Secret compartments, mesh pouches, and zip-out extensions for all your stuff

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Gear to Go
Travel Bags

Secret compartments, mesh pouches, and zip-out extensions for all your stuff
By Robert Earle Howells

You know what a long suitcase portage does to your body. While the sane way to schlepp is by backpack, a convertible (the harness zips away) lets you look legit when you show up at Granny's So-Quaint Duck-Decor Inn. The Pangaea Norge ($149) is more suitcase than backpack — no hipbelt to support a heavy load — but ideal for the compulsively organized, with half a dozen zippered compartments, a zip-off daypack, and 4,200 cubic inches of capacity. Not enough? A zip-out expander gets you another thousand cubes. Osprey's Hejira ($259) is the slickest, cleanest bag of its genre, with foam-stiffened sides that compress a load like a giant burrito, a daypack that rides joey-style in a front-panel pouch, and a serious harness that lets you stuff its 4,200 cubic inches full and tote it without savaging your joints. The North Face's Lhasa ($248) carries a backpack pedigree, with a workhorse harness, zip-off daypack, and even a sleeping bag compartment that's a good spot for muddy boots if you're not sleeping out.

A worthy sub for a Kelty Blazer MG; Mountainsmith Day Packdaypack and certainly for a shoulder-torturing purse, a lumbar pack leaves hands free, shoulders unburdened, and back unsweaty. Mountainsmith was the first to prove that a big load didn't need shoulder straps if trim straps could snug it right to the small of the back; Mountainsmith's Day Pack ($85) holds 1,250 cubic inches and adds holster-style water-bottle pockets. The Dana Design Madison ($59; 800 cubic inches) is top-loading, so nothing spills when you reach in while wearing it, plus you can overload it € la your big backpack. Kelty's Blazer MG ($40) starts out as a pithy 240-cubic-incher, but if you need room for, say, a jacket, just unzip an extension and presto — it changes into an 840-cubic-inch daypack with shoulder straps.

If carry-on means something to hold long-flight reading material, pens and notebooks, and maybe a camera, Eagle Creek's Outback Traveler ($60) is the right size (800 cubic inches), has padded compartment dividers for photographic fragiles, and carries via shoulder or waist strap. If carry-on means skipping the baggage carousel, JanSport's Carry-On Gear Bag ($60) is an airline-legal duffel that holds 2,900 cubic inches and has end compartments to isolate messy stuff. Lowe Alpine's Voyageur 35 duffel ($95; 2,100 cubic inches) also fits in the overhead compartment and has hideaway shoulder straps so you can carry it backpack-style.

VauDe Siena 30; The North Face Mohican DAYPACKS
Use a daypack as your airplane carry-on, camera bag, or book bag for the train; then it's ready to hike when you are. The VauDe Siena 30 ($95) is the coolest daypack ever, with a mesh panel that separates your back from the 1,600-cubic-inch bag for two inches of merciful airflow. It also incorporates a pouch for a hydration bladder, plus two zip-out side water-bottle pockets. The North Face's new Mohican ($57.50) is travel-versatile, with a padded chamber for a laptop, all sorts of internal organizer pockets, and a zip-out extender to pump capacity from about 1,200 to 1,700 cubic inches. The Crux 5.6 by Gregory ($50; 1,670 cubic inches) has an organizer section that tidies up travel paraphernalia like pens and tickets, plus two roomy compartments and serious features like an ice-ax loop and daisy chain.

For all the wonders of convertibles and hyperorganized bags, I love the lightweight simplicity of a duffel. Timberland's Cavern ($120; 4,500 cubic inches), made of 1,000-denier nylon (read: strong and abrasion-resistant), hauls via full-grain leather handles and a nonslip shoulder strap and has two end pockets big enough for boots, plus a mesh inner compartment. The Kiva Designs Big Mouth ($98; 3,300 cubic inches) has a hinged top that stays open while you pack or fish around inside, plus it's ringed with five outer pockets for incidentals — in place of, alas, haul handles on the ends. Ortlieb's Zip 'n' Go ($130; 1,800 cubic inches) also skips the grab straps — it's a bare-bones bag with one shining trait: total weatherproofness, thanks to a weatherproof zipper and the welded-seam (no needle holes) construction of its urethane-coated Cordura material.

You need a bag that not only holds, but hangs — how often do you find a bathroom shelf large and sanitary enough to rest your preening devices? The North Face's Kit Bag ($34; 10.5 by 7.5 by 2.5 inches) holds an amazing amount of stuff in three compartments (one waterproof, two mesh), but its best feature is its buckled strap: When you hang it, it can't fall. Outdoor Research's Large Travel Organizer ($40; 11 by 6 by 4 inches), with a conventional coat-hanger-style hook, lets you snap off each of three mesh pouches and adds a handy mirror.

Funny money and the ephemera of travel probably won't fit in your domestic wallet. Eagle Creek's Ticket Organizer ($28) is a sort of super-wallet, big enough to hold tickets and traveler's checks as well as a passport and moolah of any size, all zipped up inside a dapper 5.5-by-10.5-by-one-inch package. More compact is Kiva Designs' Navigator's Wallet ($18) — it has slots for passport and currency, but it's small enough to hang around your neck via the built-in lanyard. If the slogging gets soggy, those hydrophobes at Ortlieb make a svelte little weatherproof Money Belt ($30) to keep your valuables both inconspicuous and dry.

Photographs by Gary Hush

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!