of the hip belt we like is the elastic strap keepers. These are great for preventing slack from dangling freely and keeping the looks generally cleaner. However, it’s unfortunate that the shoulder straps and sternum strap don’t have strap keepers of their own since those are the straps we use more frequently.
Moving on to the back panel, there are two sections of meshed foam with a shallow air channel in the middle. Each section has diagonal patterns that break up foam and act as mini air channels. The design puts up a valiant effort to keep things breathable, but a sweaty back is almost inevitable because of how much area the bag covers, especially in warmer climates.
Embedded along the center air channel is a luggage pass-through. It sits the bag horizontally on rolling luggage, which may not be optimal. We’ve had insightful discussions in the Pack Hacker Pro Community about luggage pass-throughs and the pros and cons of how they orient the bag. For example, the CTB35’s horizontal orientation makes for an overall lower profile on a roller and makes the front sideways-opening pocket easier to access.
On the other hand, access to one of the water bottle pockets or the top-opening quick-grab pocket is a bit more awkward. All in all, it’s one of those tiny details some may not pay particular attention to, but it’s something to watch out for if bag ergonomics is something you consider important.
EVERGOODS’ approach to handles on the CTB35 is rather clever. They’ve made one that’s sort of continuous, starting from the top-right corner and extending down towards the left side. They’ve divided this by stitching it into sections, two of which form the top and left handle. The spaces in between are left open as attachment loops from which accessories can hang. There’s also an aluminum stay at the side to help maintain the bag’s shape when carried by hand.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the left handle coincides with the left-facing front pocket. That way, the pocket remains accessible, even when you’re carrying the bag by the side handle.
Call it extra, but we like the simple yet elegant way they designed the handles. They’re comfortable, balanced, functional, and clean to look at—everything we could ever ask for in a handle.
Now, all of that said, how well does the CTB35 handle its weight and size?
The fit feels characteristically similar to that of the CPL28 V2 and CPL24. For example, the upper portion of the back panel wedges out and contours to your back, preventing that “hover back” phenomenon where the bag feels like it’s pulling away from you.
Still, the CTB35 has a slightly saggier feel because of its larger size. Fortunately, the shoulder straps’ dense padding cushions and distributes weight well. In addition, the CTB35’s hip belt is great to have since it takes a lot of the weight off the shoulders. We’re particularly happy with this feature because we sorely missed it on the even larger CTB40.
Comfort-wise, the CTB35 is not as taut as the smaller CPL28 V2. We feel that the CPL28 V2 is easier to wield and is a much better expression of a minimal travel bag that you can also use for everyday carry. The CTB35 definitely leans more on its largeness rather than comfort. The good news is that all that “largeness” translates well to actual usable space, which we’ll discuss in the next section. The downside is that we’d say it’s too big to use as an everyday carry backpack, and there are no compression straps to tone down the volume.
We’re not saying you can’t use the CTB35 as a daily carry; everyone has their own tastes, needs, and preferences. It’s just not as easy to wield as other travel backpacks that come equipped with compression systems or are more compact.
Last but not least among the external features are the water bottle pockets. There are two of them on the CTB35, and they use a stretchy cloth material. Each has two holes at their bottom corners for drainage, which are quite useful in case rainwater seeps in. Size-wise, these water bottle pockets completely swallow our relatively large 32-ounce Nalgene with some elasticity to spare. EVERGOODS themselves say these pockets can fit up to a liter-sized bottle, and we don’t see a reason to doubt that, considering we got pretty close.
The elastic does have good grip. However, slim bottles with a slick finish (like a stainless steel one) can still slip out. Our workaround for our 18-ounce Hydro Flask is to clip its lid to the CTB35’s side handle. If you think that’s overthinking it, then you haven’t seen someone’s water bottle fall out and roll 40 rows down the aisle of a plane.
Inside The Backpack
As briefly mentioned earlier, the front pocket has a sideways opening, somewhat stealthily hidden by a gusset. Inside, there’s ample room for even large-sized everyday carry items like a notebook. Some backpacks feature a similar style front pocket, the downside being it tends to lack depth despite having broad coverage.
The good news is that the CTB35’s front pocket has enough leeway to expand. This means not only better overall spaciousness, but also better interior visibility and more comfortable access since it’s not cramped.
Its organization has a similar layout to that of the CPL28 V2. There’s a pen silo, a passport-sized liner pocket, and a zippered mesh pocket. Pictures really don’t do the latter-most justice, but it’s big enough to fit our 10,000 mAh Satechi Quatro Wireless Power Bank in addition to other small tech accessories.
Next, we have the top pocket. This is where we put our tech pouch, compressible cap, and portable hard drive; items that we think are too clunky to put in the front pocket but are not too often used. The gray liner fabric provides enough interior visibility that we don’t have to look too closely to find even small items.
We’ve pointed out a lot of the features on the CTB35 that we like. However, we can definitively say that the yoke pocket is our favorite. In more common terms, this is what we’d call a quick-grab pocket for frequently used items. It also works great as a dump pocket for all the items we carry in our own pockets; handy for whenever we have to go through airport security. The key difference between this pocket and the top pocket from earlier is a wider opening and a slightly roomier interior.
Additionally, the inside is lined with soft fabric to prevent scratches on fragile items like sunglasses. There’s also a built-in key leash that’s helpfully orange-colored, so it’s easy to spot. The clip used here is a durable carabiner-style; the kind also featured in their other gear, and it’s the kind we like for its security.
Finally, we arrive at the main compartment. It opens up like any other typical clamshell-style opening. Since the zippers need to travel a long way around the 35-liter bag, we grab the loops located near each end to help with the unzipping. Yes, you can also use these loops to hang accessories, though keep in mind that they’ll be hanging low.
Inside, you get the usual travel bag features like the bucket-style space where you put all of your clothes. In our case, all of our clothes are organized into packing cubes to prevent mix-ups caused by jostling. There are no built-in hold-down straps, so packing cubes are still our prime recommendation for getting organized.
We’re able to fit four packing cubes as well as a small toiletry bag. Again, even among 35-liter-sized backpacks, the CTB35 feels quite spacious and maximized. There’s also an elasticated slip pocket towards the back where you can put documents. Just above, there are two sets of daisy-chained loops; primo spots to hang a smart tracker.
On the opposite side are the main compartment’s built-in organization. At the top is a zippered pocket that has its own pockets inside. One is a liner pocket wide enough to fit a passport inserted sideways, while the other can fit a compact smartphone charger. Space is relatively generous since the pocket is gusseted at the bottom.
Below is a large sideways opening mesh pocket, which is also zippered. It’s big enough that we can fit our Patagonia Nano Puff without too much of a fuss (we didn’t even have to compress it fully). The clever part is EVERGOODS was forward-thinking enough to give this pocket a sideways opening, so it’s accessible even with the main compartment only partially opened from the side.
Speaking of sideways openings, the laptop compartment also opens the same way. We’re not the biggest fans of this orientation for laptop compartments since it means having to put the bag on its side before we can take our laptop out. Trust us; it’s more courteous to pull a laptop from the top than the side when you’re sitting next to someone on a plane almost elbow-to-elbow.
The compartment features a sleeve for laptops up to 16-inches big like our MacBook Pro. It comes with a VELCRO strap to secure it in place. This strap can also be placed on a separate target if you don’t want to use it. Strangely, this target is slightly off-center relative to the strap itself, though only by a few millimeters.
The compartment also has quite a bit of independent volume, more than what we would deem necessary for a lone 16-inch MacBook Pro. There’s enough room for bulky laptop accessories like a cooling pad or a stand. Keep in mind that anything too bulky may compromise the back panel’s flatness and, therefore, comfort.
That wraps our review of the Civic Travel Bag 35L. In terms of size and comfort, it sits somewhere between the CPL28 V2 and the CTB40, which makes a ton of sense if you just look at their numbers. This leaves us with a pretty straightforward conclusion: if you’re looking for a spacious travel backpack (more than the CPL28 V2) but carries relatively comfortably (better than the CTB40), then the CTB35 is a sweet spot.
- The hip belt is built-in and non-removable, but it stows away when not needed
- Side handle has a metal stay underneath the fabric
- Built-in key clip uses a split strap
- Pleasurable pack with some great built quality—something we’ve come to expect from EVERGOODS
- Spacious bag was great on a weekend trip to NYC—plenty of room to spare—though it’s listed at 35L, it feels larger
- Built-in hip built is handy and comfortable when worn, though it takes a bit of effort to stow it away, and you can feel it in your back slightly if not appropriately stowed
- Slick 420D material is easy to clean and not a hair magnet
- Feels saggier than the CPL28 V2 when fully packed out, though the contoured shoulders are still comfortable