Topo Designs Light Pack Review
The colorful Topo Designs Light Pack is streamlined for everyday carry, though its loose laptop sleeve lacks built-in tech protection.
- Shoulder straps are comfortable to wear despite being thin
- Main compartment’s open design maximizes space
- Attaches to Topo Designs travel bags via PackFast loops
- Organization is minimal and can be hard to access
- Front pocket’s depth makes accessibility tricky
- Laptop sleeve feels loose and lacks padding
1 lb (0.5 kg)
17.5 in x 10 in x 5.5 in (44.5 x 25.4 x 14 cm)
Laptop Compartment Size
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Topo Designs’ gear has always stood out in terms of aesthetics. They’ve built the impression of fun-to-look-at bags while not skimping on important things like the build quality and features. Sure, you may call the style just a tiny bit childish, but who doesn’t enjoy a youthful look? We do, and it’s not a bad one, either.
This lighthearted approach to styling has not been lost on the Light Pack. It still features Topo Design’s signature look, but unlike its bigger Rover Pack Classic sibling, this one is more streamlined for daily use. A front pocket, a roomy main compartment, comfortable shoulder straps—and that’s basically it. You do get some garnish in the way of Topo Designs’ PackFast loops, but it’s a pretty basic daypack at its core.
Materials & Aesthetic
When we think of the words “sleek,” “stealthy,” and “urban,” we usually think of the likes of Aer, CODEOFBELL, NOMATIC, and WANDRD. Black fabrics dominate their respective gear lineup, usually topped with black hardware and branding. It’s a style we find most agreeable since black is such an easy color to pair with anything else—a useful hack, if we say so ourselves.
Once in a while, though, we like to take a break from the safe option and go with something a bit more colorful. There are a lot of brands that feature colorways that aren’t in grayscale, but only a few, like Topo Designs, make gear that comes colorful by default. Just look at the Light Pack we have here; it’s almost like a Fisher-Price toy, and we mean that in the most endearing way possible.
For those wondering, this is the Blue / Red / Forest colorway; not the most imaginative name for sure, but it’s at least self-explanatory. Stoic naming aside, the funky color combination looks very youthful; it definitely appeals to the inner Toy Story fan in us. More uniform colorways like Olive and Blue are available at the time of writing, but even those are eye-catching head-turners; Topo Designs really makes their gear stand out.
Enough about looks, though—what about substance? The main fabric here is a 400-denier nylon packcloth. It doesn’t quite have the same level of robustness as something like ballistic nylon. Instead, it feels a bit softer, with a shiny look and smoother feel. That said, it’s still a well-built backpack, backed by other quality parts like Woojin hardware and YKK zippers, complete with paracord pulls.
Something to note about the fabric is that stains and blemishes are quite noticeable since the colorways use bright colors. We have a mystery stain on ours (we suspect it’s from a stray pen swipe) at the front, and it’s visible against the blue fabric. This is where darker fabrics hold a clear advantage: hiding such stains much easier.
This being dubbed the “Light Pack,” it’s no surprise that Topo Designs didn’t go overboard with the bag’s harness system. At 18.5 liters, it’s well within daypack territory, and as such, it only gets a pair of shoulder straps. They’re not very impressive-looking at first glance because of how thin they are in terms of padding. However, we find them super comfortable to wear, and we think it’s just the right size for a bag of this size.
The straps have mesh material underneath to help them expel heat more easily. On top of the straps are D-rings, one on each side, and a nylon overlay. You can use these to mount accessories like keychains or even a spare strap to use as a sternum strap. Sadly, there are no strap keepers, but the Light Pack doesn’t have that many straps to tame to begin with, so the looks remain relatively neat.
The back panel uses the same nylon packcloth as the rest of the bag. There’s no mesh material like with the straps, nor are there any hidden pockets or a luggage pass-through. If you do want to attach the Light Pack to another Topo Designs bag, you can use the built-in PackFast attachment loops. There are two of them, one at the top and one at the bottom. There’s really nothing special about these loops, so you can also use them to attach common accessories if you’d like. However, keep in mind that the loops rest against your back, so it may not be the most convenient or comfortable.
The Light Pack doesn’t have much in the way of external features, which is okay since it keeps the bag streamlined. However, those looking for more may be disappointed. For example, if you’re the type to carry a water bottle, the Light Pack doesn’t have any side or internal water bottle pockets.
Inside The Backpack
The Light Pack’s front pocket seems innocent enough. Its slanted opening plays well into the bag’s styling while providing wide enough access for a relatively deep pocket. However, its depth means we have a tough time getting to items that have sunk towards the bottom, regardless of whether it’s on the left where the opening is higher or on the right where it’s shallower.
As for organization, the front pocket has two liner pockets styled to match the slanted opening. These are good spots for slim but tall everyday carry items like a power bank and a granola bar—two items we usually carry to keep both us and our devices topped up. Additionally, there is a built-in key clip where you can hang keys. It’s only a short one, but that’s good because it prevents the keys from tucking themselves into a corner.
Space-wise, the front pocket doesn’t have a ton of horizontal depth, meaning bulkier and more rounded items like packable jackets will have a tougher time fitting in. On the other hand, flatter items like smartphones, wallets, and notebooks will fit just fine. It’s worth noting that there’s a ton of headroom just above the pocket’s opening, so you can fit something like a ruler if you can bend it into position.
The main compartment’s opening is your typical horseshoe-style (that’s the kind most often seen on daypacks like this one). Unlike the front pocket, accessibility here is not an issue, especially when you consider the bright yellow liner fabric used in this colorway. We can’t say whether all colorways will come with a similarly bright liner, so your mileage may vary if you pick something else.
There’s really not much in terms of organization inside the Light Pack’s main compartment. It’s an entirely open space, except for the laptop sleeve (which we’ll get to in a moment). For an 18.5-liter backpack, the space is maximized well since there are no partitions or pockets that get in the way. On the other hand, we have to rely on packing cubes and pouches for any kind of granular organization.
The laptop sleeve is one of the weaker points of the Light Pack. The fabric here feels loose and thin, with no additional padding built in for protection. Fortunately, the base and sides (that’s the yellow section) of the Light Pack do feature padding, but we wish the sleeve itself had some as well. There is technically a false bottom, though it’s so minimal that we’re afraid it’s not going to be very effective.
Tl;dr we opted to use a separate laptop sleeve for our 13-inch MacBook just to be safe. Do note that the built-in sleeve is rated for 15-inch laptops, hence why we were able to fit our 13-inch MacBook encased in a separate sleeve.
The biggest appeal of the Light Pack has to be its light design—and no, that’s not a half-hearted attempt at a pun. The unique aesthetic is a welcome break for anyone looking for something less formal. Furthermore, the minimalist approach in organization means it’s a good pick for those who want maximum space in a small package. It can still work as a laptop bag, but it’s best suited for users who already use a protective sleeve.
- Front pocket goes quite deep
- 15-inch MacBook Pro fits, though with little to no wiggle room at the sides
- Liner fabric is quite bright
- Internal laptop pocket is pretty loose and lacks padding—definitely worth carrying a laptop sleeve for added protection
- Not a ton of internal features or storage
- Front pocket is pretty deep and can be hard to access
- Front pocket also gets hard to access when main compartment is packed out—there’s not a ton of wiggle room in the material