Travel Packs

I encourage people to use carry on sized travel packs for most trips. I explain my rational for this in my packing and traveling light post. Below are a list of travel packs which I think are worth a closer look. This is list is in roughly in my preferred order.

  • Bags from Tom Bihn: All the bags made by Tom Bihm are amazingly well thought out, have great organizational features, carry well, and are top quality. For some people they my be too small. Choose the bag that fits your packing need and style, but be prepared to pay for the quality. The cache laptop system is wonderful. On most trips I use a Synapse 25 Backpack. 25L is enough space for nearly all my trips, has three dimensional pockets that are nicely sized, water bottle pocket works well, carries well, durable without being over built.
  • Peak Designs Traveler is a kickstarter project from a company that has delivered numerous successful projects desiged for photographers. While Peak’s bag would be ideal for photographers, it looks like it would be a good back for just about anyone. There are no immediate flaws I see in the design, though I have not seen one in person.
  • Nomatic Travel Bag is a kickstater project bag designed for travel. Well designed with a lot of organizing features. Clamshell openning, shoe compartment, size storage pockets, internal waterproof water bottle pocket. They have a a number of optional accessories which can make the price really climb
  • Minaal Carry-on is a pricy bag that was a successful kickstart project. The bag zips open like a classic suitcase for easy access, has an external water bottle pocket, removable straps, and a well designed padded pocket for a laptop. Clear design, but the webbing waist strap is only for stabilization, not load transfer.
  • Osprey TrailKit is a organizational duffel with backpack straps. Organizational features include ventilated pocket for shoes, four externally accessible pockets ((water padded, bottle big enough for kindle, 2 general storage), and large main compartment. The division between the pockets and main compartment is not rigid eliminating the sometimes wasted space introduced by pockets. All the zippers face toward the back which is both a good theft deterrent as well as helps keep things clean if you set it down in the dirt. I use this bag when on rare trip that requires more gear than will fit in the Synapse (trips that I wanted to bring clothing appropriate for formal outings, running, hiking in both hot and sub-freezing conditions.)
  • Tortugaback Packs is a small company that makes packs specifically designed for the light weight traveler. Suitcase like zipper opening, side access laptop sleeve, zip away straps, and other features make this a well designed travel pack.
  • Cotopaxi Allpa 35l is Ingiegogo funded project. Looks like a well designed bag that should carry well. Unzippers suitcase style. My only complain from the description is not seperate section for carrying water.
  • Osprey Ozone 46 is a very well thought out travel pack. Made from light weight but adaquately durable materials. It has a foam frame sheet which improves it’s carry comfort, gives some back ventilation, and provides a bit of protection for the contents of the main bag. There is a large compartment which zips half open. The inside is a florescent yellow which makes it easy to see things. Closest to your back is a padded pocket which will hold a 15 inch laptop. On the exterior of the pack are two mesh water bottle pockets, a typical orginizer pocket, and a padded pocket which seems to be sized for a tablet or kindle. There are two compression straps. This pack is also available in a the smaller 36L. This looks more like a backpack than luggage.
  • Eagle Creek typically sells nicely designed Travel Packs. They change their models fairly frequently, so I have stopped listing any specific models. When looking at the Eagle Creek bags make sure they are carry-on legal. Many of Eagle Creek “adventure travel” packs are too large for carry on use.
  • Redoxx Sky Train: expensive, but well regarded. I have no personal experience with it.
  • MEI: some of the better carrying bags, but somewhat hard to find.
  • Patagonia MLC: Nothing special but nothing particularly wrong either. Basic travel bag with backpack style straps that hide away.
  • eBags Mother Lode weekender Convertible: A very good value, typicaly sold for under $80. While this bag doesn’t have the carry comfort the Osprey Bags, or features that are as refined as Tom Bihn, they have managed to make a well designed bag at a budget price.
  • Rick Stevens Back Door Bag: seems to be liked by others, moderately priced, but nothing special.
  • Opsrey  Porter 46: A durable bag which will protect the contents better than many of the bags because there is closed cell foam sewn into the sides which beside providing extra protection also gives some structure without adding much weight. There is a large U zippered opening provides easy assess when “strait-jacket” compression staps (very effective but get in the way) aren’t cinched down. There a fairly large top pocket which I put everything I might want quick access to while on the move. The lid to the main compartment has an external accessible zippered pocket, and a mesh pocket on the inside. One side of the bag has an internal mesh pocket which runs the length of the bag. This is one of the more comfortable carrying bags I have found. If unfortunately doesn’t have an exterbnal water bottle and is a bit light of organizational features. This was my go to bag for ten years and is now being used by other family members.
  • Osprey Farpoint 40: Slightly less volume than a number of the other bags listed here is offset by a real frame which is comfort carrying 15-20lb, external water bottle pockets, a large pocket with organizer pockets and a padded slot for laptop and ereader/tablet, a number of built in straps to keep everything in place. The most significant downside is that the laptop slot is near in the front of the pack rather than against the back.
  • Marmot Long Haul and Northface Basecamp Duffel (Small): Very durable and highly water resistant. A good option if you expect your bags to be outdoors a lot and you aren’t looking for organizing features (Marmot has a few features, TNF none). I didn’t find either as comfortable to carry as the Osprey Porter, but would choice it if I expected my bag to spend a lot of time exposed to the elements.
  • OR Drybags or similar products. there are a number of companies that make completely waterproof bags that have straps to carry on your back. The more basic drybags are not that cormfortable to carry, but there are more refined products. Often these packs have no orginizational features and are harder to pack, unpack, and find specify items, but if you are somewhere very wet (like watersports) the extra protection is well worth the inconvenience.
  • Thule 40L Crossover: access against your back which makes it hard for someone to steal things out of your bag, durable, ok carry comfort, zip closing side pockets for water bottles or other small items, a bit different looking. I liked the design ideas but for the the handle weren’t comfortable against my back and the logo is rather obnoxious. The Osprey TrailKit has many of the same design features, but executes them better IMHO.

Some people combine adventure travel (where they carry their packs moderate distanced between hotels, hostels, and people’s homes) with longer hikes and possibly time spent in the back country. In these cases the traveler will want a pack which is both carry-on legal, has a great suspension, and will have enough volume to carry the extra items required (cooking gear, insulation for sleeping, shelter, multiple days of food). Ideally, the pack would either have a good compression system (so that it carries well with carry-on volume but has room for your trek when your full food load is added) or permits items to be strapped to the outside. The Six Moon Designs Traveler might be a good pack for this sort of use. There are many frameless packs, and several or lightly framed packs such as the Gossamer Gear Gorilla (I have used several times) which work for this sort of situation so long as you don’t over pack them. Remember that you can’t take fuel, knife, or hiking poles carry-on. The other option would be to take a larger pack and ship it in a duffel bag.

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