Looking for a heavy duty backpack?
I really am starting to become a bit of a lover of backpacks as our preference for cabin bags and it’s fun being able to test them. The more I use them, the more analytical I become about their features and ability to streamline our travel.
I was reflecting on my carry-on cabin luggage just prior to our last trip a few weeks ago and realised how it has become, almost out of necessity, a bag for carrying all my equipment. Once upon a time, my cabin bag would be full of extra clothes and toiletries, for those “what-if” moments. I carried a full arsenal of products, most of which I never used. The carrying of liquids and now powders through some international airports means I have reduced carrying these products as much as possible to make it easier.
Most of my equipment (camera, smartphone, smartphone gimbal, headphones, laptop and various others bits and pieces all contain lithium batteries which can’t be checked into the plane’s hold. With baggage handlers not known for being sensitive with bags, even if they were allowed, I still wouldn’t be checking in my valuable equipment.
This means that I need a bag, whether it be a hard case suitcase with wheels or a backpack, to be robust and large enough to fit all of this inside. This is the litmus test for me. If my stuff doesn’t fit in, it’s not going to be a happy union.
The Voyage Travel Bag from Sondre Travel ticked many of my required boxes as far as a travel bag goes. Let’s take a look at how it performed.
- It has a simple design, which I like. No fussy bits and pieces that make getting into it difficult, or having so many parts to it that you can’t remember where your items are.
- The large barrel shape of the bag sets it apart from most backpacks that have more of a flat design. It can be classified as a large travel backpack.
- As a result of the barrel design, larger items can fit quite easily into the main section of the bag.
- The bag is designed so that it can be used in several ways. It may be used as a backpack, a bag that can be carried by either a side handle horizontally or via a top handle, turning it into a vertical bag. It can also be used as a shoulder bag by clicking into place the padded shoulder strap.
- Strong, metal zippers with large loops on the end make finding and using the zippers easy.
- All handles and straps are made from a strong material and did not show any signs of pulling or tearing when in use, even when the contents were approximately eight kilograms.
- There is a small pocket on the top of the bag for easy access when required. eg when transitting through customs and immigration in the airports, I would keep our passports in there to access them quickly when I needed to.
- Separate zippered pockets at the rear provide direct access into the main section of the bag.
- A small zippered pocket inside is useful for all those small items you don’t want to misplace like keys. There’s even a hook inside the pocket just for this.
- Inside there is one main compartment, with separate side pockets with elasticised openings.
- There is a large laptop compartment and a smaller pocket for other small devices. These softly lined pockets also have a velcro strap that keeps them in place whilst on the move. The location of the inner pocket also makes it very easy to take out laptops and other devices as required by international airport security. All I needed to do was undo the top zipper and pull out the laptop. Very simple!
- The backpack straps on the rear can be conveniently hidden away underneath a flap.
- The bag is waterproof.
- An aperture in the top of the bag allows for a cable to be connected through to your smartphone for charging whilst you are travelling. The power bank you use to charge can therefore remain hidden out of sight inside the bag.
- Dimensions: 11″L x 12″W x 18″H
- Made from waterproof polyester
- One year manufacturers warranty
- Weighs 2.1 pounds (.950 kg) when empty
- Capacity is 30 litres
What I liked
- The number one feature for me was the space. I absolutely loved it, no question. It is the largest and easiest to use in terms of being able to fit all of my equipment in it, without fear of squashing it, or it all falling out when the zippers are opened. All of this below, plus a jumper to keep me warm on the flight, plus a small toiletry bag was carried in this bag.
- It’s lightweight. Well, before I put all of my stuff in it! This is important though as too often bags take up too much of your weight allowance before you even start putting your own contents in them. This is why I am leaning more and more towards backpacks as opposed to hard cases.
- Because it has a large barrel, it’s also extremely easy to pack.
- Carrying it as a backpack means my hands are kept free to roll my larger suitcase and still have a spare hand.
- It conforms with the international cabin baggage sizing, meaning all I have to manage is the weight, according to the various airlines. It fits easily into the overhead lockers on the planes.
- When carrying the bag on our shoulder, we liked being able to tuck the backpack straps away behind a “false” rear section. The back flap is fastened with velcro and is simply lifted up, the straps are placed underneath and the flap is re-sealed.
- The dedicated laptop compartment is so important these days, and the location of this within the main part of the bag made being processed at international airports a breeze. My MacBook is 15.6″ and it fit in easily, even with its protective shell on.
- The versatility of bag configuration adds another level to the travel bag. In this instance, we used it as a cabin bag but could quite easily see ourselves using it to pack for a weekend away.
- Being able to carry it in different ways also means that it can cater for more people.
- Despite the fact that I had a lot of gear inside and I will admit, it did get heavy after a longer period of time on my back, it sat comfortably on my shoulders. The straps are made and positioned in a way that they never cut into my body or made me feel uncomfortable.
- It was, however, a little harder for me to carry on one shoulder, due the weight. My husband generally got that job!
- This is a heavy duty backpack. Despite taking this bag in a campervan for 10 days, on a barge and in various aircraft, trains and buses, it still looks brand new. The polyester material is extremely durable and hard wearing.
- Superficially, I liked the colour. Currently, the bag is produced in a grey/black combination. This means it is less likely to stand out and also copes with the general grubbiness that can be a by-product of travelling in less than clean environments. The inside is a bright blue satin material, making it easy to see your contents inside.
What I would have liked
- I would love to see some security on this bag. Bag security is important to me, especially given the contents of it, so being able to have an inbuilt security device like a coded lock with a cable would have been great. The zippers had large holes on the end so at least I could lock the main compartment, however, the side access zipper couldn’t be locked making this redundant. Essentially, I missed the ability to be able to lock it off to a static object. (eg luggage racks whilst travelling on a train)
- The tablet-sized pocket could have been a little larger, fitting devices up to 9.7″.
- The adjustable straps for the backpack component are really long. As a smaller person, I have the straps done up quite a lot more than my husband so the straps are loose and dangling quite a bit. This is less of an issue when on my back, but when I take it off and carry it with the handles, the straps always dragged on the ground or got caught around things. Understandably, they need to have the capacity to be lengthened, but perhaps there could be a way of rolling these up when required.
This one has become a favourite quite easily and will most definitely be used on my next trip. As I said earlier, the best feature in this backpack for me is the space, closely followed by the usability of the compartments and the ability to carry it and use in different ways. Easy to pack and easy to retrieve makes life simple when on the road and has become one of the best backpacks we own.
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Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.