Topo Designs is a brand I came to trust early on, and when I tried the Global Travel Bag in 30L, I was pretty sold. I’ve used this backpack on weekend trips and as a hiking daypack. Within days of opening it from the mail, it was on my back going through a leafy state forest (where I got a ton of mosquito bites).

In this review, I’m going through the features I think are the most noteworthy, along with what could be improved. You can use my experience points below to see if it’s your next medium-sized travel backpack.

Key takeaways from this review

  • I’m a fan of the design of this backpack, although some people might find it boxy.
  • My favorite features are the zippers and the pockets, and I’ll go more into that below.
  • There are a lot of backpacks in the $200 range, so competition among trusted brands is fierce, but see why I think this backpack is worthwhile.

What I like best

There’s a lot I like about the Global Travel Bag 30L, if I can be honest. I definitely like more about this backpack than what I don’t like. I’ve recommended it wholeheartedly to friends and family through the years.

Tons of pockets and sleeves

I’ve used mostly every pocket this backpack offers, especially when we’re on a one-bag type of trip. In the past, Becca and I have packed this backpack with a packing cube inside and clothes for both of us. We use the front panel with its interior organizer full of pockets and sleeves for smaller stuff, like toiletries and tech.

Given how much we both drink and always have a water bottle at hand, we’ve used the convenient water bottle pocket, as well as the mesh organizer pockets, and vertical exterior pocket for odds and ends.

It’s unisex

The photos here show me using the backpack, and it looks natural on my back. I’m a regular-sized guy, yet Becca is a petite woman who’s only 5’2”. Nevertheless, Becca likes to wear this backpack, and she often does, because it doesn’t feel overbearing on her narrow shoulders.

On the product page for this backpack on the Topo Designs website, they show both men and women modeling this backpack. It helps that it’s timeless and neither masculine nor feminine in its appearance.

Becca recommends the Global Travel Bag in the 30L size at her list of the best travel backpacks for women.

The quality of the zippers

My and Becca’s favorite thing to talk about when it comes to Topo Designs products are the big fat “heavy duty” zippers. Maybe it’s because we’ve dealt with bags in the past that have had disappointing zippers that snag and break.

Either way, the zippers on all Topo products are kind of the signature style, and they’re not different in the Global Travel Bag: they’re oversized, strong, sturdy and never snag on fabrics. There are also unique “loops” to keep the zippers from opening, so my stuff inside stays secure in transit.

It’s great to see these exact same zippers on more Topo products, like the Topo Mountain duffel we recommend in the best travel duffels to know about.

Clamshell opening

Topo calls the opening style a “U-shape,” but I call it clamshell. This is one of my preferred features of a travel backpack, so that I can see everything inside. With the U-shape zipper opening to the main cavity, I can put in a few packing cubes, or a shoe packing cube, and see how much space I have left.

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L

The Global Travel Bag 30L is a quality and functional backpack with cool travel features.

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Things I don’t like (or won’t use)

While I think this backpack is overall great quality and the features are useful, here are some things to know.

Back straps

The back straps work fine; they’re just not overly padded. They work well for the fact that they can be tucked into the backpack and dismantled, if you’d like to stow them away and turn the backpack into a duffel. They’re mesh, so they’re lightweight, just not the strongest if you’d like to be hiking uphill for a few hours with this backpack as your daypack.

Pass-through panels for luggage

In all honesty, I didn’t know about this feature when I got the bag, and I didn’t really plan to use it as such. This feature isn’t as obvious as the luggage trolley pass-through panels or handles I’ve seen on other backpacks.

Bag attachment clips

In all honesty, I probably will not be using these bag attachment clips, and I haven’t made use of them to date. The attachment clips are from Topo’s ecosystem of making their products interlock with each other, and what you can do is attach a smaller Topo bag onto your Global Travel Bag, all on the front of a suitcase.

This seems cumbersome to me, and I’d rather just carry my backpacks, if I’m in the airport, which seems to be the use case for this. Plus, the Global Travel Bag in the 30L size is already carry-on compliant.

How did it go?

Like I mentioned above, Becca and I have actually shared the Global Travel Bag (in 30L, not 40L) as a weekender when traveling with just a change of clothes, laptops and a few toiletries for a one-night stay somewhere. We haven’t taken any extra shoes, which is what made this backpack work for us both. For all minimalist trips, it worked out just fine, and we put small items and essentials in all of the zippered pockets, slits and sleeves.

Of course, you could use the entire bag for yourself, and pack for one person. That way, you’ll have much more space.

I also have taken this bag as a daypack (that Becca and I have shared… do you see a theme here?) on hikes. In these photos, I was in the Hudson Valley on a hot July day with my 30L Topo backpack. I was able to fit everything for a day out exploring the forest, plus essentials we wanted to have at our fingertips while visiting nearby small towns in Upstate New York.

Worth it?

With tons of high ratings, including mine here, this best-selling travel backpack from Topo Designs is worth your time to check out, even if you won’t be buying it.

Topo Designs is continually making awesome products, like the Topo packing cubes (”Pack Bags”) that I listed in my roundup of the best travel packing cubes.

At its current price point, I feel like the cost of this travel- and adventure-savvy backpack is worthwhile, especially if you plan to make use of the three ways to wear it (backpack, duffel, shoulder bag with one strap).

Where to get yours

Getting the Global Travel Bag in 30L or 40L at its price will qualify your purchase for free shipping and exchanges on the Topo Designs website. You’ll also get the MAP Guarantee, which is a “reasonable lifetime warranty.” Take them up on it!

If you’re the Amazon Prime type of consumer, check out the Global Travel Bag (30L at Amazon, where it comes in a few colors. The only thing is, getting name-brand bags on Amazon might yield discontinued or outdated colors. This is what I’m currently seeing.

You can also easily buy it at Note, though, that REI will usually stock just a few color choices, not all of the ones you’ll find on the Topo Designs site. If you are lucky, they may be the current ones.

More Topo items to check out

I already mentioned the affordable Topo Mountain Duffel as well as the helpful Pack Bags, so head onward to check out the nice-looking Topo Mountain Waist Pack and our best travel fanny packs and belt bags.

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