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Recently, American Airlines announced that they will favor passengers without roller bags. The goal of this change is to promote quicker boarding times, resulting in saving minutes to the boarding process and improving on-time performance. The airline said that passengers with roller bags have the option of gate checking their bags for free. For savvy travelers this is a great way to avoid the checked bag fee but they will still have to retrieve their bag at the baggage claim after their flight. There is an alternative for those who do not like to check bags and wait for them at the baggage claim; the tried and true backpack. In this post, we will take a look at the Eagle Creek Digi Hauler Backpack, as pictured below.
***Disclaimer: I did not pay for this backpack. I won it as a prize for my charitable donation to Passports With Purpose through their annual fundraising campaign. The pictures above are the actual backpack that I received.
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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Congratulations to member Gary Flanagan for completing his THIRD All Fifty States trip in June! Gary's first trip in 2001 took him to All Fifty States in 43 days with other family members. His second trip, with Edmund and Pete Flanagan in 2003, was a fundraising trip for victims of the Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island and took just 8 days, 20 minutes! His last trip brought him to 50 states and 51 capitols in 33 travel days. Gary has raised funds on many of his trips helping support and bring awareness to Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, The Sgt. Dennis J Flanagan Foundation, The Women's Care Center of Sevier County, Hoops for Heroes, The Station Fire Memorial Fund, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
We are proud to have Gary as a member and please help us congratulate him on his incredible achievement! Way to go Gary!
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Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota near Rapid City is the wild animal park, Reptile Gardens. You could easily spend a few hours or more at the gardens learning about the animals and exploring the grounds. There are numerous activities that will keep kids and adults alike entertained for hours. Our surprising find was the Bald Eagle and the beautifully maintained grounds featuring flowers beds and open park-like areas.
Don't miss the gator show where a park employee "wrestles" an alligator and provides education mixed with some humor adults will enjoy. There is also a snake show and bird show available multiple times per day.
If slithering reptiles aren't to your liking, don't worry, you'll be able to enjoy the extensive park-like gardens. Additionally, there is a Bald Eagle and two Giant Tortoises that you can get to know better in their people friendly enclosure. For a nice break from the animals, there is a new playground that the kids can explore.
Numerous rare animals were presented such as this Rough Scaled Python (left) which is the first and only specimen to be seen outside of Australia. Pictured right is an Albino Python.
The three-level tropical sky dome was filled with birds, lizards, turtles and many snakes on the main and upper levels. Alligators, crocodiles and even a Komodo Dragon were found on the lower level. The massive salt water crocodile Maniac is also located in the dome - he measures in at 15 feet 8 inches! Your jaw will likely drop at the sight of this enormous beast!
A visit to the Reptile Gardens can easily be incorporated into a Mount Rushmore vacation as the famous National Memorial is only 20 minutes away.
Disclaimer - We were provided three complementary passes to the park. All opinions and reviews are our own.
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