Wandrd Fernweh Backpacking ($349)
Hybrid bags are great in theory: they promise to combine the organizational features of a suitcase with the long-distance comfort of a backcountry pack, perfect for hostel hopping around Europe and hoofing it through foreign mountain ranges. But finding one that is truly good at both is a challenge. Enter the Fernweh. This 50-liter pack combines an ultra-cushy heat-molded foam suspension system with brilliant organizational features, like a fabric bucket that zips into the top and acts as a stuff sack for dividing your clothes. You can also pick from two sizes each for the frame, hipbelt, and straps to dial in the fit for your body shape. The result is total comfort under even the heaviest load. Four access points—on top, on the side, a front clamshell opening, and a zippered back panel—make it easy to find what you need when you need it. A waterproof hydration-bladder pocket protects against leaks, while weatherproof zippers and 420-denier nylon fabric keep everything safe inside. Photographers will appreciate the ability to integrate with Wandrd’s full line of camera cubes, which sequester heavy tech equipment at the bottom of the pack while still allowing entry through a side pocket. On a three-day backcountry trip, our tester hauled a DSLR, two lenses, and a tripod. She reported that the Fernweh felt like air compared with similar loads in other packs. Four grab handles, a pass-through for a roller-bag handle, a secret passport pocket, and external cinch straps round out what might just be the most versatile adventure pack ever created.
Dakine Terminal Spinner 40L ($220)
Best Carry On
Dakine may have read our minds when it designed this smooth four-wheel roller, which addresses some of the biggest pain points of carry-on travel. Our favorite feature is the removable sleeve that holds a laptop, a tablet, headphones, and other accessories. When you board, free the sleeve from the Velcro mechanism that keeps it in place and slip it under the seat in front of you for easy in-flight access, then stow the rest of the bag in the overhead compartment. With a host of other niceties, like an internal dirty-clothes or shoe compartment and a molded cup rest beneath the handle to hold your layover coffee, you’ve got all you need for an unruffled experience on your next air trip.
Matador Seg30 Segmented ($150)
A cross between a backpack, a duffel bag, and a set of packing cubes, the Seg30 will turn even the messiest traveler into an organization master. It’s horizontally divided into a stack of four zippered compartments ranging from four to twelve liters, so you can separate items by use or day. Matador also managed to squeeze in a padded laptop sleeve and an oversize bottom clamshell compartment for bulkier cargo like shoes. Our tester was initially skeptical of the seemingly small 30-liter volume but wound up fitting in everything she needed for a three-day socially distanced road trip, including two pairs of boots and myriad electronics. Waterproof 420-denier fabric and stormproof zippers kept everything protected in bad weather.
The North Face Base Camp Voyager 42L ($135)
The North Face took its beloved Base Camp duffel, shaved off some weight, and improved the layout. The resulting offspring, called the Voyager, retains its progenitor’s signature gear-swallowing capability and now features more backpack-like add-ons, such as a laptop sleeve in the lid and a water-bottle pocket on the outside. There’s also a shoe compartment, internal and external zippered pockets, and an adjustable, removable mesh divider for inside the main body, which helps you stay tidy even if you’ve overpacked. The duffel also sports a new 300-denier tarpaulin polyester fabric coated in PFC-free DWR. The whole thing weighs just 2.2 pounds and packs into its own pocket for easy storage.