Topo Designs Global Briefcase Travel Backpack Review

Cute and lightweight, but not quite up to the task of a heavy load

Topo Designs Global Briefcase Photos: Michael Frank and Mark Miller

The Topo Designs Global Briefcase 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: $129
Where to buy: Topodesigns, Amazon
Dimensions:  15.5 x 11.5 x 4 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Construction: Ripstop or ballistic nylon, depending on color
Capacity: 14 liters
Tuckable pack sleeves: Yes
External bottle sleeve: Yes
Shoulder carry: Yes
Waist strap: No (sold separately) 
Eyeglass sleeve: No
Extras: Lifetime guarantee against defects; luggage handle slot; compression straps to tighten volume

Here’s My Review
Among the smallest of the bags I evaluated, the Topo’s dual exterior pockets with neon-yellow lining and mesh sleeves swallowed more than I expected: a small Moleskine notebook, my pens, masks, passport, tissues and snacks, my battery charger, eye- and sunglasses, my tiny headlamp, and keys. The main hold is also reasonably capacious; I stuffed in my dopp kit, slippers with just-in-case extra t-shirt, socks, and boxers inside, as well as all my other extra layers of clothing and my umbrella. The laptop sleeve will fit a 15-inch computer, but here I hit the capacity make-or-break: My guidebook, paperback, laptop and tablet wouldn’t all fit. And my over-ear headphones and water bottle wouldn’t either. I clipped the water bottle to the exterior and put the headphones around my neck, as I would do for boarding anyway . . . and then ditched the iPad.

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

The pros here are that, at 14 liters, the Global Briefcase is almost big enough for everything I want to bring, and the compression straps on the exterior let me ratchet everything tight enough to slide entirely into the underseat cubby, with zero sticking out. Construction seems solid enough, and the oversized compartment zippers are very stout, plus the extra-long zipper pulls are exceptionally easy to grab. Speaking of which, the briefcase-style grab handle is just-right-sized. 

Unfortunately, the backpack straps could be both wider and meatier. They feel a bit flimsy for the 17.5-pound load I used in my evaluations, and because Topo doesn’t include either a chest strap or a waist belt (though will happily sell you both for an additional $12 each) the load was constantly pulling off my shoulders and down into my lower back. Survivable? Sure. Especially if you’re not overloading it as I did. And the more compact size of this pack also means it’s going to fit on smaller bodies more happily. But I’d want both the waist and sternum straps, to be able to walk around more comfortably for longer.

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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).