Founded in 2014, Cotopaxi was one of first startups ever to launch as a Benefit Corporation, a status that trades legal and financial protections in return for commitments to work toward the general public good. At least two percent of Cotopaxi's annual revenue is donated to a specific cause, like organizations which promote education in India, or donating mosquito netting in Africa.
But there I go—it's so easy to talk about Cotopaxi's charitable giving, rather than the functionality of their gear. And as attractive as Cotopaxi’s philanthropic mission is, it’s not the reason why friends stop me to ask about their packs. Both bags in the Allpa 35L Travel Pack bundle are as brightly-colored and irresistible as gumdrops in a jar, and—more importantly—they are light and packed (ha!) full of features.
I’ve taken the Allpa on two weekend trips and both times, I’ve mentally kicked myself. If only a bag like this had been available before, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. This is the bag that a younger me would have killed for.
A Smorgasbord of Stuff
The Allpa 35L combines pertinent features from every single kind of bag. Like a camping backpack, it has a sternum strap, a waist belt, and a dash of webbing for attaching a carabiner or two. It also has a mesh back panel, and comes with a brightly-colored rain cover.
Like a sturdy duffel, it’s soft and frameless. It has four reinforced grab handles (one on each side), and a waterproof, polyurethane-laminated, 1000-dernier polyester exterior for flinging it casually onto disgusting floors. A side zipper allows you to grab things out of the main compartment without opening the entire bag. Each of the bag’s zippers has a little security loop to keep people from opening it without you noticing.
Like a suitcase, it has a full zip around the middle, so you can splay it open like you’re making a sandwich. Compression straps in the main compartment help cinch your puffy belongings down. And like a daypack, it has a padded laptop compartment in the back, and organizational pockets on one side of the interior compartment and in a small front pocket.
If you buy the complete bundle, it comes with a nylon shoe bag, mesh laundry bags, and a mesh water bottle sleeve that you can clip onto the carabiner loops. It also comes with a stowable 16-liter Batac del Dia backpack. The whole kit is designed to fit in the carry-on compartment of most airplanes.
At first, I didn't see the point in creating such a Frankenstein of a bag. What was so wrong with carry-on suitcases and duffel bags in the first place? I like my rolling suitcase; the hard shell keeps dresses and shirts relatively wrinkle-free, and protects fragile items. And unlike a duffel, I wouldn’t be able to use the Allpa as a gear bag, since the space is divided into so many different compartments. All those tiny pockets are useless if you already have a decent toiletries bag and a cord organizer.
But when I took the bag on two quick weekend trips, I started to understand. For most casual trips–the kind that most of us make to see our parents, or to go out of town for a friend's birthday party—you don't need a suitcase, duffel, or a hiking backpack. The Allpa fits squarely into a category that I call "good enough gear." It's not specialized, but it's perfect for the way that most people really work and live.
Which, if I'm to go by my own experience, is to throw several shirts and your laptop in a bag, toss it in the trunk two hours after you told everyone you were going to leave, and go.
The Buddy System
$200 isn’t cheap, but it isn’t expensive either, when you see how much comes with this bundle. In addition to an assortment of mesh and nylon bags, it also includes the aforementioned Batac del Dia backpack. When the Allpa is fully packed, the Batac fits neatly into the front pocket. It’s a colorful, lightweight, nylon daypack that has become my favorite go-to, all-around bag. Even if you’re content with your current rolling suitcase or duffel, you should probably get one of these.
Even if you can fit everything you need into one backpack, you still need to carry something around for your day about town. Many camping backpacks have detachable daypacks, which is just a little too Kuato from Total Recall for my liking. Instead, I like packing a lightweight collapsible bag, but finding one that isn’t just a nylon sack is a little difficult.
The Batac del Dia has plenty of pockets for a packable daypack. The interior has a hanging mesh pocket and a large envelope pocket; the front zip has a sideways mesh pocket sewn into the pocket, so you can slide your hand into the pocket sideways to extract hotel room keys or a passport. The straps have an adjustable sternum strap that slides on a rail system, two side water bottle pockets, and a strip of webbing that is handy for clipping on my climbing shoes.
It’s light enough to hang on a hook by the front door, easy to find amidst a swirl of dog leashes, unicorn hoodies and jackets, and just big enough for my essentials pouch and whatever else I need for the day’s outing–a diaper changing station, or a pair of running shoes, or just some milk bottles and library books to return.
Get Around Get Around
Cotopaxi's "more is more" mentality toward the Allpa pack is a little much. The accessories were overkill. Even if I needed it, putting a separate rain cover on top of an already waterproof outer panel gives me hives. I quickly lost track of which mesh or nylon bag was supposed to carry what. The full center zip on a floppy bag is annoying if you're in a hurry. And then, it's all too easy for your lumpily-packed items to jam the zipper when you're putting it all back together.
But the bag was astonishingly comfortable. It fits on my short torso, and the straps are actually contoured to fit my narrow shoulders—a rarity when it comes to so-called "unisex" packs.
For someone like me, who travels mostly out of obligation rather than pleasure, the Allpa would be nice to have but not a necessity. It did make me nostalgic for my early twenties again—walking around aimlessly, looking for a cheap hostel, taking a road trip to a friend of a friend's birthday party in LA on a whim, or buying plane tickets to Cleveland just because they were only $50.
I don't travel like that anymore (and, admittedly, I probably found it a lot less fun at the time), but the Allpa 35L bundle would have been perfect. Buy one now and save it for the high school or college seniors in your life. It is the perfect graduation gift for the budding world traveler.