I’m a backpack purist, I enjoy a set of straps. But I also know a backache that can come with it. There has been an increasing trend towards suitcases, hand-luggage-only and wheeled bags. Somewhere in the middle of this, there have been several brands that have made a hybrid – wheeled backpacks.
Essentially a wheeled bag with hiking straps. Some of these are just straps and others are fully fledged hiking harnesses. We decided to invest in two of these and test drove them over the 4 months of our trip in winter 2014.
Elizabeth wrote a review on the Caribee Fast Track here.
Osprey Sojourn Rucksack With Wheels
I’ll be completely honest here. I don’t like the looks of this bag. At all. But I can’t deny Osprey’s pedigree in this category. They are well made, offer a good warranty and you get value for money. The reason for choosing this one was that it was a proper backpack as well. When you open the rear of the pack, a proper hiking harness is tucked away and after clicking together using some clever positioning of clasps, I’m good to go, anywhere.
The best feature of this pack is – the size
The not-so-great feature of this pack is – the looks
The bag works on a “straight jacket” concept. The compression strap goes across the pack, pulling the “walls” of the pack together and the further it compresses the further the sides overlap, cocooning your content inside.
This was a bit unconventional but ultimately it did what I needed it to do very well.
A major point to notice is the thickness of the outer walls of the pack. This pack takes keeping your contents safe and secure pretty seriously. The are about 14mm of thick material that lines both sides top to bottom. When the straight jacket is implemented, this converts the front and when it overlaps, it’s double the protection.
The from and back are covered in less thick material but still durable and waterproof.
This was again very impressive. I felt we could hold almost twice the amount of the Caribee (not including the extra backpack). The cavernous interior is lined and includes a couple of pockets that run the length of the pack. Inside the front flap, there is also a few pockets to help you organise. As there is only one exterior pocket, this is useful.
The impressive thing about this pack is that due to the way dependency on the straight jacket system, while it can overlap nice and snug, it can also open wide, expanding the capacity hugely. The walls can extend outwards while the straps are long enough to expand across the pack and still keep everything together.
While it does not look pretty, this makes the bag very practical. I could even attach my daypack to the outside and stuff a sports holdall inside.
As mentioned, I was sceptical about this but given the way we were travelling “Digital Nomad” style, it seemed like it was probably a good thing. These are exceptionally well built and sturdy. Having taken a beating on the streets on Thailand including Bangkok’s potholes and Soi’s.
The wheel chassis is plastic and very sturdy. It also has a holding handle that makes loading the pack onto coaches and off airport carousels nice and easy. I think a considerable amount of the packs’ weight is held in this system. But I’m ok with that as at no point over the months of use did I feel it wouldn’t handle was it was put through.
This is where the pack really shows off and Osprey gives a little time in pretending they are new to this game. The rear zip cover rolls away into its own section out of the way and the thick padded and fully adjustable straps are let loose. The main shoulder strap at this point loose and dangling are clipped to the underside of the pack to 2 spots on the wheel chassis. Once this is done, you are real to go.
The shoulder straps adjust as any other hiking pack. The waist support strap is good but not padded to the extent of the purpose-built hiking packs. It’s there and enough to support the extra weight, especially if you have “opened” the pack up as mentioned earlier.
Unclipping the strap from the bottom, the harness packs away neatly once more. There is even some pseudo-space here in case you are lacking for places to put things. I used this space to hide Elizabeth’s Christmas presents.
These are also impressively built. Solid and lined with super thick foam making the wheeled backpack easy to carry about. No more suffocate blood-blistered fingers from carrying heavy packs with thin fabric handles.
There is one of the at the top and on one of the sides.
The addition of the handle on the wheel chassis is useful so that no matter what angle you approach the pack, you should be able to get a grip.
As I write this, I realise that in fact, the Osprey Sojourn was a soldier for me – reliable and dependable and able to take everything I threw at it.
So it makes me feel bad that I didn’t love it. The looks just let it down for me. The way the frame makes it look like it has a potbelly when full due to the pack expanding far passed the size of the wheel chassis and then tapering to a narrower pack at the top too. So it was almost pear shaped. And the space between the 2 straps bulging out like me when I wear a shirt too small for me!
If I could have made one change that would have fixed this, there should be the third strap in the middle of the other two but other than this, the Osprey Sojourn is a very very good option if you are looking for a wheeled backpack.
Both are wheeled, have a full harness and both are around £150.