It’s hard to believe we’ve been gone for almost 8 months, and that we are now counting down to the end of our trip, but that’s the harsh reality of it.
And to be honest, we’ve been finding ourselves more easily exhausted over the past few months as we fought our way though the dead of summer in South East Asia.
Luckily, our Osprey packs are still going (relatively) strong!
We have seen a lot of gear this year:
There are the hefty hardwalled 4-wheelers (generally accompanied by the princess-type traveller struggling to lug it up and/or down one of the endless flights of stairs in the quite inaccessible Beijing Metro).
Then there are the formerly tidy 80 Litre blue ripstop monsters, complete with shoes dangling from a carabiner on the back (generally accompanied by the disheveled backpacker who, like his pack, has now gone one too many days without a proper cleaning).
And there are many quite manageable and reasonable looking alternatives too (backpacks, suitcases, and everything in between), but which are accompanied by owners who invariably, after seeing our Osprey Meridians, profess what is known in some circles ( 😉 ) as ‘pack envy’.
Nothing we’ve seen this year has come close to making us say to ourselves “oh, I wish I’d bought that instead”.
Rather, we’ve fielded questions and comments about our bags and had nothing but good things to say and praise from everyone who has shown interest.
One of the design-related complaints we’ve heard about other packs is that they only open around the smallest dimension (top?), making it impossible to get anything in or out in a manageable fashion, and although some backpacks have different zipper and pocket configurations that try to make it easier to access/organize stuff, it has definitely reinforced our decision to have selected a suitcase-type bag (opening along the biggest dimension).
Obviously it is a personal choice early on to select a ‘tactical’ pack-type bag over a suitcase or hybrid, and although it might be more comfortable to wear on one’s back for long lugging sessions, it is generally damn near impossible to organize; an unforgivable sacrifice for those of us blessed with even a small amount of OCD.
I only bring this up because I honestly overlooked that very important fact when we were choosing our bags, and if you are on the fence for whatever reason, perhaps this particular consideration might sway you a bit.
Julie and I wrapped up our tour of South East Asia on June 1st, flying from Bangkok to Hong Kong, and since then have not used the harness once.
While the harness proved very very useful on the treks down unpaved streets and up broken sidewalks and staircases native to many of the places we visited early in the year, a cosmopolitan metropolis like HK placed very different demands on our gear.
For one, there were escalators and pedestrian friendly concourses pretty much everywhere, and even if there were a flight of stairs to be navigated, there was usually no time to eddy out of the constant flow of humanity to unzip the straps and hoist it up into a position where it would now be a deadly weapon to the petite Asian grandma behind you in the bus if you turned slightly to catch a glimpse of one sight or the next.
Oh, and I’d started using the back zippered compartment as more storage space, having collected more than a few souvenirs in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, for which I’d have to find a new home had I absolutely needed to use the harness 😀
I know I know, it’s a big waste to have the harness and not use it, but that’s how I roll ok!?
Speaking of rolling, the Meridian (still) behaves very admirably in its capacity as a roller bag, and I’d know.
I mentioned in my previous review that the dual telescoping handle made it very easy to control the bag even when fully loaded, but now I have more experiences to draw on where other bags would have toppled had I dragged them over such uneven terrain or angled curbs and stairs.
While I’m generally able to control my Meridian with just one arm in these curb situations, Julie still needs two hands because it is still a heavy bag and even though the balance is very good, taking it over a 30cm curb at 45degrees inevitably requires a bit more effort.
We’ve had a couple comments about others trying to carry the entire Meridian with the day pack zipped onto the back, and we agree with them that walking around is not really feasible because the balance is much too far back and even I would topple over or at least be supremely uncomfortable trying to carry it like this.
We’ve found that wearing the day pack on the front keeps things much more balanced and comfortable, and doesn’t look half bad either!
When rolling the main bag around, I’ve found that resting the day pack on top of the bag against the dual telescoping bars is a very comfortable way to move around on relatively even surfaces (airports, etc…), and as long as you keep the top handle partially draped over the pull bar of the main bag, you can save some strain on your back until you encounter some stairs.
Bringing the Meridian 22″ onto trains and busses
There’s no real magic here…
The main packs fit nicely onto the overhead racks on most trains we’ve been on
assuming you can get it up there yourself.
One exception is the sleeper trains in Thailand, where the main pack won’t sit properly if the rack is crowded with other luggage.
We are generally asked to stow the main packs below on the busses we’ve been on, and haven’t had any issues with that aside from some dirt and grime getting on our gear while it’s underneath.
Flying with Meridian 22″
I feel like this category belongs on its own, because we’ve had a number of experiences with our packs on different airlines, and a number of constructive comments about how airlines around the world treat the Meridian 22″.
Contrary to what I said we’d try in my previous review, we have not yet attempted to ‘carry on’ the main bag to a budget or low-end carrier in Asia (AirAsia, China Eastern, Vietnam Airlines, Peach Airlines), so I cannot speak to whether or not the airlines would have accepted it.
I suspect not though, because I have tried stuffing the main bag into the carryon baggage size guide they keep near most checkin counters, and it doesn’t even come close to fitting (the day bag fits just fine though :p ).
Also, we keep managing to accumulate heavy objects (we bought a mini mahjong set in China for instance… and have since sent it home), so even if the chassis was small enough to fit into the carryon size guide, the weight of our bags would be well over the 7kg carryon allotment allowed by most of these airlines (each of our main bags is usually around 10-13kg when loaded, with the day pack filled to the brim with the 7kg we can carry on).
Luckily we are still getting away with strapping both of our main bags together and checking them as one piece, so we only have to pay for one checked bag.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with budget carriers in Europe (RyanAir, BlueAir and Wizzair), as one commenter pointed out that their group of 4 got stuck paying 40EUR each (160EUR extra is a brutal expense!!!) to check in their 4 Meridian 22″ at the counter because the budget airlines would not accept two bags strapped-together as one piece (which is balls in my opinion, because the linear dimensions and weight should be what matters…).
When denied the right to check two Meridian 22″ strapped together, the commenter tried to get the main bag on as carryon, but it wouldn’t fit in the size guide, so readers please beware, and Osprey, please update your packaging and advertising materials to more clearly reflect that the Meridian 22″ is generally not suitable as a carryon even without the day pack zipped on.
For completeness sake, I will clarify that we have only been on one flight where we were able to carryon both pieces of Meridian 22″, and that was a long-haul international flight over the pacific from Los Angeles to Nadi on the flag carrier Fiji Airlines (formerly Air Pacific).
According to their posted baggage rules, they still only allow 7kg and 115cm (linear dimensions) for international cabin baggage, but they weren’t too strict and didn’t notice that our Meridian 22″ was 128cm linearly (is linearly a word? autocorrect seems to think so…) and so we had no trouble rolling the main bags onto the flight with the day packs on our backs.
My apologies in advance if this doesn’t work for you though (nor do I accept any responsibility for additional fees incurred 😉 ).
Has anyone else had experience carrying on and or checking their Meridian 22″ with flag carriers or other non-budget airlines?
If so, we’d love to hear about it!
Here are some updated pictures of the bag after 8 months of heavy use.
Please refer to my previous review for other detailed pictures and descriptions of the main features of the bag.
There have been no groundbreaking discoveries of new features or hidden compartments other than what I’ve already alluded to: that I’ve been cramming more and more stuff into the rear harness area and I’m constantly surprised by how much cr@p I can fit into such a a seemingly small space (a pair of flip flops/thongs, my Birkenstocks, and even a pair of canvas boaters all coexist there, and all kept warm by my bordering-on-homeless-dude-collection of plastic bags) and still get it to zip up.
My biggest fear from my previous review has been realized:
One screw has fallen out of the chassis of each of our main bags.
The other three screws are still in place, but they constantly loosen and I have to screw them back in after each pack-hauling session.
Julie bought some super glue for something (I can’t remember exactly what), and I haven’t been able to find loctite anywhere, so just yesterday I decided I’d had enough of the screws loosening and decided to glue the screws in place.
I’ll let you know how they hold up, but I’m hoping that solves the issue and keeps any more from falling out and getting lost in the great void.
Thankfully the bag still feels sturdy, and as long as no more fall out, we shouldn’t suffer from this issue further.
Another shortcoming reared its ugly head about a week after I wrote my previous review: when I was zipping the main compartment closed, the rubber pull on the zipper came right off in my hand, leaving the string hanging useless on the joiner.
I’ve since been using my little luggage lock as a pull for the zipper, and been more careful with the other ones now, but I’m a little sad that the bag is not as indestructible as I originally surmised.
The last thing I’ve noticed that I’d consider a shortcoming is the balance of the Meridian 22″ when zipped together with the day bag fully loaded.
While not a big issue, if it were to tip over at an inopportune time (perhaps if it’s near the edge of a train platform and for some reason chose to fall the moment the train is rolling in, that could be a real muck up), there could be problems.
Little things that only someone as OCD as me would care about
It’s not a big deal, but after using the Meridian 22″ as my home for over 7 months, there are a couple little things that I’ve noticed that bother me a bit:
The inside zip compartment of the day pack is too close to the pen slots, so if there is a pen (or 3) in their rightful place, it is difficult to zip the pocket open/closed.
I told you it was insignificant 🙂
We would still recommend the Osprey Meridian 22″ to anyone looking for an alternative to a tactical pack or regular suitcase, but don’t assume it will be possible to carry on as cabin baggage
I hope the updated model is as good as the 2011 version which we are using, and it would be really great if it was even better!
If anyone has any experience with the updated model, please let us know.
If Osprey wants to give us the updated model to test out and review too, we wouldn’t complain too loudly either ;).