I’ve had my share of backpacks throughout my over ten years of long-term travel that help me carry everything I need in the most efficient, compact, and lightest way possible.
A backpack might seem like just a bag where to put your clothes and travel gear, but choosing the right backpack can make a great difference in how efficient your packing is, how easily you can move around with your bag, and last but not least, how your back and body can carry your gear.
My usual packing setup for long-term travel is one 40L backpack for my clothes with a 20+L daypack for my electronics and camera gear. For short trips, though, I focus on carrying only one backpack for everything.
TropicFeel Shell: A compact yet efficient backpack
Recently I was introduced to the TropicFeel Shell, which can easily stand as a modern-day travel backpack.
I’ve been using TropicFeel sneakers for a few years now, and I’m a fan. They are incredibly light, durable, made out of recycled materials, and built to be used while hiking, crossing rivers, or even on a casual night in the city. Yes, they are very versatile.
It’s no surprise that TropicFeel added that same versatility and sustainable approach to their line of backpacks. I’ve used their Shell backpack on a few trips, and I have to say that I love it!
The Shell is basically a backpack and wardrobe system with high versatility, easy access, and organization to pack up to 20% more.
The Shell comes as a 22L backpack, which is great for a day or weekend trip. Still, it can expand to up to 40L by using attachable add-ons and a hidden expandable pouch at the bottom (the best use I’ve given to this bottom pouch is to store my dirty clothes separately).
To give you an idea, 40L is the size of my “big” backpack, which I’ve used to live out during my round the world trip.
What’s great about The Shell
Many things make me love this backpack, so I’ll go over them here to help you see why this is such a good backpack.
One of the greatest qualities of the Shell is its flexibility to expand. The backpack can go from 22L to 30L to 40L while maintaining a compact size and fitting as a carry-on bag on most flights.
When I use the Shell in its small or mid configuration, it’s still small enough to fit under the seat in front of me. When I expand it to 40L I then put it on the overhead bin.
The Shell expands by extending its hidden bottom pouch, extending its top load cover, and attaching its toiletry pouch to the front.
Top load and back load
I love it when backpacks give you more than one access point to your clothes and gear. In the case of the Shell, you have top access through the top flap and “front” access through the main compartment zipper that opens the backpack like a clamshell.
The padded laptop sleeve can fit a laptop of up to 17 inches. It is located in the main compartment.
The Shell successfully combines the ergonomics and benefits of a large hiking pack with the portability and minimalist design of a daily use backpack. In addition to the padding, the Shell has sternum and hip straps (which can be hidden) to help distribute the backpack load through your back as you carry it.
This load distribution is essential to avoid back and shoulder pains and help you carry the backpack for more extended periods (especially if you’re hiking with it).
Expandable pouch at the bottom
This is a hidden pouch that is easily expandable by opening a zipper. So far, I’ve used this expandable pouch to separate my dirty clothes from everything else in the main compartment. This pouch adds approximately 10L of space.
Plenty of pockets to organize everything
I can count at least five pockets throughout the backpack where you can separate and organize your gear.
Of those, my favorite two pockets are the hidden “passport” pocket on the back (by the bottom of the shoulder straps).
I call it the “passport” pocket because it has the right size to fit a passport, and it’s nearly impossible to pickpocket when wearing the backpack because it sits against your back.
My other favorite pocket to hide things is one I didn’t even realize was there until after using the backpack twice. It is located above the fidlock points and sort of hidden by the way the fabric is placed.
You can wear it any time, rain or shine.
Like with every TropicFeel product, sustainability is at the forefront of their design while still providing a high caliber, high quality, and long-lasting product. The backpack is made with 100% recycled nylon and 64% recycled polyester.
Key accessories you should consider getting
The Shell is an excellent backpack by itself, but it truly shines when combined with some (if not all) of these accessories.
The well-padded camera cube can fit a DSLR body with a lens, a second lens on its side, and other electronics and accessories.
This is the “star” accessory of the Shell. The “wardrobe” helps you organize and pack up to 20% more clothes, but once at your destination, you can remove the “wardrobe” and hang it anywhere in your room.
This is highly convenient to keep your clothes organized while easily accessible.
Detachable “kangaroo” pouch
This “kangaroo” pouch adds 6L of packing. It is designed mainly as a toiletry pouch that can be hung in the bathroom, but it can also be used to pack anything you can fit in. From experience, it is big enough to pack plenty of toiletries!
Detachable tech pack
You can have your daily essentials more accessible than ever by attaching the tech pack to the outside of the Shell via its Magnetic Fidlock mechanism. (A mechanism I love, by the way. Easy to lock, easy to remove, but not too easy to remove for a pickpocketer.)
Things to be aware of and recommendations for future versions
While I do love the Shell and will continue to use it on many of my trips where I want to keep all of my gear under 40L, the backpack still has a few minor details that could improve. Or at least, this is my opinion of what could improve based on the way I use the backpack.
Outside access to laptop sleeve
It would be great if the laptop sleeve had access from the outside. That way, you won’t have to open the top of the main compartment to access your laptop. It will also make packing and unpacking the laptop easier.
Maybe front load instead of back load
This is more of a personal preference. When packing, I prefer front load. That way, the sturdier back panel of the backpack won’t push down the backpack to the floor, making it easier to pack. This is just me being picky.
Allow a connection between the main space and expandable pouch
I think the bottom pouch would be even more flexible in utility if there was an option to connect it with the main compartment.
Getting the Shell
At the time of writing, the Shell is sold for $265 and includes free shipping worldwide. However, I recommend getting the Shell with the wardrobe and at least one more accessory (like the camera cube, the tech pouch, or the toiletry pouch) for $335.
I have the Shell with the wardrobe and three accessories, which goes for $423
There’s a lot more I can share about this backpack, so I recommend you see more details on their website and all the pricing options based on your accessory options.
All promotional images are property of TropicFeel.
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