Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 45L Review
Cons: Less organization features, not set up for traveling with electronics
Manufacturer: Eagle Creek
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler is a simple duffel that covers a lot of territory. It is excellent for everyday gym use, works reasonably well for airline travel, and is exceptionally well suited to international trips and expedition use.
The Cargo Hauler is a duffel bag with shoulder straps, and we were quite pleased with how well the bag carried in backpack mode. The supple fabric conformed to our backs, and the rectangular profile allowed things to move around enough that we could avoid having hard objects ramming our spine. The flatter profile of the duffel also ensures that even an awkward or imbalanced load (which is likely with a duffel) would still ride close enough to your back to ensure the pack isn't yarding on your shoulders.
We preferred this duffel over the Osprey Transporter, especially for the carrying comfort. The U-shaped shoulder straps on the Transporter often encroached on our neck and felt constricting. The looser shoulder strap design of the Cargo Hauler draped more naturally over each shoulder. And the ultra-lightweight (but still-durable-enough-for-a-duffel) fabric ensures the pack is contributing minimal weight to the pad on your shoulders.
Part of "comfort" for a duffel bag on an expedition has to do with the straps and grab handles. We loved the grab handles on the Cargo Hauler. The two on each end are big, padded, and have enough structure that they are always easy to grab. There is one more on the side, which is not padded, but it is wide and also easy to grab.
On the surface, the Cargo Hauler is just a simple, durable, lightweight duffel with shoulder straps. It has a U-shaped zipper which folds open along the length of the bag, making access very easy. The zipper pulls have rigid plastic supports that make it easy to loop even a gloved finger through them, and they are lockable in case you need to stash or store the bag and want a little extra peace of mind. The pack has shoulder straps which are easy to remove and stow in the bag (note that sometimes the threaded D-ring buckles that anchor the top of the shoulder straps come out). Keep in mind, however, that these two shoulder straps also function as the pack's top grab handle—it works well, but means you may not want to remove the shoulder straps.
There are two impressively large zippered side pockets, one of which also doubles as a stow pocket in which the whole duffel can be stuffed into a convenient and small package. The bottom is lightly padded, adding durability and protection, and giving the pack a little bit of structure to support its rectangular profile—and make it easier to stack with other duffels. This bag is effortless to lash on to rooftops and yak backs, too, with several robust sewn daisy chain loops.
The duffel's main compartment also has lockable zippers, which is great if you have to check it at the airport or leave it quasi-attended somewhere. The storm flaps over that main compartment also help keep the rain out of the bag when your luggage is sitting in the rain on the tarmac waiting to be loaded on the plane. Or on the long trek to basecamp when it is lashed to a yak.
Packing & Accessibility
Sometimes we love the simplicity of a duffel bag, which is certainly the case with the Cargo Hauler. It has one compartment, two side pocket, and no organization scheme, meaning there is little to think about when packing this bag. That said, it also offers little organization for office and business equipment. Because of this, one of the main issues for traveling with a duffel on airlines is the lack of features to streamline your trip through airport security. Or so we thought.
When we broke down our priorities for a swift and easy TSA experience, it came down to two things: ease of access to valuables like passports, and swift removal of electronics. A duffel has minimal pockets and typically nowhere to put your laptop. With the Cargo Hauler, we could just set our laptop or tablet on top of the rest of the contents in our bag (you may want a separate sleeve or case for impact protection), making it super easy to pull out at the security checkpoint. The U-shaped zipper that folds open along the length of the bag adds to this ease of access to the main compartment. Additionally, your laptop or large tablet then provides a smooth and rigid surface against your back and puts what is likely the heaviest and most dense object in your bag very close to your center of gravity, reducing excess torquing on your shoulders. All of this improves the carrying comfort of the bag. Awesome.
The Cargo Hauler has two side pockets which are surprisingly large and tremendously useful. These were better designed than the hard-to-access side pockets and internal zippered pocket on the Osprey Transporter. Additionally, the whole bag packs in to one of those side pockets for easy storage or to toss into another bigger duffel or larger luggage.
The Bi-Tech Armor Lite fabric used in the Cargo Hauler is super durable, and designed for abrasion resistance—an excellent durability focal point for any duffel on an expedition and taking rides on rooftops, in helicopters, or on yak backs. We were immensely impressed with the durability of the Cargo Hauler. It is the closest thing we have found to the supple-yet-rugged Black Hole fabric used in the Patagonia Black Hole MLC.
And if durability isn't enough to impress you for the simple fact that it holds up better over time and space, we also found that the Armor Lite looked good after a lot of use as well—again similar to the Black Hole fabric. For all that durability, the Cargo Hauler is still impressively lightweight. What a great balance of desirable features.
Weight & Capacity
The 45 liter Cargo Hauler is impressively light, weighing less than two pounds. It also has a relatively high capacity of 45 liters. This makes it a solid performer in this metric. It also means this is an excellent extra duffel to bring with you on trips like expeditions where you may want more gear organization options or a smaller bag to leave behind at a hotel.
The Cargo Hauler is a great deal. It is simple, well designed, durable, and highly versatile. This is a duffel that will last for miles, whether in airplane cargo bays or on the backs of dusty yaks.
The Cargo Hauler is an excellent duffel for all of your hauling needs. We love the simplicity of the duffel style, and though it is less optimized for office use and business travel, it is not useless in a pinch. We loved this travel backpack for a wide variety of uses: gym use, car and airline travel, as well as expedition use! This is a great bag to strap to a roof rack or the back of a dusty yak. For its simplicity, durability, and versatility, the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler is a winner.
— Lyra Pierotti
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