Increasingly so it seems, my life is routinely packed into a big sack and lugged around. In the back of vehicles, traipsed through airports, across mountain passes lashed to yaks… you get the picture.  This rising reliance on mobile gear storage has certainly heightened my awareness for what makes a good, and inversely not so good, duffel bag. But before we delve into that topic, please indulge me a (very) short investigation into history. That ubiquitous word ‘duffel’ we all know refers to a big tough bag for holding things, but for some reason it always gets targeted by my spellcheck as incorrect or nonexistent. Naturally to shed light on this mystery I consulted the all knowing oracles (Google and Wikipedia) to establish both the origin and legitimacy of the term in question. Wikipedia claims “the name comes from Duffel, a town in Belgium where the thick cloth used to make the bag originated”. Whilst Google provided the data below:

duffel bag ˈdʌflbaɡ/

noun
noun: duffel bag; plural noun: duffel bags; noun: duffle bag; plural noun: duffle bags
  1. a cylindrical canvas bag closed by a drawstring and carried over the shoulder

Origin early 20th century (originally US): from duffel (sense 2), originally denoting a bag for equipment

So it’s a gear bag, but we knew that. With origins that appear to hail from Belgium and/or the USA. Alas, further investigation is clearly required, however that will remain a mission for another time. What this article is actually about is a particular flavour of duffel bag, namely the newly updated Transporter Duffel range from Osprey. Earlier this year I saw an unfinalised sample of the new Transporter and was quite impressed. So when the final production units landed in Australia, I was somewhat keen to put a them to the test. The perfect  opportunity came in the form of a 2-week driving holiday around Tasmania in the second half of September with my partner Louise. We flew from Brisbane (via Melbourne) to Hobart, picked up a hire car and  traveled around. A mixture of hiking, sampling plenty of local cuisine and relaxing by warm fires. Being September on the Apple Isle, and a rather cold one at that, we encountered plenty of snow, rain and mud. Which was perfect as as I had hoped for some challenging conditions in which to test the bag’s ruggedness.

Options and Specs

The new transporter comes in four size options, which remain the same as it’s predecessor: 40L65L  , 95L , 130L

The two bags Louise & I have been using are the 95L (Blue) and the 130L (Red). Each size of Transporter is available in several colour options.

The features include:

  • Zippered 3-D end pocket with overlapping rain flap for quick access to smaller items
  • Four burly webbing grab handles
  • Eight side panel web lashing points securing duffel or attaching gear
  • Four lower web lashing points for securing duffels
  • Large, lockable U-zip access to main compartment
  • Weather-protected main compartment zip path with overlapping rain flaps
  • Stowaway contoured harness and yoke for comfortable backpack carry
  • D-ring attachments for adding a shoulder strap (sold separately for 95 & 130)
  • Internal webbing straps to compress and secure gear
  • Internal zippered mesh side panel pocket

The fabrics used are as follows:

  • Main 800D Nylon TPU Double Coated.
  • Accent – 360/400D Nylon TPU Double Coated
  • Bottom -800D Nylon TPU Double Coated

Below are a few photos and descriptions of some of the standout features, well in my eyes anyway. To be fair all of the features are pretty useful.

The main locking zipper is a nice tough. It amazes me that some duffels forego this simple but very important feature. The fabric from the lid and the strip below overlaps the main zipper. This provides weather protection, but also assists with keeping the zipper clean and better guarded.

The first images above shows the recessed (black) buckle attachment point for the lower end of the backpack strap, whilst the grey buckle secures the lid. Having these (there’s one on each side) extra points both adds further security but also takes a fair amount of the stress off the zipper. The lid opening is wide and inside you’ll find internal compression/lashing straps which are a thoughtful addition, but take up no real space or weight.

This is the storage cell the Transporters come in. Which whilst offering a compact place to store your bag, also serves as a handy packing cell! The sneaky internal mesh pocket is always favourite, dont forget it’s there.

There are four big grab handles on the bag, which make carrying, moving or loading it a breeze. Much nicer than an awkward wrestle as I’ve encounter with other bags. They’re comfortable to hold for longer periods too.

Backpack Mode

One feature that has become fairly standard on gear duffels is some manner of backpack carry option. This tends to range from a couple of webbing straps vaguely sewn in such a fashion that allows the bag to be mounted on your back. Ranging all the way up to cleverly designed harness that provides comfortable and practical backpack carry. You guessed it, Osprey have certainly placed the Transporter in the happy end of that spectrum. Inside that wide-opening top lid you will find a stow-able backpack harness par excellence. Simply unzip the compartment, pull out the straps clipping the male lower buckle to the colour coded female buckle. Then clip the load lifting yoke to the (again colour coded) matching grey buckle. Repeat for the other side and just like that, you have a backpack! There’s even a adjustable sternum strap (with whistle). The result is one of if not the best backpack harness solutions I’ve used on a a big gear hauling duffel. Super simple to deploy too. Then when it’s not required, simply pack away and you can even use that lid pocket for a bit of extra external storage.

There were easily a dozen occasions on this trip where the backpack harness came in handy. Mostly navigating airports and getting between the car and our various accommodations. Of ocurse a fully loaded 95 or 130 Transporter is a big bag and all the weight rests squarely on your shoulders. But for those times where you just need to hump a load around, it’s a very respectable option.

Initial Thoughts

Admittedly I have a rather large collection of duffels and similar gear hauling bags. But I’m picky, and there are some aspects of other bags that just drive me nuts. The new Osprey Transporter however is without a doubt one of the best I’ve used. It has the perfect mixture of burliness and function, and so far has proven worthy to remain near the top of the pile. All of the features have an important job, and there are a lot of features. But despite this the bag doesn’t seem ‘over engineered’ and still retains that functional simplicity one comes to expect from a trusty gear hauler. Everything still operates as new after two weeks on the road (and in the air) with just a few scuff marks to show. Moving them around in rain or snow was never a concern, the fabrics are burly and very weather resistant, as is the design in general. Of course it’s too early to gauge long-term durability, but I’m confident the Transporter will be a tough character. One little gripe I had is that it’s not overly rigid, by that I mean when empty the bag sags under it’s own weight and can make filling it a bit awkward. It’s not a deal breaker, but did annoy me a few times. However the other bags I have that mange to avoid this issue are significantly heavier and bulkier.

OK so maybe this first trip with the Transporters was fairly tame, but it was wet, snowy and muddy at times. I am however looking forward to giving these duffels some more rough treatment in the future. Right now the big red one is simultaneously being unpacked from Tassie and re-loaded for a climbing trip to the Warrumbungles. Let the adventures continue!

SHOP OSPREY TRANSPORTER

 

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About The Author

Lachlan Gardiner

Lachlan works as a freelance photographer, writer and videographer. He loves spending time in the outdoors whenever possible - be it hiking, mountaineering, climbing, or just being on the road - He'll take any excuse to get into the mountains! He also works in our Paddy Pallin store in Fortitude valley, Brisbane. Drop in and say hi!

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