If you’re struggling to find the personal item that works for you and your travels, look no further – I’m here to advocate for Cotopaxi’s Allpa 28L backpack. I had a layover in Atlanta’s international airport without my usual carry-on. Normally I bring along my Lo & Sons weekender duffel as my personal item but lugging that thing past 20 gates on one shoulder was either a pretty big struggle or a great arm workout. I knew then that I needed a backpack that was large enough to match the amount of stuff I could fit into that weekender.
After a ton of research and a bit of buying / returning, I finally settled on the Allpa 28.
- Padded straps with a hip strap you can tuck inside when not in use
- Adjustable chest strap
- Handles on all 4 sides of the pack
- Separate laptop compartment with an interior padded sleeve for a tablet
- Weatherproof exterior with an extra rain cover included
- Clamshell opening design
- Anti-theft zippers
- Extra mini strap loops on every corner
- Fits under airplane seat with room to spare
- Overall weight when empty: 3lb 7oz
- Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 9in (48 x 30 x 23cm)
Under the Seats!
I’ve flown several airlines with my Allpa, including budget airlines and those that only allow a personal item. See some photos below for Delta, Southwest, and Frontier. Not pictured are Spirit and United.
If you’re worried about the stricter size limits on Frontier, do NOT pack your Allpa to the brim and be sure to put the bag in the sizer with the front facing outward. This way the straps don’t get caught on the edges, and if it’s a bit sticky going down, it’s just the TPU coating. Also, the bag fits both vertically and horizontally under a Frontier seat.
The Allpa 28 comes in a bunch of colors, including Cotopaxi’s unique Del Dia mix – I chose the Desert color because it’s neutral. My boyfriend bought the Deep Ocean color, his brother got Amber, and another friend got Maritime. The material is made of “TPU-coated 1000D polyester and durable 840D ballistic nylon paneling.” It’s easy to clean and I haven’t had any issues getting scuff marks on it.
The 4 grab handles on each side make it very easy to transport around, and there are multiple extra straps all around the corners to add attachments or clips. The most unique thing I’ve seen are the anti-theft zippers that make it hard to unzip quickly. The main wrap-around zipper allows the pack to open up like a suitcase, although some people don’t prefer the clamshell design. Personally I’m a huge fan of it because now I don’t need to dig to the bottom of the bag to find something.
There is an outer zip pocket at the top of the backpack with another interior mesh zip pocket, and plenty of space to stuff a light jacket or your small purse plus some snacks. It can just fit my Cotopaxi Nido Accessory Bag if full. I prefer keeping that area pretty empty so that I can put my bag or fanny pack there, in case an airline agent requires you to consolidate.
The luggage combination you see below (Allpa 28 and a standard carry-on) is my go-to for all trips over 5 days long and up to 3 weeks, given I do laundry once in between.
The left side has two mesh compartments and the right side is a full mesh compartment. Note that the left side is deeper and more spacious. I listed that below as a con because of the weight distribution when closing up the pack. I find that the right side doesn’t pack too many things because it’s overall pretty shallow due to the laptop compartment taking up a bit of the real estate. It’s just deep enough to allow one layer of rolled up clothing.
Speaking of the laptop compartment, there’s that PLUS an extra padded tablet sleeve with velcro strap to keep it in place.
- No water bottle holder
- No trolley sleeve to slide over luggage handles (normally I just lie the pack on its side but the side handle just barely touches the handle of the luggage so my hand is stretched out)
- Newest model does not have compression straps on the inside of the main mesh compartment
- The pack needs to be filled up to the brim so that the exterior material lies smoothly and doesn’t look lumpy
- A minor thing, but the majority of inside space is in the front half of the pack. It makes closing the clamshell harder but not a dealbreaker
I’m SO glad I found a great personal item that I can wear comfortably on my back while keeping my hands free. I use the Allpa 28 on all weekend trips and even on a trip to Hawaii for 6 days. Even though this bag exceeds United Airline’s personal bag dimensions by a bit, and I was able to stuff it into the measurement bin even at fully packed capacity. See my post here on how I fit everything I needed into this pack.
For reference, I’m 5’3″ and this does not make me look like a turtle drowning in its shell. I previously tried the Allpa 35L and that pack was too huge.
Do you have other packs that work really well as a personal item? Let me know!