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There are a lot of great electronics backpacks, an excellent choice of hiking bags, but few travel backpacks that blend the features of both. Thule’s Subterra 34L is a good attempt at doing so, giving travelers a large, empty front pocket with one dedicated for organization on the front. A high-quality backpack walking the line between travel styles, the Subterra 34L is a unique choice for select travelers.

You can watch my full review in the video above or read on.

Who’s This Bag For?

Thule has designed the Subterra 34L with a primary, top loading main compartment. It’s large but looks deceptively small for a 34 liter bag. Inside there’s an option packing cube, a laptop pocket, plus two size zippers to get at both without opening the top. Photographers or those of you with a lot of bulky gear will enjoy the space but top loading is not entirely convenient for trips through airport security.

Still, if you have one larger electronic like a DSLR camera but want room for a laptop plus a few days of clothing, the Subterra 34L fits the specific niche well.

Organizing The Basics

On the front of the bag, the thoughtful front pocket is very good at maximizing its use and limited space. Again, from the techie or hiking perspective, the Subterra 34L is an in between, not leaning too far in either direction. It doesn’t have the pockets of the Scansmart 1900 for instance. Travelers who’ve got as much electronic gear as I do will find the organizational space lacking. (A Grid-It might help here.) Trying to stuff the front pocket to your liking also doesn’t work, since when loaded it pushes into the main compartment. Stuffing the top loading main compartment works much better, provided the front isn’t very full.

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thule subterra 34l review

For a straight hiking bag, the Subterra 34L is ideal for a day trip or two, but really isn’t a full fledged hiking pack. Thule has consciously limited the size to stay under most airlines’ requirements for carry-on.

Perfect For 30

The Thule Subterra 34L works best when it’s only full to about 30 of those liters. Such a precise physical design is beautiful (the construction of this bag is simply elegant) but isn’t well suited to be stuffed to capacity. In that case, you’re better off looking at larger bags or more specific ones for your particular travel needs.

Still, the Subterra 34L is a few tweaks away from being one of my favorites. Switching the design from top to front loading, with a separate laptop sleeve, and larger organizational front pocket would be my personal modifications. Then again, most people don’t travel with an office on their back. For those of you who travel light and want versatile bag with lots of storage space, I highly suggest a close look at the Subterra 34L.

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