Wildcraft Travel Duffle Bag – Voyager – Review after use

Wildcraft Travel Duffle Bag – Voyager – Review after use

The day we decided to walks around the Mt Blanc massif (popularly known as TMB – Tour de Mont Blanc), I had visions of lugging an ill-fitting and ungainly trekking duffel around. From past experience using such a pack, I shuddered at the thought of my trek being wrecked by the suffering this piece of equipment would heap on me. Not only would I not enjoy the trip, but a trepidation would be gnawing at my mind constantly.  I decided I was not going to compromise on the duffel I would buy for TMB.

 

For a 60 day desert expedition earlier, I had bought myself a 60 litres trekking sack that helpfully opened on its belly, just like a duffel. I managed to fit in my entire kit it with some items poking out here and there, but all within. However the whole convenience was defeated by the weak fabric it was made up of and the fact that none of the belts or handles were adjustable. I struggled to haul the pack around during expedition, on the airports, on train stations and on streets. I realized that the belts were too long for my torso and hence it would never be a good fit. As a result, the weight was not well distributed and thus the pack was not easy to mount on my back. It kept flopping around and gave me a back ache.

 

Half way through the expedition, the side pocket of the pack tore, making it useless to store smaller things in. I taped it up with duct tape as best as I could and hope it held for the remaining duration. Next it was the turn of the other side pocket which I similarly patched up. I was not sure the pack would last the expedition, but somehow it did. The moment I was back in the country, I sold it off and vowed to thoroughly research and buy my next expedition pack.

When we were planning for TMB, the kit pack was one of my critical buying decisions. I looked at all the top brands, explored the opportunity to have them ship it to India. My top selection criteria was easy of reaching my kit inside, easy of re-packing, durability – handling and weather, smart pockets and most importantly ease of moving it around without strain. I looked at duffel packs that were too much like luggage, with hard spines for the trolley. On most expeditions, pack animals carry your kit. It is important for packs to be soft and hard edges or spines should not poke the animals. Yet, I wanted wheels so that it was breeze to move the pack around. The pack had to be duffel type so that reaching stuff would be easy, but it also had to have usefully placed pockets that would hold small kit items.

During one of my searches on the internet, I came across a duffel by Wildcraft- Travel Duffel Bag – Voyager. It was duh?! moment, since I already was using a Wildcraft messenger bag for quite some time and for some reason did not think of looking up their product range. Our fascination with western brands is well entrenched, until some years ago those were the expeditioners’ only options. I was happy to check out Wildcraft duffels.

They had helpfully added dimension information on the website, along with an image of a person holding the bag. This helped me get a size and volume perspective. The duffel had wheels, that did not stick far out and the pull handle was a soft one. It was a really nifty product on wheels without a spine. Not satisfied with the web images, I made a beeline for the Wildcraft store in Phoenix Market City in Viman Nagar, Pune. I went there really early since I had to go to office after the visit. The store had half its shutter down before they opened for the day. However, upon my request the store manager let me in. I saw the pack right away. It was just I had imagined it – unobtrusive wheels, easy to pick handles, and weight well distributed. It felt solid to hold and carry around. Here is a feature based review of the Wildcraft Travel Duffel Bag – Voyager:

  1. Build – sturdy and solid. The duffel feels good to hold and the handles are strongly stitched in. There are reinforcing patches in the right places and soft grips to hold. The fabric may not be weather proof but is built to last. The seams and joints are cleanly stitched and if you over stuff the compartments for a bit, the pack takes the strain. I purchased a rain cover for the pack separately since the material is rain resistant, not rain proof. The wheels work well on most surfaces, smooth and rough. I did not and will not try moving it around on gravel or similar surfaces.
  2. Carrying around – The pack has regular handles, a shoulder sling that can be removed and a pull handle on its head. It is easy to hoist on the shoulders, though I prefer to pull it around. Its carry handles cannot double up as back straps, they are close to the pack body to allow any space. They should not be used that way either – the shoulder strap and wheels do the job well. The pack can stand up by itself or can be laid flat. Because it lacks a spine, the pack sometimes bends over while standing, but does not topple.
  3. Fitting things in – the main compartment is roomy and can fit in a lot. I had fit in my entire set of clothes, bedding, toiletries, warm clothes, hiking gear, an extra pair of shoes, camp sandals, goodies and several knick knacks for a 13 day treks in the pack without it straining at the sides. I had used packing cubes to segregate the items, especially clothing. The side pockets took in things like duct tape, socks and smalls, compass, moisturizer bottles, among others. I used the top pocket to fit in the first aid kit, maps and a book. After all this, there was room for some shopping to be added to it at the end. If you use some common sense while packing, the duffel sits pretty with all your stuff gobbled up inside. Using cubes is also a great idea to organize you kit.
  4. Comparisons – of the expedition duffels sold by other prominent Western brands, I found there was none like this. TNFs, Mammuts, Columbias may have smarter looking, weatherproof packs, but when you need to lug them around daily over a distance, wheels become indispensable. Those packs also had well thought of pocket organization – quick reach, clips inside, pockets for specific items and so on. However, my main criteria was mobility. Also, the shape of those packs in some cases was box like, which might fit in more kit items, but then that does not encourage smart packing. I like to rise to the challenge of packing in a way where each item has more than one use. Without compromising on essential items of my kit, the Voyager allowed me to pack efficiently for the trek as well as move it around easily.
  5. Improvements – In this department there are only two suggestions I’d make to the manufacturers. More color options – I’d love to see brighter shades to go with the overall grey. And a cover flap on the zip of the main compartment. The flap will prevent rain water or spillage from seeping in. The fabric may be resistant but the zip remains a vulnerable area.

Needless to say, the pack gave me peace of mind on the trek. I knew my stuff was in easy reach and that I did not have to break my back lugging it around. The pack comfortably survived the trek, all handling by the movers, air travel as checked in luggage, and made it home with barely a scratch. Now, it is ready for the next adventure.

All images copyright Wildcraft.

 

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