So, any of you fellow vagabonds know all about maximum legal carry-on, front-loading, hip straps, locking zippers, laptop pocket and all the other "must-haves" when it comes to the unique needs of long-term city travelers. Any way you slice it, it's insane to now actually realize how little space we have to fit our entire (kick ass) lives into.
Well, we made our first choice Travel Packs from Tortuga and Minaal, but somehow neither of them are available right when we need them! So we moved to round 2, from MEI and Tom Bihn, but MEI Voyageur can only be bought on these super sketchy sites using PayPal, and Tom Bihn Aeronaut is crazy expensive. So we moved to our 3rd option, the Transporter M.L.C from Patagonia and the Porter 46 from Osprey.
Patagonia Transporter M.L.C ($180 - 46 liter)- minuses: the zipper don't have built-in lock holes, there's no waist strap, no water-bottle holder, no hip straps (so all of the weight is on your shoulders...which is bad), no reachable pockets while you're wearing it, and it's u-g-l-y, ugly. On the positive side, it has the best organizational features, by far, it maxes out the Legal Carry-on limit for size, front-loading, has concealable backpack straps, top and side holders, and a concealable shoulder strap should it should be easy to keep comfortable, has several large pockets where you can stash dirty items, a laptop pocket against your back (for better weight distribution vs. bags that put them away from your back). All in all, it was designed for our exact travel use-case and we're happy with the purchase so far!
Osprey Porter 46 ($130 - 45 liter)- minuses: the laptop pocket is not against your back, it's on the outside - which leads to poor weight distribution and a heavier "feeling" bag, no water bottle pocket, and no reachable pockets while you're wearing it. On the positive side: it's actually 1 liter oversized but has an amazing compression system that should allow us to pack WAY more into it while till maintaing legal carry-on size, tons of organization pockets, large and small, weak/minimal hip strap, but at least it's there, top and side holders - concealable backpack straps and keyrings for a shoulder strap (that must be bought separately), looks "cool-ish."
So the long and the short of it is that you're basically stuck picking the lesser of 2 evils and you'll never really know which are most important to you until you're on the road.
For now, we are excited to start doing trial-runs on packing. Let's see how much we can fit in there to maintain our sanity!