Away The Backpack Travel Backpack Review

An ideal commuter tote—and a decent choice for lighter travel demands

Away, The Backpack Photos: Michael Frank and Mark Miller

Away’s The Backpack is one of 10 travel backpacks I evaluated for qualities including organization, comfort, and sturdiness as part of CR’s “Outside the Labs” review program.

Price: $165
Where to buy:
Dimensions: 12.4 x 7.2 x 17.5 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds
Construction: Nylon
Claimed capacity: 25.5 liters
Tuckable pack sleeves: No
External bottle sleeve: Yes
Shoulder carry: No
Waist strap: No
Eyeglass sleeve: No
Extras: Key cord

Here’s My Review
Away’s The Backpack is bigger than you’d guess from the exterior. I wish it were just a hair better organized inside, however, because it’s missing some key slots for pens and business cards. Still, I can overlook some of those shortcomings while “flying” (that is, sitting in my wicker chair in cramped quarters of our coach cabin mock-up). I was able to remove the Away from the underseat space, prop it on my knees, and access my over-ear headphones, Moleskine notebook, hand sanitizer, snacks, lip balm, etc., all without fear of spilling the contents. Why? It has a perfectly flat bottom. This is HUGE! A lot of packs I tried out wanted to topple over or were happier on their sides, which is no good if you want to just poke inside for one item, particularly while in transit. Also, yes, it’s made from nylon, but it’s smooth, and for that reason—if you’re wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt—doesn’t rub abrasively like the stuff used for some of the brawnier packs I evaluated. 

See our review of the best travel backpacks for more information, including details on how we evaluated them.

Bummer then that although it could just consume everything I had to carry, and squeeze into the underseat space with minimal toe overlap, the Away didn’t handle my 17.5 pounds of stuff with particular grace. There’s no sternum strap, and I either had to elongate the backpack straps to let the load hang lower and press on my sacrum or cinch the too-narrow straps very tightly and feel the force of the weight in my lumbar. Once I removed a few pounds, the pack felt a lot easier to carry, so probably the solution is to just bring less.

Bonus! There’s a cut-through to lower the Away onto the handles of roll-aboard bags, and just behind that there’s a concealed zippered compartment to stash something very important, like a passport.

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Michael Frank

Michael Frank is a freelance writer who contributes to Consumer Reports on the intersection of cars and tech. His bias: lightweight cars with great steering over lumbering, loud muscle cars any day. You can  follow him on Twitter (@mfwords) and  Instagram (mfwords).