If you’re like me, you may have spent too much time researching, learning about and straight up lusting over cool travel equipment. With so many gadgets out there, it would be easy to drop unnecessary amounts of money, but I think there are a few things worth investing in – even when working with less cash. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a few blog posts about must-have travel gear that are worth the investment for students and others traveling on a modest budget.
For obvious reasons, your luggage is the most important single piece of travel gear. While anything that allows you to carry other items could technically get the job done, a great bag will make your vacation much more enjoyable by allowing you to hold all your gear safely, keep it organized and carry it comfortably.
When I decided I was going to study in Spain for a semester, I immediately got excited about traveling all over Europe and, shortly after, got excited about finding the right luggage for the job. At the time, I traveled with either a small backpacking pack or a normal duffle bag. Both worked, but I wanted a bag that combined certain characteristics of both.
I began by researching travel backpacks. After quite a few blog posts and video reviews, I found the bag for me: the Osprey Porter 46. A visit to my local outdoor store ensured it was everything I anticipated and I made the purchase without hesitation. While I haven’t tested every other bag on the market, I can confidently say this is the best bag that met my criteria based off of my research. And, after my experiences, it is living up to my expectations. Allow me to explain what set this pack apart and why I would recommend it to anyone looking for a do-it-all travel bag.
Osprey Porter 46
Before breaking down some of the highlights of this bag, let’s talk about what category it is in. If you’re interested in the Porter 46, you’re probably interested in “one bag travel.” This refers to traveling with a single carry-on bag and is popular among many other bloggers. The only stipulation for this category is that it is small enough to carry-on. After that, these bags can vary a great deal.
After reading articles like this, I decided a few things to narrow my search. First, it needed to be a backpack. While this is the norm, a roller bag could be in the one-bag category as well, but I wanted to carry it on my back. Second, I needed a bag on the larger side of carry-on bags with at least 40 liters of volume. Lastly, price was a big factor for me. I needed to keep it below $200, preferably below $150 (more difficult than you might think).
Let’s quickly address the last criteria I mentioned: price. Before my search, I thought I could find the right piece for about $100. After looking at just a few options, I quickly realized I might have to spend double that to find what I need although still I wanted to spend closer to $150. With price in mind, the Porter came to my attention rather quickly at the $140 MSRP. Not pocket change, but also not too bad.
This pack is kind of huge. At 46 liters, this is the maximum legal carry-on (MLC) size…kind of. Without getting into too much detail, carry-on size is determined by the sum of the length, width and depth in inches. The maximum is 45 inches and standard dimensions for the max are 22 x 14 x 9. The total volume of this size is 45.42 liters. As a result, an airline could technically prohibit the Porter 46 for carry-on. However, keep in mind that 1) as a soft bag, it will only reach this size if filled to the absolute max and 2) I have not had any issues with this (*knock on wood).
Regardless of the borderline legality of this bag as a carry-on, it is definitely overkill on a normal weekend trip. However, it can be compacted with the external straps to be less bulky, which is probably why I’ve never been stop by an airline. On a recent four-day trip to the Netherlands, I packed the Porter 46 at about 60% capacity, leaving plenty of room to shed outer layers and bring some gifts home on the return flight. I prefer too much room over not enough.
On longer trips, it is surprisingly difficult to use the full 46 liters. Even when I had this bag maxed out when coming to Spain for the semester, I used the external straps to compress the bag as much as possible and hold my jacket externally.
A massive capacity means this bag is best suited for a one or two week trip. While I would love to also have a smaller pack for short trips in addition to this, my budget does not allow me to buy two quality bags. The only drawback with this bag on a short trip is that you have extra space…not a big deal. All that to say, this is your do-it-all, one quiver backpack.
Ok, let’s address one down side: the looks. I personally don’t think this bag is super good looking. Believe me, I fought hard with myself when choosing this over other packs I considered more appealing to the eye. So why did I pick the Porter? Besides the competitive price, this bag is so incredibly functional.
Front-loading (as opposed to top-loading) is the standout feature for me. Basically, it packs like a duffle bag yet carries like backpack. This means you easily access your gear but also have no problem walking longer distances with it – even when fully loaded.
The rigid shell and straps on the back are the next most important things for me. The shell gives the pack a super solid, durable feel and also make it quite easy to pack by maintain shape while it is empty. The straps, as mentioned before, allow you to compress the pack and carry items externally.
The last functional feature worth mentioning is the ability to fit the Osprey Daylite on the outside. This made the bag much more appealing to me since I already owned the Daylite. The Porter is designed to hold the pack by fastening it to four loops and/or using the straps. I also highly recommend the Daylite pack for a small pack. I have used mine for the past 3 seasons of mountain biking as well as small hikes or day trips and it is going strong.
One last thing worth mentioning is who you are getting this pack from. Osprey is a solid brand for a few reasons. First, they offer a guarantee on all of their products. That is, the All Mighty Guarantee. Osprey will repair anything they made – no matter what time it was produced – for free. They do this not only to back up their quality goods, but also as part of their mission to protect the environment.
Travel is expensive. Travel gear is expensive. But, at a certain point, you have to spend money on the things necessary for traveling. Although the bag is pushing MLC a bit and may lag in the looks category, it is an overall super solid backpack. I would highly recommend the Porter 46 to someone in need of a one-bag-travel pack. It comes at a great value, is functional, versatile and guaranteed to last a lifetime. Overall, Osprey nailed it.