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Is a Travel Pack Convertible Bag Right for You?

22-Sep-2017

What exactly is a “travel pack”?

What does convertible mean?

And why would you even care?

Here’s how I discovered travel pack luggage, and why this luggage style is the perfect bag for me.

First, I love bags. I love being organized and having the “right” bag for the occasion. Consequently, I’ve ended up with a small collection of various styles and sizes. My Osprey hiking backpack served me quite well when I hiked the Camino across the north of Spain for 6 weeks. But later when I tried to use it for more conventional travel (by train, bus, city hopping, etc) I discovered several serious short comings. There wasn’t anything wrong with the pack, it just wasn’t designed for what I now needed.

  • The outer straps that were useful when hiking became hazards as checked airline luggage. They could easily catch in the various conveyor mechanisms. Even on trains and buses they were a constant hassle.
  • There was no way to lock up the bag easily. A drawstring top opening is default for backpacks.
  • A regular trail pack is designed as a big long top-loader tube. So all your belongings must be accessed from the top opening. If what you are after is on the bottom, you’ve got to unpack and repack everything, or dig blindly. I got super tired of doing this.

So prior to my next big trip (3 months in Colombia), I did a serious luggage search and compare project. I was pleased to discover an alternative.

Convertible / travel pack – a hybrid style

This relatively new luggage design is becoming more and more popular. When you see them, you’ll understand why. Sometimes they are called hybrids, sometimes convertibles. You may also see them called “travel backpacks” or simply travel packs. The good news is that whatever you call them, there are many more offerings in this category now than when I first looked two years ago.

The idea behind this design is to combine the benefits of a conventional hiking style backpack with the benefits of standard luggage. At simultaneously eliminate the shortcomings of both. With this new style pack there are no more dangling straps to get caught on things. You can easily lock the luggage securely, and you can zip it open for full easy access to all the contents.

Even better, if required, you can quickly unzip a hidden compartment and pull out a full backpack harness. The harness is usually quite well designed and adjustable to fit your body. It includes a waist belt so the weight rides on your hips. Of course you won’t want to use this pack for a week-long trek into the wilderness. But having that backpack harness is a great convenience. Pull it out anytime to carry your luggage on your back. You can now easily stroll to the train station, go up and down steps, navigate through crowds, and walk along wet muddy unpaved streets with your bag staying clean and dry.

Great options are available

  • Sizes range from a small 30 liter size all the way up to huge 80 liter bag.
  • Some of these also have wheels and retractable handles. Thus you can easily wheel them through airports or along paved sidewalks.
  • The smaller sizes are designed to fit into overhead compartments of airplanes. So if this is your only luggage, you don’t have to check any luggage at all.
  • A few have zip-on removable day packs.

Osprey is the leader

I’ve had my Osprey Porter 46 bag for nearly 2 years now. It’s by far the best piece of luggage I’ve ever owned. Osprey quality is outstanding. My bag has been used and abused and tossed around. But there are no signs of wear or tear. No rips, all zippers still work perfectly. This thing is extremely well made and sturdy. Honest. And I’m not just an occasional weekend traveler. This bag is my home — I literally live out of it!

I just now did a quick online search and am happy to see that now Osprey has even more options. They have a welcome ultralight line of convertible bags. Plus it looks liked they’ve revived their Farpoint line which I read about 2 years ago, but was never able to even see one since it seemed like they had been discontinued.

Osprey Porter 46

See ONLY the Osprey Porter 46.

Would I pick it again?

To be 100% honest, after 2 years I’m re-evaluating and fine tuning my needs. I am considering buying another bag next year. Will it be an Osprey travel pack / convertible design bag? That’s about a 99% “Yes” — unless some other company makes vast improvements on their selections.

 

Here are the 2 drawbacks I have found with the Porter 46. Remember… these are highly personal according to the way I like to travel. You’ll have to really think through your own needs.

First, the Porter 46 is actually too big for me. That old adage that “things expand to fill the space allotted” is definitely true. I find that I end up packing stuff that I don’t need and don’t even use on my trip! Why? Simply because I’ve got extra room and somehow feel compelled to fill it up! But that makes the bag much heavier than I’d really like to carry. So I will likely drop down to the next lower size bag on my next purchase. It’ll be several inches smaller too. Easier to heft up into the overhead storage or fit it under a bus seat.

Second, I do miss having wheels. I have found that most times I am simply not in places where I must carry the bag on my back. And it would be a lot easier if I could put it down, pull up the handle and wheel it along. Ideally, I’d love to have both — wheels and a smaller bag. So I’ll keep you posted after I buy my next bag.

ALL Osprey Travel Packs

See ALL Osprey Travel Pack / Convertible bags.

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