Finding a bag that meets my criteria has been difficult.
Bags / suitcases with wheels I've found to be completely impractical, because I'm not going over smooth surfaces most of the time. A real full-on backpack has a couple of disadvantages -- one, it kind of looks stupid on a middle-aged guy. Two, in general travel, you're often slinging your bag on and off frequently, and getting a backpack properly sitting and strapped on takes a bit longer than I liked. A usual one-shoulder-strap duffle bag, however, is inconvenient for periods of longer carry, putting you off balance and also usually pretty uncomfortable.
So I had hopes for this baby:
The Snugpak Kit Monster. I was off course eager to put some affiliate links to Amazon up, but my account is based in a home state that doesn't permit such chicanery. C'est la vie. (I got mine at the Sportsman's Guide website, which will also not give me any percentage if you buy something there.)
I of course liked the name Snugpak Kit Monster! but it also had a lot of things that I'd always been looking for. It has a padded shoulder strap AND a couple of padded chest straps for the heavy-duty walking. Compression straps? Nice idea. Heavy duty handles fore and aft, so that you can pick it up from different angles? Yeah now there you go! That's something I'd been looking for.
And you can usually find one on sale for $50, so it won't break the bank of even the most underemployed of English teacher.
I've been using it basically since last October, and been on the road pretty steadily all that time. A 2-month heavy duty backpacking expedition in Peru and Ecuador, a one-month easy duty trip to Prague, Karlovy Vary and Budapest, a one-month easy-travel in Cyrus, and then a 3-week moderately-heavy-duty voyage to Sri Lanka, followed by an easy week in Dubai and then a month in Thailand.
I liked the design and carry of it pretty well. The side flap-opening allowed easy access, the zippers were heavy-duty and you could lock the zipper tabs to a steel loop for security, and the padded straps were pretty damn fucking comfy. The abundance of straps and loops and hoists meant you could easily pick it up from any angle. The only thing I didn't like were the outer pockets, which were too small for my tastes. There's a mesh compartment on the underside of the opening flap though, which is quite cool.
Sadly though, the fucker is already failing on me. The canvas flap over the zipper is ripped and starting to come off, and it's got a rapidly-widening hole in it on one of the seams near the strap I usually carry it by. I sewed the bastard shut with dental floss, as you do, but I'm not sure if I'll be buying another one of these. Not exactly a catastrophic failure, but you think it would last at least a year.
Anybody have any recommendations about a backpack / carryall that really kicks ass, drop a comment.