November 18, 2016

The more I travel the world, the clearer it appears that we live in an increasingly global community. We travel to see all of the rich sights, sounds, taste and delights this world has to offer. Our journeys are accomplished by any number of different forms of transportation. From the soles of our feet traveling at a leisurely pace to soaring thirty thousand feet in the overhead at nearly the speed of sound.

We find ourselves walking on narrow busy streets filled with throngs of people, gazing at endless rows of shops where small entrepreneurs ply us with every known good available, we tiptoe across the silent floors of some museum or cathedral, pass along quiet rural roads with a herd of cows as companions, cling to high mountain trails hanging on precipitous rock ledges 1000's of feet above the valley floor.

Travel enriches our lives. Often far beyond our ability measure. At least until sufficient time has elapsed for us to reflect back. We don't just see new sights, sounds, smells and other sensations that blast our senses. We journey through cultures both old and new. We experience the great struggle of life and the shear joy that emerges from hard work and dedication to family, friends and our communities.

New civilizations and cultures greet us at every bend in the path. Often they both bemuse and befuddle us. Still if we take the time to see through the fog of confusion. People shine through that are very much like ourselves. At the end of life, people I've met want to look back on a life well lived. With family loved and a world left for their children that's all the better.

The more time I personally spent traveling the world. Both for the pleasure of hiking through remote areas and for business reasons. The more I realized that the existing packs didn't seem all that well suited for task at hand. Travelers are force to chose between luggage that's well suited if one never travels more than a few feet beyond mechanized transportation systems. If they needed the flexibility to travel light and on foot, they were forced into backpacks designed to perform well in the backcountry and so-so in your hotel room.

Any number of travel packs have been introduced in recent years. However, too often they fail to function either in the front or backcountry.

Two years ago, following a long summer of illness, I traveled to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago. It's a well known path and had been on my bucket list of hikes to do for the last decade. This time I simply needed something to hike and re-build my health from illness. The excellent support structure along the length of the Camino with all of it albergues "hostels", bars "small restaurants" and the pleasure of sleeping in a bed and taking a shower each night was quite enticing. Unlike the other long trails I've hiked this one required little, if any, planning.

Returning home from my six weeks sojourn on the Camino, I reviewed my gear and it's performance during the hike. It's a pretty standard practice when your a gear designer. When I discover something that's not working well, it provides the inspiration to solve the problem. You're forced to rethink how gear should work. All of my greatest designs are deeply rooted in failures discovered in the field.

I assembled my Skunk Works team of Brian Frankle, my son and other members of the Six Moon Designs team to brainstorm a new pack. This pack needed to be:

  • lightweight, because you're a traveler not a mule
  • strong and durable for the riggers of travel
  • capable of comfortably carrying anything loaded in it
  • able to store and retrieve items quickly and easily
  • contain enough compartments to allow for effective gear organization
  • work well in hotels
  • work well with airport security
  • be used as carry on baggage
  • easily switch between trail and city duty
  • work as an office for those who travel but still need to work for a living
  • be secure so things wouldn't be falling out of pockets 
  • adjustable enough to fit a wide range of body styles.

That's a pretty tall order. Especially considering we specialize in lightweight minimalist packs designed for "Long Distance Backpackers".

Over the next two years, we produced a number of prototypes, traveled 10's of thousands of airline miles (both domestically and internationally), traveled through dozens of airports, trains, buses and countless albergues and hotel rooms. We even had someone re-hike the Camino to see how well it'd perform. I carried it on business trips where I needed enough electronic gear to maintain contact with the home office and work remotely when needed.

The newly designed Traveler Pack performed well with all of the tests and demands we required.

So what is The Traveler and more importantly "What can it do?".

Suspension

The suspension is generally the "Achilles Heel" of travel packs. To be effective carrying loads in access of 30 pounds, suspensions of most backpack tend to be beefy. They are loaded with thick hip belts, extra padding of shoulder straps, etc. While this makes for a comfortable carry, it complicates traveling through airport security or loading the pack into overhead compartments. While some packs add extra panels to cover the harness. Others, simply dumb down the harness to make it more manageable and more uncomfortable to carry.

The Traveler's suspension is based upon the highly praised Comfort Fit suspension that we pioneered with the introduction of the Fusion pack. The  Comfort Fit has been proven to comfortably carry heavier loads in a lightweight pack while keeping the overall weight of the pack to a bare minimum. Just as important, the suspension is highly adaptable, supporting a variety of hip belts and shoulder straps. The result for you is a better fit and more comfortable carry.

For travel purposes, we've modified The Traveler's suspension by making it easier to remove the hip belt and store it inside of your pack. Tie downs have been added to pin the Shoulder Straps to the pack. This streamlines the pack making it much more manageable.

 Internal Access

Getting easy access to your gear is key to the traveler. Which is why many travel packs incorporate Panel Loading. This feature allows you full access to all of your gear at once. Whereas Top Loaders which are frequently liked by backpackers, require unloading the entire pack to get something stored on the bottom.

The Traveler takes this one step further. Virtually all Panel Loaders open from the front. This requires lay on an uneven suspension while the pack is open. The Traveler opens from the rear. This allows you to lay the pack flat and flip the suspension out of your way.

Three cross straps help to keep your gear contained. Plus three zippered mesh pockets hold quickly needed items.

 Travel Ready

During the development of The Traveler we traveled 10's of thousands of air miles around the globe. The Traveler was designed to be used as carry on luggage. I personally hate to do checked luggage. So I wanted to insure that The Traveler worked. No matter how remote the airport or small the plane.  There was even one flight where The Traveler was safely stowed below the seat in front of me.

Transitioning the pack between backpack and flight mode is quite simple. The hip belt is easily removed and placed inside the main compartment. The two shoulder straps are secured to the pack with a couple of Velcro tie downs. Cinch down the excess cords and you're good to go. A convenient carry handle on the side allows you to carry it like a piece of luggage. It's so simple that you can convert it back and forth between backpack and travel mode while walking through the airport.

 Work on the Go!

Nowadays we don't leave our normal lives behind when we travel. We'll stay connected with friends and family via Facebook, email or chat's. Some of us blog with daily streams of written or video media. Others take our work with us. Combining the pleasures of travel with the demands of a fast paced work life.

The Traveler's front pocket opens up completely. Providing you with a virtual office. It has a large padded pocket to store your laptop or tablet. Additional pockets keep all our other needed items safely contained and easily accessible.

   Wherever your travels take you, Buen Camino!


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