I’ve been traveling for about four years with my trusty REI Lookout 40, but recently it was starting to wear out on me. For some reason I can’t seem to find anything besides top-loading backpacks in Germany, which I don’t like, so I waited until a visit back to Atlanta to buy a new backpack.
What’s your backpack brand and model?
My new backpack is the REI Trail 40, which cost me $109. I bought it in purple, but it also comes in gray.
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How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?
I’ve only had this backpack since mid May, but it’s already seen a decent amount of travel. Since I bought it while visiting friends and family in Atlanta, I ditched my old bag there and used the new bag for the rest of the week. More recently, I spent 3 weeks traveling to Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London and other parts of England. So far I’ve been on five flights with it, plus several train journeys.
What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack?
I knew from my previous backpack that 40 liters is my sweet spot (read more about why 40L backpacks are perfect). It’s just small enough to go as carry-on in most situations but big enough for me to pack what I need to feel comfortable. I also really don’t like top-loading backpacks because I find them harder to get into. If I need something at the bottom, I don’t want to unpack the entire bag. Pockets are also important to me because they help me stay organized.
What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?
There are lots of things I like about this backpack! I love that it has lots of pockets and a rain cover. One of my favorite features is that, even though it looks like a top-loading bag at first, the main compartment actually has four zipper pulls. So I can close it on the top like normal, but if I know there’s something I want to get from the bottom, I can open one of the other zippers.
I also love that it comes in purple, my favorite color.
The things I don’t like about it are minor. On the inside there’s a bungee cord compression system, the kind you normally see on the outside of a backpack. I don’t see a use for it on the inside, and it sometimes gets in the way when I’m trying to slide my laptop in behind my clothes. At first I didn’t like using some of the pockets for things I would normally put into small make-up bags, but now it’s not a big deal.
Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.
It’s really comfortable! Four years ago when I bought the Lookout 40, I got the men’s version because I felt like it fit me better, but in hindsight that might have been a mistake. This time, after an REI employee helped me determine the right fit (many of their bags come in different sizes to fit your torso) I ended up with a bag that feels perfect. It’s snug without feeling tight, the waist strap and other straps are easy to adjust, and it’s really easy to handle.
If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?
Yes! The dimensions are 21.6 x 13 x 10.5 inches (mine is a medium, the small is slightly different) so it fits within most airlines’ carry-on restrictions. So far I haven’t had any problems taking it as carry-on.
Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?
I think it’s just right. It seems slightly smaller than my old one, even though they’re both 40 liter bags, but it’s worked out well for me so far. I’ve been able to pack everything I need, including my laptop. The only thing I haven’t packed in the backpack is my DSLR, which works fine separately as if it were a purse.
Overall, would you recommend your backpack?
Yes, I really like how this one fits, and it feels compact while still holding all of my stuff. The pockets are great, and I love the color. It’s also small enough to take as carry-on, which always makes me happy.
What did you think of this REI Trail 40 backpack review? If you have questions about this pack, ask them in the comments below!