Monday, September 19, 2011

Traveling with the Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

For this last trip to Boston, I used a Osprey Porter 46, instead of the usual rolling suitcase. The Osprey is one of those old school travel packs, which means that it's more backpack than traditional luggage.

The Pros:

  • The backpack arrangement forced me to bring a single bag. If I was bringing rolling luggage, I would almost certainly have brought along a backpack.
  • The pocket arrangement worked well for me. The outer pocket covering the main section's flap fit my netbook perfectly, and the top pocket stored items that I wanted quick access to. I envisioned a nightmare scenario where I was going to effectively have to dump the contents of the bag out to get to stuff, and that didn't happen.
  • The few inner pockets worked well to.
  • In general, the materials are quite solid and I get the sense that this bag will last. Even if it does have some unexpected failure, it's easy enough to take it back to REI for a replacement (or even return). Got to love REI's extremely generous return policy.
  • The pack is bigger than I imagined it would be. I figured that a travel pack would force me to take less, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's definitely larger than the comparably sized rolling bag Shira brought along. I usually go to pretty great lengths pack light, but no matter what I do, I find myself cramming stuff in at the last minute (a jacket, a gift for the person we are staying with, whatever), and the size of the bag definitely helps. Some may almost look at the size as a detractor, but I just see it as a way to make the bag more functional.
  • The compression system worked well to keep stuff from moving around.
  • The hip belt and shoulder straps are top notch. I had approximately 20lbs worth of stuff and I never felt any discomfort. In fact, I was almost thinking you could get away with using the bag on an overnight hike and the like.
  • The bag easily fit in the overhead compartment on our flight, and was even able to utilize a spot too narrow for most rolling bags.
  • The bag was easy to identify, as nobody else had anything like it. Got to love the stand-out red color.
  • Wearing the bag meant that I had hands free to roll Shira's bag. I didn't do this often, but there was a couple times when it was handy.
  • The price, about $100, seems quite fair. Especially knowing what good luggage goes for, it's actually quite impressive.

The Cons:

  • I was carrying all my crap on my back, instead of rolling it next to me. What kind of idiot turns down wheels in favor of being his own pack mule?

As you can see, overall, I'm really impressed with the bag. Certainly, if I was in a context where a rolling bag wasn't an option, the Osprey would be no-brainer. A solid bag, guaranteed for life, how can you go wrong?

But, usually, the most difficult terrain my luggage needs to navigate is from the airport curb to the rental car bus. So, a backpack seems overkill. Still, I'm impressed with all the other features of the bag, I think I'm going to stick with it for another trip or two. Will see who wins - all these great features, or gravity.

Here's the Osprey next to Shira's rolling bag:

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