The Eagle Creek Wayfinder is a well made, durable, and relatively comfortable travel backpack. It was clearly designed to be versatile, useful for airlines and daily commutes alike, but we found that the feature set was so broadly focused that it was often a mismatch for our uses. The bag certainly is functional, but it was particularly challenging to stay organized. Some of the pockets were difficult or cumbersome to access, tucked into tight spaces, or placed too low in the bag. For a more thoughtful and versatile backpack, with a feature set well suited to a variety of uses, we like The North Face Overhaul.
Eagle Creek Wayfinder 40L Review
Cons: Feature set not suited well to any specific use
Manufacturer: Eagle Creek
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Wayfinder from Eagle Creek is designed with versatility in mind but misses the mark on functionality for a variety of uses.
It's a comfortable travel backpack that can handle heavy loads with relative ease. The suspension distributes and supports the load on your back, allowing you to feel light and maneuverable in transit.
The shoulder straps are connected to each other in a U shape that is anchored on the top of the back panel. This U shape encroached on our neck sometimes, making it mildly uncomfortable, but this can depend on the user. The waist belt provides balanced support for heavier loads as well and is adjustable in two places, which allows you to keep excess straps out of your way.
If comfort is your top priority and you'll be hauling heavier loads longer distances, check out the Cotopaxi Allpa 35, one of our favorites for comfort. For similarly designed travel backpacks that are a little more comfortable for airline or urban travel, you might like the more formal and subtle backpack, The North Face Overhaul, or the fun and comfortable Osprey Porter.
The feature set of the Wayfinder seemed to display a bit of an identity crisis. We had a hard time figuring out how best to use the bag, and if it was most suited to airline travel, commuting, or as a school bag. It has three larger zippered compartments; the one closest to your back is padded and rectangular for electronics, with a nice sub-pocket for a tablet. There is also a hole for earphones, but we didn't find ourselves as inclined to use that.
The next compartment has more organizing pockets, larger mesh pockets as well as slim ones for pens and pencils. This was a good spot for some of our electronics and office accessories as well. However, it also made the most sense to tuck our socks and underwear in the lowest of the pockets in this compartment, so we were a little worried about pulling out a pair of underwear when going in for a pencil. Awkward.
The large outermost compartment was just a simple, large pocket. It has sturdy fabric, so we felt confident putting toiletries here, but also sometimes tucked our tablet in here for quick access; this was also a bit awkward due to the large size. We did like it for snacks and lunch as it kept these items separate from things that could be damaged or stained by food or liquid. On the front outside there is a small fleece-lined pocket for easy access and protection of electronics; this was handy and just the right size for a wallet and keys as well. For a traditionally featured travel backpack, we like the soft suitcase, or "clamshell," design of the Patagonia MLC.
Packing & Accessibility
This is where the Wayfinder went astray. In an attempt to make a versatile travel backpack, Eagle Creek designed a bag that was difficult to match to our uses. When we went for a weekend trip, our pencils got in the way of our underwear. There was no clear theme as to what type of items should go where.
If we commuted with it, we sometimes mixed up where to put books, binders, and tablets or computers, and found that the middle pocket was perhaps bigger than necessary for a daily commute.
For a thoughtfully designed travel backpack, easy to pack and access, check out the Osprey Porter. If you're looking for more of a suitcase design, we also liked the Patagonia MLC. Or if you want to go really simple, check out the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler.
The Wayfinder is a travel backpack that will stand up to many uses and withstand a variety of abuses. It features 300 and 500 denier fabrics for some weight savings, and durability where it matters. For one of the most durable packs in this review, check out the rugged Osprey Transporter, a duffel style travel backpack. The Patagonia MLC is another highly durable travel backpack in a more traditional soft suitcase design.
Weight & Capacity
The Wayfinder is relatively light for its capacity given the thoughtful use of both 300 and 500 denier fabrics. For a 40L pack, this bag will carry enough for many long weekend getaways.
For another take on lightweight travel backpacks, check out the REI Stuff Travel. This small 20-liter backpack stuffs into its own pocket and can be easily tossed into your luggage of choice. This makes it very easy to have a nice day pack for adventures once you arrive at your destination.
The Wayfinder is not a bargain travel backpack. It is designed with versatility in mind, but we would advise potential buyers to scrutinize the feature set before purchasing this bag. If the design perfectly suits your needs, it may be well worth the price.
The Wayfinder is a relatively comfortable and reliable travel backpack. It is meant to be versatile, but it wanders a bit too much between travel pack and bookbag to be a good fit for either. If the organization scheme works for you, however, this is otherwise a very well made and durable backpack.
— Lyra Pierotti