The Best Carry On Friendly Travel Bag

When it comes to flying, no doubt carrying on your bag is the way to go. By carrying on, you can save money and time, not to mention avoid the potential of your bag getting lost. So which carry on friendly bag should you get? Eric and I searched for months, I mean months, trying to find the perfect bag. We watched countless YouTube review videos, and spent hours in Moosejaw and REI weighing the pros and cons of each pack. What we were looking for was this: A bag around 45L that had structure and opened like a suitcase for easy access, was relatively comfortable, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. How did we land on the 45L size? The maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag for most major airlines is 22x14x9 which ends up in the 45L range. We narrowed our search to the SafePac, Tortuga, and the Osprey Porter. Each pack had their pros and cons but ultimately we decided on the Osprey Porter. Here are our reasons why:

 The Osprey Porter 46L

 Size: The Osprey Porter has dimension of 22x14x9 with 46L, which is exactly the limit for carry on-travel. Eric didn’t care so much about this point, but it was important to me to be able to utilize the maximum amount of space. By no means am I an over-packer, but I like to have variety of outfits, especially for extended travel. We bought these packs before our trip to Iceland and we had ample room for a weeks worth of warm clothes, winter coats, and hiking boots. If you are planning more for warm weather travel, you may be able to get away with a smaller pack. One nice feature of the Osprey Porter, however, is that the straps will cinch the bag in when your pack is not filled as full, meaning you can actually make your 45L pack smaller. We feel that the size is just right, I am able to fit all my shoes (I pack an average of 3 pairs :-O), and we have never been asked to check them after flying with them on multiple airlines.

Structure and Design: One great feature of the Osprey Porter is the structure to the bag as well as the depth. We tried some travel packs that were not as deep and had floppy sides, when you opened up those packs, your things simply didn’t stay in place. The Osprey opens exactly like a suitcase when laid flat. This was a key point we were looking for. Many people opt to take a hikers backpack on extended trips, these packs will generally open only from the top and have floppy sides. Honestly, you will have more than enough space, but when you are hurrying to find one thing in your pack, a hiking backpack will get completely disorganized and be a pain to repack. This is nothing against hiking backpacks, we both have Gregory packs that we LOVE (Ashley has the Deva 70L  and Eric the Baltoro 65L). The key though, is that those packs are meant for hiking and camping. They are great to pack a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, and cooking supplies (another post on that later) but they are not great for keeping clothes, shoes and toiletries organized for long term travel. 

The bag has great structure for efficient packing

Organization pouches, great for the digital nomad!

Comfort: With a carry on travel backpack, we learned comfort is a relative term. I would say the majority of the bags we tried out would get hard to carry after a couple of hours. Honesty moment here: we had an extended layover in Boston once where we explored for about 5 hours with the packs on our backs, they were far from the most comfortable thing in the world. In retrospect, a locker would have been a great investment before exploring on foot. That being said, Osprey does attempt to add some comfort measures by having wider, padded, shoulder straps as well as padded hip straps. The hip straps are key, as this will take some weight off of your shoulders when walking around. For getting through the airport, and commuting by train and car, I would say the Porter’s comfort level is definitely adequate.

 About an hour into our Boston exploration with pack on back, still all smiles at this point…

Durability: Osprey has a great reputation for using quality materials and producing durable products. One great feature is that the hip and shoulder straps can tuck into the back of the pack and it can be carried as a duffel. This means when you are stuffing your pack in an overhead bin or wherever, you don’t run the risk of any clips breaking. We have been traveling with our packs for over a year now and they have shown no signs of wear.

Price: This was a huge point for us. We want to travel as much as possible so we try to save money where we can. That doesn’t mean we want to skimp on quality products though. We found this pack on Amazon for far cheaper than any other bag we were looking at. Currently it is priced at $99! That is a STEAL for a quality pack.

If you’re looking for a durable, carry on friendly, travel backpack, head on over to Amazon and pick up the Osprey Porter 46L. It has been our best travel friend 🙂

Until our next travels,

The Wandering Michiganders

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