I am obsessed with my Kathmandu Litehaul 38L. I owned one, I saw a new one and HAD to buy it. Imagine my embarrassing over-excitement when I found out that they have come out with an even newer version. What else could I do but review the new Kathmandu Litehaul 38L!!
The Kathmandu Litehaul Range
I have been using my Kathmandu Litehaul around the world for at least seven years. We reviewed the last redesign of this bag back in 2017.
Check out our Kathmandu Litehaul 38L V3 (2017) Review
The New Kathmandu Litehaul 38L Review
- The new Kathmandu Litehaul 38L comes in three different colour combos. Plain black, black and grey and navy and blue. As usual, I have gone with black. I travel with a backpack but often need to look quite smart. I do really like the grey and black one, but I just couldn’t break with tradition.
- The dimensions are 55cm x 32cm x 30cm.
- The bag has 38 litres of space. Unlike it’s predecessor, this can’t be stretched to more. You get 38 litres and no more. This keeps it within the airline restrictions though. There is no bulge to mess you up, a godsend on the stricter carriers.
- It weighs just 1.56 kg (around 3 lbs).
The front is very plain on the black version. I think that the plain frontage on the black bag makes it wonderful for those who need to look a bit smarter; business travellers for example.
The other colour combinations have a contrasting panel running down the front. The Kathmandu logo is picked out in white.
This redesign has seen a fabric change yet again. From the shiny hexagons of the 2016/17 design, they have now created a rip-stop fabric that looks more like thick denim. I think it looks a little smarter and so, on the black bag, works better for the business market than its predecessor. I don’t think you would notice so much on the other colour combinations.
On the new Kathmandu Litehaul 38L, there are two well-padded handles. There is one on the top that is great for getting it out of the overhead luggage bin. It has the logo on the handle so you know that you are getting the right bag.
Then there is a traditional side handle which means you can carry it like a suitcase when the back straps are zipped away.
Working from the outside in, we will start with the side pocket.
This is just large enough for a water bottle and if you aren’t using it, it can be pulled tight with that little strap.
The Top Pockets
At the top of the back, you will see two pockets. The one towards the front is quite large. It would be good for either all the bits and bobs that you lose in your bag, or for things you need quick access to when it is stored in an airlines overhead bin.
Just behind that is a soft feel pocket that is labelled as a tablet pocket. It is tucked within the bag and so would offer some protection, but it isn’t padded on both sides. I’d rather use the laptop pocket for my tablet. It also has another little zipped pocket inside for your USB keys, cables etc…or even little things like your keys.
The Back Pocket
As mentioned, there is a padded laptop pocket. It sits across the back of the bag and can easily swallow a laptop or A4 size pad of paper. I stash my bookings that require printing in here and I love that Mr Fluskey can slide each sheet out without me having to take the bag off. It is also pretty easy to swing the bag round and get your laptop/tablet out without taking the bag off your back. This, and the main pocket, can both be locked which is very assuring when you are leaving it in a dorm room, checking it on or have something awfully embarrassing in it!
This bag differs dramatically from its last two incarnations as it opens up just like a suitcase. I wasn’t so keen on this to begin with, as I like to pack my bags from the top, but it actually resulted in a neater Flying Fluskey! I didn’t have to unpack loads to get things at the bottom. Items remained in my bag and so I didn’t have to “repack” in the same way every day or two (I tend to throw things all over the floor when I am on the hunt for this, that or the other).
Personally, I prefer a nice bright colour on the interior as it makes it easier to see things but this doesn’t have it, unfortunately. I think that they were going for a more sophisticated colour palette.
Using the pockets on the top is a blessing and a curse. If you need them, they are incredibly handy, BUT they do fill up quite a lot of space in the main pocket.
Whilst packing this, the sides will seem flimsy, and like they won’t fit much in BUT keep on going and as you pack the sides up, you will find that it works well.
Why not check out our other apparel and bag reviews
The Back System
Welcome to back of the new Kathmandu Litehaul 38L. It looks rather different from the old one; a lot more like a hiking pack. Firstly, you will notice the padding. It used to be quite thick and still quite warm against the back. This time around they have gone for the foam and mesh system called ‘Air Pod System’ APS. I can attest that it is definitely a bit cooler. Even the hip strap has air holes to allow a bit of breeze through.
There are two ways to wear this bag. The most obvious way is as a backpack. The straps are padded and highly adjustable (they even work for my piddly five-foot stance). I have no complaints whatsoever when it comes to this.
On the straps you will find a chest strap. This is something I don’t ever use. I find that with a bust, it isn’t comfortable. Mr Fluskey does and likes that it can be moved to accommodate an individual’s frame.
Further up are two plastic rings for attaching things. The Kathmandu Litehaul 38L now has a little buddy and this is where it attaches. If you haven’t seen it in action, check it out here.
You attach the day pack to these loops and you are totally hands-free whilst adding another 12L of space in a groovy matching bag!
I have always adored the fact there is a hip strap on these bags. Fair enough, if you are getting a taxi at both ends of your journey then you might only want main straps. However, we walk, and get the bus, so the extra comfort makes a BIG difference. The plastic fastener is sturdy and I have never had one of these break on me. They have survived dashes through the airport winched as tight as can be, so I trust them completely.
The Strap Cover
If you are checking the bag in (I knew buying that snow globe was a bad idea!) or carrying it as a messenger bag, you will want to get those straps out of the way. I though Kathmandu had nailed it on the last design of the bag, but the strap blocking the zip got on my nerves a little. Having used this version on three trips (and counting) I can confirm that the strap cover is perfect!
The cover tucks away easily when not in use and the zips put everything away neatly and with no obstructions. What more could you ask!?
The Other Strap
The other way to wear this bag, and I have seen chaps in suits doing this, is to zip the main straps away and use the additional shoulder strap. You can wear it on one shoulder or cross body. The connectors are plastic but feel very robust.
Now you’ve brought your bag, read our packing lists
Clearly a lot of thought has been put into the redesign of the new Kathmandu Litehaul 38L. Nearly everything that Kathmandu has changed has improved this bag. The best of the changes are:
- The material is less shiny and more professional.
- The back system allows more airflow.
- The zip cover has no structures and you don’t have to thread it.
- The bag opens like a suitcase for ease of use.
If I were to change anything, I would:
- Make the top tablet pocket smaller and keep it as a bits n bobs pocket.
- Make the inside a nice bright colour.
With these things in mind, I give this bag a happy 9/10 and I am looking forward to taking it on many more adventures!
We were sent this product to review but my opinions are 100% my own…and I was going to buy it for myself anyway because I love them.