First Impressions: When I think of a backpack two types come to mind; 1) the simple two compartment backpack that I carried around in school for years and 2) the monstrous internal frame backpack that I have yet to use for serious hiking and backpacking. The Eagle Creek Digi Hauler Backpack is a beautiful marriage of the two which combines the lightweight "school" backpack and the features and sturdiness of the hiking backpack. However, the Eagle Creek backpack is something much more that a hybrid - it is obvious that a great deal of thought & effort went into it's design to ensure longevity, convenience, and just plain functionality.
What I Like
Quality: The backpack is designed for the abuse of travel; stitching is very strong and at the most vulnerable points there is double or even triple stitching (maybe more!). There are pulls or grips on zippers where convenient, and the material of the entire backpack is extremely durable.
Functional: The backpack has well placed pockets for smaller items, a water bottle pocket, an interior mesh pocket, and the lockable (lock not included) padded laptop pocket. I don't have a laptop, but the pocket was great for my iPad, a book, and travel papers. Convenient handles located on the side and top are great for times when you don't need to use it as a backpack. The shoulder straps, waist band, and sternum strap hide away in pockets which converts the backpack into a true duffle bag.
Soft Sided with Form: Although the bag is soft sided, there are flexible padded panels built into the back and top of the pack which helps keep its shape. Additionally, the bottom of the pack seems to be double or triple layered which helps with form and protects the bottom of the pack when on the ground.
What I Don't Like
One Huge Main Compartment: While not a major problem for me (I like to pack by throwing everything in haphazardly), others may find packing difficult since the main compartment is one large space. However, Eagle Creek has cleverly solved this packing dilemma with their ingenuous packing cubes, sacs, folders, compression bags, and other organizers. Although at an additional cost, these packing solutions would overcome most reservations about having one huge main compartment.
Non-Padded Waistband: The Digi Hauler Backpack can handle heavy weights. As such, the shoulder straps have adequate padding. However, the waistband could use some additional padding to relieve stress on the hips, especially when carrying the backpack for longer periods of time.
This backpack retails for $120 but a quick Google search found one for $108. While not cheap by any means, the features and durability of the backpack make it a good long term investment for the occasional to frequent traveler. With the padded pocket and lockable zippers, this backpack would be perfect for the traveler who brings a laptop! I could see a serious traveler going through several cheap backpacks in the time it would take for slight wear and tear to appear on this backpack. The Eagle Creek Digi Hauler; A great alternative to a roller bag!
Final observation: On the Eagle Creek website for this backpack, it appears that a huge 15" laptop is used in the picture. This makes the backpack seem much smaller in the picture.
Please note that Eagle Creek has a wide variety of luggage available, including a bag that has a hidden roller bag feature. World traveler Gary Arndt of www.everything-everywhere.com recently talked about his Eagle Creek bag with the hidden roller handle and how much he likes it on the Podcast, This Week In Travel and on this blog post review.
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