Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack Review
We’re digging the futuristic, sci-fi vibe of the Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack—plus it has ample storage. But some of the functionality is not great.
- Ample space and organization
- Durable materials used throughout
- Solid weather-resistance
- Black interior fabric makes it difficult to see what’s going on inside of the pockets
- Back panel doesn’t have much structure, making the overall carry flumpy
- Water bottle pocket could be improved
2.4 lb (1.1 kg)
18.3 in x 12.8 in x 5.51 in (46.5 x 32.5 x 14 cm)
Polyurethane, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
Thirty years ago, Timbuk2’s first messenger bag was born—the brainchild of a “freethinking, freewheeling” bike messenger in San Francisco. Now, years and numerous totes, travel packs, and camera bags later, and Timbuk2 has developed its signature urban, technical vibe that’s attracted a loyal following of backpack enthusiasts, digital nomads, and city dwellers alike.
At 28L, the Tech Roll Top Backpack is not advertised as a travel backpack. It’s been specifically built for “the daily grind.” That said, you can definitely take it on smaller excursions and, if you’re a minimalist, use it as a full-on travel backpack.
After a month of testing, we have a lot to say about this pack. So let’s jump right into the review.
Materials & Aesthetic
At the time of this review, you can pick up the Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack in Jet Black and…that’s it. Luckily, we’re fans of black backpacks as they tend to blend in with a crowd and don’t show stains easily.
Plus, the black colorway and black-on-black accents, including the zippers, buckles, and branding really epitomize a “tech” backpack. This thing has a futuristic, Matrix-y vibe that we can certainly get behind. Throw on a trench coat and aviators and you’ll be ready for some slow-motion backflips.
The shininess of the polyurethane fabric only strengthens that sci-fi feel. Unfortunately, it’s also swishy. Some people don’t mind swishy fabric and the scratchy sound it can make when rubbed together, while others can’t even read about it without cringing. You know which camp you fall into.
We go into further detail about the polyurethane material in our review of the Timbuk2 Impulse Travel Backpack Duffel, so head over there if you want to get into the nitty-gritty. Here, we’ll just tell you that this material is super weather-resistant and durable.
We’re always fans of having weather-resistance on a pack built to hold expensive gear like your laptop. You can get caught in a rainstorm on your way from a coffee shop to your hostel without having to worry. The bottom of the pack also has further weather-resistance, which is great.
All that said, this material shows scratches and scuffs relatively easily. (We’ll discuss this further in the Durability & Testing section.)
The external zippers are YKK Aquaguard® for even more weather-resistance.
Finishing off the materials, the beefy buckle is from DURAFLEX, which is a brand we trust.
All in all, if you don’t mind superficial damage, then this pack should keep up with all of your adventures.
Let’s begin with arguably one of the most important aspects of any backpack: the harness system. The straps on the Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top are contoured, designed to follow the curve of your shoulders. They’re also nicely padded—as is the back panel.
The back panel also features air channels to help with breathability. A must for an all-black pack, particularly if you’ll be rocking it on some sweltering days.
That said, the back panel lacks structure. It feels like there’s a very thin frame sheet in there, which doesn’t stop it from getting floppy at times. This is especially true because, as we’ll discuss in detail later, your stuff will likely all fall to the bottom of the main compartment, making the overall carry flumpy. This flumpiness is one of the most annoying things about this bag.
There’s also an adjustable sternum strap. We like having the option to adjust it, we only wish the folks at Timbuk2 designed it to be more secure. As it stands, it could easily slip out without you noticing until it’s too late. We haven’t lost the sternum strap on this particular pack, but we have on other packs with a similar style of sternum strap.
On one of the shoulder straps, you’ll find the ever-important bottle opener. You know what the Boy Scout’s say—you never want to be unprepared when faced with an unopened bottle…or something like that. We’re not sure it’s necessary to have a bottle opener on a pack—okay, that’s not true. We’re sure that it’s not necessary. But it’s a fun feature that’ll be handy to have around if you don’t own a multi-tool. We certainly haven’t been complaining during testing.
On the front of the pack, there are laser-cut daisy chains for you to attach a light, a carabiner, or whatever else. We haven’t used them much, but we appreciate how they’re both functional and stylish.
One element of the Tech Roll Top Backpack we really like is the humble top-handle. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it’s been designed so well, we have to give Timbuk2 credit. It’s super soft, a great size, and we’re digging the debossed Timbuk2 branding.
Another thing we’re digging is the roll-top strap and buckle. In the next section, we’ll discuss a few nitpicks we have with the roll-top as a whole, but for now we’ll say that we appreciate the looping mechanism, which makes the strap look super tidy. It’s the definition of a #DangleFreeExperience.
Depending on how much you stuff this bag full, and how much you want to tighten the strap, you may end up with a decent-sized loop. But we don’t mind as the loop looks neat, and you can use it to further tighten the strap.
And the strap comes loose easily when you need it to, allowing quicker access.
Inside the Pack
If you love backpack pockets then get ready to have the time of your life. In typical Timbuk2 fashion, there are plenty of zippered pockets all over this thing.
Let’s start with the secret, zippered water bottle pocket. The secretness of this pocket is not to keep your water bottle away from prying eyes, but to maintain the pack’s sleek exterior. We’ve been able to fit the 26oz Yeti Rambler in this space, although it gets tough once you pack the bag out. Not a huge issue, but worth pointing out.
We’re also big fans of water, so we’d prefer to have a regular ole water bottle pocket for quicker access. Gotta stay hydrated, you know? But we get that it’s a stylistic choice. Fashion is pain and all that.
There’s a small, zippered pocket on both the right and left side of the pack with no further organization inside of them. They’re small enough they won’t fully fit your hand. To point out the obvious, these pockets are for your small accessories. Wireless headphones, keys (if they’re slim), dongles, a good luck charm, things of that nature.
There’s another small, zippered pocket on the right side of the pack that’s tucked beneath the roll top. While it’s not a hidden pocket, we didn’t notice it for the first few days of testing. It’s kind of sneaky— hidden in plain sight if you will. It’s a great spot for your wallet, phone, passport, etc. It’s our favorite pocket of the bunch.
And, sticking with the theme, there’s an additional zippered pocket front and center. This one is rather large, though. There’s no organization inside of it and it only has a small amount of dimension, so we’ve found it works best for flatter items. A book, some granola bars, etc. It’s also large enough that you could throw in a packable jacket if you need to.
On the other side of the pack is the laptop compartment, which is nice since you don’t have to undo the roll top to access your laptop. It also has a false-bottom and thick padding on one side (the side that rests against your back), which is great. While we would’ve liked to see thicker padding on the other side, it’s also not the end of the world that there’s not. It should protect your laptop, anyway.
It fits a 15’’ laptop, but it’ll be snug. You have to line it up and carefully slide it in, which takes some time.
And that brings us to the main compartment—the one that opens with a roll-top and gives this pack its name.
It’s secured with both a zipper and velcro, which is a bit much. You don’t need the velcro since you’ve already got the zipper and the roll-top. Still, it’s useful if you plan on filling the pack to its literal brim, plus it adds some extra weather-resistance.
If you undo the velcro and zippers, you can sort of fillet it open and have a good view of what’s going on up top. You can also leave the velcro secured and just undo the zipper for quicker access, which is what we’ve been doing for the most part. If you’re not in the mood to work a zipper or the pack is completely packed, you can leave it zipped and access your stuff from the very top.
Now, once you have this compartment open, you’ll see…nothing. We don’t mean that there’s nothing there—we just mean that you’ll see nothing. And that’s because the jet black exterior coupled with the top-loader style of opening means that it’s super difficult to see what’s going on inside of the pack. Seriously—good luck finding any of the things you packed inside of the black hole.
While it’s easier to see your stuff if you’ve undone both the zipper and velcro, you still won’t be able to see the bottom of the pack very well. The zipper only goes approximately 30% of the way down the pack.
It’s also difficult to see what you’ve got going on inside the other pockets. It’s just less big of a deal since they’re smaller.
A bright pack liner would help. We’ve seen other packs use this to great success. For now, we suppose you could get around it by using bright accessory bags or only packing large things.
Inside of the main compartment, you’ll find a large zippered pocket. It’s the most secure pocket on this pack, so it’s a great place for your passport or anything else you’d like to keep safe. We’ve used it for a notebook, leaving it unzipped, so we can easily grab the notebook from the top of the pack. The outside of this pocket is also a subdued green color which may help you see your stuff, but not by much.
The rest of the compartment is a giant bucket. And you can shove a good amount of stuff here.
We should note that any of the stuff you don’t put in the zippered pocket will fall to the bottom of the main compartment, ending up in a jumbled mess. This can be annoying, especially since visibility inside the Tech Roll Top is so limited. If you’re strategic about how you pack—making use of all of those external zippered pockets we’ve already discussed—you’ll probably have better luck.
Durability & Testing
At the time of this review, a couple of members of our team have been testing the Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack as a daily driver in Detroit, Michigan for a combined month. While there are some solid things about this pack—namely, it’s futuristic, black-on-black aesthetic and its weather-resistance—we’re not fans of some of its functionality. Particularly, how difficult it can be to see what’s going on inside of the main compartment.
We also don’t love how easy it is for you to scuff up the pack. The scratches and marks aren’t anything major, and we haven’t been treating this pack with particular care, but it’s still not something you want to see after only a month of testing. But such is the cost of solid weather-resistance. Other than a few loose threads, there’s nothing more to report durability-wise.
Like we said, as long as you don’t mind superficial marks, this pack should last you quite some time.
- Extremely padded back panel
- Highly water-resistant
- Hidden water bottle pocket is an innovative design
Stuff seems to fall to the bottom of the main compartment, and without a bright interior lining, become hard to see. It’s really frustrating!
A few scratches and marks on the exterior of the pack, as well as a few loose threads.
There’s a lot to like about the Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack. It holds a lot of stuff and has numerous zippered pockets to organize said stuff. It’s also durable and weather-resistant. That said, there’s a lot that could be improved. The sternum strap isn’t secure, the water bottle pocket can be difficult to use when the pack is full, and the carry could be more comfortable. More than anything, though, we wish the pack had a bright, interior lining. As it stands, it’s really difficult to see inside the main compartment!