Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag Review

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag Review

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

I’ve owned the Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag for a little over a year now, and it’s become my most-used and most-loved bag of the last several years. That’s saying a lot.

I really like bags. I really like a lot of things, but bags are way up at the top of the list. I have too many shoes, cameras, and jackets as well, but I really have too many bags. I (we – my wife is not guilt-free here) have a closet full of nothing except bags. I tend to cycle through bags regularly, and change my main bag often. To say I’ve used this bag almost exclusively for the last year is a real compliment to just how useful it is.

I’ve been using a Topo Designs Daypack for about 18 months and find it to be one of the better daypacks I’ve used in years. I also have the Topo Designs Field Bag, and I use it as a great little camera bag. I’ve used the Topo Daypack for travel, for trail-running, and for getting groceries. It’s a clean design that works. I use it all the time. It’s a great example of Topo Designs’ quality and functionality. The Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag is another example of the same.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain BagOf course most photos I have of the Topo Designs Daypack someone else is wearing it…

The description on the Topo Designs site calls the Mini Mountain Bag 15″ x 8″ x 5″. It’s not a large bag. It won’t hold a laptop and it doesn’t have a padded compartment for one.

I’ve created a video of this bag – just to have a bit more interactive walk through and demonstration of what I typically carry in the bag. Check it out:

 

 

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

The interior is bright orange vinyl truck tarp liner, and after a year of use it’s showing almost no wear.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain BagTopo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

The strap is long and comfortable. I’ve got lots of bags with some sort of rubbery, grippy stripes or patch on the strap to keep it from slipping around. This bag, with it’s simple and unadorned no-grip strap, has showed me how stupid all those other bags are. I love that the Topo bag strap slips over my shoulder and allows me to swing or slide the bag around without it catching or snagging on my clothes. It’s smooth and simple like the rest of the bag.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

The Topo Mini Mountain Bag is wide enough to sit flat without tipping over and it will swallow just about anything that will fit. I load it up pretty heavy to travel and it’s surprising how much I can fit in it. With no dividers or padding, I make small pouches to carry all my cameras in, but packed carefully they’ve traveled across the country just fine.

strayfoto

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

I use this bag as my everyday carry-all bag. When I travel, I use the Topo Daypack to carry my computer and then use it for everything else once I get where I’m going. The little Mini Mountain Bag usually stays packed all the time. I’ve thrown it in the wash a couple of times and it’s always come out looking brand new.

If I have complaints, there are two. First, it’s not big enough to hold a file folder. This isn’t really a negative, because I don’t need to carry file folders all the time and I don’t wish the bag was any larger. But the addition of a flat, slash pocket on the back of the bag is a real oversight in my opinion. The ability to carry a larger, flat item like a few file folders or a magazine would make this bag even more useful. It couldn’t possibly be that difficult to add a flat pocket. One could argue “Hey, it’s called the ‘Mountain Bag’, man. It’s not meant to be an urban bag.” Yeah, right. This thing’s a man-purse plain and simple. People who frequent the mountains know if you want to carry something heavy or far, you go for the backpack. It might be called the “Mountain Bag” but it’s an everyday-around-town-carry-your-gadgets bag. There’s no shame in that – it does the job very well.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain BagAnd second, a half-complaint. I wish there was some way to carry a water bottle. The typical 32 oz. metal bottles that are the rage right now would never fit in this bag without lying down sideways and taking up all the room. I wish there were some provision to carry a water bottle on the outside, at the end of the bag near where the strap attaches. The one time I gave up the Topo bag for a couple weeks was to return to a bag that could easily haul a water bottle. Having complained about it though, I can’t envision a way of adding to the bag that wouldn’t ruin it’s essence. A side pouch would make it too long. I’d love if there was some removeable pouch/pocket to carry a water bottle, but again, fear it would mess up the great, clean, lines of a wonderful little bag.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

Can I call it a complaint that I like this bag so much I really want the Duck Camouflage one now? Is two everyday carry bags too many? Can’t I just use one for cameras? I’ve had some minor dealings with the guys at Topo Designs too, and they’ve always come across as nice folks. They expedited shipping for me once, and even replaced an early daypack I had some complaints about. Great service from a truly local company.

For more bag reviews, check out my review of the Topo Designs Field Bag and the Topo Designs Daypack. I’ve also just added a review and video of the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase as well.

Pros:

  • Great strap. Comfortable to carry.
  • Small, light. Even full it’s easy to manage.
  • Great looking bag with clean a clean design.
  • Stands up on it’s own when you set it down.

Cons:

  • Won’t hold a file folder or anything large or flat. 
  • Difficult to carry a water bottle.
  • If you want to carry electronics padding and organizing is up to you.

Who it’s for:

  • Timbuk2 refugees who want a bomber bag but are sick of the oversized messenger aesthetic being crammed down their throats.
  • People who almost never need to carry a file folders, magazines, or anything else large and flat.
  • People that want luggage made in the U.S.A.

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

 

 

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I’ve written and illustrated two children’s books that are now available in print and digital versions; Coyote Life, and The Cat’s Glasses. If you’ve got kids, check them out. If you enjoy them, please leave a review, tell your friends, etc. Thanks.

The Cat's Glasses

Kid’s Books: The Cat’s Glasses

Does your cat need glasses? How do you know? Follow one little boy as he tries to find out in The Cat’s Glasses by Quinn Hall

Find out more on MagCloud

Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Kid’s Books: Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Coyote Life is a short, rhyming children’s book about coyotes in the Southwest.

Find out more on MagCloud

 

Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop.

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My wife Leah also makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear. minimalist leather handstitched walletCamera Strap by Aestus Gear

Photography T Shirts and Stickers at Redbubble:

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6 thoughts on “Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag Review

  1. AA

    Very nice review. Am debating the mountain briefcase myself. Found a review that was unkind about it – poor on every front. Especially water resistance, thickness of cordura and the stitching. Any thoughts? Maybe it was just a dud?

  2. Quinn Hall Post author

    The Mountain Briefcase came out well after the Mini Mountain Bag – and I don’t have that particular model – but if it’s the same as the Mini Mountain Bag it’s plenty strong. Topo Designs’ website claims the Briefcase is 1000D “Invista” Cordura, which seems similar enough, but they claim the liner is “coated packcloth” which is definitely different than the 18oz vinyl trucker tarp that lines the Mini Mountain Bag. Even with those small changes though, I’ve owned enough of the Topo Designs gear to know it’s all well-made and bomber. The 1000D Cordura is thick enough for any normal use. I’ve owned the original daypack for three years and I’ve sewed patches onto it and hauled it around the entire west on motorcycle trips, road trips, hiking and trail running. It’s only gotten better with use. I own the Travel Bag/Pack combo, and I had the Duffel for a while. I use them heavily and they hold up well. I had an early version of the daypack I wasn’t happy with and the guys at Topo replaced it immediately. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another bag from them. I’m actually interested in the Briefcase as well – if you get it let me what you think. Thanks.

  3. timichango

    I’ve personally had pretty mixed experience with Topo Designs, both on the quality and customer service fronts. I say mixed, and mean it literally—some great, some bad.

    I’ve been using one of the original klettersacks since pretty much right after it was released (when Topo was still pretty new in the market), and these early bags had some serious quality control issues. IMHO they didn’t leave enough seam allowance in the construction of the bags, and also the stitching was quite loosely spaced (ie. not enough stitches per inch) and in my original copy, the straps literally started tearing out of the bag body after a hike with a moderate load in the bag (~20 lbs for 8 hours). They sent a replacement pack, and that one had the same issue. In the end I personally had to bang a pile of additionaly stitches into the bag to remedy the problem, and have been using the bag successfully since then, but this quality gaffe was pretty unacceptable. To their credit, they refunded my money, and let me keep the 2nd defective bag.

    Another issue I had with the Kletter was that the original straps used metal ladderlocks (the things that adjust your shoulder straps) which did not actually hold the strap adjustment *at all*. The bag would slouch back out to the maximum strap extension in under 10 minutes while walking around with it on. Not cool. I remedied this by having a local gear repair guy replace the ladderlocks with standard nylon ones from national molding, and the problem is resolved.

    But yeah—my bag’s now a frankenstein. Topo have apparently updated their design for this bag—and hopefully their overall manufacturing tolerances have gotten better.

    Subsequently, when trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, and try out their products again, they completely botched an order, and omitted stuff that I’d purchased. I was then given a bit of a customer service runaround for several weeks, and in the end had to pursue a refund, and never did receive the stuff I ordered.

    Bummer, really—I’d love for there to be a north american manufacturer that combined style with substance with domestic production, but in my experience Topo’s got all of the right ingredients in the pan, but they’re just not baking the cake all the way through in some cases.

  4. Quinn Hall Post author

    Unfortunately I have to grudgingly agree. Your comments about the early metal hardware are spot-on. My original daypack had the metal buckles. I emailed and complained about them slipping and they immediately sent me a redesigned replacement with the nylon sliders that work much better. Although my brother and I always poke fun at the replacement bag they sent because the logo patch on the front is sewed on upside down! We refer to it as the “ultra-rare complainer replacement model”. Having said that, my experience with customer service was great – they shipped the bag before I even sent my original back. My little Mini Mountain Bag is a real gem among bags – it’s bomber and just the right size. I’ve always suggested they craft a camera insert for it…

    For Christmas my brother received a Topo gift card and ordered the Chambray Shirt. It took two returns before he got a third, satisfactory shirt. He was super disappointed at their quality control – especially at that price point.

    You’re absolutely right – an American based and manufactured outdoor company like Topo Designs is exactly what the outdoor community needs. Cool, well-designed gear, made here and built to last. I’m hoping too that we’re witnessing the teething pains of new company that will blossom into something great. Thanks for taking the time to comment I appreciate it. (also if you’re reading this in Chrome I’m really sorry for the way the comments look – they appear much more formatted in Firefox).

  5. Tommy Pace

    Hi, Great review! What kind of soft pouch is that, that you keep your dslr camera in?

  6. Quinn Hall Post author

    Hey Tommy – I keep my DSLR separate while in the bag using a fleece-lined drawstring bag I sewed myself. I’ve had several people comment on that… I should make a video of how to make one. It’s super easy and I’m not that great at sewing. Thanks for asking.

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