Thule Accent Backpack 26L Review
The Thule Accent 26L Backpack is well-structured, with plenty of organization and great back panel padding. We just wish the straps weren’t so crunchy.
- Sleek look with durable materials
- Extremely rigid top pocket protects delicate gear
- Convenient side laptop accessibility
- Crunchy padding on overly broad shoulder straps
- May have too much organization for some
- Bulky design could be difficult to slide in tight spaces
2.7 lb (1.2 kg)
18.9 in x 12 in x 9 in (48 x 30.5 x 22.9 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Polyester, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
Perhaps you’re familiar with Thule from their capable rooftop carriers that allow you to pack up for a road trip with the whole family to grandma’s every year. Or maybe your garage is full of their bike racks and tents because you’re an outdoor enthusiast who likes to camp and explore the outdoors.
If so, you may be surprised the first time you see a Thule backpack, especially one from their line of laptop bags, because the professional polish belies their adventurous roots. We’ve had lots of Thule gear pass through the doors of Pack Hacker HQ that are more at home in the office, airplane, or coworking space, though, including tech kits, duffles, carry on backpacks, and even wheeled luggage. So how does the Thule Accent 26L Backpack stack up? Let’s find out!
As a nod to its sturdy roots, the Thule Accent 26L Backpack material is a durable yet eco-friendly, 1680D recycled polyester. You can only get it in black at the time of this review. That’s OK because it’s a travel daypack you’ll want to use for everyday commuting to and from the office, along with working remotely on a trip, so it’s nice to have something that blends into different situations.
The branding matches what we’ve seen on the Thule EnRoute Backpack and the Subterra PowerShuttle: a vertical all-caps silver “Thule” logo with “Sweden” printed in black. It’s a subtle yet firm declaration to let everyone know whose bag you’re rocking.
Also similar to the Subterra is the rigid structure of the top of the bag to protect your gear. More on that later, but we want to point out that you can actually knock on this upper portion of the bag without it caving in. Whether or not that’s your thing is up to you, but you won’t have to worry about crushing anything inside, that’s for sure.
The YKK zippers include large, flexible plastic pulls with the Thule name embossed on the bottom. They’re easy to grab, yet don’t jangle since they’re not metal.
You have options for carrying this bag, as well, from a lightly cushioned carry handle at the top with a neoprene-like underside to a less-padded side handle that’s great if you have to pull the bag out of a trunk or an overhead bin to a luggage pass-through on the back should you want to slide it over the handle of your rolling luggage while making your way through the airport.
When you adjust the harness system, there are Duraflex slides with Thule imprinted on them to tighten things up and a Duraflex buckle on the sternum strap, which slides along a rail so you can dial in the fit, although it’s not removable.
The rest of the harness system is a mixed bag. There’s excellent breathable mesh on the back panel and shoulder straps (yay!). The back panel features cushioning that’s so soft you could almost use it as a pillow (double yay!). And all of the straps feature built-in elastic strap keepers to contain the excess, so you don’t have to worry about it dangling in the breeze (triple yay!).
Now for the not-so-yay. The padding in the shoulder straps is thinner than that of the back panel, which could be OK if not for it sounding crinkly whenever you push it. Maybe Thule used plastic for the padding instead of foam? Probably not, but it’s not our favorite. The shoulder straps are also extremely broad at the top and lack much flexibility, so they’re rather large for smaller users while having the potential to pull on the trapezius muscles of larger users.
Like many other Thule backpacks, this bag has a lot of structure. That will either make you happy—no sagginess, yay! Or you’ll bemoan the lack of compressibility if you want to squeeze it into a tight space and cannot.
Either way, this is a conservatively professional bag with its black colorway and business-friendly features. The built-in elastic strap keepers keep you from feeling like a walking cat toy, yet the harness system isn’t everything we want it to be.
As we mentioned earlier, the back panel cushion is wonderfully soft, and the panel itself contours to your back, but depending on the height of your torso, it can hit at an odd place around your waistline. Likewise, some Pack Hacker Team Members find the shoulder straps feel ok, while smaller users find them too broad. Plus, everyone agrees that there is a crunch to the padding of the thinner shoulder strap padding that is cringe-inducing. Instead, we wish Thule used the same padding as it did on the back panel for the straps.
Inside The Pack
Now to the nitty gritty—the inside of this backpack. Thule markets this bag as an eco-friendly backpack with multiple pockets to keep everything organized on the go, and boy, there are a lot of ways to stay organized with this bag. If you prefer every last little dongle and trinket to have a separate place in your bag, this may be the best backpack for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer to pack in tech pouches and kits, then you may want to pass. Your mileage may vary on how much you like all the features.
Starting at the top is the extremely rigid pocket we’ve already mentioned. When you unzip it, you’ll find a similarly sturdy bin standing up inside, so you can put your sunglasses, phone, and any other delicate tiny travel accessories in here without worrying about them getting crushed as you try to shove the bag under the seat in front of you on the plane. Thule even calls it the SafeZone, and guess what? It’s removable! When you pull it out, there’s a liner pocket that attaches with some hook and loop fastener where you can stash important items you don’t need quick access to, whether that’s your passport, extra cash or cards, or maybe even a small jewelry box if you’re bringing more than you can wear on the plane. Whatever you want to transport safely, it’s not very obvious that the SafeZone bin is removable at first glance, so like a hidden doorway in the library of a mystery movie, someone might pass it by if they get a hold of your bag.
All of this rigidity means you usually have to fully open the pocket to get your hand inside to grab what you need. Still, if you need to conceal some essential travel documents or currency for the next leg of your trip, you probably won’t mind the inconvenience.
At the bottom of the front panel is another pocket to unzip. This one is well-padded for protection and a great spot to put the wall charger and cord for your laptop so you can access them without digging into the main compartment. Since this bag includes a vertical zipper running along the right-hand side, below the side grab handle, where you can pull out your computer without going through the main compartment, it’s nice to have your charging cords easy to access as well. If you’re leaving those at home or the office, the pocket is also a great spot for a pair of gloves to have them within easy reach during the shoulder seasons when you don’t know if you’ll need them daily.
Also on the right side of the bag is a travel water bottle pocket. It’s pretty tall and fairly wide at the bottom, plus it expands with a fabric gusset and elastic at the top to hold everything from a slender Standard Mouth Hydro Flask to a Wide Mouth Nalgene with ease. Sometimes your bottle can get stuck on something protruding sideways from the main compartment, but it doesn’t happen often and is easy to wriggle past.
Along the back panel, right above the luggage strap, is a horizontal zipper. It opens a 10-inch pocket 5 inches deep, that’s a great place to keep tickets, your passport, and even a minimalist wallet while traveling. They’ll be more secure against your back as you make your way through the airport or train station, and you won’t feel them against your back, provided you don’t put anything too bulky inside.
On the left side of the bag is one more external pocket that’s roughly the same size and shape as the bottle pocket yet closes with a zipper running across the top and down the left side. In here is a mesh pouch topped with elastic for small gear like tissues, lip balm, or headphones, plus a key clip on a very short leash. It’s a good spot for the key to a gym or train station locker or to stash your keys from home when you’re on vacation so you know where to find them when you return. The clip is nothing fancy, just a sturdy plastic clip, yet we had no issues with it throughout testing.
The zipper to open the main compartment runs in a horseshoe shape that angles from the rear of the bag at the top to be closer to the front on the sides. It has a dual-sided zipper, so you can open it from either side to reveal even more organizational opportunities. While the outside of the bag is black, the interior lining here and in all exterior pockets is a bright blue with a shiny geometric pattern printed on it, so it’s easy to see inside and find whatever you need.
About midway down the front panel is a wide zippered mesh pocket where you can put small accessories you don’t want falling to the bottom of the bag. We like the position of the pocket because its placement is such that the external quick-access pocket doesn’t fight it for capacity. Instead, each has its own space.
Flip around to the back side of the main compartment, and you’ll see places to pack your entire tech setup. Beginning at the back is a padded laptop sleeve for up to a 16-inch MacBook with an elastic strap at the top to hold it in place. It’s alright if you don’t want to use the elastic; there’s another piece of hook and loop fastener inside the laptop sleeve where you can stick it out of the way. The sleeve swallows smaller devices like a 13-inch MacBook Air, so you may not find it necessary to use the strap unless you know your backpack will be lying down with the potential for the computer to slide out.
In front of that are a smaller padded pocket for a 12-inch tablet and a built-in divider to stand papers, files, and folders upright and keep them that way instead of crunching to the bottom of the bag when you fill the remaining space.
And, finally, there is a slip pocket on the front of the stiff divider for a small notebook and three slots for pens, pencils, or stylus—or one of each! Then, because of the structure of the back, you easily have another 3-4 inches of space to fill in the main compartment with packing cubes if you’re getting away for the weekend, or a small soft cooler if you want to bring your lunch to work, or a packable travel jacket, or your gym gear … you get the idea. With 26 liters of capacity, you have quite a bit of space to fill however you choose. Just be aware that if you don’t choose to fill it all, it won’t necessarily squeeze into a narrower space since it doesn’t compress in any meaningful way. Of course, you don’t have to worry about saggy-pack syndrome, so there you go!
- Very stiff safe zone for sensitive gear
- Shoulder straps sound crinkly
- Interesting organizational options
- Bag structure helps hold its shape
- Easy to spot gear against the light-blue lining fabric
- A loose thread here and there, but they seem like seam ends more than anything and haven’t gotten worse