As winter slowly, begrudgingly gives way to spring, cabin fever commonly inspires spontaneous trips—drop-everything road trips, weekend jaunts on low-cost airlines, or calling in that favor and visiting your friends in a nearby city. For these shorter expeditions you want a pack that’ll gets you from the tarmac to your end destination quickly, and one that can handle a spontaneous detour along the way. These seven packs deliver.
1. Arc’Teryx Covert Case I/C/O, $200; 2. Granite Gear Reticu-Lite 26”, $170; 3. Oliberte Gymano, $220; 4. Patagonia Cragsmith Pack,
$129; 5. Topo Designs 24” Duffel, $129; 6. Timbuk2 Copilot, $225; 7. Eagle Creek Load Warrior International Carry-On, $229.
Photo: darwin Bell, CC-BY
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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The initials "ICO" stand for international carry-on, so rest assured that this soft frame pack will fit in most overhead bins. And it's one of the most stylish packs to do so. The padded pack is constructed of 500D nylon and silicone-treated PU that's durable and weather-resistant, with a full-open flip-top main compartment, two internal compression straps, and a handful of zippered sleeve and stash pockets. Handles at the top, bottom, and size make it easy to grab-and-go, while stow-away straps are configured to wear it as a backpack or a shoulder bag. And with 50 liters of storage, you can likely live outta this thing for a week.
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Granite Gear has gained quite a rep for creating smartly designed trail packs, and they've recently turned their attentions to travel with their Reticu-Lite Collection. These are bags designed with weight—and the open road—in mind. This standing 26-inch roller boasts 360-degree water protection with film-laminated fabrics to improve abrasion-resistance and a telescoping handle made of aircraft aluminum. Inside, find a zippered divider curtain for packing versatility and a zippered, tricot-lined security pocket.
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The Gymano doesn't rely on lots of tech—it does what a duffel bag should do, and its classic look assures it'll never go out of style. The all-leather overnight bag has two front pockets on one side, a zippered pocket on the other, and a central compartment that's easily accessible by unzipping the center panel. Carry it via twin handles or with the detachable shoulder strap. It'll age beautifully, and you also get the side benefit of knowing that it was sustainably handcrafted in Ethiopia.
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As its name implies, this pack was built to help rock climbers haul their rigs to the rock, but it makes for a clutch travel pack, in large part because you have zippered access its guts through the top or the back panel. The latter pocket opens wide to reveal the bag's entire contents, and keeps you from putting the shoulder straps or waist harness in the dirt. The recycled nylon outer has DWR water protection, and its streamlined approach removes unnecessary bells and whistles to keep it both functional and light. And with 35 liters of storage, smart packers can easily carry more than a week's worth.
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Like the Oliberte, this duffel keeps things simple: a durable leather handle, removable shoulder strap, interior zippered pockets, and a plush coated nylon pack cloth on the inside. But the color options—from bright orange to cobalt blue to duck camo—keep things interesting. The duffel, like most of Topo Design's products, are hand-made in Colorado.
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This clamshell-style roller marries sleek styling with legit functionality. It's got an expandable top section to isolate your muddy shoes from the rest of your kit, along with an internal mesh divider and reinforced grab handles on all sides. The skateboard wheels add a nice touch of flair, and the design of the exposed roller handle system is inspired by Timbuk2's love of cycling. At 22 inches, it's short enough to fit into domestic-sized overhead compartments.
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Yes, this Load Warrior meets the size restrictions for international carry-ons. But it does so much more—it's got a clever "equipment keeper" strap on the top to carry additional bags and bike helmets, a stash-friendly bottle opener attachment, handles pretty much everywhere for grab-and-go convenience, and oversized treaded wheels to handle most terrain. And OCD packers take note, the bag also plays nicely with Eagle Creek's Pack-It System, little packs that help organize your kit into a collection of easy-access bags.