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Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Backpack Review | My Real-World Test

I personally test the new Cotopaxi Allpa 42 travel backpack to see how it holds up on the road

Product Reviews

Cotopaxi has made a name for itself with high-quality, brightly-colored luggage and outdoor apparel that’s sustainability-focused. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Cotopaxi’s new Allpa 42L Travel Pack so like any good backpack nerd I wanted to test it out for myself… which is exactly what I did.

In this real-world Cotopaxi Allpa 42L backpack review, I’ve personally tested this funky backpack to find its strengths and weaknesses to see if it’s the right backpack for your travels.

How I Tested The Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Backpack

At the Prague train station with my Allpa 42

To test the Cotopaxi Allpa travel backpack I headed out on a two-week solo trip to Prague and Berlin.

I used my Allpa as my only piece of carry-on luggage on the flight from the US and then I traveled via train from Prague to Berlin. I’ve also used my Allpa during various shorter domestic trips and I’ve always used it as a carry-on backpack.

Ok, let’s get into my review…

I’ve personally tested nearly all the most popular travel backpacks on the market. Read my guide to the best travel backpacks to see the rest of my favorite picks.

A Quick Overview Of The Cotopaxi Allpa 42L

A look at the Allpa 42L via Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi designed their Allpa 42L travel backpack to be an eye-catching, weather-resistant backpack for multi-day/week+ urban adventures. It’s loaded with smart organizational features like pockets for all your gear and mesh dividers for the main compartment to keep all your stuff easily accessible.

Here’s how Cotopaxi describes the Allpa 42L:

The Allpa 42L Travel Pack protects and comfortably carries all your gear, whether it’s on your back, strapped to the roof of your car, or in the belly of a puddlejumper. The Allpa’s incredibly burly shell repels the elements and abrasion, while its padded, mesh suspension system and load lifter straps provide a comfortable carry during long walks to the hostel or all-out airport dashes.


Cotopaxi says the Allpa 42 is designed for trips lasting 2 weeks or more but I still think 42L also works for shorter trips. That said, the Allpa also comes in a 35L and 28L versions if you’re looking for something smaller—visit REI to see the version Allpa versions.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Backpack Specs
PRICE: $220 – Purchase at Cotopaxi and REI
DIMENSIONS: 22″ x 14″ x 11″
WEIGHT: 4lb 2oz
COLORS: Blue, black, oak, or multi-color
CARRY-ON SIZE: Carry-on compliant (domestic)

Suitcase-style with full-wrap zipper on the main compartment

Weight-distributing, adjustable hipbelt (removable)

Robust YKK zippers with anti-theft security features

Rain cover included

Water-resistant TPU coating
WARRANTY: Lifetime warranty

Quick Note About Cotopaxi’s Values

One of the things that draws a lot of people to Cotopaxi is their company values. In addition to being a certified carbon-neutral company, they’re a Certified B Corporation—which means they meet high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. They allocate 1% of our revenue to the Cotopaxi Foundation, which supports nonprofits like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and United to Beat Malaria.

My Full Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Backpack Review

At the train station and on the train in the Czech Republic with my Cotopaxi

Ok folks, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty features of the Cotopaxi Allpa—including areas where the Allpa excels and where I think it can improve.

Looks and Aesthetics of the Allpa 42L

Overall, the Cotopaxi Allpa is a sleek and stylish backpack. There aren’t a ton of dangling straps or bulky pockets so you can move around with ease. The llama silhouette logo on the back is noticeable but not over the top—I appreciate that they didn’t stick a huge “Cotopaxi” under the logo.

Now let’s move on the Allpa’s to multiple colorway options…

Cotopaxi is famous for its trademark bright and eye-catching colors. The Allpa currently comes in around 5-6 color combos—including a special “Surprise Pack” version that’s constructed with multiple random-color pieces so every bag is different (you also won’t know what the bag looks like until you receive it so you could end up with a pretty funky-looking bag).

NOTE: I’ve noticed that the Cotopaxi website often runs out of certain colorways and then restocks them later so you might have to check back if you don’t see the color you want.

I truly appreciate how each color combo features high-contrast zippers—which help you quickly differentiate between the main compartment and the other compartments.

I’m a big fan of all the color options since most brands offer just one or maybe two colors. I went with the “Indigo” color since it’s a little more fun than the standard black I typically go with but it’s still fairly subtle.

The fabric on the back of the Allpa has a rubbery coated shell which adds a little more visual interest (as well as adding extra protection and weather resistance)—I’ll cover the bag material in more detail later in this article.

Harness System, Shoulder Straps, and Overall Comfort

All the bells and whistles mean nothing if the backpack isn’t comfortable to carry—luckily I found the Cotopaxi Allpa 42 to be plenty comfortable so I had no real issues when hauling this thing around Europe.

The padded backpack straps feature load lifters and the straps are curved to better fit the contours of your body—both of which help keep the bag close to your shoulders. The high-density foam used in the shoulder straps is slightly thinner than what I’ve found on other comparable travel backpacks but I still found it comfortable.

Allpa 42 with the removable hip belt attached (included)

The Allpa also features mesh padding that covers the entire back of the bag. The mesh helps promote air circulation to make wearing the bag more comfortable.

Now I will say that the Allpa doesn’t have as advanced of a suspension system (i.e. shoulder straps) as other travel backpacks I’ve used. For example, the suspension systems on the Osprey Farpoint and Aer Travel Pack 3 more closely resemble what you’ll find on a hiking backpack so they cradle your shoulders better.

That said, the Allpa 42 is still plenty comfortable and I didn’t have any issues while wearing it—but I wanted to point it out since there is room for improvement.

The Allpa with all its straps tucked away

The Allpa 42 comes with an easily removable hip belt (I removed mine before the trip). It’s a fairly minimalist hipbelt so it won’t offer a ton of extra support but it’s a nice addition. The backpack’s shoulder straps can also be easily tucked away—which is nice for carrying it through narrow train/plane aisles and for stowing the bag in the overhead compartment.

In addition, the Allpa comes with a removable duffle bag-style shoulder strap which lets you carry the bag like a duffle bag.

Materials, Zippers, Hardware, and Overall Construction

One of the first things I noticed about the Allpa was its sturdy construction and high-quality materials—after having used multiple backpacks you start to quickly notice where companies cut corners. It just feels nice. I mean… Cotopaxi offers a lifetime warranty on their bags so it makes sense that their stuff is well-made.

The exterior back shell of the Allpa is made from a very sturdy “rubbery” TPU-coated 1000D polyester which is scuff and weather-resistant—I’ve never seen this on any other bag but I think it works well (and it looks cool). The rest of the bag’s exterior paneling is constructed from lightweight yet durable 840D ballistic nylon. Both these fabrics can withstand plenty of abuse.

The stitching quality, sturdy plastic hardware, and overall construction of the Allpa feel nice—which also helps ensure longevity.

Demonstrating the anti-theft zipper strap.

One of the weakest points of any backpack is the zippers so Cotopaxi only uses high-quality YKK zippers—including an extra beefy zipper on the bag’s main compartment (for when you overstuff your bag… which I am certainly guilty of doing). The zippers also have long zipper pulls and the zipper action is smooth.

The Allpa features a novel, low-tech anti-theft security strap that covers the exterior zippers—which are designed to prevent the zippers from being easily opened (see the photo above).

I have conflicting views on this security feature since it’s a simple yet effective way to keep your zippers secure but it also makes opening/closing the zippers somewhat of a pain. I do, however, like this system better than using those little luggage locks. So, overall it’s a minor annoyance and is probably a net positive.

One of the smartest features of this backpack is the multi-colored zippers (i.e. the main zipper on this bag is orange and the others are blue). This is super handy for helping quickly differentiate which zipper to use—most backpacks solely use black zippers so it’s hard to tell which compartment you’re opening since all the zippers look identical.

Exterior Organization Pockets and Laptop Sleeve

Stash pocket (top) and side-access laptop sleeve (bottom)

As I mentioned before, the Allpa is a relatively minimalist travel backpack so there aren’t a ton of external organizational pockets. A lot of bags I test go overboard with pockets and compartments which adds to the bag’s weight so I appreciate Cotopaxi’s restraint.

On the front of the backpack, you’ll find a small organizational stash pocket. It’s nothing crazy but it’s perfect for carrying a few smaller items like a wallet, small notebook, phone/camera, and other things you might need to quickly access. There is a smaller zippered mesh compartment inside and a handy key clip for added organization.

There is also a stretchy water bottle sleeve on the side of the bag (that can easily hold a wine bottle… I can personally attest to this).

The Allpa 42 easily fits my 15″ Macbook Pro laptop

One of my biggest criticisms of the Allpa is its laptop compartment.

On a positive note, I do like the side access zipper as this makes taking the laptop out of the bag a breeze—which is super handy at the airport.

But Cotopaxi didn’t build a false bottom into the bag’s laptop compartment so the only thing between your laptop and the hard ground is a little bit of fabric. Therefore, if you drop your bag or forget to set it down gently, there is a chance your laptop will smack the ground. I recommend sticking a rolled-up shirt under your laptop but it’s a little annoying you have to do that.

However, there is a pocket for a tablet that is protected so all good there—I personally try to avoid traveling with a laptop anyway.

Main Storage Compartment

I really like the way Cotopaxi designed the main storage compartment on the Allpa 42.

First, the Allpa has a “clamshell” style opening—which is just a fancy way of saying it opens like a standard suitcase. This is exactly what you want in a travel backpack since it makes packing/unpacking much easier.

Second, the Allpa 42 has approximately 42L of storage space so it can hold a surprisingly large amount of stuff.

Third, unlike many other travel backpacks, the main storage area of the Allpa 42 is split into two zones—the larger “main” compartment on the right side of the bag and two smaller compartments on the left side of the bag.

I was surprised how much I ended up liking the bag’s approach to compartmentalization. For example, I would keep smaller things like socks and underwear on the left side of the bag and larger items (shirts, pants, etc.) on the right side. This made finding what I needed much easier.

Furthermore, each compartment has a sturdy zippered mesh flap so it’s almost like the bag comes with built-in packing cubes. However, I still recommend using packing cubes with this bag for extra organization.

Side access zipper

The Allpa also has a zipper on the side of the bag that opens to the backpack’s main compartment. This is a handy feature since there are often times when you want to get something from your bag but you don’t want to open the entire bag.

Other Features of The Allpa 42

The Cotopaxi Allpa had grab handles on the top of the bag, on both sides, and the bottom—so it’s super easy to grab no matter how the bag is stored away. This is a great feature when you put your bag in the overhead compartment since you don’t have to think about storing it in a certain position.

The Allpa also comes with a rain cover to make your bag rainproof—it’s a nice bonus since many companies charge extra for a rain cover.

My Final Thoughs on The Cotopaxi Allpa 42

After using the this popular travel backpack for a few weeks in Europe, I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the Cotopaxi Allpa 42.

It’s well-constructed, the materials are nice, it’s comfortable, it comes with a lifetime warranty, and it holds a lot of stuff. I mean, what else could you ask for?

The 42L size works well for longer 10-14+ day trips but it’s also great for shorter journeys (the Allpa does come in smaller sizes as well).

If I had to nitpick, I’d like to see Cotopaxi give the Allpa a more advanced suspension system/shoulder straps to give it a little boost in comfort but the current idderation is still pretty good. Again, it’s a minor complaint.

Otherwise, the Allps ticks all the boxes in what you want in a solid travel backpack.

More Travel Tips From The Savvy Backpacker

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