I first came across the brand Thule while backpacking in Southeast Asia in 2015. One of the Dutch boys in our tour group had a Thule day pack and I remember asking where he got it because I liked it so much.
A few years on, while preparing for a recent trip to India, Australia and New Zealand, I realised my big backpacking rucksack was past its best, and I didn’t even own a decent day pack.
It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Thule.
As my main rucksack, I went for the Thule Guidepost 75L Women’s pack (retailing at £240). Specifically designed to fit the shape of a woman’s body, it exudes comfort, style and practicality in equal measures. For my carry-on luggage, I chose the Thule Subterra Travel Backpack 34L (retailing at £140) and it’s barely left my side since.
This first post takes a look at the individual features of the Thule Subterra Travel Backpack. Another article highlighting the features of the 75L Thule Guidepost Rucksack will follow.
Two features of the Subterra Travel Backpack stand out for me. The first is its versatility: it has ample space for carry on, is comfortable and durable for outdoor pursuits, and looks smart and trendy for general use. As any traveller knows, this is a godsend when you’re trying to pack light. Second, it’s really, really, ridiculously comfortable. Even worn frontwards while also carrying a rucksack, its padded straps feel snug.
The Subterra Travel Backpack weighs in at 1.25 kg and measures 23 × 32 × 52 cm³, keeping its dimensions well within the limits of cabin luggage allowance.
The design of this bag is simple and stylish. It’s not a statement piece, but it looks trendy on both men and women in a wide range of circumstances, whether you’re trekking through the bush, touring a city or transporting gym gear via the office. For a touch of fun, the inner linings of this particular model are funky neon yellow. The Subterra Travel Backpack is also available in ‘mineral’ blue or ’ember’ red—both with an orange lining.
You can really tell that this bag is made from strong and durable materials. The outer lining withstood heavy rain, although we did resort to covering it with a poncho when the Indian monsoons arrived (just in case). Despite having been set down on sand and brushed through jungle, it also resisted snags and stains incredibly well. After months of daily use, it looks as good as new. The inner linings have a soft sheen, but are also highly resistant to tears.
This bag really excels in terms of comfort. Not only is the back panel padded for soft, low-impact contact with your back, but it’s contoured to allow air flow and breathability. The rigid structure behind the padding means that no matter what’s inside your pack, you never feel it poking through. In addition, the straps are fully adjustable, well positioned and wide enough to distribute the weight of your things, meaning they don’t pinch or rub. There’s also a chest strap, which can either be removed completely (with some slightly fiddly pulling and poking), or repositioned at a different height along each shoulder strap.
DESIGN AND PRACTICALITY
One of the more unique aspects of this product’s design is the closing mechanism for the main storage section. Rather than using zips, there’s a magnetised strip on either side, which clips together and can be rolled in a similar fashion to a dry bag, then clipped down securely on either side. This is great if you’re the kind of person who often forgets to zip up their bag, as it will just close itself. It also helps to secure the items within the bag, as it can be closed more tightly the fewer items you have.
Other practical attributes include: a quick-grab side handle; a zipped/expandable pocket for your water bottle and other small items; and a protective, padded laptop pocket with a velcro flap closure on top. Both the laptop pocket and the main space can be accessed separately via side zips, providing quick and easy access to all of your items.
The front section has multiple pockets for your phone, pens and smaller items, along with a loop you can attach your keys to. Finally, an elasticated band on the back of the bag means you can slide it over the handle of a suitcase.
One of the coolest features of this bag is the internal power bank pocket and inbuilt route through which you can thread your power cable. This means you can charge your phone as it sits within easy reach in the top pocket of your bag, while your charger is hidden away, and any wires are protected from snagging and entanglement. The main section also comes with a removable packing cube to help you organise your belongings.
If I was really pressed to think of something I’d change about this bag, it would be the positioning of the water bottle holder. Seeing as I only seem capable of slinging a backpack casually over my right shoulder, I’d prefer to be able to access my water from the right-hand side while walking. This really is the tiniest of details and comes down entirely to personal preference. Overall, I’m majorly impressed with the product and absolutely convinced it will be a staple item on every trip—long or short—for years to come.