Osprey Meridian 22″ 2011 – Review #3 (8 months and counting!!!)

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.

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Luckily, our Osprey packs are still going (relatively) strong!

Design

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 ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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.

Usage

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.

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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.

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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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 theย 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.

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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

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assuming you can get it up there yourself.

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One exception is the sleeper trains in Thailand, where the main pack won’t sit properly if the rack is crowded with other luggage.

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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 ).

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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).

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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.

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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 Iย accept any responsibility for additional fees incurred ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

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!

Features

Here are some updated pictures of the bag after 8 months of heavy use.

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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.

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Shortcomings

My biggest fear from my previous review has been realized:

One screw has fallen out of the chassis of each of our main bags.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I told you it was insignificant ๐Ÿ™‚

Conclusion

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 ;).

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22 responses to “Osprey Meridian 22″ 2011 – Review #3 (8 months and counting!!!)

  1. Love your blog! Came across it when looking for reviews on the Oprey Meridian. Planning a trip to SE Asia for next summer and pretty sure the Meridian will be coming with me over the Porter 46. Noticed that you have been carrying a PacSafe. Have you used it much? Circumstances? Must have? Thanks.

    • Thanks for the comment D L!

      With regards to the pacsafe, we have probably only used it 5-10 times this entire year; definitely not as much as we expected.

      Before we left, we’d read that shared dorms in hostels were pretty sketch and we were a bit paranoid about the security of the rooms in some budget hotels in South East Asia.

      However, we found that most hostel dorms ended up being littered with people’s belongings anyway (I supposed everyone trusted everyone else, because we saw numerous high end electronics being left out charging unsupervised) and nobody seemed to care much about keeping their gear in their bags, much less locked up in a pacsafe.

      We found that locking our bags with a small TSA or dudley combination lock and tucking them under the bed or into a corner was more than enough to keep our stuff secure, and a lot of places had reasonably sized free lockers too.

      We did use the pacsafe a couple times at guesthouses in Bali and Vietnam, and I also used it a couple times on the second class sleeper trains in Thailand.

      We plan to use it when we visit India, but to be honest, we might not bother unless we feel the situation warrants, because even though it isn’t all that difficult to deploy, sometimes we just feel as if we really don’t need it (knock on wood).

      I will definitely say that I feel 110% more comfortable when I know that my stuff is locked up in the pacsafe, and that each time we forego using it we are putting our gear at risk, so we really should be using it consistently.

      However, we have not been using it much, and a lot of times it just feels like it’s taking up space and contributing a fair bit to the weight of our gear.

      Oh, and it cost ~$80 too, so if you want my honest opinion on whether it’s a must have, then I would have to say no.

      The disclaimer I will attach though is that we really don’t know if the pacsafe saved us from becoming a victim of theft the times we used it, and if it DID save us and I DID know it, then I would obviously have a different opinion.

      My apologies because I doubt my posturing will make your decision any easier, but do let me know what you decide and after your trip if you’d have done things any differently.

  2. Thanks Adam! You did make the decision easier – will probably be leaving the PacSafe at home. Still left with the toughest decisions – planning an itinerary with only 3 weeks to spend in SE Asia. Angkor Wat is fixed but stops in Laos and Vietnam still open. Any thoughts on that would be great! Totally envious of the 12 months you have. Enjoy the last 4 months and I look forward to more posts as you continue your journey.

    • Hmmmmmm 3 weeks eh?

      I’m glad to hear you are going to Cambodia, and Siem Reap is definitely the best place to chill there.

      We stayed at Tropical Breeze Guesthouse and found it to be quite comfortable and well located for the price (I think it was ~$12/night for a private double AC room).

      Luang Prabang in Laos was great (don’t bother with Vientienne), but difficult to get to in terms of time (no direct trains, and busses could take up to 48 hours from other hubs), and if you only have 3 weeks I’d consider flying, although it isn’t cheap.

      Ha Long Bay in Vietnam was the most memorable thing about that country, and it was well worth spending a bit of extra money on to get a good boat (you can find travel agents/hotels that will sell you sub-$100 tours, but don’t bother with those: the food and cabins suck and it really takes away from the enjoyment of the surroundings. We spent ~$200 each for a 3d2n package with A Class Opera http://aclassoperacruise.com/, and while not blown away by luxury or anything, were definitely comfortable. I’d say it was a 3.5-4 star cruise).

      You may have read about our travels already, but if you wanted to follow our footsteps a little bit, we took the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (any guesthouse can arrange for cheap), Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (https://artydubs.com/2013/05/11/direct-bus-from-phnom-penh-cambodia-to-ho-chi-minh-city-vietnam-mekong-express/), and then spent a while in a few different cities as we made our way North to Hanoi (https://artydubs.com/2013/07/15/vietnam-open-bus-ticket-ho-chi-minh-to-hanoi/).

      We flew to Luang Prabang because we couldn’t handle the Vietnam busses any longer (so much honking!!! And the roads are absolute garbage), and from there to Bangkok via train (you could fly too) for our ticket out of SE Asia (HK).

      You could probably do that circuit in 3 weeks if you really wanted, but to make it more enjoyable, I’d fly in Vietnam if your budget allows for it.

      On another note, we’ve decided to cut our trip short by a couple months, so we actually only have 1 month left!!!

      Let us know if you have any other questions, otherwise safe travels!

  3. Adam,
    Many thanks for the suggestions! Wishing you all good things during your last month on the road and a smooth re entry to life back in Canada!

    • Thanks for the well wishes D L, and if you do think of any questions at a later date, we’d be happy to help in an way we can (especially after we get back, it will be nice to remember stuff about our trip to share!).
      Cheers!

  4. Hi Adam,
    I also found your blog by looking for reviews of the Osprey Meridian 22; it’s definitely the most thorough, informative and enjoyable one I’ve read (great pics too!) Although the carry-on issue (esp for european airlines) is disappointing, the smart features and attention to detail have me sold. Your blog/pics prove it’s a great, high-quality product.

    Now I’m going to finish reading the rest of your very interesting and entertaining blog:) Have a safe & happy remainder of your travels!

    Donna

  5. I haven’t seen anything about laptops inside. Are you guys packing any tech gear? I’m really on the fence here and would like to know.

    • Hi James,

      We are both packing more tech than we’d like to admit, and have been quite happy with the performance of the Meridian in keeping it safe and secure.

      We rarely put our laptop or tablet into the main bag because we want to keep those items on us at all times, so we are happy that the day pack is equipped with a velcro flapped laptop compartment (looks like it would accommodate up to about 15″ comfortably… 17″ might be pretty tight) which we both use for those devices.

      The compartment is only lightly padded, so it’s not meant to withstand heavy abuse, but with the laptop in an additional neoprene sleeve, and my ipad with the smart cover attached, we haven’t had any problems at all keeping them in the back compartment with the rest of the bag full to the brim with other stuff.

      We are also lugging around external HDDs and cameras, and I’ve been happy to keep my dslr at the top of the day pack with a sweater and rainjacket underneath/around for protection and easy access.

      My camera came with a bulky tote bag which I left in Toronto, and I looked at camera-specific tech bags before we left (and almost bought a light lowe-pro sleeve for it), but decided that I’d rather have easy access to it by keeping it at the top of my Meridian day pack and not have to lug around an additional camera bag.

      I am only carrying one all-purpose lens though, so if I were lugging around an entire lens collection, a separate camera bag would probably be more appropriate.

      Here you can sort of see the velcro flapped laptop compartment behind the messy little zip pouch inside the day pack:

      This pic was in my earlier review which might have some more tidbits if you haven’t already seen it:
      https://artydubs.com/2013/03/13/osprey-meridian-22-2011-review-2-3-months-later/

      The only improvement I’d look for in future models is a lockable zipper on the day pack (similar to the one on the main bag), because right now I’m only able to lock the main zipper through the fabric pull cords, and this is a weak link in the ‘security department’ as far as I’m concerned.

      Obviously if someone wants to get in our bags badly enough, even a locked zipper won’t stop them, and unless we are using our pacsafe, would-be thieves could easily slice through the soft wall of the bag with an exacto knife anyway…

      I try not to be paranoid though, just careful and aware, and so far so good 9 and a bit months into our trip.

      I hope this helps with your decision, and please let me know if you have any other questions or comments.

      Cheers!

      • Extremely wonderful feedback! Wow, I managed to write two sentences and you have answered virtually every question I could think of. As for a tip from me, check out Think Tank’s DSLR holster. It can act as a cover while packed and it can be kept at the ready on your person while in use. We love ours! I will send you a picture of my packing configuration once it gets here from AMAZON. Looks like you just sold a bag.

      • Also, I’ve taken backpacks to luggage shops and had locking zippers installed before for a nominal cost, so there are places out there doing it.

  6. Good news, MacBook Pro 17″ fits right in the detachable bag with ease. This is a smaller form factor than my old roller and it seems to have much more storage volume! I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog and found this top notch review. Thank you so much for your diligence. Best wishes on your travels!

    • That’s great news James, and I’m glad the 17″ fits in there nicely.

      Thank you very much for your input on this topic, and also for the well wishes!

  7. My wife and I are about to embark an around the world trip and purchased two Meridian 22’s (can’t thank you two enough for the thorough review). Quick question — did either of you purchase a rain cover or wish you had one? I’m having a hard time finding one that accommodates wheels and backstraps. Thanks!

    • Hello Patten!

      Glad to hear that you found our review helpful, and even more glad that you are taking the plunge to do a RTW trip!

      We did NOT purchase a rain cover for our Meridian 22’s, for exactly the reasons you brought up.

      All the rain covers we found were made for tactical packs that were taller but slimmer than the Meridian 22 (even though the ‘capacity’ was similar or even much larger).

      We almost bought a rain cover from Mountain Equipment Co-Op (http://www.mec.ca/product/5028-721/mec-pack-rain-cover-silicone/?f=10&q=rain%2Bcover), but even that wasn’t meant for a hybrid bag and didn’t seem to fit properly so in the end we didn’t bother.

      We also looked into waterproof pack LINERS (http://www.mec.ca/product/5016-043/mec-pack-liner/?f=10&q=pack%2Bliner), but again opted out and just made sure to put important stuff in plastic bags and waterproof document pouches inside.

      I did however re-purpose a small rain cover that I bought a while ago for my bike saddlebag and used it only over the day pack portion of the Meridian (something similar to this: http://www.mec.ca/product/5028-684/mec-cycling-pannier-rain-cover/?f=10&q=saddlebag%2Brain%2Bcover), and that has been very effective, because most of the storms we’ve been out in have been on day trips where the main bag is safe inside somewhere.

      I’ll admit we’ve been fairly lucky with the weather this year, and if we’d been caught out in more storms with all of our gear we probably would have been in trouble, but if you can find something small just for the day pack portion, at least your important stuff should be ok.

      Let me know what you decide to do about this, because I’m sure we aren’t the only ones who’d be interested in a better solution ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers, and safe travels!

  8. Hey Guys, Great Blog. I’m planning a RTW trip for about a year next year. I’ve been eyeing the Osprey 22 meridian for some time now, and just made the plundge and ordered the new one. I have to say your review is one of the best on the web. I’m traveling with my GF and I was going to buy her one as well (so pretty much the same set up as you two!). I was wondering if you have a packing list of everything you are able to cram in there. My GF is pretty freaked out that she won’t be able to cram everything in there for 4 seasons. Thx

    • Thanks Justin, and it’s great that you are going to do a trip like that!

      We will get a packing list together for you shortly.

      Let me know if you have any other questions or comments ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: Backpack or Travel Pack Recommendations? - FlyerTalk Forums·

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