(UPDATE: This post is about a slightly older version of this bag. Osprey came out with an updated version that fixed my number one complaint – the location of the laptop sleeve. Wooo!!! FYI, I’ve updated the links in this post to direct you to the latest design, since I can no longer find the old one on Amazon. Unfortunately, the price has also gone up… but $120 is still totally worth it for this bag!)
Before we left, everyone thought we were crazy for taking such a small bag. But I had researched backpacks obsessively, so I stuck to my guns. It was 30L or bust.
As it turns out, that was the best decision that we could have possibly made. I love my bag, probably to a somewhat unhealthy degree, and I never want to travel internationally for an extended period of time with anything else. It’s my new travel BFF, and I refuse to leave home without it.
I know you probably don’t believe that this is the best bag ever, so I’ll try to convince you.
But I won’t try that hard. Because I secretly love watching travelers with 60L backpacks or, God forbid, rolling luggage, strugglebussing their way through train stations, along cobbled city sidewalks, and up several flights of stairs. (#Sorrynotsorry for laughing at your misfortune. You did this to yourself.)
Okay, I should probably write a quick disclaimer.
This might NOT be the bag for you if you are: high maintenance, insanely wealthy, or have severe back problems. It also might not be the #1 bag for people who are planning to do a lot of hiking or camping as they travel. (Though, for the record, I would love to be proven wrong on all of these counts!)
This IS a fantastic bag if you are: traveling for an extended period of time, backpacking on a budget, using various forms of transportation (airplanes, buses, trains, boats), are okay with going minimalist, and you want to travel cheaper, lighter, and smarter.
So let’s break this down. What makes the 30L Osprey Porter so great? Does it float behind you as you walk, Harry Potter style? Does it inexplicably refill with peanut butter M&M’s every time you zip it up? Does it double as a parachute if you need to make an emergency exit from a low flying aircraft?
No. But it’s still amazing. I promise.
CARRY ON SIZE
To me, 30L is the best possible size. It fits everything I need, with a little bit of extra room. You do have to be somewhat careful with what you pack, but if you’re doing long-term, minimalist travel, you should be paying attention to that anyway. (For example: merino wool clothing instead of cotton, multi-use items, fold-up/compressible gear, and only taking must-have’s rather than your would-be-nice items.)
This backpack also meets the smaller carry on requirements for budget airlines like Ryanair, Vueling, and Easyjet, so you don’t have to pay extra fees to check your bag. That means your €20 budget flight from Pisa to Brussels is actually €20!
Standard “carry on size” American suitcases are too big to fit these strict guidelines. And many budget airlines also charge per kilo when checking bags, so the heavier your bag is, the more you’ll pay. (Don’t get tricked by this!)
You’ll always pay less to travel when you have this bag. And the beauty of the Osprey Porter is that it easily fits in any airplane’s overhead compartment, but can also go under the seat in a pinch.
This means that it also easily fits on the overhead luggage racks on buses and trains, and again, you won’t have to pay any extra fees on top of your ticket. Also, if you take a ferry or boat, you can put your bag on your lap, instead of leaving it in some shady “luggage zone” and hoping someone doesn’t jack it. (Nobody guards those. You are just relying on everyone else to be as honest as you are.)
Overall, a smaller size means taking less stuff (a good thing, I promise!), a lighter load when you’re carrying it around for several weeks or months, and cheaper travel days. Plus, it will always be within sight, which means no worrying about a lost, delayed, or stolen bag.
OPENS LIKE A SUITCASE
Even if you don’t get this specific bag (but let’s be real, you should), please get one that opens like a suitcase. You want a backpack that you can lay flat, unzip, and pack/unpack without a hassle.
The Osprey Porter is beautiful because it has the horseshoe shaped zipper for the main compartment. So you don’t have to take out a million different items just to reach that one thing that fell to the bottom.
Again, just to be clear. Do not get a top loading backpack (unless you hate yourself and want to be miserable).
OPENS LIKE A SUITCASE, BUT IS NOT A SUITCASE
So you might be like… um why would I get a backpack at all? Suitcases open like suitcases. I’ll just buy one of those.
Personally, I think this is also a mistake. Suitcases typically have a rigid frame, which makes them harder to stuff into small spaces. They are also usually heavier (due to that same rigid frame, as well as the added wheels).
And on that note, let me tell you something. Wheels are not that great. They add unnecessary bulk and weight to your pack, aren’t actually that convenient, and when one of them inevitably breaks, you will be very sad.
If you’re traveling long-term outside of the United States, you will likely be covering a lot of different types of terrain. Most of the rest of the world does not have perfectly paved sidewalks. There are uneven cobblestones, gravel roads, tiny alleyways, and numerous flights of claustrophobic stairs. Backpacks offer much better mobility.
Backpacks also allow you be hands free when you’re on the go. Which makes it easy to check a map, carry a coffee, and give the flight attendant your boarding pass, instead of trying to juggle a million things while also keeping one hand on your suitcase.
ALL THE STRAPS
Straps on your backpack are a good thing. You want them. This is basic ergonomics.
Hip belt: This beautiful piece of fabric puts the majority of your backpack’s weight on your hips, rather than your back and shoulders. It redistributes the weight and allows your strong leg muscles do all the heavy lifting. This makes a huge difference, even for a relatively small 30L bag.
Chest strap: This strap takes even more of the weight off your shoulders, allowing you to distribute the weight of your backpack across more parts of your body. It also prevents your arm straps from shifting or slipping off your shoulders as you move around.
Padded arm straps: Comfy cozy. No straps digging into your flesh. Always a plus.
Compression straps: These are the straps on the outside of your bag that cinch everything nice and tight when you’re finished packing. They get rid of the unused space and make your whole backpack much more compact, even when you think you’ve stuffed it full. It’s also a great place to store a coat that might be too bulky for the main compartment. Just strap it in!
The Osprey Porter has all of these things. Plus, if you’re worried about any of the straps getting tangled or damaged, they are all hideaway. Which means they fold up completely into side compartments to transform this bag from a backpack into a regular duffel bag.
OSPREY IS LEGIT
I’m not a name brand snob. In fact, I can’t think of many things that are stupider than caring about the labels on your travel gear. But, that said… Osprey is legit.
This company has been around for 40+ years, and they make high quality gear that is made to last. They will handle repair requests, send you spare parts if something breaks, and have a guarantee that any manufacturing defects will be repaired or replaced for free.
A backpack with a solid reputation makes me feel better about the fact that every single thing I currently own is inside of it.
And as if this weren’t already an awesome backpack, it’s reasonably priced too!
Michael and I both have one, but bought them from Amazon at different times. We spent $82.46 on one and $91.03 on the other. (For reference, good travel backpacks are typically somewhere in the $100-300 range.)
Keep an eye on Amazon, and you can get a great deal.
(Again, note the update at the top of this page. I still think $120 is totally worth it.)
I don’t trust it to be completely waterproof. This is solved by buying a cheap rain cover.
The laptop sleeve is toward the outside of the bag. This is a slight bummer because laptops are heavy, and you typically want to pack them close to your body, so the center of gravity of your bag is as far forward as possible. This is solved by putting your laptop in the main compartment, rather than the laptop sleeve.
Some people might say that since this bag is only 30L, that’s a downside too. But for me, that’s one of the best things about the Osprey Porter. I know that if I got a bigger bag, I would fill it with unnecessary things. It would be bulkier, heavier, and more expensive to travel.
It also doesn’t magically float behind you, or refill with M&M’s, or double as a parachute. (These problems have not yet been solved.)
NEW TRAVEL BFF
Living out of this bag for the better part of a year has taught me that I really don’t need as much as I thought I did. It’s been a beautiful lesson in simplicity, minimalism, and discovering what’s really important in life. #CheesyButTrue
I know I’ve already told you guys how much I love this bag. And maybe I’ve even convinced some of you that it’s pretty awesome. It totally is. I’m obsessed.
But hopefully I haven’t completely convinced all travelers. Did you hear that? Go ahead and hang on to your big rolling luggage! (After all, I still need my entertainment on travel days.)
PSST! Still trying to figure out if this is the bag for you?
Check out these other posts to see *exactly* what fits in the Osprey Porter: