My initial thinking was, why? Why should you buy the smaller version of a bag that is already carry-on approved?
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L bag is the newest addition to Peak’s travel line. It is the baby brother to the 45L Travel Backpack and is, at first glance, the same but smaller!
This bag comes in three colours, black, sage and midnight (pictured). The main shell of the bag is constructed with 400D nylon canvas and the base is made of some much more robust 900D nylon canvas. The sage and midnight colourways come emblazoned with a leather accent; while the (vegan-friendly) black colourway has a Hypalon accent (Hypalon looks and feels like a very hard bike inner-tube).
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is styled to be as simple as possible, three weatherproof zips dissect the otherwise seamless bag. The sides of the bag feature a flush water bottle pocket and a handle for easy carry. The top and bottom of the bag also sport large handles.
Pockets, pockets, and more pockets
In true Peak Design fashion, the 30L Travel Backpack has a myriad of features inside and out.
You have two external pockets to play with; a small hidden pocket at the back, and a larger pocket at the front. The front pocket (pictured) is lined with two banks of storage dividers, perfect for your daily goods, as well as five SD-card pockets, and a stretchy zippered pocket to-boot.
There is an additional small ID pocket on the back which is just the right size for a card wallet. It is, however, a little small for a passport and boarding pass.
The back of the bag retains the iconic back panel seen in the 45L travel line bag. The shoulder straps can be hidden behind the back support panel allowing you to stow the bag without the hassle of floppy straps getting in your way. I love this feature, it is one of the most innovative things Peak have done with their travel line in my opinion.
Between the back panels is an integrated carry strap, probably the most helpful of all the handles; it allows the bag to be carried like a duffle, which for me, is the most comfortable way to carry it.
Inside the main compartment (which is accessed through the back of the bag) you will find a decently sized space. Peak has chosen to provide a few organisational pockets, that are especially helpful when the bag is being used for clothing storage as it gives you a space to hide away smaller goods like computer dongles or face masks (still a necessity!). These pockets do, however, become much harder to access once you install a camera cube.
The internal volume is technically 27L ‘normally’ and is expandable up to 33L via the compression zip that runs the perimeter of the bag. Anything under 40L is very small for travel, for comparison, most suitcases are 40L and above. You could certainly pull an overnighter with this space but don’t start planning full wardrobe changes as it just isn’t going to fit!
For the Digital Nomad
Most people who look at Peak Design aren’t looking for a normal travel bag. They’re photographers and creators! So how does it fare as a camera bag?
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is compatible with all their previously released accessories. This means that you can still stuff in a Peak Design Large Camera Cube. If you carry lots of gear then this bag is not going to disappoint.
I managed to fit an unholy amount of Sony camera gear into this bag without it breaking a sweat. If you packed it with slightly more attention than I did, I think you could even squeeze a few more lenses in.
The dividers in the Peak Design Camera Cubes (sold separately) are sublime and really allow you to utilise the entire camera compartment. I used all the dividers in the large camera cube (pictured above), however, I think most users will find that there are more dividers provided than necessary.
If I was investing in the Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L, I would personally go for a medium camera cube. The Large cube utilises as much of the available space as possible, however, I often find myself bringing along a coat or even a change of shoes and prefer to have room in the bag for these.
I think the balance of some camera space and some ‘you’ space is really important and the medium cube allows for that. If you do buy the small cube the likelihood is that you will acquire more gear and regret not having the additional divider space.
This bag allows for the carry of 15” laptops and tablets in the dedicated laptop compartment, so, for all of the digital nomads among us, this is definitely the best arrangement for you!
A 30L Backpack, what’s new?
Inside the bag, you have two new mesh side pockets; not necessarily a deal maker but handy nonetheless. The aforementioned front organiser pocket has replaced the soft sunglasses pouch found on the 45L. I actually prefer this as I carry my sunglasses in a case anyway, so I have always found soft pockets a little obsolete.
The biggest addition, or rather subtraction, is the lack of a fixed hip belt. You can still fit one, but it is now an optional extra. I am personally a huge fan of this as I have never understood waist belts unless they are actually hiking grade and an inch thick. The streamlining of this is a welcome change for me.
For the ultra-nerdy, I also note that Peak has slightly streamlined the adjustment hardware on the shoulder straps, removing the webbing management hardware. I can’t say I’m a fan but it's nothing you couldn’t learn to live with.
What about the 45L bag?
Well, yes. That was my question too when I heard about the new 30L version. Peak Design already make a feature-packed 45L travel bag which, when compressed, is 30L! However, the newer 30L does offer some features that the 45L doesn’t, and has removed some bits you may not have used before.
Starting with the dimensions, the 30L bag offers the same accessory compatibility as the 45L but it does so in a slightly smaller form.
Running the perimeter of the bag is a compression (or rather expansion) zip. And while you can fit the Peak Design Camera cores in the bag with the compression zip closed, they fit much better, and the bag is easier to close when this zip is undone.
I mention this as it pretty much means that whether you have the 30L or the 45L, you can’t really tell the difference. They are very similar in height and depth with the main exception being that you can pack the 45L out further. At their smallest, the two are almost indistinguishable from each other.
The 30L vs the 45L
The 45L still has a few party tricks that the 30L does not. Most notably, the compressible volume takes the bag from 35L down to 30L. If you undo the compression zip then it opens to the full 45L volume. The 30L just doesn’t change that much in size (27L–33L). Neither bag ever feels that small or that big, certainly not cumbersome, but the 45L is absolutely the more versatile of the two.
One of the most notable subtractions is the front clothes pocket on the 45L. This makes the 30L significantly harder to recommend for photographers who also want to carry clothes as you no longer have the extra space to stuff a few shirts. This is most frustrating when using the bag with the large camera core as you have no space for clothes at all.
The last difference is the side access. The 30L has done away with the large side doors in favour of a smaller profile. As much as I value side camera access, only the medium and the large cubes support side access and using it can severely restrict your divider placement.
There is a compelling argument to say that the weight of a fully-loaded camera bag or travel bag makes it impractical to swing on one shoulder and quickly grab your camera. This isn’t the Peak Design Everyday Backpack and I would encourage you to buy that bag if side access is paramount.
For the nerdy among us, I also note that the magnetic closure on the back panels that retain the shoulder straps and waist belt when stowed has also been removed. As annoying as that is, I found that the friction fit of the straps is good enough.
Should you buy it?
That is the big question, and honestly, yes, I think you should. For the right reasons.
If you want to buy a Peak Design camera backpack for moving a decent amount of camera gear, you have three main options; you either need a Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L, a Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L, or a Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L.
The Everyday Backpack 30L is the best option for moving camera gear and shooting on the go. The versatile interior makes it easy to mix in personal items too. However, the Everyday backpack falls short for me when I need to really rifle through my stuff. The lack of rear access makes finding clothes or lenses agonisingly slow and frustrating. As a travel bag, it fails, but this isn’t its design. If you want a bag to carry camera gear in for a couple of hours, buy the Everyday.
So the question then lies, if I do carry lots of kit, or am looking to stay overnight somewhere, which bag should I buy, the Travel 30L or the Travel 45L?
If you are just carrying camera gear and nothing else, buy the 30L and either the medium or large insert. The features the 30L miss are only noticeable when you travel overnight; as a camera bag, it works! It fits the camera cores and packing cubes and it has the basic features like stowable shoulder straps that make this bag much more manageable than other options on the market.
Overall, the 30L is the perfect companion for hauling lots of camera gear and is priced fairly competitively too. My gripe is its name, I just don’t think it excels as a travel bag, I find the 45L to be that much more compelling for travel.
The Peak Design Travel 45L is the best travel bag of the two. The larger capacity just makes such a huge difference when you are trying to stuff in your clothes. It is especially apparent when you use the extra, full length, front pocket. This is so helpful when you are trying to do an overnighter and have a camera cube installed too.
In conclusion, why not just buy the 45L for everything?
That is a good question, it goes back to my initial thoughts too. Why should you buy a smaller version of a bag that is already carry-on approved? You don’t need to save those 15 litres, so why downsize?
The real trick that the Travel Backpack 30L pulls is the price, it is cheaper than the 45L and Everyday bag by almost £100*. In fact, the Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is one of the cheapest bags they sell!
As I mentioned before, I would pair it with the Peak Design Medium Camera Cube. I think it finds the best balance of space and the combination of the two works out cheaper than an empty Peak Design 40L!
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is a bargain compared to their other offerings. If you need a daypack to comprehensively carry everything, look no further. If you pack light, you could overnight with it too. Overall, it’s an impressive bag at an impressive price!
*Prices and comparisons are correct at the time of writing. Prices are subject to change.
You can buy the Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L in Black, Sage & Midnight here >
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog, we really do hope they help you out and answer some of your questions. If you still have some unanswered, then please feel free to get in touch with our team of experts.
We have a LiveChat option on our website and we can, of course, be contacted via our email, we're also on the end of the phone too! Read more on how to contact us here >
Want to write for us?
If you've got experience with producing content on photo, video and/or optics products or techniques then we would love to hear from you. Contact our blog editor, Fee, with a sample of your work at firstname.lastname@example.org.