Ultimate Explorer
Ultimate Explorer (courtesy, Eagle Creek)

Where can I find a convertible travel backpack?

Where can I find a decent-sized conversion pack (those backpacks with the flap that covers the hip belt and shoulder straps)? Eagle Creek's packs are too small, and they have the largest on the market, at least in the U.S. I'm looking for something between 80 and 90 liters; a panel-loader with a sleeping-bag compartment and a zip-off daypack. Bill Atlanta, Georgia

Ultimate Explorer

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For whatever reason, few pack companies have really stuck with a full-sized, full-featured convertible travel pack. I just don’t think the sales are there, plus it’s expensive building a pack with stowaway straps, which is sort of the defining characteristic of such a pack.

Ultimate Explorer Ultimate Explorer

Plus, most people who travel with a backpack just buy a regular bag, and then spend $25 or so on a light duffel bag. When you’re boarding a plane or a train and they want the straps out of the way, just whip out the duffel and stick the pack inside. As for the zip-off daypack… well, sure, but do you really want a neon sign that yells, “Tourist here!”?

Still, I can give you three choices. One is Lowe Alpine’s Frontier 75 ($179; www.lowealpine.com), which is billed as a travel pack. It’s a good all-around pack but does lack the stowaway straps that are the hallmark of such packs. Also, no removable daypack. It’s big enough, though—75 liters with an expandable bag collar that lets you squeeze in an extra 15 liters as needed. Germany-based Deuter sells some of its packs in the U.S., including the Quantum 70+10 ($219; www.deuterusa.com). It’s a travel-specific pack that will eke out 80 liters of capacity with the collar expanded. Plus, along with that all-important zip-off daypack, it also includes an integrated travel cover for airline check-in that does double duty as a weather shield.

Finally, I think you missed a pack in the Eagle Creek line—their Ultimate Explorer ($250; www.eaglecreek.com). It’s a big (88 liters) pack, with a removable daypack, stowaway straps, and even a compartment for your sleeping bag or dirty laundry. Which to me sounds exactly the bag you’re looking for, no? Hell, it’s even a panel-loader!

Check out Outside‘s Buyer’s Guide for the planet’s burliest and most stylish travel luggage.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: courtesy, Eagle Creek