What do you lug your stuff in when you travel around the world? Adam and I did some research and decided on a hybrid backpack/wheelie bag.
Adam came across The North Face Doubletrack 21″ (post-2011 “ARLX style”, not to be confused with the older pre-2011 “AJ5C style” pack of the same name). It had a price tag of $350 CDN, but the North Face store price matched Europe Bound for $300. The main bag is 45L with a kangaroo pouch that carries a detachable 18L day pack. The main bag on its own is carry-on size for most airlines if you don’t stuff it to the max.
- 420-deniers ripstop nylon
- 1680-denier ballistics nylon
- 600-denier and 1200-denier polyester
- Retractable handle
- Internal compression straps
- Internal mesh pockets
- Side stretch water bottle pockets
- Internal padded sleeve
- Detachable daypack volume: 18L
- Total volume: 45L
- Weight: 4.03kg (8lbs 14 oz)
- Dimensions: 54 x 38 x 26 cm
What we like about North Face is their return and warranty policy. Any North Face products can be returned for a refund with no time limit, as long as you have all the standard stuff (i.e. receipt, tags still attached, product unused). The products also have a lifetime warranty, but check with North Face for details as there are likely exceptions and such.
To get a sense of how much the Doubletrack can handle, Adam packed in:
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 5 pairs of boxers
- 5 pairs of socks
- 3 t-shirts
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 sleeping bag
- 1 toiletries bag
- 1 26.5 x 72″ towel
This is by no means what Adam plans on bringing, we just wanted to see how much stuff we can get in there. The sleeping bag was meant to provide an allowance for stuff we need to bring that hasn’t been shoved in.
Considering the fact that Adam is 6 feet tall, his clothes and shoes are naturally bigger and therefore takes up more space. Based on the list above I’d say we have enough room to pack the necessities. The sleeping bag did make the Doubletrack bulge out so it would be unlikely to fit into a plane’s overhead bin with that much stuff in it.
The Doubletrack works just fine as a roller bag (note: we’ve only pulled it around our condo). The test was in using it as a backpack. We took the hidden shoulder and hip straps and gave it a whirl.
I’m 5’5 and about 110 pounds. My biggest struggle was adjusting the straps so that the solid base of the backpack didn’t hit my tailbone. After that it was a matter of seeing if we can use the backpack for more than a few minutes.
One flaw we both found was that we couldn’t find a way to get the Doubletrack to sit firmly against our back. My only point of contact was the bottom of the bag. I would have to lean forward if I wanted the bag to rest against my back. If a heavy bag isn’t strapped tightly against you, it jostles around and makes it harder for you to stand or walk with your back straight. This would eat up a lot of energy if you plan on using it as a backpack for a long time.
Maybe this flaw can be overlooked if the intention is to use the Doubletrack as a wheelie bag most of the time. We both walked around with the bag for a while. After taking it off, my back hurt like a mofo! I’m pretty confident this is cuz I’m a huge pansy, but I’m going to blame the design of the bag a little bit. I also found it hard to stand upright without toppling over.
Seeing as how the trip is planned to be one year long and we don’t know where we might end up, I’d rather be prepared with a hybrid that has a more comfortable backpack mode. It’s highly possible that this doesn’t exist, but I plan on returning the Doubletrack and giving the Osprey Meridian 22″ (*LINK UPDATED March 24, 2013*) a shot. I’ve read some pretty good reviews so far, then again I’ve read good reviews about the Doubletrack too, so we’ll see.
P.S. Here’s what the daypack looks like. The daypack straps are also connected using D rings like the main pack above.
- Osprey Meridian 22″ 2011 Review & Comparison
- Osprey Meridian 22″ 2011 UPDATED Review (3 months later!)