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Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Review

Using every compartment on the messenger-style Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag requires careful packing to preserve its slim profile and carrying comfort.

Our Verdict

7.4 /10
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  • It’s easy to organize gear with the compartmentalized design
  • You have the option to carry it tightly or loosely based on your preference
  • Dedicated laptop compartment is well-padded


  • Must be packed strategically to preserve its shape
  • Swapping out the straps takes time
  • Tall bottles feel too bulky to be in the water bottle pockets; we’d rather put them in the main compartment

Technical Details

98 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 142/145 Airlines

39 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (lb)

    1.5 lb (0.7 kg)

  • Dimensions

    11.5 in x 15 in x 4 in (29.2 x 38.1 x 10.2 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Ripstop Nylon, Recycled Nylon, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Laptop Compartment Size


  • Warranty Information

    Topo Designs Warranty & Repairs

Buying Options

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Full Review

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Messenger bags like the Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag seem like the ideal everyday companion. They’re not that big, they’re easy to carry, and they usually have a fair amount of compartments to store and organize all your gear. On the other hand, space isn’t a messenger bag’s strong suit, especially when you consider its lengthy envelope-like profile that lacks the horizontal depth irregularly shaped gear eats up.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Handle
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Using the messenger bag outdoors.

However, not everyone needs to carry a ton of irregularly shaped gear like DSLRs, tech pouches, and food containers. For users who carry slim items like a 13-inch laptop, notebooks, a wallet, a smartphone, and tech accessories, there is more than enough space in the Mountain Cross Bag while maintaining its slim profile.

External Components

As you would expect with much of Topo Designs’ gear, the Mountain Cross Bag features a very colorful, Toy Story-esque design. The Bone White / Olive sample we have here is a mish-mash of at least four different colors. That said, the palette is a bit too beige for us to call it Topo Designs’ signature style, though it’s far from the monochrome Rover Pack Tech.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Brand
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Topo Designs logo looking classy as always.

The material choices are pretty middle-of-the-road. There is a relatively light 200-denier recycled nylon ripstop around the upper portions of the exterior, while the lower panels use 1000-denier recycled nylon. This makes sense since only the lower parts of the bag will graze the ground and, therefore, will need the 1000-denier fabric’s abrasion resistance; elsewhere will do just fine with lighter fabric.

The rest of the materials include Woojin hardware for the buckles and adjusters and YKK-branded zippers. The latter comes with chunky paracord pulls knotted at the ends. They feel excessive since the zippers glide smoothly anyway, but they do add a rustic vibe to the bag that we dig, and those familiar with Topo Designs won’t be surprised to see them—like bright colorways, it’s sort of their thing.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Zipper
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Chunky zipper pulls.

Along the bottom of the bag is a pair of buckled straps that serve two functions. First, we use them to secure long, bulky items externally, like a travel tripod or a rolled-up yoga mat. We also tighten them to cinch down the bag’s profile. Though the Mountain Cross Bag isn’t particularly thick, some extra compression aids carry comfort.

Smaller accessories can hang out along a silver daisy chain of loops along the front of the bag or on the yellow pull tabs. With this many options for attaching gear, you really shouldn’t have much trouble finding a place for all your accessories.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Top View
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | These handles are simple, but they get the job done.

Up at the top is a pair of grab handles. They feature no padding and are simply folded and stitched to make them thick. There’s also nothing to clasp the handles together, so they hang freely to the sides when you’re walking around. All of that said, they’re perfectly serviceable for carrying the bag short distances; you really should be using the shoulder strap for long-term carrying.

Like any good harness system, half the story is told by how comfy the back panel is. Fortunately, the Mountain Cross Bag actually has a back panel, not just bare fabric. The padding feels similar to memory foam and has substantial squish, which makes sense since it’s adjacent to the laptop sleeve inside. This is also important because one of this bag’s two carrying modes cinches it very close to the user.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Straps
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | You get two straps.

There are two straps included: a shoulder strap and a crossbody strap. The shoulder strap is used for a more relaxed carrying style, placing the bag to the side of your hip or on your lower back—basically how you carry a traditional messenger bag. The crossbody strap is much shorter and mounts it more like a sling using attachment points on the back panel to help the bag sit diagonally across your back.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Water Bottle
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | There are two water bottle pockets.

There is fixed padding on both straps, which means you’ll have to use the hardware on either side to lengthen or shorten the strap, which adjust the padding placement accordingly. The main difference is that the shoulder strap’s padding is in the center while the crossbody strap’s is closer to one buckle. This makes sense because of how the strap falls on your shoulder while it’s in each mode, which we’ll get into next.

Fit Notes

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Side By Side
Left: Lauren Maternowski, Height: 5’6” (168 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

Using the crossbody strap to wear the bag more like a sling is pretty comfortable. However, because this is a hefty 17-liter bag, that weight tugs a little too much on the shoulder for our liking. The large size also makes it quite tricky to put on and take off unless we use the quick-release buckle, which we then have to reconnect every time. On the plus side, we like how the back panel eases the pressure around the shoulder area in combination with the crossbody strap’s own padding. Those with smaller frames may even feel the bag’s corner dig into their lower back, and the back panel also eases pressure there.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Cross
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Some of us prefer this tight fit.

The Pack Hacker crew is a bit divided on which of the two carrying modes is more comfortable. However, we’ll give a slight edge to the more relaxed fit of the longer shoulder strap, as this style is less constraining and feels more in tune with the bag’s large size. On that note, it feels too stiff to hang directly by your hips’ side, so we tend to swing it around the back. Unfortunately, this also shifts the padding’s position, and since we can’t adjust that on its own, we have to change the strap’s length entirely. Needless to say, this is fiddly to do whenever you just want to position the padding perfectly.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Shoulder
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | This loose fit feels preferable to the crossbody strap’s tighter fit.

Lastly, wearing the shoulder strap off to one side is also an option. However, some of us here had the bag completely slip off when doing this. One of our off-the-cuff theories is that some of us have naturally developed a divot around the shoulder area from wearing messenger bags that prevent this, but some of us haven’t. Whatever the reason, your mileage may vary with this carrying style.

Inside The Messenger

As large as the Mountain Cross Bag is, we were still pleasantly surprised to find it had two water bottle pockets, one on each side. Though the thick stretchy mesh is a good attempt at giving these pockets some semblance of volume, you’ll struggle to fit insulated travel bottles bigger than 19 ounces. Even then, the height of bottles in that size range feels too bulky, so we’ve mostly kept our favorite one within the main compartment. Alternatively, you can store small accessories in these pockets—they’re not exclusive to bottles.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Pocket
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | This pocket is too open for our liking.

Of course, most of your daily quick-grab items fit better in the front pocket. Instead of a zipper closure, this pocket has two toggles that slot into corresponding loops along the daisy chain above. While this allows us to take gear out faster, it’s also very open. We were always worried that small items like AirPods or keys could fall out, so we used it to store bulky items that fit snuggly and won’t slip out easily instead.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Glasses
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | We wish there were additional pockets inside for organizing gear.

The pocket that follows that is, fortunately, zippered, which makes it better suited for smaller items. That said, though we like the bright liner, we still wish there were additional pockets inside so we could organize our accessories. It almost feels too spacious at times, and you’ll be hunting for gear if you throw them in haphazardly.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Key Leash
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Having to go through two zippers to access the key leash is not ideal for us.

The first compartment feels more like an enlarged version of the pocket we just mentioned, with enough space to fit a notebook and a high-capacity power bank. This time, though, there’s a zippered pocket where we securely store small items and even small travel documents. There’s even a key leash, so you never have to lose track of them, although it’s a bit of a hassle having to undo two zippers just to access it. We wouldn’t mind this on a travel backpack, but we want something easier to fish out for a daily-use messenger.

One of the Mountain Cross Bag’s more notable features is its dedicated laptop compartment on a pack with an outdoorsy vibe. That said, the laptop compartment is fairly simple. While it lacks a false bottom, it has ample padding on both sides. Size-wise, you can fit up to a 13-inch laptop like the MacBook we’re using or a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Laptop
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | It’s surprisingly well-padded.

The main compartment is fairly simple as well, which is understandable given how many other compartments there are. You only get two slim mesh pockets on the back to keep smaller gear secure. The strategy for packing here is one of two ways: you fill out the other pockets and areas first, then whatever space remains in the main compartment, or you do the opposite. This way, you can pack gear more evenly throughout the bag and keep the shape uniform, preserving carrying comfort.

Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag Mesh Pocket
Topo Designs Mountain Cross Bag | Space is taken away by the other pockets and compartments.

This compartmentalized layout is great for organization, though you trade some capacity by slicing it up. It’s not the ideal messenger bag if you’re carrying a lot of really bulky items like large packing cubes, tech pouches, and a food container. You can fit some, not all, and you’ll probably have to remove some items from the other compartments to make it work.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Pretty roomy for a 17L messenger without feeling oversized
  • Strap on the back panel is an interesting touch—excited to see how well it works
  • Made with durable materials in fun color combinations, which we expect to see from Topo Designs
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Nice to have multiple ways to wear it, though we found ourselves picking our favorite and sticking to it
  • Takes a bit of finesse to pack bulky gear without impacting the silhouette of the bag
  • Plenty of pockets to keep big items organized, though not a ton of small pockets for tiny gear
By Lauren Maternowski
Created January 11, 2024 • Updated January 11, 2024
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