Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Review
The mid-sized all-around from Cotopaxi in their travel bag collection. Let's see how it does for "one bag" travel.
Introduction To The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Backpack
Cotopaxi is a great brand. They have a mission. We like missions. Fairly gotten materials, fairly paid workers, etc. Cotopaxi also loves colors. A quick browse through their site will show you that. It's one of the major things that attract people to their brand besides their tag line of, "Do Good." I think it works. While not every loud color combo is for me, a lot of their choices are. I have a Dopp kit from them that is one of a kind - they let their workers that make them choose their own color ways from the available remnant fabrics. This is something they do with all their "Del Dia" line of products which means you're getting something unique. Also pretty cool.
While they have all sorts of jackets (many with great 80's aesthetics) and layers, they also have a great number of backpacks to choose from. This ranges from travel bags to day packs to totes. Their Allpa line is their lineup of travel focused backpacks and can get pretty big. The 35L version is definitely a great middle ground focusing on smaller trips, or even "one baggers" as a good balance between carrying plenty of things vs. not being too large and easily fitting on airplanes. While there are larger and smaller versions, we're going to be digging into this one. Worth noting that some sizes of their Allpa are also made in the "Del Dia" fashion, which is very cool to see.
This is my review of the Cotopaxi Allpa 35 backpack. For full transparency, I purchased this bag with my own money, and this is not a sponsored article. Per usual, all the thoughts and opinions are my own.
This page does use affiliate links. If you click to make a purchase, I do make a small commission which helps to keep this site running. There is no cost to you, and you're under no obligation to use my links. With that out of the way, let's dig in!
Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Backpack Overview
As noted above, the Allpa line is Cotopaxi's venture into the travel bag space, and it's been a pretty well liked one. The materials are top notch on this bag. With much of it being a TPU coated 1000D polyester and the rest/paneling being a lighter 840D ballistic nylon - by no means any less durable. The TPU helps to provide some water resistance as well, though this bag is not water proof and the zippers are not aqua guard (though they are YKK, and beefy).
The bag I reviewed was the version 1, but there is a version 2 out at the time of writing this with some improvements and differences. I'll make note of those at different times in the article. That said, getting a version 1 will be a great way to save some money on this pack.
The Allpa 35 is a clamshell style bag, with a real harness system (not typical on most travel bags). It's 35 liters total, has multiple pockets, a laptop/tablet sleeve with padding, and the black version is pretty minimal in branding (which is rare for Cotopaxi since their calling cards are usually their loud colors.
Comes with a rainfly!
The color choices vary across five different color ways, and they get pretty wild for some people. I also like the green and the blue. The current version sells for $200.00 on their site, and rarely goes on sale - so another reason to look for the original version if you're on a budget but want to rock this brand.
Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Backpack Features
The bag itself really doesn't have any game changing features in terms of things you won't find anywhere else, but it does put its spin on the organization a little, which is good. There is only one front pocket on this, no quick-grab slash pocket on top, but it's got its own volume so it does a nice job of being able to fit 3D items like tech pouches or headphones cases. There are a couple lash points on the outside, too, and the right amount of grab-handles for all those different scenarios you'll need to pull it out of a specific space. All handles are just beefy enough and not overdone.
Inside the bag, there are two dividers for each section, much like the Osprey Transporter we reviewed recently, as well as the Patagonia Black Hole MLC we looked at a while back. The difference here is that Cotopaxi adds two organizational pockets on the left hand side of the clamshell, but aligned horizontally on the "top" of the flap if the bag is oriented in its normal up and down manner. You can see what I mean in the pictures. They do this differently than the other two brands and have a vertical layout. The right hand side has a large opening, compression straps, and a small zippered pocket to store any small items you might need. I will note, that on the other two mentioned bags I think the left hand compartment is OK for folding a suit jacket into - but I don't see it on this bag. I don't think many people will need to do that on this particular case, but I often take these bags to cities and like to hit up the Michelin scene when I can. In many places, that means a sports coat or jacket so that's how I typically pack it when one-bagging. Don't think I'd shoe-horn a jacket into this one like that. A fleece/rain jacket/outdoor layer, though, absolutely. Shove that sucker in there.
For the harness system, Cotopaxi is making sure this is an outdoor and trekking capable bag as well. In fact, I'm sure that's more of their target here so you're going to find a real harness system on it. The straps are contoured and nicely padded, and there is a real hip belt on this one. This means you can actually use it while trekking and manage its weight distribution while on the trail. Further, on this bag both the straps and the hip belt are stowable on the back for ease of storage in bins, on buses, etc. For the new version, the hip belt can be removed completely.
Lastly, there are fabric loops for the outside zippers to provide a bit of a homemade locking solution without having to deal with locks. Won't work for checked baggage or in a hostel in the open, but great for preventing simple tampering or pickpocketing. The laptop compartment is NOT false bottomed on this version, so keep that in mind. It does butt right up closely to the bottom of the bag.
On the Cotopaxi Allpa 35, and the whole line really, the build/looks/function are all pretty top notch. For a travel bag that can actually do the work as a trekking bag as well, I think this is going to be a nice choice for people. The color ways are also really cool on this one. I like the matte finish of the TPU and the contrasting colors to the rest of the bag. That said, the black looks really great for sure - with a little splash of bright blue on things like the handles and some lash points.
Organization is good on the bag, but nothing too crazy. I would definitely recommend packing cubes here and using the straps to keep them from shifting while traveling. The front pocket, in my mind, is great. I love when bags provide a pocket with its own volume so I can use it with my tech kit, headphones case, or toiletry bag and not have to take away internal space for that.
I think they've done a great job on the harness system as well, as it's beefy enough to actually be used as real hip belts are supposed to be. They aren't just there to be stabilizers or a "I've got this too!" feature on a bag. They are functional for weight distribution. I've heard there are some issues with its length however - for tall people. Being 5'6" I had no issues with this.
Finally, they nailed the little things. Great grab handles. Colorful small details. Colored internal pockets to see what's in there. The small mesh pockets inside that don't interfere with the full-length left side compartment. The zipper locking loops are a good touch (though can be a LITTLE annoying if you need to frequently get in and out; a minor gripe really). The laptop compartment has a different colored opening on the bag so you can identify it quickly. Another side access point for getting into the bag quickly without having to open the full clamshell. Great job on all this stuff.
The knocks on this bag are pretty small for me, but could very well be game changing for some of you out there depending on your needs. While it comes with a rainfly (a plus) it does not in fact have any water sealed zippers on it. So if you're trekking in wet conditions, I'm not sure how confident you can be that it won't allow water into your bag. Not even the outside pocket or the laptop pocket used sealed zippers. Something they could think about. Though to be honest, I don't think any hiking bags I've ever used had water sealed zippers (until recent history that is). So, maybe the old plastic bag inside your bag would be the way to go!
Has no water bottle sleeve and while this isn't bad for me - I know some of you swear by this so I want to mention it.
Something specific to this version 1 bag is that the hip belt is not in fact removable. It stows, but it's bulky in its hiding place so make a note of that. To be clear - the newest version of the bag fixes this which is great! But something to keep in mind if you're looking to save some money and find this version out there.
Would have liked to see an additional quick-grab pocket on top for things like your phone, snacks on the trail, etc. Not a deal breaker by any means, but if you're picking nits, this would be one of them in my book.
Finally, this bag really doesn't have a good structure of its own. It's not stiff. This means it most likely won't stand up on its own unless you have something sturdy packed in the bottom. It also means you'll be using the internal straps on packing cubes because it will promote major shifting and squishing otherwise. To be up front, this really isn't something that gets me going. But I've done a lot of reading and video watching and Reddit visiting and know that there's a large group out there that does in fact care about this - so I want to note it for you here and call it out. I think this bag could also benefit from some load lifters due to this, as well, as when heavy it can move away from your back.
The Improvement Requests for the Cotopaxi Allpa 35
For the most part, most of the items above I would actually place here as improvement requests. And again to note - the newest version does have removable hip belts, so that's already done!
-Put aquaguard zippers on it
-Add a top quick grab/slash pocket for items like phones, etc.
-Add false bottom for the laptop compartment
-Try to add some structure without adding much weight
-Add load lifters for more serious outdoor use consideration
Packing the Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Backpack
As usual, this is my pretty standard list for a 3-5 day trip. Not fully packed out - and not really optimized for minimalism. But, what should be more than enough for most people. Experienced or not. This does not take into account seasonal or climate items. I'm assuming you will be wearing your climate appropriate jacket in this example.
I packed: Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable (Review); 3 button downs; 1 pair of Western Rise Diversion Pants (Review); 1 pair of dress shoes; 3 daily t-shirts; 1 sleep t-shirt (to not dirty the dailies); 5 underwear (Merino and Airisms); 2 Airism undershirts; 1 pair merino socks; 1 pair performance dress socks (Review); Bellroy Tech Pouch Compact; Sony WH-1000Xm3 headphones in case; Gravel Explorer Slim toiletry kit (Review) - not pictured, I added it after. In this scenario I'd considered the pants, shirt, and socks that I was wearing as part of my kit, and would wear my jacket. I used both compartments inside for packing cubes, and as noted earlier I don't think I'd use the left hand compartment in this case for a suit jacket. This bag did seem like a small 35L, if that makes sense, but due to the non-rigid structure you can definitely keep packing this thing. That can be good or bad.
I'm 5'6 for reference. I would say this bag competes with the Osprey Transporter Carry On and Patagonia Black Hole MLC in terms of style and aesthetics. That said, I don't think either of those bags are as good of a trekking option due to the harness system on the Cotopaxi. Those are travel bags first with outdoor aesthetics and materials. They could be used for sure in outdoor situations, but probably not for full-on trekking. The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 can be with the proper hip belts, though it does lack load lifters.
Final Thoughts On My Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Backpack Review
This is a well known bag that you're going to find pop up a lot in people's recommendations - but maybe not as much as I'd expect. I think because typically these days a lot of people doing the one bag travel thing are looking for more urban aesthetics. But here you're getting that outdoor aesthetic, with actual outdoor functionality. So if you're traveling includes places like South America or some trekking in Europe, New Zealand, etc. - this bag could be for you. Also comes with the rainfly.
There are a few things keeping this bag from being a solid 8 out of 10 - but for a lot of people they aren't game changers. I also think that in future versions, it would be pretty easy to address and fix those items.
For someone looking for an outdoor aesthetic bag, that actually has a real harness system for real use outdoors, but also wants a travel bag style and not a fully top-loading, hiking backpack - I think you're going to like this bag. You'd be remiss to at least not check it out and put it on your list. To save some money, I would try and find version 1. That said - at $200.00 I think it's a reasonable price for a bag that's so well built, allows you to express some uniqueness with their color ways, and will last you a long time. Just make sure you're not buying any "final sales" that can't be returned in case you're tall and the harness system doesn't work for you. That's always a very personal thing, however.
You can buy directly Cotopaxi. I'd always advocate trying the brand directly first, if you can. Check out their other items too, the color and style vibes of this brand are awesome!
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