The Unicorn of Travel Backpacks: Peak Design


I am a fan of simplicity, therefore I like to travel light. One bag travel always sounded attractive but I thought it would be hard. I pictured messy hiking backpacks, and  at this point my interest would stop. However, I started seeing more and more backpacks designed for the modern minimalist traveler and finally decided to give it a try. Here were the key drivers of my research:

  • Size: Carry-on approved
  • Organization: Easy to pack and unpack
  • Quality: Long lasting
  • Comfort: Easy to carry around

I came across the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L multiple times. After weighing my options, it became clear that this was a solid contender. Read the full review below or skip to the end to find out why I think this is the Unicorn of travel backpacks.


Optimal Size

The Peak Design Travel Backpack is the optimal size for any trip. First, it is carry-on approved and measures 22″ x 13″ x 9.5″ (56cm x 33cm x 24cm). Secondly, it easily expands to a 45L backpack thanks to two side zippers. Please note that expanded, it may exceed carry-on requirements. However, the expanded side is a great option to carry extra things while on a trip. Finally, the backpack compresses down to a 30L day bag. This is great to carry around while sightseeing.

In addition, the bag has a semi-solid frame, making it easy to keep things organized. Yet, it is flexible enough not to feel bulky. The nice curvatures create an esthetically pleasing look that is hard to beat. It is also surprisingly light at 4.5 lbs (that’s 2.05 kg).

Dream Organization

The second most important thing is organization. I travel for extended periods of time and need to pack and unpack multiple times. Therefore, I like for each thing to have its place. It helps make sure I don’t leave anything behind.

One or Two Compartments

The bag has two compartments separated by a mesh sleeve. You can unzip the mesh sleeve and tuck it away to create a single compartment. I personally like the mesh sleeve. For example, I use the larger compartment for clothes and the front one for accessories. In addition, the mesh pocket is accessible from either sides. I use it for smaller garments like underwear and socks for instance.

Wide Opening

The main compartment fully opens. This wide opening creates easy access to your belongings and makes packing easy. It is large enough to pack a week’s worth of clothes. In addition, this compartment offers side access thanks to zippers on both sides.

Laptop and Tablet Sleeve

The back of the main compartment features an easily accessible padded laptop and tablet sleeve. It fits most laptops including the 2021 Macbook Pro 14″ and 16″ models. The exact dimensions of the laptop pocket is: 16″ x 11″ x 1″ (40.6cm x 30cm x 2.5cm). After that, you will find a tablet pocket (size is 9.5″ x 7.5″ x 0.6″ or 24cm x 19cm x 1.5cm).

Dual Side Pockets

I found that most travel backpacks only feature one small side pocket. In contrast, the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L comes with two expandable side pockets. This is great for water bottles of any size. Specifically, I tried a 40-oz bottle and it worked. Additionally, you can use it to carry a tripod or other awkward-shaped items. Finally, there is a small zippered compartment on each side pocket. This is perfect to put away small items while on the go.

Other Organization Features

The backpack features tons of quick-access pockets. For someone who likes to stay organized, this is a dream. There is a pocket or compartment for everything. Still need more storage? Use the external carry straps to attach anything to the front of the bag.
For even greater organization, this backpack works seamlessly with Peak Design Packing Cubes, Camera Cubes, and Pouches. These are sold separately.

Add On: Packing Cubes

Peak Design engineered packing cubes to optimize space within their backpack or any other luggage. Packing cubes are sold separately.

Packing Cubes – Key Features

  • Compressible/Expandable: additional space to pack and ability to compress content down once packed
  • Easy Access: tear-away opening
  • Instantly dividable: internal moving divider auto-adjusts based on content (to separate clean and dirty clothes for instance)
  • Easy handling: top and bottom handles
  • Ultralight

Sustainably Built

The cubes are made of 100% recycled ripstop 70D nylon/poly blend with super durable UltraZips. They are fair trade certified and 100% carbon neutral.

Size & Colors

The Peak Design Packing Cubes are available in three colorways: Charcoal, Raw and Sage. They can be bought individually or as a set. Here are the two most popular sizes:

  • Small Cube: Fits about 10 t-shirts when expanded. The compressed volume is 4.5L while the expanded capacity is 9L. The weight is 3.99oz (110g).
  • Medium Cube: Fits around 20 shirts when expanded (18L capacity) versus 8L compressed.

The compression feature and the lightweight of the cubes are real game changers. In addition, the size and shape of these cubes is the perfect match for the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L.


Premium Quality

The last thing I want when traveling is to worry about my bag falling apart. This will not be an issue with the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L.


This bag is made to last. It can and will withhold the rough handling that comes with travel. Here are more details on the materials:

  • Weatherproof 100% recycled 400D nylon canvas shell. DWR impregnated and double poly coated for water resistance.
  • 900D waterproof bottom liner
  • Nylon interior
  • Hardware is anodized aluminum and glass-reinforced nylon
  • Super-durable UltraZips with abrasion-resistant UHMPE thread
  • Hypalon zip pulls and reinforced stress points

This backpack is also Fair Trade Certified and 100% carbon neutral.

Lifetime Warranty

Peak Design is committed to providing the best products. In addition, they believe in not creating unnecessary waste and will do whatever it takes to help you keep your product in use and out of landfill. Their products come with a no-hassle, no-rhetoric lifetime guarantee. It covers manufacturing defects and unintentional failures or breakages that render the product non-functional. It does not cover cosmetic issues like scratches, stains and normal wear and tear.


The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L has some ingenious features to deter pickpockets. Surprisingly, it does not feature lockable zippers. I would recommend buying TSA-approved cable locks. They are inexpensive and will add peace of mind to your trip.

Extra Comfort

Comfort is essential for a backpack. I don’t anticipate carrying the backpack around for extended periods but still want to make sure that when I do it is not an issue.

Back Support

The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L offers a padded back panel. It even folds for added comfort. The bag also features padded shoulder straps, a stowable sternum strap and a hip belt. The straps and hip belt can easily be tucked away behind the back panel for a sleek look. Everything is adjustable to fit your body type and ensure optimal support and comfort level.


This is so much more than a traditional backpack. After concealing the external carry strap, use the 360-degree grab handles to carry your bag or place it in the overhead compartment. Traveling with a rollaway bag or with people who do? There is a luggage strap to securely attach the bag to a traditional suitcase handle.


Review Summary: The Unicorn of Travel Bags

In conclusion, it is impossible not to fall in love with this carry-on approved bag. Specifically, I love the versatility of the bag and the organizational solutions like the laptop sleeve and the expandable side pockets. Above all, this is the only bag you will ever need to travel with. At $299, this is certainly a premium item. However, the quality of the materials and the lifetime warranty make it a safe and smart long-term investment.

Time to start planning your next trip with your new Peak Design Travel Backpack. Safe travel!