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Hands-on Gear Review
Osprey Porter 46 Review
Cons: Squat design protrudes from back more than other travel backpacks
Bottom line: This is an easy to pack, well padded, durable travel backpack that is useful on a broad range of adventures.
The Osprey Porter 46 will take you from a casual office setting, to a business trip with extra time for R&R. This pack is equally at home on a hike, or a trip to the beach for the afternoon. It gobbles up more gear than it looks like it should, and remains comfortable and balanced on the back. The Porter is easy to pack and equally easy to unpack, which makes trips through airport security a breeze. Our initial impression of this pack was that it looked bulky and cumbersome, and while it is more squat and cube-like than some packs, we did not find this to be to its detriment. The Porter is a great all-around travel backpack, most applicable to the vagabonding or reluctant business person with a penchant for getting outside at every opportunity.
RELATED: Our complete review of travel backpacks
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Backpack? Duffel? Carry-on? You choose! The Osprey Porter is versatile and easy to use for a variety of travel styles.
Osprey calls its Porter 46 a rugged duffel bag for trekking and hauling gear, with technical suspension you can deploy to cover more ground. We were quite surprised to see it referred to as a duffel bag, because it feel so comfortable and natural as a backpack. (But this does explain why it excels also in the Packing metric, below.)
This was one of the most comfortable packs in the review, tied for an impressive 9 out of 10 with the Tortuga Travel Backpack and the Osprey Farpoint 55. It has excellent load lifter straps which pull the pack in closer at the shoulders, which helps to center the weight over your hips. The stiff foam back panel contours the back well. The hip belt is not the most generous, but was supportive enough for most purposes. The padding seats nicely over your iliac crest if you're hips measure under about 38 inches at your iliac crest (those hip bones), but the webbing of the hip belt is still wide enough that it lends support if the padding isn't perfect.
The stiff foam back panel, however, is quite thin, so be careful not to pack anything sharp or awkwardly shaped directly next to your pack. We found it quite easy to tuck our clothing into the bottom of the bag, which made the pack gently contour our backs.
We found the pack to be plenty supportive for the range of loads we could pack into this 46 liter bag. It was comfortable on long walks and hikes. We found this pack to be comfortable and well balanced with loads up to 35 pounds, a hefty comfort rating beat (barely) only by the brand's other pack in this review, the Osprey Farpoint 55.
We typically preferred packs with laptop sleeves close to our backs, as this helps to minimize shoulder strain by bringing heavy, dense items closer to your center of balance, instead of the weight pulling back and away from your center. The Porter 46 has its laptop sleeve on the outside of the pack, which we assumed would be a problem: in our field testing, we did not perceive any discomfort due to the electronics pocket being on the outside of the pack.
Overall, we thought the Porter's suspension system was a good combination: it is light, compact, and supportive. This pack is a strong performer for most travel purposes, and is supportive enough for day hikes and longer treks.
The Porter 46 packs a lot of useful features into a simple, and easy to use design. Though we had our doubts about the wisdom of putting the laptop sleeve on the outside of the pack, it worked out really well. That outer pouch is very handy. It has a collection of useful pocket sizes, and excellent padding for your electronics. There is an additional outer pocket for small or thin things you need to keep at the ready during your travels or hike.
The pack opens as a panel loader, into a cavernous main compartment that gobbles up more gear than we would have imagined. It has two zippered pockets along each side, great for shoes, socks, or other things you want to either keep separated or prevent from getting lost in the depths of the pack.
The "wings" that line the sides of the pack clip to the other side of the pack in two places, allowing you to really compress the pack if it is crammed full to the max, and greatly reduce its volume if you're only carrying a few things.
The Porter has handles on three sides of the bag, reaffirming the claim that it is also a duffel bag, and making it very easy to pick it up, put it down, and generally move it around, especially in a crowded airport as you try to snag it off the baggage carousel. The Patagonia Headway MLC was similar to the Porter in multiple regards: the panel loading design is easy to pack, and it's easy to move around like a duffel.
The stowable suspension also ensures that you can check this bag in at the airport (even though it is carry on size, so you don't have to) without being stressed about the carousels and conveyor belts ripping the straps off your pack and ending up with an unusable backpack once at your destination. The straps are stowed by stuffing them inside the back panel, like The North Face Overhaul 40, our other award winner.
This is in contrast to the Osprey Farpoint 55 and the Minaal Carry On 2.0 which have a flap that covers and zips closed around the suspension system. There are arguments for either design: the zippered covers definitely look more sleek professional, and are quick to deploy. But the tucking design means you don't have extra fabric that you have to roll up and stuff away somewhere, making the pack heavier and perhaps adding a tiny bit of bulk to the whole system.
The Porter 46 also has attachment points for a shoulder strap (not included), which further adds to its versatility as a duffel bag.
Packing & Accessibility
The Porter is an excellent balance of organization, ease of packing, and accessibility. The first thing we noticed was how much more gear we could get into it than we originally thought just by looking at it. It is a panel-loading bag, so it opens up wide to pack things neatly inside, but you can also just unzip the top or the side and stuff things inside.
For airport travel, this makes a great carry on bag. It is easy to slide your laptop out of the outer compartment when you have to run it through the X-Ray machines at security. At first, we didn't like the idea of having our laptop in the panel that opens up wide to access the main compartment, as this seemed like it introduced the risk of jarring our electronics if we mindlessly flopped the bag open; however, the pouch is nicely padded, and the foam sidewalls of the bag help to slow any flopping: that is to say, if you fling that pouch open, the supportive sides of the pack keep it slightly aloft so your computer or tablet doesn't smack the ground or table on which it is sitting.
We really liked the way the walls of the Porter stood up when empty and open--it made packing fast, easy, and tidy. The Arc'teryx Covert CO also has relatively rigid side walls that make it as easy to pack as a hard-sided suitcase.
There are enough pockets to stash your passport in an easy-to-access spot. The compression "wings" on the side of the pack allow you to cinch your load down so it is less bulky as you navigate a crowded airport. They also provide padding for anything fragile inside. Closing those wings can also, arguably, make access more difficult for pickpockets in busy areas. Though, on that same note, closing those wings can also make the main compartment and the accessory pockets more difficult to access for you
One important packing strategy is to be sure you pack soft items at the bottom of the pack. The back panel is thin, so soft items against your back help make it more comfortable and form fitting.
The Porter is made of rugged 420 denier nylon, putting it in the mid- to high-durability range for this review. The stitching is sturdy, and the overall design does not introduce unnecessary strain to any of the pack components. Even when we overstuffed the pack, the design allowed us to zip it closed with minimal strain on the zipper. Those zippers are big, burly, and very smooth.
This backpack will stand up through rough trips through airport baggage carousels and conveyor belts when you clip the wings together on the outside of the pack and stow the suspension system. It will also stand up to heavy use on the trail, and numerous adventures throughout your travels. Osprey's other pack, the Osprey Farpoint 55 also adapts well to baggage carousels, with a different technique: the backpack straps are zipped behind a separate flap of fabric instead of tucking them into the backpanel to get out of the way.
Weight & Capacity
This pack got a decent score for weight and capacity. It gained a point for its relatively higher capacity but similar weight as two other award winners, The North Face Overhaul 40 and the Minaal Carry On 2.0. Overall, a great balance between light weight and capacity.
The Porter 46 is a great backpack for travel of all sorts, from hiking, hut to hut trekking, hauling gear like a duffel bag (this was one of easiest bags to pack and access your gear).
The Porter is a great value at only $130. It's on the more affordable side of packs in this review, but it has lots of great features, is very easy to use, quite comfortable, and durable enough for outdoor use.
The Best Buy Award winer is a well balanced travel backpack. It has an assortment of organization options, but it is still relatively simple and streamlined, and very easy to use. If we blended our favorite attributes of the Arc'teryx Covert CO and the Kelty Redwing 44, you would end up with something like the Porter 46.
Osprey really nailed the category of travel pack with the Porter 46: it was, for us, everything we needed and nothing we didn't in a general travel backpack! And it's all wrapped up in an outdoor chic, sleek, and comfortable design, for a very decent price.
Osprey Porter 30
Osprey Porter 65
Osprey Farpoint 55
— Lyra Pierotti
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 17, 2016
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