From design to materials, The Backpack is a surprisingly good option for the modern traveler. It’s also one of our favorite backpacks because it comes with so many thoughtful extras like an adjustable strap and key tethers that make packing more manageable than ever before.

Since its inception in 2015, Away has dominated the roller baggage market, capturing the hearts of influencers and celebrities worldwide.

Is it possible for Away to do it again with the Away The Backpack? TIME Magazine seems to agree. This travel backpack was voted one of TIME’s greatest innovations of 2019. That’s some very high praise. (Please note that we’re discussing the 25.5L travel bag, not the Daypack.)

We wanted to check whether this bag was one of the year’s most significant innovations. So we purchased our own Away The Backpack and put it to the test by traveling throughout Detroit, Michigan, Atlanta, Georgia, and San Pedro, Belize, for a month. What did we find out? Continue reading to find out.

Aesthetics & Materials

Overall, the Away Backpack’s design and feel are consistent with the rest of the Away world, including the wildly popular suitcases. The quality, sleek design of the backpack straddles the gap between tradition and modernity.

Away The Backpack Top HandleThe leather details and brass hardware give the bag a vintage feel, but the water-resistant nylon shell is unmistakably modern. The six colors available at the time of this review are all rich yet muted, giving Away’s the signature luxury vibe. And the branding is kept to a minimum, which we always enjoy.

Away The Backpack LogoIf you like, you can additionally customize your backpack by having up to three letters embroidered on the side or back of the bag. You may pick your initials if you want to be predictable, but you can also have some fun with them.

PH (of course, for Pack Hacker), CAT (because who doesn’t love those cuddly little fur-balls? ), HSM (for all you want-to-be Wild Cats out there), BBL (because if you’re traveling, you’ll be back later), AWY (maybe, unlike us, you don’t enjoy subtle branding)… We could go on like this for the rest of the day, but you get the point.

Despite this, 33% of you appreciate the Away Backpack’s appearance. We’re not sure whether 67 percent of our Instagram followers have a vendetta towards Away or not, but we’re shocked that such an essential bag failed to please such a large number of people. (Make sure to follow us on Instagram if you want to vote in future aesthetic polls!)

Away The Backpack MaterialAside from their appearance, the materials used by Away are pleasant to the touch and long-lasting. In addition, the nylon shell is water-resistant, as previously stated. That water resistance comes in handy on rainy days or if you drop the backpack on a damp surface. In the rain, though, don’t expect it to hold up.

Away The Backpack ZippersThe zippers are smooth and premium-feeling, and the laptop compartment’s zipper is water-resistant for added security. We haven’t been able to identify the brand, though. So we’re wary of them since we can’t recognize the brand. So far, we’ve had no problems in testing, but if that changes, we’ll be sure to inform you in the Usage Timeline below.

Finally, Away appears to be keeping a low profile regarding the leather utilized on the packs. We don’t know where the leather comes from or whether it follows ethical or ecological guidelines.

Components from Outside

The harness method is easy to use yet very effective. The shoulder straps are adequately cushioned for a pack of this size—thick and comfy. There are no-load lifters or sternum straps, which is acceptable for a 25.5L backpack. (However, we’ve tested packets of this size containing the items mentioned above.)

Away The Backpack Shoulder StrapsIn warmer regions, or if you’re a sweaty person, the back panel contains a few tiny air vents but nothing that will keep sweat from building up.

Several points to consider regarding how this pack carries: the bag is short yet deep, so it may seem bulky. A smaller, flatter container that sits closer to your back may be preferable if you have a longer torso. This carry will most likely work for you if you have a shorter torso. When the pack is complete, though, it will still protrude from your back. (As an aside, it will fit under the seat in front of you on an aircraft even if it becomes fat when filled.)

Away The Backpack in BelizeThe back panel also lacks cushioning and stiffness, resulting in a droopy appearance when worn. It’s not a structured carry, but with some clever packing, you can make it better.

The conventional backpack handle is located at the top of the bag. Only this one is made of leather, adding to the classic, historic feel. Unfortunately, it hasn’t fully broken in yet, but since it’s just been a month, this isn’t a big issue.

Away The Backpack Luggage Pass ThroughThe rear panel has a baggage passthrough so you can slide it down the handle of your suitcase. Away wants you to use it with Away baggage, but it should work with other bags. And although it works, the way it’s constructed makes it seem a little sloppy. There seems to be too much fabric, it doesn’t lie flat on the bag, and there is no way to shut it. We’ve often seen it done better—the Aer Travel Pack 2 has a baggage passthrough that’s just a basic band, and the Tortuga Setout Duffle Bag features a pass-through that can be hidden with a zipper.

You’ll discover a zippered security pocket behind the passthrough for everything you don’t want stolen—passport, additional cash, wallet, and so on.

Away The Backpack Water Bottle PocketFinally, one side of the bag has a zipped water bottle compartment. It isn’t one of our favorites. Water bottles bounce about a lot when you’re walking, which we enjoy the appearance of. It also doesn’t feel safe since it lacks flexibility. We’re amazed the Hydro Flask we used to test the pack hasn’t spilled its contents—it wobbles all over the place. This similar type of water bottle pocket has been done better elsewhere (the Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack, for example).

Inside the Bundle

Let’s take a look at this baby. Slip the backpack off one shoulder, swing it forward to the front of your body, and presto, you have access to the front vertical compartment. So this compartment, which has no other structure, is ideal for whatever you need to grab quickly—snacks, a packable rain jacket, and a notepad so you can scribble notes whenever inspiration strikes. Smaller things, on the other hand, should not be kept here since they will all end up in a tangled mass at the bottom of the compartment.

Away The Backpack Front PocketA much bigger chamber opens out in a horseshoe pattern behind it. The compartment extends to the bag’s bottom, providing a huge, cavernous area that you can fill with a lot of things. Just keep in mind that the more this area is filled, the more the pack will protrude from your back.

Away The Backpack Organization CompartmentThere are two slide pockets inside, one big enough for a notebook or kindle, and the other tiny enough for your phone or an additional battery. There’s also a tiny zipped pocket to help you organize your belongings even more. Finally, there’s a key clip that, in comparison to many other key clips we’ve seen, looks and feels expensive.

Away The Backpack Laptop CompartmentLet’s start with the laptop compartment before moving on to the main compartment. It’s well-padded, allowing fast access to your laptop through airport security or wherever else. However, there is no suspension mechanism to prevent your laptop from sinking to the bottom of the bag. Your laptop may be damaged if you inadvertently put your bag down too forcefully. It can hold up to a 15-inch laptop, and we had no trouble putting our 15-inch MacBook Pro with a case inside.

Away The Backpack Main Compartment Zipper PocketThe main compartment, like the other compartments, has lots of room and little organization. To segregate toiletries or tech gadgets, there’s a single zipped mesh compartment (chargers and the like). The mesh has a smooth, sumptuous feel about it.

In the remainder of this area, you may simply utilize a few packing cubes—in fact, we recommend it as a method to keep your belongings organized. We evaluated Away’s packing cubes, but you can also check out our packing cube guide for additional choices.

Away The Backpack Main CompartmentOverall, this bag has adequate space inside for modest to medium-sized excursions, with appropriate clothing, toiletries, technology, and accessories. If you need extra room, it’s also compact enough to be a companion to roller baggage or duffel bags.

Testing & Durability

So, has the TIME authors’ praise for the Away Backpack been well-deserved? Unfortunately, we have to answer no. It has not, after a month of testing in Michigan, Georgia, and Belize. That’s not to suggest the Away Bag is a terrible backpack; we had a lot of fun trying it. However, we’ve evaluated hundreds of unique travel bags, and the Away Backpack isn’t particularly noteworthy.

Away The Backpack In BelizeYou may, however, give it a go for yourself. Away’s 100-day return policy allows you to “return [your bag] anytime during the first 100 days after purchase, no ifs, ands, or asterisks,” according to the company. However, there is one caveat: customized goods cannot be returned (so don’t get it embroidered if you want to replace them).

We haven’t personally tried this policy, but we’ve heard good things about Away’s customer service. For example, after their Away The Carry-On broke during a vacation, a trusted Pack Hacker source got a new component with no questions.

So far, it’s held up well in terms of durability. We have no significant or minor problems to report.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the away backpack worth it?

A: The away backpack is an excellent option for those who want to keep their items safe and secure. If you’re looking for an upgrade, this is your best option.

Is the away backpack waterproof?

A: The away backpack is not waterproof.

Which brand is best for a travel backpack?

A: The North Face is a well-known brand for travel backpacks. They offer high-quality and durable bags that will last you through multiple trips worldwide.

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