Tumi Essential Alpha Bravo Travel Backpack Review

A decent but expensive choice more suited to commuters than travelers

TUMI, Essential Backpack ALPHA BRAVO Photos: Michael Frank and Mark Miller

The Tumi Essential Alpha Bravo 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: $295
Where to buy: Amazon, ABT Electronics, Best Buy, Tumi
Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 5.5 inches
Weight: 2.3 pounds
Construction: Recycled antimicrobial nylon 
Claimed capacity: 12.9 liters
Tuckable pack sleeves: No
External bottle sleeve: No
Shoulder carry: No
Waist strap: No
Eyeglass Sleeve: No
Extras: Key clip

Here’s My Review
If I used this smaller pack, I’d be forced to leave my noise-canceling headphones and iPad at home to have room for higher-priority items. I’d also ditch my slippers so I’d have room for everything else. 

The Tumi isn’t cheap, either, but the recycled ballistic nylon exterior feels stout. And the quilted nylon interior is smoother and more refined than the guts of most of the other packs I checked out. I just wish the main interior cavity had more nooks and crannies. It’s missing slots for pens (there’s a key hook), and it could use mesh material on the pockets so you could see what’s inside without hunting for what you’ve stashed.

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

Despite the small size, this isn’t the comfiest bag I tried out. It’s missing a sternum strap as well as one at the waist. And once I cinched the shoulder straps taut, that pushed the bottom of the backpack into my lower spine. Loosening it up let it sag lower, to hip level, but then it felt like the pack was pulling off my shoulders. One solution: carrying less weight. Ditching some of my heftier items made it more comfortable, so the Tumi would be fine as a daily commuter’s tool. What it lacks in utility and comfort it makes up for in style, coming in four colors including navy and bright orange.

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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).