You know that guy at the airport toting a bulging Army-surplus duffel bag, strained and uncomfortable under its unwieldy weight? Until recently, I was that guy.
My requisite adventure gear — mountain boots, trekking poles, ice axes, snowshoes, crampons, climbing rope, tent, stove and all else — demand capacious luggage that can take a beating on the road.
For the past three months, traveling between Minneapolis, Wyoming, Tokyo and Utah, I left the Army duffel at home and tested some shiny new luggage made for the outdoor-minded traveler.
The behemoth ORV Super Trunk from Eagle Creek weighs 12 pounds when empty, measures about 36 × 16 × 16 inches and can tote a staggering 9,200 cubic inches of gear. (For comparison, the average backpacking pack provides about 2,500 cubic inches of storage space.)
Features include large wheels and a sturdy handle for pulling it through the airport, exterior cargo pockets, and a waterproof internal compartment to separate stinky, muddy and wet gear from everything else. The ORV Super Trunk, which retails for $275, has an oversized front panel that opens wide for packing in gear to your heart’s content.
Patagonia’s Skid-Plate Duffel is a good pack for travelers with less gear. The $125 bag will pass for carry-on with many airlines, and the duffel has several features to make it appealing to outdoorsy travelers. Its namesake molded foam base, for example, is a puddle-proof, semi-stiff skid plate made to keep gear safe and dry. It has interior mesh pockets for small items and two large compartments.
All edges on the Skid-Plate Duffel are rounded to prevent corner blowout. It
has external compression straps, handles on both ends, and wide nylon straps that let you carry the duffel as a backpack if necessary.
Business travelers with a streak of adventure may want to look at the Trek Pack Plus from Victorinox. It looks like a mid-size rolling luggage bag made for the jet-setting executive, but the Trek Pack Plus has a hidden belt and zip-away shoulder straps to convert it to a backpack. The front pouch detaches and doubles as a small daypack as well. The Trek Pack Plus comes in three sizes, with pricing starting at $279.
Overall, I was more comfortable using the luggage from Victorinox, Eagle Creek and Patagonia on my journeys. It was easier to pack and haul than my old Army duffel. Though expensive, these are the kind of bags that will last for years and thousands of miles tripping around the globe.
Eagle Creek Inc., 1-760-599-6500, www.eaglecreek.com
Patagonia, 1-800-638-6464, www.patagonia.com
VictorinoxTrek, 1-888-658-0717, www.swissarmy.com