Patagonia Altvia Pack 36L Review
A robust frame and beefy hip belt complement the Patagonia Altvia Pack 36L’s comfortable shoulder straps, so carrying it for long periods is a breeze.
- Very comfortable, balanced harness system
- Well-secured water bottle pockets and external mounts
- Main compartment relatively fast to open despite buckles and drawstring
- Lacks convenient place for storing a smartphone and wallet
- No padded secondary handles for easy carrying
- No built-in protection for devices like a tablet or laptop
2.19 lb (1 kg)
23.5 in x 12 in x 10.5 in (59.7 x 30.5 x 26.7 cm)
Recycled Nylon, Ripstop Nylon, Polyester, Spandex, Polyurethane, Steel, Paracord, Duraflex Hardware, YKK Zippers
The Patagonia Altvia Pack 36L has a harness system we really like. It’s well-balanced, well-padded, and well-ventilated. As big and heavy as travel backpacks tend to get, this is tricky to accomplish, but Patagonia did a good job pulling it off. Whether it’s the shoulder straps, the hip belt, or the underlying rigid frame, none feel too cumbersome despite forming a comprehensive harness system. The design is good overall, but it does have its weak points.
For example, we couldn’t find a convenient spot to store a smartphone. There’s no padded handle to lug the bag around quickly, and despite being so large, there’s no padded area for a laptop. When combined with the slower access via its drawstring cinch and buckle closure, these missing features skew the Altvia Pack 36L towards outdoor use rather than city use, which is something to keep in mind as you make your decision. But hey, let’s dive into the nitty gritty details before you make a judgment call, shall we?
We’re skipping the usual black colorway this time around, and we’re glad we did because the Altvia Pack 36L in Salvia Green just looks right. The two-tone green is very outdoorsy yet classy enough to look at home in a coffee shop. While we’d still recommend the black colorway for anyone who wants to go full stealth, we like it when brands offer fun colorways like this. A bit of occasional flair isn’t bad, you know?
Of course, this being Patagonia, the package wouldn’t be complete without the robust materials fit for adventures. Unfortunately, Patagonia doesn’t specify beyond 100% recycled “rugged nylon.” By our estimation, it’s not as heavy as the 1680-denier ballistic nylon, as the weave is too fine. Still, the fabric feels thick enough for the weekend warrior who plans to take the bag trekking on occasion and set it on soil, grass, or pebbles.
The Altvia Pack 36L’s exterior may look like it’s buzzing with features, but it’s actually quite simple once you zoom out. Those paracords, cinches, and buckles on the sides? Those are the bag’s side straps where you can attach gear like trekking poles, travel tripods, or umbrellas. Each side has a paracord on the top and bottom attached via clips. You can tighten each by pulling, and there’s a strap keeper to keep the slack in check. There are also cinched cords in the middle that you can use to secure your gear further.
You’ll want to bring an insulated water bottle on your adventure, and the Altvia Pack 36L is happy to oblige with two side pockets. They’re big enough to hold even a 32-ounce Hydro Flask, so you won’t have much trouble fitting most bottles short of a full jug. The mesh fabric is also stretchy enough to hold slim 18- or 21-ounce bottles in place, though you’ll want to secure their handles with one of the straps to be sure. Also, keep in mind that it’ll be tricky to attach both a trekking pole and a water bottle on the same side—not impossible, but we’d put the bottle and the trekking pole on different sides.
On the bottom of the Altvia Pack 36L is a rainfly tucked away in a small pocket. There’s no zipper to keep it closed, so it’s easy to access in a sudden downpour. Simply pull the rainfly out and wrap it from the front. Don’t worry about it falling out; the rainfly’s safely tethered to the pocket by a short strap. The Altvia Pack 36L’s hatch covers most of its compartments, but having a rainfly is very reassuring for its added layer of weather protection.
The Altvia Pack 36L’s show-stealing component for us is its harness system. Like many high-capacity travel backpacks, it has a full suite of straps. They range from your typical shoulder straps to fun extras like a hip belt and sternum strap all the way up to small but meaningful straps like load lifters—the Altvia Pack 36L has them all.
We’ll start with the shoulder straps since they have a lot going on, visually speaking. The perforated padding underneath the see-through fabric has slits that let air pass through easily. This airflow is crucial to comfort, as we’ll explain in the fit notes section.
The shoulder straps’ inner edges have loops where you attach the sternum strap. Five loops on each side give the sternum strap a fair amount of vertical adjustment. Attaching the sternum strap is simple and straightforward; you simply hook the clips onto a corresponding loop. Thankfully, the clips are secure enough that we didn’t lose either half of the sternum strap. We’ve had backpacks that use a similar system before with loose clips, and it’s one of the main reasons why we prefer on-rail sternum straps.
There’s also a clip on the sternum strap where you can route a drinking tube. So if you are using a hydration bladder, we recommend keeping the sternum strap on even if you don’t plan on using it to carry the load.
Up at the top are the load lifters. You’ll typically see these on travel-focused backpacks where it’s essential to manage where the weight rests. These won’t magically make weight disappear, but they can shift it closer to you, minimizing that saggy feeling that drags you backward.
A big factor in the Altvia Pack 36L’s carrying comfort is the underlying frame supporting the harness system. It gives the bag a ton of structure, so much so that you can see a clear rectangular outline once it’s on. Of course, having a frame adds to the bag’s bulk and overall weight. However, once you’re in this large backpack territory, thick fabric and piping can only get you so far before the bag inevitably begins to feel saggy, so this is a reasonable compromise.
The hip belt is, thankfully, a proper belt, given its thickness. The padded section extends around the sides of your waist. Beyond that, it’s just a plain nylon strap bridging the two halves of the belt, but that’s plenty of padding coverage to offload substantial weight off the shoulders.
All those straps and padding make the Altvia Pack 36L a very comfortable backpack despite its large size and, potentially, heavy weight. The beefy hip belt, load lifters, and rigid back panel structure lift a significant amount of weight off the shoulders. It balances the load between your shoulders and hips, making it a lot easier to carry for extended periods. Granted, none of the individual straps of the Altvia Pack 36L stands out as very thick in a world where the Salkan Backpacker exists, but its relative simplicity also makes it easier to use by comparison.
If we were to nitpick, the main weakness of the Altvia Pack 36L is its lack of handles. There is a thin strip of nylon situated between the shoulder straps. However, that feels very anemic when you want to carry the bag across a large studio or between hotel rooms. We wish there were a padded handle on the sides or at the top, as slinging it over your shoulder or grabbing one of the shoulder straps each time isn’t convenient or ergonomic.
Inside The Backpack
The hip belt also has built-in semi-see-through pockets for quick-grab items. While they can hold small items like tickets, coins, cash, snacks, or even a small wallet, they’re too small for a smartphone like the iPhone 14. Even so, we recommend using this pocket since you can’t remove the hip belt. In other words, these pockets are a use-them-or-leave-them kind of deal.
You can also store quick-grab items in the top pocket. This one is roomy, even by travel backpack standards, since the interior spans most of the top hatch. Whereas you might struggle to fit a smartphone or a set of keys at your waist, you can fit both and more in this top one. That said, there are two caveats to watch out for. First, there are no dividers or additional pockets inside (just a key leash), so it can be tricky to sift through many items. Second, this can make the hatch very heavy, slowing access to the main compartment.
Unbuckle the hatch, and you’ll find a second buckle almost directly underneath the first one. This buckle secures the front stash compartment where you can store very bulky items like a jacket, a buff, or gloves. It’s a simple dump pocket, and the most notable feature here is the buckle’s super-long strap for adjustment, reinforcing the idea that you can store really large gear here.
You may think all of these secondary pockets would be more than enough for everyday needs, and for most users, that may be the case. However, between the small hip belt pockets and the large top pocket, we wish there was another pocket in between those two sizes large enough for a smartphone but not so large that we have to reach in very deeply.
Getting to the main compartment isn’t particularly quick. After undoing the first buckle holding the top hatch, you also have to pull the cinched opening apart. Thankfully, this is as easy as pulling half of the buckle and the cinch apart. Again, we’ve seen other backpacks, such as the Danner Daypack 26L and Osprey Daylite Cinch, with this type of closure. What’s different about the Altvia Pack 36L is the shape of the opening. Its slanted shape, with the far side extending further out than the front, gives you a scoop-like opening. It’s a subtle design choice that makes stuffing gear inside easier.
So what is inside the Altvia Pack 36L’s main compartment? Unfortunately, it’s a bit sparse in terms of organization. There’s a pouch-like zippered pocket where you can store small tech items like dongles and cables. Below is a sleeve where you can put a hydration bladder, which also doubles as a pocket for your laptop or tablet. However, there is no padding or a false bottom for protection, so we recommend using a separate laptop sleeve. If you stick to using it for a hydration bladder, you can route your drinking tube through a small hole behind the zippered pocket.
Yep, this is where we typically recommend using packing cubes and pouches to keep your clothing and accessories organized. The Altvia Pack 36L has a large, cavernous main compartment primed for that. It’s worth noting that the Altvia Pack comes in smaller 14L, 22L, and 28L sizes, but this 36L variant really swallows a week’s worth of clothing. Your mileage may vary depending on how much clothing you chew through on trips, so we’ll let you be the judge of that.
- Really digging the colorway we have
- Frame is fairly structured
- Interested to see if access is tedious
- Crazy comfortable harness system, which is great for long days carrying a heavy bag
- Material still in great shape
- Storage is pretty simple, though we find ourselves wishing for a small zippered pocket that’s not on the top lid