I like traveling light and had access (um, I absconded it from Beth) to Osprey’s Farpoint 40 backpack for the trip. While this pack is bigger than you might get away with in a crowded coffee shop (i.e. it’s not simply a backpack for your laptop and some books), it’s a great bag for a trip if, like me, you want something bigger than a day pack but don’t want to carry too much on your journey.
Among its many benefits, the Farpoint 40 can easily be carried by the top strap. And with your arm extended down, with the pack in hand, it won’t quite touch the floor (at least with my 6 foot frame). If you set it down, it will stay standing upright if packed well. It has a rigid inner frame that’s pretty friggin’ cool (called a peripheral LightWire frame). It’s nice and tidy on the outside with the shoulder straps and waist belt tucked inside a zipper back pouch. And because this will convert into a backpack, once you’re walking around, just shrug into the shoulder straps and go.
When empty you open the pack like a suitcase, unzipping the zipper all the way around. If you pack from the bottom up you can close the zipper around two sides and turn the pack into a top loading pack. Osprey has a simple and brilliant one-page message about packing. Check it out here.
With the pack standing on its base, you’ll readily have access to the laptop sleeve. The laptop pouch is on the outside of the pack and away from body. You have to put that sleeve somewhere and when you want fast laptop access in the coffee shop, you’ve got it. (Tip: travel with as light of a laptop as possible and not one you care about. You usually only need two things when traveling – email and web access – both done through a browser so no need to go with a fancy computer.)
The Farpoint 40 is recommended for 15 kilos (33 pounds), but the thing is easy to over-pack – I did. This pack, 6 – 7 inches deep, can get heavy because it’s large enough to handle a lot of stuff. And because it has a waist belt, you can fill the pack but still keep it steady against your body. Having said that, for short haul walks, on/off buses, on/off airplanes (and it will fit in the overhead bin on a plane), up/down stairs, on/off bed, in/out of closet the waist belt (and perhaps even the shoulder straps) aren’t absolutely necessary.
There is also enough room in the Farpoint 40 for me to include my light daypack inside.
After you have the pack full, close it using a the zipper that goes all the way around. Then buckle two outside straps and you’re done. Bonus that the zipper is hidden by the straps you just buckled (these have two over-sized zipper flaps covering the entire zipper). The bag appears to have no zipper (or access) at all – I liked this. Finally the bag has an opening at the very top for access to ear-plugs, sunglasses, aspirin (best travel medicine ever made), mole-skin (best travel “ahhhhh” ever made).
One note about the waist belt… while it’s a nice feature, I didn’t use mine since the times that I had to walk a mile or more with the pack were just a few and it wasn’t worth taking out the belt, putting it on and then having to put it away.
Overall, I think you’ll like Osprey’s Farpoint 40 because it just works.