Troubadour Goods Apex Backpack 3.0 Review
Much of the Troubadour Goods Apex Backpack 3.0’s functionality ties directly to its aesthetic design, and, hit or miss, we dig the attention to detail.
- Aesthetic water bottle pockets hold hydration surprisingly well
- Consistent styling throughout the backpack reinforces its quality feel
- Fairly rigid structure makes it easy to prop up and free-stand
- Shoulder strap pockets’ design is clever yet clunky and uncomfortable in use
- Top leather accent slightly hinders access to inner zippered pocket on front side
- Air channels feel noticeable while wearing the bag
2.2 lb (1 kg)
19 in x 12.5 in x 6 in (48.3 x 31.8 x 15.2 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Vegan Leather, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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A good-looking backpack like the Troubadour Goods Apex Backpack 3.0 may already have you prejudiced against it, perhaps thinking functionality has suffered in some way. Indeed, while we find its styling eye-catching, it also features some clever tricks hidden in plain sight among all those leather accents and carefully crafted polyester fabric.
In fact, many of the Apex Backpack 3.0’s good points relate directly to styling choices. That includes the water bottle pockets’ effectiveness, the bag’s fairly rigid structure, and even its cleverly expanding shoulder strap pockets.
Let’s expound more about these features in the review below!
There are no two ways about it: we think the Apex Backpack 3.0 is a good-looking bag. It has a very sleek yet simple design with a mostly plain front, styled with clean lines courtesy of seams and cuts in the fabric. The design reminds us a lot of NOMATIC’s bags, though in a less urban and more classy way, thanks to the leather accents.
That’s vegan leather, by the way, so those of you who are conscious about that can rest easy. As for the rest of the materials, Troubadour Goods doesn’t specify beyond saying it’s recycled polyester. Fair enough, since the material has held up relatively well throughout testing, with no loose threads developing around critical areas like the seams or corners. We were worried that the fabric’s soft texture would be a pet hair magnet, but so far, our furry friends have failed to leave much of their fuzz on this bag.
Overall build quality feels pretty solid, primarily because of the Apex Backpack 3.0 structure. The bag holds its shape really well, enough for it to be able to stand on its own. That’s a seemingly trivial trait, but it’s very important if you like setting your bag on random surfaces without any nearby walls to lean on. We also like the little touches like the metal logo, reliable YKK zippers, and Duraflex hardware—details like these add to the bag’s quality feel.
Admittedly, the Apex Backpack 3.0 falls short when it comes to external features, such as attachment loops, compression straps, and bungee cords. At the very least, it has a top handle that has a leather accent at the top but a foam layer at the bottom for comfort. Additionally, the side water bottle pockets are surprisingly capable despite looking like they’ve been designed with style first in mind.
To be fair, the water bottle pockets have a simple and straightforward design. The sloped pockets appear too shallow for any travel water bottle over 18 ounces. For grip, they rely mostly on the elastics built into the rim to cinch them down when not in use. Lastly, the expansion comes from substantial fabric gussets—really, nothing too complicated. However, this seemingly basic setup works effectively enough to hold a 19-ounce Owala bottle, even if we turn it upside down. Your mileage may vary depending on what size bottle you use, but holding a fairly slender yet fully filled bottle upside down is nonetheless impressive.
The shoulder straps are stylistically kept simple, though the foam material Troubadour Goods is using does feel soft and pliable. We don’t need a thousand features on a pair of shoulder straps if they don’t contribute to overall comfort, so we’re satisfied with this simple setup. That said, we are surprised there’s no sternum strap, even though there are railings to attach one. Unfortunately, it’s a separate purchase. Though it’s unnecessary for a 25-liter backpack like this, other backpacks in this size and price range have one out-of-the-box, making it a noteworthy omission.
The back panel looks very slick, as well, with individual foam panels dressed in green and broken up by the black air channels. Feeling the foam itself is quite encouraging because of how soft and cushioned the material is. However, the gaps in the air channels are significant enough that you can still feel them on your back. In other words, the foam can’t quite contour and mask the gaps, something other travel daypacks generally do better.
Though there appears to be a zippered pocket in the horizontal air channel, trust us, it’s not. The slit highlighted by the green accents is actually the luggage pass-through that lets you slot the bag on the handle of your rolling carry on luggage—if you’re bringing one. Is the green accent a bit extra? Probably, but we don’t hate it.
As we’ve mentioned, the back panel doesn’t sit quite right due to the sensation those air channels give. To be more specific, it’s the large lower foam section that feels emphasized the most by the air channels. It’s not a huge deal, and if anything, at least we’re sure that the air channels are wide enough to actually allow air to pass through.
The lack of an included sternum strap isn’t a huge deal either, as the shoulder straps are more than capable of handling a fully packed load without feeling too saggy. You do have to get the adjustment just right, tightening them as needed. One neat feature here is that the straps’ slack have their ends connected to the bag as well, so they’re not dangling freely and potentially snagging on something. It makes a sort of weird loop just below your arms, which we’re not a fan of, but that’s more of a subjective opinion than a practical downside.
Inside The Backpack
At the front of the Apex Backpack 3.0 is a relatively modest zippered pocket. It’s fairly roomy but not so deep that you’ll have to stretch for the gear you put inside. This is a good thing because the opening is quite tight due to the stiff AquaGuard-like zipper track Troubadour Goods opted to use. There’s also no organization, so you can just dump your everyday carry items straight inside—except your keys; there is a handy key leash to keep that in check.
Okay, so as handy as that front pocket is, it’s a bit mundane, right? Well, something that might pique your interest is the shoulder strap pockets. Though these are by no means the first shoulder strap pockets we’ve seen, we appreciate how cleverly designed they are.
They open from the inner side of the shoulder strap, but they also have a hidden gusset that stretches out the other side. This gusseted design lets you put in a full-sized smartphone like an iPhone 13, which is technically wider than the shoulder strap itself. That said, though we like the option and the cleverness of the design, it’s practically clunky to have a smartphone in this pocket, and it feels stiff on the shoulder. This pocket is best used for quickly storing items before you go through airport security so you can avoid having to dump them all in a separate bin.
At the back is the dedicated laptop compartment. It can fit a 16-inch MacBook Pro, but Troubadour Goods says it’s rated for up to a 17-inch laptop. That said, laptop sizes are rated weirdly since that value is based on the display’s diagonal size and not the actual dimensions of the devices. In other words, your mileage may vary—the 16-inch MacBook Pro example is just to give you context.
There’s also an adjacent tablet pocket in front of the laptop sleeve. You could also put more slim tech accessories like a travel-sized keyboard in the wide but slim space inside. Reach into that area, and you can feel a sizable false bottom beneath the laptop sleeve that adds a buffer to protect your device from minor impacts.
One of the key aspects of the main compartment starts from the outside. See that leather accent crowning the top? That gives a lot of structure to that area, with a few interesting side effects. First, this makes it a bit top-heavy and even causes the front to fall over whenever we open the main compartment. Second, it also makes reaching into the inner front pocket tricky since you basically have a solid canopy covering it.
Access to the main compartment remains fairly easy since the zippers give you a wide opening. Basically, all of the Apex Backpack 3.0 organization resides in this compartment. You have the aforementioned front-side zippered pocket that’s partially see-through because of its mesh material. Then, at the back, you have another zippered pocket, two slip pockets below, and a liner pocket with a pen slot just below those. It’s quite the varied lineup of small pockets—not overdone to the point where you’re struggling to choose which ones to utilize, but also enough that you don’t feel lacking.
In terms of space, we can fit a weekend’s worth of clothing stored in packing cubes. At 25 liters, this bag doesn’t really excel as a travel backpack and definitely feels more like a daypack, which it primarily is. Other than the organization and functionality, we really appreciate the attention to detail in aesthetics, which extends to the interior as well.
- Dig that it holds its structure well even when empty
- Harness system is super well-padded and seems comfortable
- Organization seems pretty streamlined
- Can tell they put a lot of thought into the aesthetic design
- Materials holding up well and are easy to clean—pet hair comes right off, too
- Stands up on its own, which is great for storage at a coffee shop table