Originally I bought a Deuter 50L bag (in the SF REI) with an attached (zip on) daypack. It came with a harness that had thick cushioning straps and a strong frame for back support.
Luckily, we decided to test the bags out on our final trip to DC to visit family and friends. During that test I realized that the daypack wouldn’t fit my 15″ macbook pro. To be honest, it was too small to fit just about anything. I went to the VA REI where I found the 70L (50/20) Osprey bag I ended up with. They happen to be the same price; it was an easy trade.
Each bag had its merits and faults. The Osprey had very little cousin on the straps and less support on the back and waist. On the other hand, it had an extra flap on the bottom that that folded into itself and allowed you to zip up your straps while checking the bag on a plane (see animated gif below.) This ended up being super handy. For example, with Jackie’s bag, we ended up having to tie up all the straps every time we checked it to keep the straps from dangling. Of course, that zip cover came at the cost of losing the pillow compartment that was on the bottom of the Deuter bag.
It took me a few hours to make my pick (hats off to the patient staff at REI,) but it has been about a month and I’m very happy with what I got. Since we are in hotels most of the time, and mostly flying, the features of the bag I got have been exactly what I needed. As a note, I rarely have the time to zip the daypack onto the bag. I probably could have got a cheaper large bag and a cheap small day pack for my laptop and have been fine.
Concerning the costs that comes with checking a bag, almost all of our flights so far had a one checked bag allowance. Now that we are about to hop through europe, discount airlines will charge 20-40 euros per bag; almost the amount of the ticket themselves. After 10 flights it will cost an extra 200 euros to check our luggage. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. Regarding our fear of losing our bags, we’ve only had one narrow escape. In Turkey, on a speedy transfer between flights, our bags got delayed. We were able to have the hotel concierge call the company to have it expedited to the hotel, so no harm no foul.
A few more bag selectin tips:
- Parkinson’s law of space: If you have the space you WILL fill it. Don’t convince yourself to get a bigger bag “and just not fill it all the way.”
- Get a vacuum bag. It doubles the space you do have for fluffy items.
- Get a bag that opens horizontally, like a suitcase. The ones that open from the top (for hiking) are pains the the ass to fill and remove things from. If you aren’t camping a lot – avoid the top loader.
- Get a bag with zippers. Some hiking bags just have straps, velcro and clips to decrease weight. The added security you get from having zipper is worth the few grams of weight it adds.
- The waist strap helps a lot.
- Don’t worry about the waterproof cover if it costs more – a plastic bag will work fine for the few times your are walking, with your bag, in the rain for a long period of time.
- Make sure your bag has straps in the inside to keep clothes in place. It is a nice way to organize and increase usable space.