Heavy Thoughts on Packing Light: Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L Review

The Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L is the latest addition to our collection of carry-on bags! In this post, we share a review of the Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L to help you decide if it is a suitable carry-on bag for you.

Max ready to test out the Topo Designs bag on a flight
Max ready to test out the Topo Designs bag on a flight

Bag Overview:

The Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L is marketed as a bag suitable for weeklong trips:

Built for breezing through the concourse, our Travel Bag 40L performs perfectly as an agile, durable pack for weeklong trips. Compact enough to pass as a carry-on, the Travel Bag is built to go wherever you do and keep you organized the whole time. For maximum flexibility, the Travel Bag works with many of our other packs and bags as a modular carry system, streamlining cumbersome travel.

  • Carry-on compliant
  • 3-way carry (backpack straps, shoulder strap and grab handles)
  • Designed for organized one-bag travel

Here is the list of features:

  • Materials: 1000D nylon, 400D nylon pack cloth, 210D nylon pack cloth liner, 1680D ballistic nylon on select colors
  • Dimensions: 14″w x 22.5″h x 7.5″d
  • Volume: 2441 cu. in. / 40 L (*can expand to 45 L when fully packed)
  • Weight: 58.4oz
  • Foam structure with padded ballistic nylon back panel
  • U-shape entry to large main compartment
  • Internal mesh organization pockets
  • U-shape entry to secondary organization compartment
  • Larger zippered security pocket and dual slip pockets
  • Vertical exterior zippered pocket with dual security pockets
  • Easy access to back panel laptop compartment, fits most 15” laptops
  • Stowable contoured padded spacer mesh shoulder straps
  • Load-lifter straps and sternum strap
  • Removable waist belt
  • Top and side carry handles
  • Removable adjustable padded shoulder strap
  • Vertical daisy chain webbing
  • Heavy-duty YKK zippers with security loop on main compartment
  • PackFast™️ Attachment Clips
  • Meets most airline carry-on requirements

Why We Chose this Bag:

We decided to buy this bag primarily because we were looking for new backpack style carry-on bags. We would have liked to just buy another Eddie Bauer Travex but they have long since been discontinued and we also have Thule Crossover bags that are a combo of a backpack and rollerboard bag.

We really liked the size, color, and features of this bag. It also had many positive reviews and seemed to address some of the negative aspects of other bags we’ve owned in the past.

The bags comes in 3 colors; olive, blue and black. We both chose blue because we found it to be the nicest color scheme.

While the bag is geared for weeklong travel, we’ve been able to use bags in the 35L-38L range for much longer trips and so 40L was in the right range for us.

Why We Love This Bag:

The Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L might be the best carry-on bag we’ve owned all around. Here’s why:

  • Quality: We are so impressed with the quality of this bag! The material looks like it will be very durable and the zippers are heavy duty; no issues with checking this bag if needed.
  • Storage: This bag has so many storage options! It appears the bag was designed for packing cubes but we don’t use packing cubes and have found it so easy to pack optimally. The compartments make it easy to pack things you will need to access easily separately from things you don’t need to access until you arrive. Of all the bags we’ve owned, the storage organization in this bag is the best!
  • Size: The size is perfect! This bag’s shape is smaller than a rollerboard suitcase but larger than a backpack so a good in between. It also fits well in most overhead bins but can be a tight squeeze in CRJs and Q400s if it’s super loaded. It also fit into baggage sizers easily.
  • Laptop Storage: There is a sleek and hidden place to store your laptop too, making it a great bag for business trips. It is most suitable for smaller laptops though, not exceeding 15 inches.
  • Warrantee: Topo Designs has a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
  • Ergonomics: Even fully loaded, it is easy to carry this bag! The bag’s design and straps make it comfortable to carry for longer walks and even on public transit.
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: His and Hers matching bags
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: the exterior of the bag also has a small pocket to store keys and documents like passports for easy access in transit
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: largest compartment in the bag good for clothes and shoes
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: this compartment is good for storing books, toiletries, electronics, and chargers
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: this compartment is good for storing documents and thin items
  • Topo Designs 40L Travel Bags: it fits in an economy class CRJ bin!

Things We Don’t Like:

Nothing is perfect and while the Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L is great for so many reasons, here are a few things that we don’t care for.

  • Straps: The waist strap is convenient for some but we find it a little annoying as we don’t use it and there is no way to remove it.
  • Storage: As great as the storage is, the bag has so many pockets that unless you have your packing well organized, you might find the options overwhelming. There are so many pockets in the bag that you can easily forget where you packed something and think you lost it (true story!).
  • Availability: If you are Canadian, you can get the Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L shipped from Canada to avoid paying extra taxes but as far as we know, no stores carry it. Online orders are not subject to free returns either so it is a bit of a gamble unless you are sure you want this bag. The bag does cost 2 times more in Canada than in the US, even with currency conversion (at the time we purchased it!).


Overall, we are very happy with our purchase and will consider Topo Designs for other bags in the future. The Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L has been perfect for weekend trips, business trips and we more or less used it as our suitcase when had to live away from our condo for 6 months during flood repairs. We highly recommend this carry-on bag for people who like to mobile and travel primarily with backpacks.

Do you have any carry-on bags to recommend? What do you think of the Topo Designs 40L Travel Bag?

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