Osprey Departure 60 travel pack

On a few recent summer trips of less than a week, the mantra of two SNEWS® editors was to rely on only bags that could be carried on to avoid checking (and, therefore, retrieving) luggage. Each was armed with Osprey's new 3,700-cubic-inch Departure 60 travel pack.

On a few recent summer trips of less than a week, the mantra of two SNEWS® editors was to rely on only bags that could be carried on to avoid checking (and, therefore, retrieving) luggage. Each was armed with Osprey's new 3,700-cubic-inch Departure 60 travel pack.

We'll start by saying that this type of travel is not for everyone. You have to travel light, with a clothing and footwear choice that is multipurpose. Overflowing bags of toiletries won't pass muster. Think versatility, mobility, small sizes, and easy freedom. Forget suits, forget formality; think wash-and-wear underwear and wrinkle-free. But this doesn't mean student-esque barebones because with several Eagle Creek Pack-It cubes and one Pack-It folder you can still keep the clothes you do pack looking quite spiffy and can fit a reasonable amount too. You also have to be willing to shoulder your loads and not wheel them, sometimes sweating along in under-air-conditioned travel venues like foreign trains, buses and airports overloaded with humanity and humidity.

All that said, if mobility and flexibility is your game, and you crave the freedom of avoiding the baggage carousels upon arrival, then the Osprey Departure 60 is a welcome member to the relatively overcrowded playing field of travel packs.

The daypack features more than 1,500 cubic inches of space with thoughtful refinements like an internal office organizer, a PDA pocket and even a suspended pocket for holding a laptop. In addition, an external padded pocket for a mobile phone, a mesh pocket for a water bottle, as well as a secure document pocket for passports and tickets positioned just above the shoulder straps of the pack, place the travel utility of this daypack far above the ordinary. The 2,200-cubic-inch cargo bag easily accommodates a conservative yet varied travel wardrobe and has two internal side pockets (one mesh) for toiletries and assorted knick-knacks. An outside zip pocket is large enough to hold several magazines and books and is easily accessed while traveling, and a small top zip pocket tucks away glasses or mints. Osprey's padded StraightJacket sidewalls in the bag certainly help protect your contents while in transit, but more importantly they provide effective expandable and compressible options for the times when your carrying load increases or decreases -- we've never experienced a better system for that.

Still, despite the individual praise for each component, all we've really described is an above-ordinary daypack coupled with a cargo bag that sports only a padded shoulder strap and a handle for toting. What makes the 7-lb, 8-oz system really unique and places it in a category all its own is the way Osprey has packaged the design. Instead of attaching the daypack to the outside front of the cargo bag, the cargo pack zips to the front side of the daypack. In that way the daypack becomes the suspension for the entire travel pack and straps are never wasted. Our testers found that, with a bit of practice and assuming the daypack or cargo bag were not overstuffed, they could quickly zip the cargo bag and daypack apart as they entered security or boarded a plane, thereby meeting even the most stringent carry-on requirements.

Yes, there are quibbles. One of our testers, a female, noted that the system would not be her first choice despite being such a well-conceived and designed pack, simply because she finds carry loads on her shoulders uncomfortable for extended periods while traveling and maneuvering airports and hotels, and for that reason prefers wheeled systems.

Our male tester found he had to watch he didn't overload the cargo bag or the pack while they were unattached since that made it a bit of a struggle to reattach the cargo bag to the pack when schlepping the load for more than a short distance.

Both testers agreed that the rubberized handle on the cargo bag needs to be made smoother and more comfortable to hold, especially for smaller hands. Our female tester ended up with a very sore and red hands when having to tote the cargo bag separately while rushing through the airport and waiting in security lines without time to reattach the two pieces. Despite being designed to be toted separately, trying to carry the cargo bag by the shoulder strap while the backpack is being worn becomes virtually impossible for a smaller-shouldered traveler: The part of the shoulder leftover and not covered by thickly padded backpack strap can't carry the cargo bag without slipping off – unless you walk all keeled over like Igor or you go back to that uncomfortable rubberized grip, which makes that grip a key comfort feature that needs addressing.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested retail: $269

For more information:www.ospreypacks.com



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