Hands-on Gear Review

Timbuk2 Wander Review

Price:  $179 List | $134.19 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stylish, high capacity, great for short trips
Cons:  Fragile buckle system on shoulder straps, less comfortable with heavy loads
Bottom line:  This is a great travel backpack for short hauls on your back and multiple transitions between transit modes.
Editors' Rating:   
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Volume of Main Pack (liters):  40L
Measured Weight (pounds):  2.9 lbs
Dimensions (Inches):  22.8 x 15 x 7.5
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2

Our Verdict

The Timbuk2 Wander is an excellent travel backpack for short trips. It is more specialized for short trips where you don't want to check any baggage, as it features a separate shoe compartment and clothing compression straps. It is designed as a soft suitcase, so the main compartment is easier to pack and secure clothing. It can travel in your hand like a duffel bag, or you can use the shoulder straps for a short haul through the airport. The shoulder straps were not very comfortable or durable, so this was a limiting factor and knocked the pack down in our review. If shoulder straps are not a big deal for you, this is a stylish and otherwise durable and water resistant bag that will hold up well through many trips.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Travel Backpacks and Carry-On Alternatives


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti

Last Updated:
Wednesday
November 22, 2017

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The Wander, an offering from Timbuk2, is good looking and chock full of features. It's ideal for short trips and is incredibly travel-friendly, making uh want to er, wander.

Performance Comparison


The Timbuk2 Wander  an elegant travel companion.
The Timbuk2 Wander, an elegant travel companion.

Comfort


The Wander is an attractive travel backpack but not the most comfortable. There is no hip belt for the relatively large 40-liter capacity bag, and the shoulder straps are set wide and tend to pull out and back. The laptop sleeve is integrated into the back panel of the backpack, like many travel backpacks, which adds some rigidity to the back panel. When full, this does not improve the comfort of the backpack. This feature is similar to the Patagonia Headway MLC, making them both better viewed as soft suitcases. The Wander could, therefore, benefit from a shoulder strap, similar to the Patagonia bag.

The Wander could go between suitcase or duffel and backpack modes  but wasn’t the most comfortable on our backs.
The Wander could go between suitcase or duffel and backpack modes, but wasn’t the most comfortable on our backs.

Features


The Wander is well featured for a travel backpack. It is a suitcase-style backpack instead of a book bag style. It has a separate zippered shoe compartment which can hold at least two pairs of shoes, and a top compartment which holds small electronics or items you might need easily accessible during travel. It has a sleeve for a laptop and papers, folders, and other items that might need to stay flat during transit.

Many useful pockets on the Wander. The top is good for quick access to items. The bottom holds a couple pair of shoes and isolates them from your clothing in the main compartment.
Many useful pockets on the Wander. The top is good for quick access to items. The bottom holds a couple pair of shoes and isolates them from your clothing in the main compartment.

In the main compartment, there is a very well designed compression strap which forks out on both sides to help stabilize and compress the contents. On the outside of the bag, there are compression straps as well. You must unbuckle two to unzip the main compartment; the other two are useful for compressing the bag, but we also found we could strap small, long items to the side using these straps. This might include our award-winning, fixed shaft umbrella, such as the Swing Trek LiteFlex umbrella.

The Wander has one large main compartment for clothing and items; a top pocket for small items  and a bottom pocket for shoes.
The Wander has one large main compartment for clothing and items; a top pocket for small items, and a bottom pocket for shoes.

The three side handles make this bag very maneuverable despite its lack of comfort on your back. They are robust and easy to grab, making this a great bag for trips where you will be going from one travel method to another to reach your urban destination.

The bag has a sternum strap to help keep the shoulder straps in position, but they were removable and couldn't be fixed in place. They would always fall below the buckle and make it very annoying to situate them back across our chest. If you're looking for a stellar pack with a totally different feature set, the Eagle Creek Universal Traveler RFID is a very versatile option that won't sit in your closet and collect dust between trips.

The sternum strap on the Wander was very frustrating to maneuver into position. You can see it involved at least three "moves" to get it in the right spot. Both sides tend to slip down to the bottom of the pack  so you have to scoot the loops up to the middle of your chest if you want to use it. Getting it up and around the shoulder strap buckle is tricky  as shown in the middle photo.
The sternum strap on the Wander was very frustrating to maneuver into position. You can see it involved at least three "moves" to get it in the right spot. Both sides tend to slip down to the bottom of the pack, so you have to scoot the loops up to the middle of your chest if you want to use it. Getting it up and around the shoulder strap buckle is tricky, as shown in the middle photo.

Packing & Accessibility


The suitcase design of the Wander makes it exceptionally easy to pack and unpack. Each compartment has its easy-access zipper, with the shoes separated into a bottom compartment. The electronics compartment is located directly behind the back panel, but it does not unzip like some of our award winners. As a very travel specific backpack, we think the Wander would benefit from a zip-open sleeve to lay your electronics flat without removing them from the pack to run them through the X-Ray machine at the TSA security checkpoint.

The Wander packed everything from our Test Load with ease.
The Wander packed everything from our Test Load with ease.

We also like that the shoulder straps can be stowed inside the back panel. This is great for those times your bag gets checked at the gate because your flight is full and they've run out of luggage space in the cabin, or if you want or need to check it anyway. This feature makes it feel more like a duffel bag and can be useful for travel in vehicles as well. The only packs that beat the Wander in this category were the Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Overhaul and our Top Pick winner, the Eagle Creek Universal Traveler RFID. Both are more streamlined travel backpacks. They are very well thought out and highly versatile - while still including convenient travel features.

Durability


The Wander took a major hit in the durability department. It does feature relatively durable fabric, and it got extra points for the excellent quality of the manufacturing, and the sleek, no-snag design. It is made of a highly water-resistant material, which improves the pack's performance in a variety of climates. For example, if you say, are forced to check this bag when your flight is full, and there's no room left for carry-on. Then the luggage sits on the loading tram on the tarmac in the rain for an hour. Because these things happen.

The problem buckle: if that metal gate opens up  the plastic bends easily and the shoulder strap goes flying off.
The problem buckle: if that metal gate opens up, the plastic bends easily and the shoulder strap goes flying off.

When we first slung this pack onto our shoulder, the strap exploded off the bottom, and we dropped the bag. Upon inspection, the buckle, which is designed to be unclipped so you can stash the shoulder strap inside the back panel, had come unclipped. There is a metal wire latch that closes and secures the buckle, but if this comes unclipped, the plastic buckle will bend open. After a few failures like this, we are sure that buckle will break. And when that happens, it'll need to have a new one sewn in place. The Patagonia Headway MLC is similar, but offers a touch more durability.

Weight & Capacity


This contender is on par with some of the most competitive travel backpacks in this review concerning weight to volume. The fabric is not particularly lightweight, rather it is quite durable, but the design is simple enough that it has just what you need and nothing more, keeping the weight of the bag down overall.

Very well designed compression strap  forked at either end  keeps clothing secure.
Very well designed compression strap, forked at either end, keeps clothing secure.

It also features a relatively high capacity of 40 liters. The only downside to this is that the bag is not entirely comfortable enough to carry a full 40-liter load without feeling strenuous. It will, however, perform well for a quick trip through the airport and various transfers to taxis, rideshares, trains, buses, subways, ferries, rickshaws, horseback, or whatever you find at the other end of your adventure. The only pack that came in with similar weight and capacity is the Kelty Redwing 44, which has a feature set and design more conducive to outdoor pursuits. This one was one of the most comfortable in this review as well, so if carrying 40 liters or so comfortably is important for you, that might be your backpack.

Best Applications


It's best suited to airport or train travel where you will need to make quick transitions from one travel mode to another while looking professional, keeping your clothes folded and relatively wrinkle-free. It is best used in travel situations that require some maneuverability, such as a busy weekday morning at the airport, but not long hauls on your back.

The Timbuk2 Wander is a great travel backpack for efficient transitions between urban transit modes. Here  we are walking down the dock to catch the ferry into town.
The Timbuk2 Wander is a great travel backpack for efficient transitions between urban transit modes. Here, we are walking down the dock to catch the ferry into town.

The side handles are handy for tossing and grabbing this bag from one vehicle or luggage rack to another. This is an excellent bag for the urban professional because it looks good and keeps a change of shoes separate from your clothing. The internal compression straps also eep your clothing in place, a feature sound on suitcases.

Value


The Wander is reasonably priced at $179. This makes it competitive in this review, on par with similarly styled bags.

Conclusion


The Timbuk2 Wander is a stylish and well-made travel backpack. It is best suited for professional travelers who need a bag to carry nice clothing and shoes for a few days. It is not the most comfortable to have on your back for a long time, so it is best for trips that require quick travel through crowded airports and several transportation styles. The three side handles make this bag easy to move from plane to train to tram to taxi to metro, and any other urban or suburban transit infrastructure you might encounter on your travels.

The Timbuk2 Wander  a great travel backpack for short trips with only a carry on.
The Timbuk2 Wander, a great travel backpack for short trips with only a carry on.
Lyra Pierotti

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Most recent review: November 22, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
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