Almost every travel blog includes a good in-depth discussion of their chosen travel gear, and right at the top is THE BACKPACK. Obviously choosing the right bag can be key to a delightful travel experience or a miserable one.
For years, I travelled with a little, no-name brand purple wheelie suitcase given to me by a friend. It’s about the size of a standard carry-on, has a mesh insert in the top, a couple of outside pockets, and an expander zip.
Little Purple Suitcase (LPS, I shall call her), accompanied me on my first serious overseas trip – three and a half weeks in the USA. I didn’t pay a hell of a lot of attention or do much packing research before I went on this holiday, but basically LPS was my main bag, and I took a large tote-style handbag as my carryon item. For a beginner, I think I did alright…
I used the upper mesh pocket to store a cross-body day bag, a couple of belts, charger cables (in the little toile zip purse) and charger plugs. In the suitcase I was able to fit two dresses (one casual cotton, and one for church), two pairs of jeans (one denim and a lightweight cotton drill pair), one pair of shorts, about eight tops (t-shirts, tank tops, and one dressier evening top), a pair of printed leggings, two bras, two pairs of shoes, associated socks and knickers, a denim jacket, and various toiletries, make-up items and the accursed bottles of hypoallergenic contact lens fluid.
Anyway, LPS was fine for the type of trip I was taking. I only visited three locations, and was staying in private homes or a nice hotel for my entire journey. Checking my bag didn’t especially bother me (I don’t love having to look after a bag when I’m moving through an airport and want to browse duty-free and do the ‘last chance poop’ before getting on a long-haul flight), although I would probably have been able to get away with it for carry-on in a size sense. Weight was another matter… Those wheeled suitcases can weigh a LOT (at least LPS does, not being an expensive high-end ultra-lightweight bag), and I made no effort to pack light – just small. Picking the bag up was unwieldy, it was a pain the arse when I arrived in New York and had to cart it up stairs in the subway, and the pull-out handle on it took up valuable packing room inside the bag.
I’ve been on the look-out for a new travel bag for a few months now – one of those sleek convertible packs with a zip-away harness that you can carry on your back and that looks smart enough for a good hotel.
MY DREAM BAG is pretty much made flesh by this beauty from Minaal…
I love it’s minimal look, it’s full-opening front-loading panel, the zip-away harness, the glorious slate-grey colour of it, the discreet branding. Oh, the places I would go with a bag like this!
But I can’t justify the price. It’s $300, and I can pay for two nights in a private houseboat on the River Seine with that money. And I always, always put experiences over things when it comes to spending money.
I had ALMOST decided on the popular but fairly bog-standard Osprey Porter 46L when I happened to pass a Kathmandu store during sale time. I ducked in, and pretty much impulse-bought the Litehaul 38L.
It’s not as sleek and pretty as the Minaal, but it fits the general specs I had in mind. It’s carry-on size, has a zip-away backpack harness with a good, padded hipbelt, a padded laptop compartment with external access, sturdy handles, a front-loading panel and side compression straps that don’t get in the way of any of the outer compartments. On sale it was also less than half the price of the Minaal, at $125. It comes in a black option, but I went for the purple, again. One of the things I love about LPS is how well it stands out on a baggage carousel amongst all the tasteful and discreet little BLACK suitcases. Yay! Score!
Anyway, I’ll be keen to give this bag its first road-test when we head to Europe next year. In the meantime, it’s a little tangible promise of future adventures sitting in my cupboard.