Columbia Packable Backpack Review (After 1 Year of Use)

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I’ve had the Columbia Lightweight Packable 21 L Backpack for about a year now after purchasing it last January. In case you’re short on time, I highly recommend it.

I was looking for a decently sized, lightweight packable day bag to bring with me to Europe, and something I could pair with my Peak Design Travel Backpack. I was also hoping to use it for university, as I was studying abroad at the University of Liverpool at the time.

Ideally, I was looking for something inexpensive, with a couple of pockets and a laptop sleeve, maybe a spot for my water bottle, comfortable straps, and the ability to shrink it down to a smaller size so I could stuff it in my carry-on bag when it wasn’t being used .

Luckily for me, the Columbia Packable Backpack had almost everything I was looking for. Before I go into detail and give you my thoughts, here’s the specs taken from Columbia’s website:

  • Cost: C$37 (US$28)
  • Capacity: 21 L
  • Weight: 167 g / 5.9 oz
  • Backpack Dimensions:
    • 46 x 32 x 11.9 cm / 18.1″ x 12.6″ x 4.7″

Here are some pictures of the Columbia Packable Backpack, and some items for scale:


A front view of the backpack:

The inside of the backpack:

The inside of the backpack, with a passport holder, a 24 fl oz water bottle, and toiletry bag for scale:

The interior volume of the bag with the same water bottle for scale:

The size of the backpack when folded, with a wallet for scale:

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Finally, here’s the Columbia packable backpack fully loaded with 4 days worth of clothes inside a Peak Design bompression bag, the same toiletry kit from the picture above, all of my documentation and chargers, and a water bottle clipped to the side. There’s still some room left over for small souveniers:

The backpack is made of a water resistant Nylon Ripstop material, and has held up very well considering the amount of use I’ve put it through. I took it with me to class everyday for 5 months in all sorts of weather, on a bunch of day trips all across the UK, and it was my personal item on my Ryanair flights to Denmark, Ireland, and Belgium, as well as my day bag while exploring the Isle of Man. There are no signs of wear and tear, no discolouration, and the zippers all still work smoothly.

The laptop sleeve inside the backpack held my 15-inch laptop comfortably, and the inside pocket was a great place to safely store my passport and other important documents while I was travelling. The exterior pocket also has plenty of room to store whatever else you may have on hand. The straps are basic, but I found they applied an equal pressure to my shoulders which meant they were a lot more comfortable than you might expect.

My only complaint about the bag is that it doesn’t have a pocket for a water bottle. I got around this by either clipping one to the top handle, or simply stuffing it down inside the bag.

If you’re looking for a reliable packable backpack for an inexpensive price, in my opinion the Columbia Lightweight Packable 21 L Backpack is definitely worth a buy. It makes for a great day bag, as well as the perfect sized personal item for use on ultra-low cost budget airlines like Ryanair.

If you have any questions about the Columbia packable backpack, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments down below!

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