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An Honest Cotopaxi Allpa Backpack Review – Don’t Buy Before Reading This!

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As part of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, Cotopaxi is one of the world’s tallest active stratovolcanos. It’s also a leading outdoor adventure brand, taking its name from the impressive conical peak. This is our full Cotopaxi Allpa backpack review for the 28L size in orange.

Cotopaxi offers an equally impressive collection of gear and apparel, from its distinctive insulated down jackets to durable packs and bags. But we’re focusing on the latter today as we examine the hugely popular Cotopaxi Allpa 28L backpack.

You’ve probably seen it already because this backpack is hard to miss. Cotopaxi’s legendary color schemes shine brighter than an erupting volcano, whether on clothing or gear, and the Allpa series of travel gear is no exception.

But aside from its attractive aesthetics, what’s under the hood? Does it measure up regarding the best travel bags and carry-on items? Check out our video unboxing and read on for our in-depth, honest review.

Who Are Cotopaxi?

Smiling people wearing Cotopaxi clothing
Cotopaxi

Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, Cotopaxi burst onto the scene in 2014 and has rapidly developed a global reputation for top-quality, sustainable, brightly-colored products.

Founder Davis Smith grew up in Latin America and was inspired to name his company after the Ecuadorian volcano thanks to fond memories of a childhood exploring its surrounding wilderness. The region is also famous for its llamas. Hence, the furry camelid has become Cotopaxi’s distinctive logo.

With the slogan “Gear for Good,” the company is famous for its eco-friendly practices, sustainable gear, and charity work. A percentage of profits go towards impoverished communities around the world, with a commitment to producing products as ethically as possible.

Even before we could examine the goods, Cotopaxi’s company ethos got a big thumbs up from us at ViaTravelers. But let’s dive into the review and see what all the fuss is about.

Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Backpack Review

Three Cotopaxi Allpa backpacks in different colors
Amazon

First Impressions

Cotopaxi backpack on a table wrapped in packaging
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

After purchasing the Cotopaxi Allpa 28L backpack for my wife’s birthday, upon receiving I knew I had to do a review. It felt durable, weighty, and satisfying right out of the package. But it’s the color scheme that will first catch your eye.

I purchased the Del Día version, which is slightly cheaper than if you were to choose a specific color. A Del Día Cotopaxi backpack is a unique product line whereby the company’s employees recycle remnant fabrics to create a one-of-a-kind item. Del dia translates from Spanish as “of the day.”

A woman and dog explore woods with a Cotopaxi backpack
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

No two backpacks are the same, and the people making the packs have carte blanche for how they are colored. Bright and bold, I was more than happy with my color combination, but it is a gamble if you are looking for a specific style. Regardless, you’ll be able to pick this backpack out on a luggage carousel with ease. Play our fun game and see if you can spot the Allpa 28 in the photo above.

When you hold a product of this quality for the first time, and it vindicates how much you’ve spent, it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Maybe that’s just me. Either way, the Allpa 28L instantly impresses, and that was only to improve upon closer inspection.

WHERE TO BUY

You’ll find the backpack available at the following locations, but for full disclosure, I bought mine with my own money from Amazon. Trust me, I would sing it from the rooftops if I’d got it free.

Design and Construction

Opening the top pocket of the Cotopaxi backpack
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

DIMENSIONS: 19″ x 12″ x 9″ (48 x 30 x 23cm)

It’s clear from examining this backpack for the first time that it was designed by someone who knows what travelers need. It’s lightweight at just 2lb 10oz (1190g). The YKK zippers are solid and practical with thick fabric tab pulls; and protected with neat anti-theft loops.

Multiple carrying options include tuck-away straps at the back and reinforced carry handles on four sides. Carabiner lash loops allow additional carrying capabilities. The brightly-colored clips on the straps, hip belt, and chest are satisfying and durable.

The main zippered pocket opens like a suitcase but can also be used as a toploading backpack. Internal compartments feature smaller pockets and sleeves for organization. They’re made from breathable mesh that’s durable but easy to see through.

One slight downside is there are no exterior pockets on this particular model. I understand it makes the whole bag more streamlined, but that might be a deal-breaker for some, especially if you want somewhere to put things like phone chargers, power banks, and other accessories. There is also no water bottle pocket.

Taking out the Cotopaxi backpack rain cover
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Unique Design Features

The Allpa series of backpacks are overflowing with quality features and thoughtful touches to keep all but the pickiest of travelers happy. I particularly like the tough YKK zippers, the built-in packing cubes, the shortcut zipper, and the handy branded rain cover hidden in a dedicated pocket (pictured).

I love backpacks that can open like a suitcase, so you don’t waste time rummaging for something at the bottom of a Toploader. The Allpa’s full-wrap zipper opening design catches the eye, but what catches the eye is the aesthetics. It doesn’t get much more unique than a one-of-a-kind bag.

Quality of Materials

Again, as soon as I held this pack, I knew it was well-made and made of top-quality materials. It has been constructed from a super tough TPU-coated 1000 Denier polyester, with 840 ballistic nylon paneling. That translates from English as “very good.”

There’s just something so reassuring about a product that is made this well, and although the bag has been constructed from recycled materials, the quality of each piece of fabric is top-drawer.

Durability and Longevity

The Allpa 28L genuinely feels like it could stop a knife and laughs to scorn liquid spills, rips, tears, and abrasion. This feels like it will last longer than the pyramids, but only time will tell if it’s up to the rigors of adventure travel.

Still, every stitch has been made with care, and every panel sewn with thought, so I highly doubt this kit will come apart anytime soon. This is the bag I would choose to take the one ring to Mount Doom (or on a romantic weekend getaway in Utah). In the durability stakes, I highly recommend it for your next quest.

Capacity and Storage

The Cotopaxi backpack fully open on a table
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Offering 28 liters of space, the bag features a large main compartment with three mesh pockets. The left side has two smaller pockets, while the right has one. They act as packing cubes and are particularly useful for keeping clean and dirty clothes separate or organizing socks and underwear, for example.

At the top of the bag, you’ll find a small compartment with additional storage for easy access to essentials. This is a great place to keep keys, travel documents, snacks, a wallet, and other smaller items. Remember – the zippers have anti-theft covers for security and peace of mind.

The laptop compartment features a padded laptop sleeve capable of securely storing a 13-inch laptop. There’s also a tablet sleeve, which is handy for smaller devices.

Cotopaxi has designed the 28L Allpa for short trips and weekends, but a well-organized traveler could easily make it last longer. Don’t miss our complete backpacking checklist for tips and tricks on how to pack for your next trip.

A woman walks through woods wearing a Cotopaxi backpack
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Suitability for Different Types of Travel

This particular backpack is available in three different sizes. At 28 liters, the version I reviewed is the smallest in the series and ideal for weekends. The Allpa 35L travel pack is more suitable for week-long adventures, while the 42L Allpa backpack is perfect for extended trips.

Ideal for traveling by plane, the 28L backpack is classed as a personal item for most airlines, while the larger Cotopaxi Allpa 35 is allowed as a carry-on. The 42L version can be a carry-on for US domestic flights, but you should always check with your airline to avoid problems when boarding.

But the Allpa 28L isn’t just suitable for travel, as I think it’ll make a great school or commuting bag, too. Its versatility ensures it’s a jack-of-all-trades, and you can load it with your work gear during the day and then load it with recreational gear and clothing for weekend trips when you’re off the clock.

Comfort and Ergonomics

Cotopaxi backpack leaning against a log with a dog jumping off
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

As a long-term traveler, having a backpack that is comfortable to wear is a hill I will die on. The organization, materials, and features can be perfect, but it has all been for naught if it doesn’t feel good when fully loaded on the shoulders.

Thankfully, the travel boffins at Cotopaxi have knocked it out of the park with the Allpa. The shoulder straps are comfortable and feel reliable. When I tried it on for the first time, I didn’t want to take it off. The highest praise is that this backpack makes you want to leave the house immediately and go on an adventure.

The hip belt helps take the weight, while its low-profile harness system ensures balance. A padded, breathable panel sits close to your back and improves airflow. You can just about see this in the image above. Margot jumping off a log for scale.

Pros and Cons

A woman walks a dog carrying the Cotopaxi backpack
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

Pros

  • Built to last
  • Unique, bold color combinations
  • Super comfortable to wear
  • Well organized compartments
  • Durable hardware
  • Anti-theft zippers
  • Tablet and laptop pocket
  • Highly versatile
  • Ethical manufacturing

Cons

  • On the pricey side
  • The Del Dia option is a lottery for the color scheme
  • No water bottle pocket
  • No external pockets

Is the Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Backpack Worth It?

A thumbs up with the Cotopaxi backpack in the background
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

As a long-term Osprey fanboy, it will take a lot to impress me regarding a compact travel backpack. But right out of the box, the Cotopaxi 28L delivers, so much so that I was considering not gifting it for my wife’s birthday.

I did the right thing in the end, but there’s a chance I’ll get the same bag if my Osprey Nebula ever gives out. Are Osprey backpacks worth it? Yes, the short answer is Cotopaxi is more than giving them a run for their money.

Cotopaxi backpack on a bench next to someone
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

It’s a little pricey, and the colors won’t be for everyone. But this is one of the best travel backpacks I’ve seen for sheer quality, features, and practical design. And not only that, but it’s got a llama on the front, and they’re awesome.

If you’re a regular traveler/commuter/hiker/backpacker/student/adventurous type who jets off on short trips and demands quality, long-lasting gear, the Cotopaxi Allpa 28 might be the only bag you’ll ever need. If you’re looking for something larger for longer trips and more features, you can purchase either the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L here or the 42L here.

I hope this review has been helpful in your search for suitable gear. Now, I need to update this article on the best travel backpacks and carry-on options. Happy trails, folks!

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