Topo Designs Global Briefcase — Quick Impressions

A really nice briefcase option, which doesn’t scream ‘briefcase’.

A little over a year ago, my kids both switched their school backpacks over to Topo Designs backpacks — and since then they have fallen in love with those backpacks while at the same time those backpacks have held up nearly perfectly for them. And that data point has impressed me enough that I’ve been wanting to pick up a Topo Designs bag to test and review for myself.

I decided to grab the Global Briefcase in Olive — and I’ve been testing it for a bit now. It’s a very good bag, but not really my cup of tea, so my testing is abbreviated on this one.

Here are my impressions after using it for two-ish weeks.

Materials & Size

The bag is 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon pack cloth liner, and 1680D recycled ballistic nylon base. The 400d is of the pack cloth variety as well, which is a type of nylon designed to feel smooth from any direction you might move your hand across it. (It’s used to pack a parachute into a bag so that the parachute deploys cleanly — if that gives you a sense of how it feels.) The one thing to know about this material is that it has a visible sheen to it.

Topo Designs lists the measurements at 15.5″w x 11.5″h x 4″d, giving you 14L of space. I don’t see the 14L of space in practice, and find that because of the structure of the bag, it feels much more like a 12-13L bag — not small in any sense but not as large as others of this general footprint I have.

The materials are really nice, and the use of ballistic nylon on the backpanel is a nice touch to add a little friction to the contact point with your body. This is important on a shoulder bag so that you have a chance of the bag staying put if you pivot it behind or front of you.

The bag is nicely padded throughout the main compartment, and offers compression/stow straps at the bottom. The zippers are nylon/plastic chunky YKK zippers, and look and feel rather cheap.

The strap connectors are great, and seem to be custom made triangular aluminum. They feel and look very nice. The strap itself is quite nice with a good section of padding inside a tubular ‘seatbelt’ style webbing material. The strap is rather short, and might cause issue for those with a larger chest.

The two backpack straps are nicely made, if a touch short for my torso in the padded section. They attach with plastic ‘gatekeepers’ which are fiddly and not as premium feeling as the strap connector on the shoulder strap.

The overall construction is fantastic, as is the case with all Topo Designs gear I have.

In Use

First things first: I like the look of this bag, but I don’t like the style of this bag for how it meshes with my style. That is to say: it’s a great looking bag, but is not something which blends well with how I dress, and that’s the reason for a shortened testing period.

I do think the Topo Designs logo on the front is a bit overboard in sizing, and really needs to be shrunk. Or even if it were tonal, I’d be good with that.

Since I started with a complaint, I’ll keep going. The compression straps on the bottom of this bag are odd. They do work, surprisingly well in fact, but they also dangle in a messy fashion from the bottom of the bag. Even in the product images you can see this. There’s no strap keeper there to clean this up, and there really should be. That said, this is a good spot to stash an umbrella or anything else of that nature, which is nice.

My last complaint is the zippers. They are simply a bad choice, and they don’t look or feel premium. With so many better zipper options out there, this is the largest oversight for me. Even opening the bag is a bit louder than I would like because of this zipper choice.

Alright, but what’s good? Well the shoulder strap is quite nice. Which is something to note since this bag is first and foremost a shoulder bag, and not a backpack. The strap has a long padded area, so it is not fiddly to position correctly, and the padding is good enough. The strap width is about as narrow as it could be.

I found the bag a little small for my frame in backpack mode — something you could use in a pinch, but not something I would rely on using all day. I didn’t test this mode out and about, so I can’t speak to it any further.

Speaking of carrying, the top handle in briefcase orientation is really nice. It’s another bit of tubular webbing with padding inside of it — which makes it very easy to grab and nice to hold. This is very well executed.

I transferred everything out of my very similarly sized Filson 24hr Briefcase and loaded it into the Global Briefcase — everything fit. Though the Filson did have more extra space, the Global was able to manage the load just fine. I do like the sectioning of the Global Briefcase, as it was nice to have a dedicated laptop sleeve to stash my iPad Pro and notebook in.

The two front pockets are large, but not as large as on the 24hr, which resulted in my needing to slightly adjust what I carried in each. When not fully loaded, these pockets unzip easily and are nice to use. When loaded above that 85% threshold, the zippers tend to bind on the rain flap as they make the sharp turn on the corner — something to note if you are thinking you would fill those pockets full.

Oddly I found that this bag does not flex the size much. Meaning you can’t stuff a bulbous item into the main compartment and have the bag bulge around it allowing you to zip it closed. In something like the 24hr, this is much easier to do. This is likely due to the overall construction/structure and the padding. Something to note if the main compartment does not fit the shape of things you carry often, like say a water bottle.

Oddly there’s no water bottle pocket on this bag, likely as it would be useless in the backpack orientation — but it’s still a miss for me. I found it a little tricky to carry my coffee in this bag to the office.

The Global Briefcase doesn’t sit upright on its own — it tips over because of how the front two pockets are sat up higher than the base of the bag. That’ll bother some, but it was largely not an issue for me.

The most interesting thing about this bag though, is that despite all that, it actually is a joy to use. I found it very easy to pack up, carry, and work out of during my use.

If you carry a laptop or tablet, a charger, a few odds and ends, and a jacket/layer of some sort, then this bag is one you’ll find almost perfectly divided up for you. Toss your charger in one front pocket, the odds and ends in the other, laptop in the sleeve — you could then still have the main section empty and fit a slim water bottle, and a rain jacket with a light sweater.

It’s not that this bag is too small, but if you are trying to pack with any pouches, you will find that you eat up the main section quickly.


Given the price of $129, this is likely the best sub $150 briefcase you can get, with the caveat that it doesn’t look overly ‘professional’ unless you go with perhaps the all black variant.

It’s a very good bag, and extremely well made, but I tend to prefer a more professional looking bag these days and thus I shortened my testing of it.

Buy here, $129.

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