Osprey Transporter Review
Cons: No traditional carry handles, thinner fabric than top models, extra closure buckles get in the way
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Osprey Transporter duffel bag uses the company's well-respected backpack technology to create a comfortable and high-quality piece of luggage. The carrying comfort of the stowable backpack harness is unmatched, and an additional four oversized and well-padded grab handles provide additional carrying options. While the 840-denier nylon material is slightly less robust than other high-end contenders, it is coated with a waterproof laminate on both sides for dependable weather protection. A strong overall performer, a couple of nuances hold it back from the very top, such as a handful of buckles that must be released to access the main compartment, and an awkwardly-placed internal storage pocket that is somewhat difficult to access.
Ease of Transport
The backpack-style carrying system of the Osprey Transporter is more comfortable and sophisticated than any other option in our lineup. The entire backpack harness mimics the design found on Osprey's highly-regarded backpacking packs. It includes contoured shoulder straps with comfortable mesh padding, an adjustable chest strap with an emergency whistle, and additional load lifter straps that help you optimize the pack's position on your body.
In addition to the backpack harness, the Transporter includes four robust grab handles — one on each side of the bag — for traditional briefcase-style carrying or for lugging out of the trunk or off the baggage claim. While both of these carrying options are well-designed and quite effective, the Transporter leaves out traditional duffel carry handles and an over-the-shoulder sling strap found on some other contenders.
If you don't need such a fancy backpack harness and you'd like the extra versatility of a few additional carrying methods, then another duffel may be a better option. If you regularly haul your high-capacity luggage on your back over longer distances and can live without the extra handles or straps, then the Transporter is very likely worth the compromises. Keep in mind that, although it has a comfortable backpack harness, it still lacks a stiffened back panel and a supportive waist belt that makes proper backpacking backpacks more comfortable and efficient over longer distances.
Storage and Ease of Packing
We tested the 95-liter version, and the same model is also available in 40, 65, and 130-liter volumes.
The Transporter's top lid is secured to the outside of the duffel with two small buckles in addition to the main access zipper. These buckles help the top lid's rain flap stay in place better, to help protect the zipper from the elements. Further, the backpacks straps cross over the main access zipper to connect to their lower attachment buckles. You must first release these four total buckles to access the main storage compartment. The design of these buckles does improve the bag's performance in other areas but adds another slightly inconvenient step between you and your gear.
The inside of the primary storage compartment features two buckled compression straps to keep your contents snuggly packed and includes a zippered mesh storage pocket on one end to keep smaller contents secure and organized. While we always appreciate extra storage pockets, this pocket's location can be a little hard to access when the duffel is fully loaded. The bag's main access zipper doesn't fully extend to the end of the bag, meaning you potentially have to dig through some of your packed contents to access the pocket.
The other end of the bag has a convenient external storage pocket. An overlapping rain flap protects the zippered from the elements, and also includes an ID window to stash a business card or your contact info.
Constructed from 840-denier nylon, the Osprey Transporter is relatively robust compared to the rest of our overall lineup but falls short of some of the top-ranked expedition duffels with their 900 and 1000-denier builds. Many other highly-ranked models also include a layer of padding or an extra reinforcement layer of bottom material to help resist abrasion, but the Transporter has only a single layer all around.
The Transporter's construction quality and fit and finish are top-notch, as we've become accustomed to with Osprey products. The attention to detail is apparent with things like heavy-duty zippers and zipper pulls, thick, burly grab handles, and high-quality webbing material. The Transporter looks and feels like a high-end product. While other bags with reinforced bottom panels would likely hold up better to careless abuse, dragging, or rough handling, the 840-denier nylon is plenty durable for regular use.
Osprey also stands behind their products with a robust All Mighty Guarantee. They state, "Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge — whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it." Very impressive.
We personally weighed the 95-liter Transporter at 3.3 pounds, which is pretty good for a high-quality giant duffel bag. It's one of the lightest full-size expedition-style duffels in our lineup.
When loading up and approaching the airline baggage allowances, you don't want a huge portion of the weight limit to be taken up by the luggage itself. The Transporter weighs slightly less than its other closest competitors, and it achieves that weight without any significant sacrifices in quality or functionality. Its primary body material is slightly thinner than the most robust competitors, and it forgoes an additional bottom reinforcement layer, but it also includes the best backpack harness system that we tested.
The Transporter is one of the top scorers in this performance metric thanks to its double-coated 840-denier nylon that has a TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) coating on each side that does an excellent job of repelling water.
While the seams are not fully sealed and the zippers are not fully waterproof, both of these potentially vulnerable areas are fortified with additional protective measures. The seams are all internally reinforced with an extra layer of material to help strengthen them and provide an extra barrier against moisture entry. Both external zippers — the main access zipper and the external storage pocket — have two overlapping protective covers. Both include a smaller, thinner black weather strip as well as a more substantial red rain flap.
It is not cheap but it's not the most expensive model we tested among similar high-end expedition packs. The price range among the top-ranked rugged expedition duffels is surprisingly small, and the Transporter lands right in the middle of the group. In this product category, we typically recommend choosing a bag that has the materials and features that suit you best, since the overall price difference is small, and these bags should all last for years and years. If you're looking for the most comfortable backpack harness on a duffel bag, the Transporter is or top choice and would provide great value.
The Osprey Transporter is a high-quality, weather-resistant duffel bag that is comfortable to carry with its excellent backpack harness. It earns our Top Pick Award for the most comfortable carrying system thanks to its well-padded should straps, adjustable chest strap, and additional load-lifter straps. Other duffels are burlier or have more versatile carrying options, but this award-winner does a great job of balancing durability and carrying comfort in a reasonably lightweight package.
— Nick Bruckbauer