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Women’s SunDrift Panglao 55L Backpack – A Review

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Backpacks are the best! I am sure I have listed all the benefits in the past (who cares if there’s a pavement/they aren’t easily stolen if attached to you/soft sides that don’t crack/great for hopping on and off transport etc etc etc). However, the search for the perfect backpack as a short, curvy girl can be tedious. I have tried women’s packs, children’s packs and universal packs but all fall short of fitting me properly. I just have a very short back which means most adult female rucksacks don’t fit me, and some lady humps and bumps that means the kids ones don’t either. So, when the SunDrift Panglao 55L popped up on my Instagram feed, I was super keen to get my hands on it. I packed my shiny new bag with 12kgs of gear and set off for a 12 day trip to Israel to test it out. The result? Well, you’ll have to read on for my SunDrift Panglao 55L Backpack review!

I received a bag from SunDrift to review but all opinions are entirely my own.

SunDrift

SunDrift is a relatively new company on the backpack scene, and it was born of one woman’s frustration. Fiona is a backpacker herself and experienced many of the same frustrations I’ve had on the road. Why are most backpacks so dull, when the world is so gorgeous!? How is it possible that there aren’t any companies that really think of female curves and swerves in their designs? Instead of suffering quietly as I do, she discussed these issues with other female travellers and decided to create her own backpacks. Plus, she made them pretty darn sustainable and that’s always a win!

The Basics

  • There is no doubt that the colours on the Panglao 55L pop! The main body is teal and there are pink highlights with a palm tree print. You wouldn’t miss it on the baggage belt.
  • The bag when packed fully is 74 x 35 x 23 cm (29 x 14 x 9 inches). At 55 litres, the Panglao is quite a large backpack suitable for longer trips. Saying that, if you leave the lid and expandable section un-utilised then you can just about squeeze it into hand luggage for most airlines. The back structure makes it 58cm (23 inches) tall. You just have to make sure you don’t pack it too fat so that you can angle it across that pesky carry on cage.
  • The Sundrift Panglao 55L weighs in at just 1.2kg. That means you can stuff it full and it won’t weigh you down.
  • There is a bright yellow rain cover included.
  • Check the latest prices at the SunDrift website.

Exterior

Initial Visuals

The main body of the SunDrift Panglao 55L is teal which is nice but not the main event. The two zipped panels (the big front area and lower semicircular panel) are pink and have a funky, printed palm tree design. This was inspired by the natural beauty of the Philippines and lends the bag some tropical fun. It was pretty cool to have the brightest bag in the hostel.

SunDrift also makes a bag called the Mogotio 55L Backpack. It is very similar but the colour panels are a bright yellow, covered in cute cactus print. It took me a while to pick but as I love a pretty island, I went for the palm trees. (Maybe I should have gone with cacti for this trip, as we visited the desert a few times, but I am future proofing!)

The Pockets

Here is where the SunDrift Panglao 55L makes me extra happy. There are two main pockets on the front of the bag, the areas highlighted in that lovely pink print.

Main Pocket – Top

The top two-thirds of the bag can be opened in two ways. A zip runs around that pink section allowing it to open up like a suitcase. I don’t know about you, but I love a backpack that unzips like a suitcase. It means that you can find the things you are looking for so much more easily. You don’t have to drag half of your belongings out to find the things at the bottom. Combine this with some packing cubes and you are absolutely winning at packing.

However, this is not the only way in. You are also able to open the top with the more traditional drawstring. This allows two things:

  • You can stuff the last few bits in the top once you have finished packing beautifully (the jacket, scarf etc that you forgot).
  • It allows the pack to expand a little. You can top up that section, giving you an extra few litres (the washbag, towel etc that you left in the bathroom)

Main Pocket – Bottom

You can split the SunDrift Panglao’s interior in two by using an internal divider which I love to do. It means I always know where I am looking for things. The bottom section of the bag is opened with a C-shaped zip. This zip is a little more tucked away so this is for the bits you need to grab less often.

I like to put my clothing in this lower section. That means, if we are stuck waiting for something for hours, I know I can sit on this bottom section and nothing will go “crack”. Mr Fluskey traditionally uses the bottom section of his pack for his shoes stuffed with socks and pants, so this is also a good option.

Pockets in the Lid

There are two pockets in the lid. The first is the main one, I think there are about 10 litres of space. As I checked in my bag this time, I popped nice soft things in here to give the bag a little padding. I don’t mind putting bits in here when I have it with me, but as it is not padded itself I think it needs to be free of delicate items.

Underneath the lid is another secret pocket which doesn’t have a great deal of space, but this is the security pocket so it is designed for your house keys and passport.

Pockets Inside

Inside, apart from dividing the bag, you will find just one pocket. This is designed to hold tablets/laptops, paperwork and other flattish items. I stuffed it with hostel bookings and passport photocopies etc.

The Pockets Outside

On each of the bag’s sides is a mesh pocket designed for water bottles. I am chronically dehydrated, so mine were used for my umbrella on one side and gloves on the other. Just remember to take the items out if you are checking in the bag as there is no way to secure them.

The Back System

The back of the Panglao is structured to keep the back as comfortable and cool as possible. There is a mesh panel and the main body of the pack is curved away from it, creating airflow. This means that if you are planning to use this as a hand luggage, you will have to be careful not to overstuff it or it will be too deep.

The system is adjustable which means it can fit a shorty like me with no fiddling. If you are not a Midget, then just pull apart the velcro at the top of this section and you can raise it up. The shoulder straps will also adjust to allow for this. I have to have the whole lot pulled in as I am a teeny five foot tall, but there is a lot of slack if you are a little taller.

The Straps

The straps are padded and ergonomically curved to keep them in the right place without pulling on shoulders, or lady bumps. Let’s not beat about the bush, I have reasonably large boobs for my height. These are often right in the way and I can’t use the chest straps. However, the chest strap on the SunDrift Panglao 55l Isis able to move up and down by about 15cm, meaning I could pop it exactly where it felt comfortable. This was very handy when we were getting lost around the streets of Nazareth. There is a whistle built into the chest strap, which is for the hikers out there….we were never quite lost enough in Nazareth to use it.

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The Belt

There are two pockets on the straps. These are really meant for those things you need more often, it means you can access those bits and bobs without removing your pack. However, I always have a little handbag with me so I like to use them for the little things that don’t really belong with anything else. A padlock, hand warmers, an eyemask…you know what I mean. The pockets basically make up the padding so if you have boney hips, stuff them with nice soft things and you will have extra padding.

The front of the belt itself is quite thin, which is nice in the heat but doesn’t feel like quite enough support on your tummy if the bag is packed quite heavy. I found this out whilst running for a bus.

SunDrift’s Sustainability

These days, it is nice to know that our shopping habit isn’t entirely naughty, and as such, SunDrift do everything they can to keep their environmental impact to a minimum. For example:

  • The Sundrift backpacks are made, predominantly, from recycled plastic. This removes PET (polyethylene terephthalate) products from landfill and ultimately prevent them from reaching the ocean. Currently, the thick plastic on the buckles and other areas like the zips can’t be made from recycled products but they are working on it constantly to find solutions that work.
  • The materials that the backpacks come in are all recycled.
  • They also want deliveries to be carbon neutral so for every ten backpacks shipped from China to SunDrift they work with Hometree, an Irish charity, to plant a tree.

Buyers remorse be gone!

Final Thoughts

If I were to change anything on the SunDrift Panglao 55L, I would:

  • Make the front panels removable somehow. My bag got tossed into a filthy bus hold and I am struggling to clean it. The pink bit is all kinds of mucky. I know you can use the rain cover to protect the bag but we try and avoid this to make sure it isn’t damaged.
  • Include a strap cover or external packing bag to make it easier to check it in as a normal bag. Nobody wants their straps caught in an airport belt system.

These points aside, I loved using this backpack. It was the most comfortable bag I have tried so they have obviously really done their research into the fit, which I appreciate. I adored being able to spot the bag a mile off (rather unusual for a partially sighted girl) and it is just such a fun print. I would happily buy it as a cushion! Overall, I would definitely recommend this bag.

Rosie xx


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