Sure, you can scuff, scrape and pummel travel gear in a lab, but nothing beats the real thing. When a member of the SNEWS® testing team embarked on a two-month trip to visit seven countries, we figured it was the ideal chance to knock around Osprey's Sojourn 28 and Porter 46 bags. These rugged haulers convert to backpacks and both proved their mettle as our tester traversed the streets and fields of Germany, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Israel, the West Bank territory and Hungary.
The 28-inch Sojourn is a wheeled bag with 4,900 cubic inches of volume. Our brave traveler said it not only provided plenty of space for her belongings, but its internal zippered pockets allowed her to easily organize underwear and socks, and even smuggle Palestinian articles through the Israeli airport (just kidding).
The outside of the bag has a zippered compartment where she stored shoes and wet clothing. No doubt, it's a big plus when you can sequester damp and dirty things to keep them away from clean clothes. However, the compartment does not have ventilation, so our tester said she wouldn't keep wet items in there longer than necessary.
On a wheeled bag, one of the most important elements is the retractable haul handle. Over months of use and abuse, a poorly manufactured handle will get wobbly and eventually fail to function properly. The Sojourn handle remained sturdy and stable, plus it was easy to operate -- with the press of a button, it kicked up smoothly.
Another key element is the pack fabric, and the Sojourn is made of 840-denier and 1,680-denier ballistics nylon. "It doesn't show any scuffs or signs of wear despite the rugged beating it repeatedly took when I shoved it into taxi cabs or dragged it across sandstone," our tester said. Also, the haul handles at the top and side are bomber and constructed of fabric that is comfortable to grip when you have a heavy load.
The bag's polyurethane wheels also withstood a pounding. "That blessed suitcase caught air as I raced through the stone streets of the Holy City and dragged it over uneven stairs that had even the most intrepid travelers eyeing their luggage wearily," she said.
If you prefer not to roll the pack, you can quickly unzip a compartment to deploy a backpack suspension system. It's not a bad idea, but the suspension didn't seem that useful during our real-world test. Our globetrotter said the idea of shouldering such a big bag was not appealing. Plus, she was usually carrying the Osprey Porter 46 pack on her back.
"I loved the shoulder harness feature of the Porter 46," she said, noting that she could deploy it easily. When officials at the check-in counter were about to judge her bag to OK it for overhead storage, she quickly put away the harness to make the bag sleeker. Also, the Porter has external straps you can cinch to compress the pack.
With 2,800 cubic inches of volume, the Porter 46 is a good-sized daypack for carrying a camera, clothing, toiletries, books and other things you want to access quickly. Interior pockets on the side and on the lid make it easy to organize stuff, and because they're mesh you can quickly locate what you need.
The straps and back panel provided enough cushioning that the pack was reasonably comfortable when our tester had to load it with books and haul them for half an hour. But she doubts it offers the level of comfort required for frequent hiking. Basically, you should consider this a travel pack, and not a serious daypack for the trail. The pack also has a hip belt comprised of wings of fabric, which would come in handy for steady wear, but our tester rarely used it "because I was always jumping from one method of transportation to another and needed to be able to take it off quickly." Other SNEWS testers won't travel with daypacks without even a narrow hip belt to keep the weight off the shoulders even standing around in customs lines.
From the narrow streets of Jerusalem to the humped back of a camel, Sojourn 28 and Porter 46 worked well together too. And we would be comfortable carrying either one of these bags on any excursion, be it a business trip or a rough and tumble trek across Europe and Asia. And while we could nitpick aspects of each pack, our tester spent enough time with them to know that these are two worthy travel companions.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $259
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $99