- Peter Scott & Monica Kong
The BEST Carry-On Travel Backpack: Eagle Creek Global Companion 40L Review
CAPACITY: 40 Liters /2440 cu in
DIMENSIONS: 35 x 55 x 20 cm (13.75 x 21.5 x 8 in)
WEIGHT: 1.62 kg (3 lbs 9 oz)
MATERIALS: 450D Geo Ripstop, Bi-Tech, 600D Helix Polyester
WARRANTY: No Matter What™
PRICE: $160 USD ($215 CDN)
(NOTE: NO affiliate links or sponsorships. This is just our honest opinion we wanted to share!)
One of the first things we looked into purchasing when we decided to travel long-term, was backpacks. A lot of research went into finding the perfect carry-on as we wanted to travel light and avoid having to check in luggage and the hassles that come with it.
Our criteria was fairly simple: 40L, COMFORTABLE, good ORGANIZATION, reasonable PRICE and high QUALITY. We looked at a ton of reviews, YouTube videos, and tried on several at different stores. Deciding on our backpack was the single most time consuming decision as far as travel gear was concerned! In the end, we had it narrowed down to 3 top contenders: the Tortuga Outbreaker, the Osprey Farpoint, and the Eagle Creek Global Companion. Here is why we chose the latter.
We wanted some thick, comfortable straps with a substantial hip belt so we could walk a fair distance with ease.
The shoulder straps are nicely padded with adjustable load lifter straps on the top which keeps the pack closer to your back and noticeably redistributes the weight, making the load feel lighter.
The hip belt is hefty! Similar to those you would find on a mountaineering pack, as the majority of the weight will be placed on your hips, this will save your shoulders and back a lot of strain.
The hip belt has pull-forward tighteners, making it easy to cinch it snuggly. It even has a zippered pocket for small items you want to have easily accessible.
There is an adjustable sternum strap as well, which we have found to be a must with significant loads. BONUS! There is a whistle on the sternum buckle.
The straps are not removable and do not stow away but we have not found this to be an issue as we always have our bags with us and do not put them on airport conveyor belts.
This backpack opens up like a book, with two mesh-enclosed, main compartments. This feature is really what sold us. It is very easy to see and access all your belongings and the mesh keeps them from spilling out when you open it up. Too often we have found ourselves staying somewhere with no drawers, closet or hangers, so it is nice not to have to empty the contents of your backpack but be able to access everything easily.
The compartment on the front side of the backpack is slightly smaller than the back side, but it all depends on how much space is utilized in the other pockets. For instance, if you have a large laptop on the designated back pocket, or a pair of shoes on the outer front pocket, then it cuts into the space of the main inner compartments.
The rectangular shape of the main compartments makes it easy to find the perfect configuration for your packing cubes. We use "Gonex" compression cubes.
One of our favourite features is a lockable zipper that allows top access to the larger of the 2 main compartments as well as the laptop compartment. This is especially convenient when going through security screening for quick laptop access and pulling out your toiletries with liquids.
There are two zippered compartments on the front, with mesh pockets inside for storing and organizing smaller items, like pens, electronic cables, etc. Only the right side can be locked, and includes a padded pocket for fragile items like your phone.
The DOWNSIDE: the locking is awkward to use and ideally requires a flexible wire lock. The pockets are also curved and don't open all the way wide making it less convenient to see and access your items.
There is a pocket in between the two front compartments made of stretchy mesh and an adjustable metal hook enclosure that is useful for items like a hat or rain jacket (photo below) that you want to have handy or let dry. This pocket is quite wide and deep, filling the space behind the two zippered compartments and landing all the way down to the bottom zippered shoe pocket.
There is a small, pocket on the top front where the Eagle Creek brand is labeled. It surprisingly holds more volume than it appears as it is not flat up against the back. We use this pocket for things we want to keep easily accessible on the go, like emergency snacks for the kids.
There are also two mesh side pockets for holding a small (500ml or less) water bottle. The DOWNSIDE: Our 1L Nalgene bottle does not fit, so we attach a separate water bottle holder on the side buckle.
There is a non-lockable bottom compartment meant to keep your shoes or dirty laundry separate from the rest of your pack. I also store my daypack in here for easy access. It is quite a HUGE pocket, but if filled to the max, it will cut into the space of the inner main compartment.
This is another area where the Global Companion really stands out against other bags we looked at. To start, it is easily accessible from a top zipper that is also lockable. It is actually in the main compartment and does not take up a significant amount of space like some other brands.
The laptop compartment sits against the back which gives it extra protection with the thick padding that makes wearing this bag so comfortable. It also provides better weight distribution, making the load feel lighter. This is one of the reasons we did not choose the Osprey Farpoint 40 as they place the laptop/tablet compartment on the outside of the bag, leaving one of your most valuable possessions more vulnerable.
A feature that is not always available is a false bottom in the laptop compartment. This helps protect your laptop from hitting the ground,
The Eagle Creek Global Companion is a rugged pack that is very well put together. We have been using it for nearly 12 months thus far and we have had no issues with anything wearing or breaking. Dust it off and it looks as good as new.
The outside is made from 450D Geo Ripstop polyester and the bottom is a heavy duty, waterproof fabric. This is a nice feature since the bottom is what gets the most wear and tear as it gets set down on many questionable surfaces. We also appreciate the velcro flap enclosure to hide and protect the zipper.
All of this is covered by Eagle Creek's "No Matter What Warranty", that "covers the Lifetime Warranty promise plus the added insurance of repair or replacement due to product failure during the product lifetime, regardless of the cause."
The built-in RAIN COVER, located on the bottom of the bag, will not only keep your bag dry and clean but it provides additional security. It can obscure the pack's good looks to would-be thieves, and prevents them from knowing where any of the zippers even are. You can also put the raincover on backwards, covering the straps and preventing them from getting caught on a conveyor belt if you do need to check your luggage.
The Global Companion comes in both a UNISEX and WOMEN'S model. The latter is designed with a narrower shoulder strap profile and the hip belt is tilted for comfort.
There are thickly padded HANDLES on the top and side of the pack to make it easy to carry, or take in and out of an overhead bin or car trunk.
Other Contenders and Why We Didn't Buy Them
There are plenty of awesome carry-on, travel backpacks out there and more are coming on the market every day. We narrowed it down to three and these are the two that did not make the cut.
The Tortuga Outbreaker 45L: $300 USD ($400 CDN)
Expensive, at almost twice the price, this was hard to swallow.
No way of trying it and seeing it beforehand - you can only purchase it online.
Too expensive to return it for a refund. If we didn't like it and returned it, we would be out $100 CDN in shipping as we live outside the USA.
One large, main compartment. Does not open like a book.
They either come in 35L, which seemed just a tad too small for us, or 45L which for certain strict airlines, we risk checking our baggage instead of carry-on.
The Osprey Farpoint: $160 USD ($215 CDN)
No built-in rain cover.
Round shape compared to square. Not as easy to fit packing cubes.
Less comfortable shoulder and hip straps, when we tried it.
Laptop compartment on the outside of the bag.
Lack of small, organizational pockets.
One large, main compartment. Does not open like a book.
The Eagle Creek Global Companion has been serving us well for a year on the road and beyond. We have taken it on airplanes, trains, buses, boats and taxis with no trouble whatsoever. They still look new and feel comfortable even when they are heavy. There are a few small things we would change if we could, but they are negligible. We would definitely recommend looking into the Global Companion if you plan on travelling with carry-on luggage only as they are the most comfortable, quality, 40L packs with great organization at the right price point.