[the palaverist]

Monday, November 17, 2008

[wheels and straps]

Years ago, when I went to Ireland, there was some kind of snafu at Kennedy Airport. I can't remember the details, but I do recall that I literally ran from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3, had some kind of a discussion at a ticketing counter, and then ran back to Terminal 1. I had my backpack with me, and it would've been hard enough to run had I been wearing it. But by the time the sprinting started, helpful airline staff had already wrapped the thing in cellophane so that the straps wouldn't get caught in the baggage-handling equipment. And so I was stuck cradling this giant, slippery football in my arms as I trotted from terminal to terminal.

Since then, I've stuck mostly with a rolling suitcase for domestic travel, where the road surfaces and airport landscapes are predictable and well maintained, and where schleppage is largely from baggage claim to the trunk of a car in the parking lot.

On my international trips, though, my backpack served me well. It was necessary for trekking in Nepal, of course — hiking the Annapurnas with a wheelie bag makes less sense than heading up there in high heels. There were times, too, where a long walk from the train or bus station, over broken ground, was made infinitely easier by a bag I could heft onto my back. Still, there were times, as the bag grew heavier with our accumulated goods, when it was painful to carry, and wheels would've been a serious relief.

And so began my quest for a backpack with wheels. There are a few on the market, and they're mostly pretty expensive, but I consider this purchase an investment in my future travels. I hope to go to a lot of different places, and I wanted one bag that could go with me on all but the most strenuous adventures. (For those, I'll break out my beloved Gregory backpack.)

After looking at the Victorinoxes and the Eagle Creeks, I settled on the Osprey Meridian. As the salesman explained, Victorinox bills their bags as the lightest, Eagle Creek as the most durable, and Osprey as the most comfortable. The Meridian is easy to convert from a backpack to a rolling bag and vice versa. It has a spacious interior that will be big enough for most of my travel needs. And a big selling point for me was the detachable day pack, which is spacious and well enough designed to be genuinely useful. That means I can attach my carry-on directly to my luggage, then remove it when I'm ready to check in. Without that, I'd either have to carry two loaded bags around, which I've done and not enjoyed — wearing the day pack on the front is no picnic when you've got an overloaded pack on your back — or else stop and transfer items from one to the other whenever it came time to check the bigger bag.

We'll see how it performs in actual transit.

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