Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L Review
The Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L’s rectangular shape may look unique, but carrying comfort is largely preserved thanks to its relatively low profile.
- Low-profile design carries comfortably
- Spacious with enough built-in organization
- Abundance of loops and attachment points adds flexibility
- Somewhat scratchy shoulder straps
- Water bottle pockets lack significant stretchiness
- Some zippers are partly obstructed
42 oz (1190.7 g)
Recycled ballistic nylon; 1000D recycled nylon; 400D recycled nylon; 210D recycled nylon
20 in x 12.5 in x 7 in (50.8 x 31.8 x 17.8 cm)
Recycled Nylon, Ballistic Nylon, Nylon, Packcloth, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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With all the bells and whistles travel bags have these days, we’ve more or less narrowed down what we look for at a baseline level. Certain aspects such as capacity, organization, and carrying comfort are important considerations. To be more precise, we’re looking for a bag that’s big on space, with just enough pockets to get a vacation packing list’s worth of gear sorted, and should be easy to carry for the duration of that trip. Sounds easy, right? If only it were.
The Global Travel Bag 30L manages to achieve all three. Its rectangular shape makes it easy to pack like a suitcase, yet also easy to carry, almost like a daypack. You get a front pocket, an admin panel, and a spacious main compartment. However, it’s in the finer details where we have a few problems with the Global Travel Bag. We’ve encountered hiccups with parts like the zippered openings and small water bottle pockets. So, let’s take a look.
Materials & Aesthetic
One look at the Global Travel Bag, and you’ll immediately recognize it as a Topo Designs, well, design. There are at least three shades of colors scattered around the exterior, and not exactly complementary ones. As disjointed as it looks, Topo Designs make the styling work. Far from the more homogenous designs of the likes of Aer, Peak Design, or even Bellroy, Topo Designs’ gear thrives with their multi-color styling, and we like it!
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: if Pixar ever needed bags, Topo Designs would be our top suggestion. Mind you, if you’re not a fan of the mixed colorways, there are more tame options. At the time of writing, there’s Navy, Clay, and Olive (the sample we have) for colorful options and Black and Charcoal for stealthier ones.
The bag’s rectangular shape deserves credit as well. Despite the apparent largeness of this 30-liter bag, it’s relatively low-profile, making it easy to stow away in overhead bins. It’s also easy to Tetris inside a packed-out car trunk alongside similarly squared-off containers.
The materials are a mishmash of different ingredients as well. For the fabric, there’s 1000-denier, 400-denier, 210-denier, and 1680-denier nylon. They’re all recycled, so you can rest assured that they’re environmentally friendly. Topo Designs doesn’t specify which denier fabric goes on which part of the bag. Judging by the thickness of the weaves of the fabric, it’s safe to say that the 210D fabric makes up the liner while the heavier deniers cover the outside. Despite the differences in denier, everything is stitched together solidly, with no loose threads in sight.
As for hardware and zippers, you have your industry-standard names, such as YKK and Woojin. YKK zippers are pretty much as good as you can get when it comes to zippers because of their reliability, and it’s no different on the Global Travel Bag. The same can be said for the Woojin buckles, adjusters, and clips. There are plenty of them around the bag, and none of them have broken over the month of testing the bag.
Like a lot of travel backpacks, the Global Travel Bag’s shoulder straps stow away completely into a zippered compartment behind the back panel. Thanks to the back panel’s structuredness, there’s no perceptible bulge created; thus comfort is mostly preserved. We’re happy to report that disengaging the gatekeeper clips is fairly easy. Given how there are plenty of travel backpacks whose shoulder straps detach this way (and we’ve struggled to fiddle with a lot of them), we’re more than happy to praise these ones.
The shoulder straps are, as you would expect on a travel backpack, thickly padded. If we have one complaint about them, it’s that they’re quite scratchy. Then again, even that is a fairly minor issue, all things considered.
The sternum strap is simple and straightforward. It’s mounted on a rail system (i.e., it slides along a strap), giving a very granular amount of adjustment. The buckle used is a no-nonsense side-release buckle; no fancy-schmancy magnets here, just something that’s tried and tested.
There’s a detachable hip belt along the bottom for extra stability, plus load lifters for each of the shoulder straps. These are more or less a must-have for a lot of high-capacity travel backpacks. Note that we say “high-capacity” since some travel backpacks do get away with just a pair of shoulder straps and still manage a comfortable carry. As for the Global Travel Bag, we never really find a need for the hip belt, and we mostly rely on the sternum strap and load lifters to keep the weight more centered.
If backpack-style carrying isn’t your thing, you can (alternatively) use the Global Travel Bag’s pair of D-rings to attach a shoulder strap. There’s one near the bottom right corner at the front and another on the top left at the back. A crossbody strap does come included with the bag—a nice value add if nothing else.
That said, carrying the 30-liter Global Travel Bag on one shoulder isn’t exactly a comfortable experience. Even with the well-padded strap, a ton of weight presses down on just that one shoulder while the large profile of the bag leans against your side. It’s quite a sight to behold, especially if you have a smaller body frame. We reserve this style for quick carries over short distances (to/from the car, between rooms, etc.) where messing with the backpack straps is too fussy.
Truth be told, we enjoy carrying the Global Travel Bag as a backpack. Even at its relatively large 30-liter size, the way it’s shaped means most of the weight is spread out. A lot of travel backpacks stick out the back, giving them a slightly saggy feel; not the case with the relatively low-profile Global Travel Bag. Granted, it may look overshadowing on smaller frames, but we’re generally surprised with how well it handles.
There are handles at the top and on the sides. All are thick, padded, and—most important of all—using them doesn’t deform the bag’s structure. We don’t use the top handle all that much, given the bag’s relative tallness. Instead, we prefer to use the right handle since that’s also the direction that a lot of the pockets’ openings face.
Lest we forget, apart from the shoulder straps, crossbody strap, and trio of handles, there’s technically a fourth way to carry the Global Travel Bag. Integrated into the back panel is a luggage pass-through, which sits the bag horizontally on rolling luggage.
The usual caveat of horizontal luggage pass-throughs apply here: loosely packed clothes may get disorganized if you pack them with vertical-oriented carrying in mind. That may sound nitpicky, but considering that the main compartment lacks hold-down straps, it’s worth pointing out.
At the sides, you get a water bottle pocket each. We do appreciate water bottles come as standard, but these ones are a bit too small for our liking. Our usual 18-ounce Hydro Flask fits, though just barely. We have to do a bit of wiggling to get it in there, and the problem is that the elastic doesn’t have that much stretch to it. A bigger bottle like the Owala FreeSip 24 oz, for example, can’t fit despite only being slightly wider than the Hydro Flask. The pockets are also quite shallow, meaning tall bottles that fit may still fall out if they get too top heavy (i.e., when they get tilted).
Now let’s talk about the PackFast Travel System. This is Topo Designs’ approach to modularity, and in fairness, it does work. There are two sets of daisy-chained loops at the front (six loops in total), plus gatekeeper clips at the top and at the bottom. You can use these to attach additional Topo Designs gear with corresponding PackFast loops or clips.
We’ve tested this with the 40-liter version of the Global Travel Bag, attaching the Topo Designs Daypack. The result? It’s mixed, to say the least. On the one hand, it’s a neat way to add capacity and carry two bags at the same time. On the other hand, it compromises the carrying comfort way too much for our liking. We really didn’t want to spoil the Global Travel Bag 30L’s handling, so we’ll leave it to you if the feature is worthwhile using.
You may be wondering about the red loops scattered around the Global Travel Bag. They’re there for more than just the red accent they provide; they’re also a means of securing the zippers. Simply thread the corresponding red paracord zipper pulls through the loops, and you have yourself a deterrent against would-be thieves. Okay, they’re not exactly padlock-secure, but it’s at least an extra step they would have to fumble through before they reach your belongings.
Inside The Backpack
At the front is a quick-grab pocket with a side opening. This can act as your dump pocket for everyday carry accessories like a wallet, smartphone, and earphones, among other things. The space is fairly deep, spanning almost the entire front area of the bag. There are also two zippered pockets inside, so smaller gear like thumb drives have a place here. We do find that unzipping these inner pockets can be tricky since they go all the way to the sides, where it’s a bit tight.
There’s also a built-in key strap, albeit a very short one, so not designed to reach door knobs even when you swing the bag around. Instead, they’re a convenient way to keep keys in one spot for the duration of your trip.
After the front pocket, there’s a secondary compartment that holds an admin panel. It opens up fully like a clamshell, and inside you’re greeted with a bright yellow-green liner. Get used to it because this is what also awaits us in the main compartment; not that it’s a bad thing since it’s a huge boost in terms of internal visibility.
The admin panel handles organization for bulkier gear. Think laptop chargers, high-capacity power banks, tablets, travel-sized keyboards, mice, and the likes. On the other hand, the space is relatively flat, so we wouldn’t try to fit something too rounded like a packable jacket.
Next up is the main compartment. If you’ve read our review of the 40-liter version of the Global Travel Bag, you may be expecting an additional cover on top of the bucket space. Alas, there’s no such cover here, let alone the two additional pockets that came along with it. Instead, it’s just a big bucket for packing cubes and pouches.
The lack of a cover is not a huge loss since it means more of the space is available for your gear and easier access. Speaking of access, the main compartment is quite easy to pack. The sidewalls stay up thanks to the bag’s rigid structure, and it’s easy to navigate inside, again thanks to the very bright interior liner.
We recommend utilizing packing cubes because the Global Travel Bag does lack hold-down straps of any kind. There aren’t any attachment points for accessory straps either, so loose clothing inside may slosh around during transit.
Under the cover are two large zippered mesh pockets, another frequently seen feature on travel backpacks. We’re happy to have two of these since it means we can have each filled with different clothing. Other users prefer a single large mesh pocket dedicated entirely to used clothes, but we prefer the flexibility of having two.
The Global Travel Bag 30L has the ability to expand to 35 liters. However, unlike other travel bags that have bespoke expansion systems, the Global Travel Bag doesn’t have any. The way it expands is more subtle; you just pack it out to the brim, and the bag sort of bulks out automatically.
It’s not so obvious where exactly the Global Travel Bag gets its extra 5 liters of space. Looking at it closely, though, it seems to get it by simply bulging out the front, using the fabric between the main compartment and front compartment as a gusset.
The laptop compartment is largely a carry-over from the 40-liter version. This means that while a 15-inch MacBook Pro does technically fit, it’s relatively tight getting it inside. Furthermore, the zipper is obstructed near the end by the shoulder straps and hip belt’s attachment points, so you have to do some maneuvering to get it fully unzipped.
Actually getting a laptop inside is a bit awkward, too. You’d imagine that it’s as straightforward as inserting the laptop lengthwise since it’s a wide opening. In practice, even our 13-inch MacBook needs to be inserted with the short side going in first, then angling it as it goes in. This is mostly because the end of the zippered opening is blocked, so it really takes some additional maneuvering. We wish this were a smoother process, given how much surface area the Global Travel Bag has to work with on both the 30-liter and 40-liter versions.
So, there you have it, the Global Travel Bag 30L. As far as travel backpacks come and go, this one does a good job of balancing its capacity with its carrying comfort by maintaining a low profile. Unlike the Global Travel Bag 40L, we have fewer complaints about its harness system, let alone how it carries. Absolute carrying capacity aside, this is the ideal Global Travel Bag for us.
- Structured sides for easier packing of the bucket-style main compartment
- Removable hip belt is a nice addition for this smaller capacity
- Water bottle pockets are fairly small
- Materials in great shape—no blemishes or loose threads anywhere
- Water bottle pockets are pretty tight for bottles larger than 18 ounces
- Decent amount of internal storage in addition to bucket style main compartment
- Comfortable fit that’s low-profile considering its size
- Materials still in great shape
- Some zippered pockets are difficult to open—they bump into the edge of the pack instead of opening fully