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Topo Designs Travel Bag Comparison: 30L vs 40L Travel Bag

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The perfect bag is a thing of beauty. But finding that perfect bag is easier said than done. Allow us to be of assistance. During our recent search for the perfect travel bag, we came across two bags from Topo Designs, a company that designs gear for “Anywhere on your map,” from city to backcountry. But it’s hard to tell online which one was better suited to our needs. So we got both. Here’s our side-by-side Topo Designs travel bag comparison: the 30L vs 40L Topo Travel Bag.

Want to see it in action and hear what we had to say about the bags instead of reading? You can do that, too. Just click the video above.

Topo designs travel bag comparison

30L Topo Travel Bag

We think this bag is perfect for shorter trips, especially if a plane is involved and you don’t want to pay to check a carry-on. It’s small enough to wear comfortably but large enough to carry everything you need for at least a week if you’re a savvy packer.

Size:

12.5″w x 20″h x 7″d

Features:

  • 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
  • Large 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
  • Pass-through panel secures bag to rolling luggage handle
  • Top and side carry handles
  • Removable adjustable padded shoulder strap
  • Vertical daisy chain webbing
  • Heavy-duty YKK zippers with security loop on main compartment
  • Travel Bag attachment clips
  • Meets most airline carry-on requirements
  • Water repellent finish

40L Topo Travel Bag

Larger than the 30L Travel Bag, the 40L Travel Bag is designed for longer excursions. Some might say a week, but we think you don’t need much more for a month than you do for a week, so we’d definitely take this on a multi-month backpacking trip around Europe or South America (or wherever).

Topo designs travel bag comparison

Size:

14″w x 22.5″h x 7.5″d

Features:

  • Foam structure with padded ballistic nylon back panel
  • U-shape entry into divided main compartment can be unzipped for larger items
  • Internal mesh organization pockets and large zippered security pockets U-shape entry to secondary organization compartment
  • Large 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
  • Stowable padded 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
  • Travel Bag attachment clips
  • Meets most airline carry-on requirements
  • Water repellent finish
Topo designs Travel bag comparison

Topo Designs Travel Bag Comparison: 30L vs 40L Topo Travel Bag

When it comes right down to it, it all depends on what you want out of your bag and how big is too big (or too small, for that matter). Based on measurements alone, the 40L Travel Bag doesn’t seem that much larger than the 30L Travel Bag, but there’s actually a fairly significant size difference. As you can see by the photos and video, the 40L is a whole lot larger on the back than the 30L. Almost too big if you’re a tiny person like me. Also worth considering: while the 30L can pass as a “personal item” on cheap airlines like Frontier or Spirit, the 40L almost certainly will not. However, they both are within the size limits of most airlines’ carry-on restrictions.

They’re both bigger than your typical daypack and since they are square and open more like a suitcase than a backpack, they’re better suited for travel (and keeping everything organized and in its place while traveling).

Topo designs travel bag comparison

Besides the size difference (and the related subject of how much they can hold), there are a few different features on the bags. The 30L, for example, has a luggage pass-through pocket so you can slide the bag over the handle of your rolling luggage when traipsing through the airport or hotel. The 40L doesn’t have this feature, though for the life of us we can’t figure out why.

Likewise, the 40L has a feature the 30L does not: a padded hip belt to help distribute the load. Yeah, the 30L has a little hip belt made of webbing, but it’s not going to support much weight, and certainly not comfortably, for a long period of time. However, this feature discrepancy makes more sense: you probably won’t be carrying as much weight in the 30L as you will the 40L since the latter is bigger.

The only other major difference in the bags is the main compartment: the 40L has several more dividers and organizational pockets than the 30L, making it better suited for longer trips.

Otherwise, both bags are pretty similar. They both have laptop compartments for up to a 15″ laptop, stow-away backpack and duffle straps, and the ability to clip one of three daypacks to the front of the bag to increase carry capacity, which is super cool (there are actually more than three, but only three are made without leather): the Rover Pack, Y-Pack, and the Global Briefcase (regular and 3-day).

Topo Designs Travel Bag Comparison: Bottom Line

When it comes to comparing the 30L vs 40L Topo Travel Bag from Topo Designs, it’s really all about preference and your own individual needs. Don’t want to pay for a carry-on on budget airlines? Go with the 30L. Need more space and a comfortable carry for longer trips? the 40L will probably be your best bet. Either way, we really love that Topo designed the bags so you can easily attach smaller daypacks to the outside to increase your carry capacity (and have a smaller pack at your disposal when you arrive at your destination).

The one thing we noticed right away that was missing from both bags? A water bottle pocket. We never go anywhere without a water bottle (or two), which means we will have to get creative with carabiners and that daisy-chain webbing or strap on a daypack with a water bottle pocket so we can stay hydrated.

However, we do like the built-in organization of the bags and that we can get any of Topo’s bag organization systems to further encourage packing efficiency. In fact, you can even get the bags as a kit, complete with all the bag organization (aka packing cubes) that you’ll need. Update (6/30/20): The kit version of these bags appears to now longer be available. Check here for current kits.

Topo designs travel bag comparison

The Topo Designs Complete Travel Bag Kit (40L)

As for travel, we appreciate the zippered pockets within zippered pockets, which makes important items hard to steal. Even the main exterior zipper compartments have zipper loops on one side so you can secure the zipper pulls, making them hard to surreptitiously undo and pilfer from. So that’s cool. Cause we don’t like it when stuff gets stolen.

And since Topo Designs not only designs their stuff to last the rugged conditions of travel and the outdoors, but also offers a warranty on their products, they’ll fix or replace their products for free if something goes wrong due to a manufacturing defect. Which means you can keep using your gear (and keep it out of a landfill) for ages.

Want to order a Topo Designs Travel Bag for yourself? Find the 30L here and the 40L here.

*This post contains affiliate links. That means if you order yourself a sweet new travel bag, we might receive a small commission and be able to get other sweet gear to test and review for you!