A fun, vibrant bag with superb interior organization and a little bit of personality.
Pros & Cons
- Cool design, more personality than other packs
- Superb interior organization
- Highly water-resistant, also comes with rain cover
- Comfortable harness
- Breathable back panel
- Detachable and stowable shoulder straps and hip belt
- A little pricey
- Hip belt needs pockets and more cushioning
- Somewhat heavier than other packs
- Front panel material not as durable as other materials
This Pack is Best for...
Travelers new to one bagging who want a bit more personality in their equipment.
The Cotopaxi Allpa 42 was my travel pack for over 2 years and served me well. Even though I eventually decided to downsize and go with a different pack, the Allpa still saw me through a lot of adventures.
The Allpa (named after the Quechua word for “earth”) suits my needs, I like the design and color scheme, and I respect the company’s mission. The interior organization comes with zippered mesh covers that actually negate the need for packing cubes (although I’d recommend them anyway).
While it is pricier than some other packs, it’s a solid travel companion, especially if you can find it at a discount.
The front of the Allpa 42 is made of water-resistant TPU-coated 1000D polyester, which gives the bag its characteristic rubbery sheen. This material performs well but can also be a turn-off to some, as it does look rather floppy when empty.
The side and back paneling are made of more typical 840D ballistic nylon, which is very strong and abrasion-resistant.
There are four grab handles on the pack, on each side. You will also find four “lash points” at the corners, where you can attach caribiners and other small equipment.
On the right side of the Allpa 42 is a water bottle holder, which from my experience can comfortably fit a bottle up to 3″ in diameter (so something like a 24oz. bottle). A 1L Nalgene, for reference, is 3.5″, and it’s next to impossible to fit one in there. As Nalgenes are one of the most popular water bottles for travelers and hikers, I feel like a stretchier pocket would increase the utility of the pack. As it is, however, it will accommodate just about any other kind of bottle.
Aside from the material itself, the components on this pack are all high-quality. The zippers are heavy-duty YKK and the buckles are high-quality Duralast. This sounds like splitting hairs, but these are the real deal and will last much longer and under much more duress than lower-quality components. From personal experience, the last thing you want is a zipper coming unthreaded or a buckle breaking on your pack. One of those things that seems insignificant but is actually very important.
If you look closely, you’ll find little loops stitched over the ends of the zippers. This is actually a safety feature. You can tuck the zipper pulls down under those loops, and that way no one can casually walk by and open your pack. This kind of opportunistic theft is common and these loops are a simple yet effective safeguard.
You have one top compartment on the outside of the pack, the “brain,” which holds a keychain clip and several small compartments, including a zippered one.
Unzipping the pack and laying it flat, you see one small interior pocket on the upper left side, with a larger section below that. The larger section has a small zipper compartment on top of it. On the right is the main compartment, complete with a small hidden pouch along the “spine” of the unfolded pack.
The laptop compartment lies flat against the back, as it should be. This allows your heavier electronics to be located closer to your body, distributing weight more efficiently. It also offers a higher degree of protection for your laptop.
The website says the compartment is capable of holding a 15″ laptop, more than enough for my 13″ Asus ZenBook and its protective case. Out of curiosity, I tried to fit my old 17″ behemoth in there, and to my surprise it just barely fit (though I would NOT recommend traveling with a laptop of that size). The compartment also features smaller sleeves for a 12″ tablet (or travel journal) and a pouch for your phone and charger.
The harness is pretty good, though not the best. Cotopaxi seems to have gone for low profile with the straps, so they don’t have as much padding or structure as other packs I’ve used. Having said that, they’re spongy enough and pretty comfortable. This is not a pack you’d take with you on the Appalachian Trail, and it wasn’t designed as such. After all, the most you’ll be doing with the Allpa 42 is walking across a large airport or a few blocks from the cab to the hotel.
The shoulder straps come with load-lifters, which help support more of the pack’s weight. You can disconnect these straps and tuck them behind the breathable back panel for when you’re boarding a plane or other tight space.
The hip belt is made of the same low-profile but comfortable material, and can be completely detached from the pack by velcro. The hip belt helps transfer over 60% of the pack’s weight from your shoulders.
Okay I won’t lie, a big part of the decision to get this pack was because of the little llama on the front. I know, I’m a shallow human being.
But seriously, look at it! It’s fun! It’s got personality! The colorways pop. It’s got a little llama. This is not a run-of-the-mill black, blue, or gray backpack; it stands out from the crowd.
And that’s not even considering Cotopaxi’s Del Dia lineup, which is frankly a little much for me but has been extremely popular with fans of Cotopaxi. The Del Dia lineup are all one-of-a-kind, created from leftover scraps from other packs. Your Del Dia backpack is literally unique in this world.
About the Company
Cotopaxi is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and named themselves after a volcanic mountain in Ecuador that the founder spent a lot of time exploring as a kid. They chose the llama as their symbol as a nod to the Andes Mountains.
Cotopaxi’s motto is “Gear for Good,” and they are B Corp. certified, meaning they ethically source their materials and labor. This also means that 1% of their profits go to charities in the areas in which they make their products, in this case the Philippines and China (the Allpa 42 in particular is made in the Philippines).
While I would usually be wary of a backpack made overseas that still costs $200+, I gave Cotopaxi a pass. By all accounts, they do pay their workers a living wage. They’re a company that does good on top of making quality products, and I respect that.
Notes from the Road - 2 Years
I traveled with the Cotopaxi Allpa 42 for over 2 years, and while I had a few quibbles, overall the pack performed pretty well.
At the time that I bought the Allpa 42, I was just starting one bag travel and so I only had eyes for bags at the upper end of the carry-on spectrum. I was trying to get as close to 45L as I could, because in my mind the more space the merrier.
The downside to this is that yeah, you can pack more, but you also have to carry it.
The other problem is that even this 42L pack was not compatible as a carry-on across all airlines. I can tell you that the Cotopaxi does NOT fit in the overhead compartments of ERJ145 planes. Granted, the ERJ145 is a sardine can of a plane, but many people find themselves on them. Likewise, when I was coming back from Santorini to Athens aboard Aegean Airlines, I alost got in trouble. I had to make a last-minute decision to dump a few items and wear 3 layers of clothes onto the plane, otherwise I would have been fined 50 euros for an “oversize” bag.
My last quibble with the Cotopaxi was about its durability. After my 2-year run with the pack, the TPU coating on the front began to erode. While I’m all for my equipment having some character, I felt like the material was just too rubbery to stand up to the rigors of long-term use. Considering that I had shelled out over $200 for this piece of gear, I expected a little more from it.
Having said that, I did use this pack heavily for 2 years of travel both foreign and domestic, and for the most part it performed admirably. Everything else about it was in great shape, and I ended up selling it to a fellow traveler who I’m sure will get a lot of mileage out of it.