How To Turn Your Daypack Into A Traveling Office

No one is ever going to accuse me of being a tech junkie. But as a journalist, I’ve had to temper my Luddite proclivities so that I can earn a living while on the road.

Compounding the issue is my essential frugality and innate dirtbag tendencies. I only travel with a backpack, using a daypack in lieu of a purse. For low-maintenance or business/pleasure-combo travelers such as myself (although I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of ditching business attire and trappings; I’ve been known to stuff a nice computer bag and dress-to-impress items into my backpack), a daypack easily transforms into a portable office.

Because I also keep my passport, money, credit cards, camera, cellphone, adaptor, and other essential documents and items on my person at all times, it also means my netbook is never left behind. This serves the dual function of ensuring I have access to a computer should I need to edit a story or file a deadline, as well as alleviates theft concerns due to entrusting my valuables to my room or hotel safe. If you’re a budget traveler, I firmly believe it’s better to risk carrying anything of value on your person than entrusting them to the vagaries of youth hostels, dodgy guesthouses, or cheap hotels.

The key to creating a user-friendly portable office lies in choosing the right daypack. I’ve written before about my preference for using hydration packs, because if you remove the bladder, it creates a space to safely store documents. I’m 5’2′, so I also require a woman’s pack, and because most of my trips include some form of outdoor activity, I like having a hip belt (the zip pockets of which double as holders for my mouse and cellphone cord), and multiple exterior and interior pockets.

I highly recommend the hydration daypacks made by Osprey and Gregory. They’re incredibly durable, and have useful bells and whistles. I’m not a fan of CamelBak, as I’ve found they don’t hold up well. The brand and style are up to you, but do check to see if the pack you’re contemplating comes with a raincover. If not, it’s a wise investment, and will spare you the anguish of waterlogged gear and devices.

[Photo credit: Flickr user incase]

Gadling gear review: The Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack

As an active traveler, I have grown to have a certain affinity for backpacks. In fact, I have one for just about every occasion, ranging from small daypacks for short hikes on local trails to full-on expedition level packs designed for weeks, or even months, in the field. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate a well designed, versatile pack that not only fits well, but also offers you plenty of storage options in an easy to access and clearly defined way. With the right pack, an active trip can be a very pleasant experience, while the wrong pack can be an endless source of frustration.

Recently, whenever I’ve been in the market for a new pack, I’ve found myself gravitating to those made by Osprey, a company that has been designing great outdoor gear for nearly four decades. A few months back, I added their Stratos 24 daypack to my gear closet, and after testing it out extensively on three continents, I can honestly say that I’m in love.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Stratos 24, or pretty much any Osprey pack for that matter, is the fantastic build quality. These are packs that are built to last and they can withstand whatever you throw at them. Case in point, in the five months I’ve owned my Stratos, I’ve taken it cross country skiing in Yellowstone, hiking in Colorado, on safari in South Africa, and volcano climbing in Chile, not to mention a couple of day hikes in Texas as well. After all of those adventures, it still looks practically brand new, with nary a scuff mark on it.The second thing that you’re likely to notice about the Stratos is that there are an awful lot of belts, straps, and chords dangling from the pack. These can be a bit daunting at first, especially if this is your first outdoor oriented bag, but they each have a purpose that becomes clear when you start to adjust them. For instance, as you would expect, the Stratos has a belt that goes around your waist, as well as a strap that crosses your chest. When both of these are used in conjunction with the adjustable shoulder straps, you’ll be able to accurately fit the pack to your body, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. There are also straps for carrying an ice axe (handy for the serious climber) and a pair of external belts for strapping gear, such as a pair of snowshoes, to the outside of the bag as well. Add in a tow loop for the adventure racing crowd, and gear loops for your trekking poles, and it can be a dizzying affair just to get acquainted with the pack. But after using it a time or two, it’ll all make sense, and you’ll be adjusting everything with ease.

Osprey didn’t skimp on the storage options either, as the Stratos includes a large internal compartment for carrying most of your gear, along with two zippered pockets on the pack itself. Additionally, there are two small mesh pockets on the hipbelt, as well as another on the right shoulder strap, that help keep small items, such as energy bars, a multi-tool or a camera, within easy reach. I personally appreciated all of these options, as the pack allows me to comfortably carry all of my important gear, including a DSLR camera, extra clothing, food, and more. Other features include a built in hydration sleeve that holds a two liter water bladder and an integrated raincover that helps keep your gear dry in inclement weather.

One of the more impressive aspects of the Stratos is the ventilation system built onto the back of the pack itself. Designed to help keep you cool by allowing air to flow, between your body and the bag, this system proves to be a most welcome addition on trips to warmer climes. I’ve used similar ventilation options on larger backpacks before, but this is the first time I’ve encountered such an effective one on a smaller daypack. On longer adventures, it can really make a difference in how comfortable you are on the trail.

The Stratos is a very versatile pack that works well not only on the trail, but as a carry-on item on a plane as well. When I’ve used it while traveling, I’ve loaded it up with my laptop, iPad, DSLR, lenses, and other fragile equipment I simply don’t want to risk checking with the airlines. Fortunately this lightweight bag offers plenty of capacity to comfortably carry all of that gear as well, and it still fits nicely under the seat in front of you. That means that when I reach my destination, I can take out the tech gadgets, throw in my outdoor gear, and head off for the wilderness without the need of yet one more pack.

If I had one knock against the Stratos however, it would be that all of those belts and straps that I mentioned above are excessively long and can get in the way at times. In fact, after I’ve adjusted them to fit my body, they still tend to dangle all over the place. This became a bit of an issue recently when I fed the pack through an x-ray machine at an airport, and one of the straps got caught in the conveyor belt. Needless to say, the TSA agent was not amused.The issue can be avoided by shortening the straps when not using the pack on the trail, but it is a bit inconvenient to have to adjust them so often.

Other than that, the Stratos is quite possibly the best daypack I’ve ever used. Everything about this bag demonstrates refinement that only comes from years of evolving design and a clear understanding of the needs of your customers. Osprey has built a pack that is versatile, comfortable, and nearly indestructible. They even back it up with a lifetime guarantee. What more could ask for out of any piece of travel gear?

The Osprey Stratos 24 retails for $99 and is also available in a 26, 34, and 36 liter sizes as well.