The Best Carry on Sized Travel Bag: Osprey Porter 46 vs Cotopaxi Allpa

Cotopaxi Allpa and the Osprey Porter 46 side by side Osprey Porter 46 review Cotopaxi Allpa review
Cotopaxi Allpa and the Osprey Porter 46 side by side on the streets of Haridwar India

In preparation for a recent trip to northern India, I kept asking myself the same question over and over. Which travel bag should I take on this adventure? I was traveling to India for work and this complicated things a little. My trip plans were to start in New Delhi and then travel north to the foothills of the Himalayas and then south again to the deserts of Rajasthan.  This trip was planned to be a 10-day marathon of trains, cities, meetings and Tuk Tuks. I needed to travel light and have enough room to carry several items needed for work.

Having been in India previously for a humanitarian mission I knew right off that my old faithful roller carry on was not going to cut it this time. At least that is what I told my wife when she asked why I needed another bag. Knowing that my wife will probably read this post here is my argument for why I need a new travel bag (Kristin be merciful).

  1. India is full of roller bag damaging obstacles. Foremost of these are cow pies. Need I say more? The streets are littered with cow dung. Cows are sacred in India and often roam the streets of even the biggest cities. You can’t roll your bag through that.
  2. There are also very few sidewalks in India. Having a roller bag would just impede your ability to maneuver around street vendors, stray dogs, and wild Tuk Tuks.
  3. This trip will involve every mode of transportation airplanes, trains, cars, hiking, and even the random elephant ride. I needed a travel bag that wouldn’t hold me back, no matter the mode of transportation.

Ok, pitch over, let’s get to the Osprey 46 review and the Cotopaxi Allpa review. My pitch must have worked because I got the ok to get a new bag. Now to the hard part of choosing a bag. This proved more difficult than I thought. There were several bags that could have worked for this trip. After what seemed like an exhaustive search of the web I had narrowed my bag selection down to the Osprey Porter 46 and the Cotopaxi Allpa. These bags both meet all my needs they were both carryon size (a must for my trip). They also had great reviews and were made by companies that I trust. They were also both bag that could be carried like a backpack. So this brought up another issue, how was I going to talk my wife into two new bags? I knew better than to even approach that land mine. I decided instead to convince my college into purchasing one of the bags. He would be traveling to India with me and this would allow me the opportunity to review the bag up close. This plan did run the risk of contracting bag envy but it was the only way I was going to get to see both bags in action. After some persuasion, we both bought our bags and set off on our 10 Journey in Northern India. Here is how each bag fared:

Osprey Porter 46 Review

 

Overview

The osprey porter 46 is a 46L carry-on bag that is carried like a backpack. If you have ever owned a bag made by osprey you know they are made to last. The osprey porter 46 is no exception to this. The construction was burly. I especially like the semi ridged sides that protect the bag’s contents from blows as well as from theft. The bag is designed with a large clam shell like compartment, a laptop compartment on the back panel and several other smaller pockets for electronics and other smaller items. The bag also has two integrated compression straps that help you pack everything in a little tighter. The back panel has two stow-able shoulder straps and a waist belt. With the use of my favorite packing cubes, I was able to fit all of my clothes and equipment in the Porter 45 without any trouble. In fact, there was so much room in this bag that I felt like I started to pack more things than I needed. After packing the bag up It weighed around 40 pounds. Even with that load on my back, the shoulder straps were comfortable. I ended up walking several miles each day with this bag on my back and I can honestly say that for the most part, this bag performed well with a few exceptions.

 

Pros

I loved the Osprey Porter 46. It had plenty of room for my travel needs. I have now used it on several different trips including a 7-day trip to Japan. On each trip, this bag has been comfortable and durable. Of the two bags this bag feels more durable and burley. I also loved the easy access to the laptop pocket on the back panel and the other organization pockets. This helped me keep my things organized and easy to access. I also loved the semi ridged sides on this pack. They not only improve the durability of the bag but when they are buckled down by the compression straps they hide the zippers on the bag acting as an anti-theft system. This was a nice feature to have while I was navigating my way through crowds of people in the New Delhi Train Station a place notorious for pickpockets.

Cons

            Even though I loved this bag there were a few things about the bag that started to bug me by the end of the trip. First was the compression straps. Though they worked well as an antitheft system they also made it hard to access even the smallest pockets without unbuckling them. This is a minor complaint but I got tired of taking the bag off and unbuckling it just to get a charging cord or something small out. I also missed having a water bottle pouch (something that can be added to the Cotopaxi Allpa). I also found that the main compartment of the bag fit so many things that I was constantly digging through the bag to find what I wanted and then repacking it again.  The final complaint I have about this bag is the lack of a breathable back panel. I feel like this bag would benefit greatly from the addition of some breathable material on the back panel.

Cotopaxi Allpa Review

Overview

            The Cotopaxi Allpa also performed well in India. This pack is slightly smaller than the Osprey Porter 46 at 35 L but you would never know it. This bag also fit everything I needed for the 10-day India trip and also fit well in the overhead compartment. The construction on this bag is also very durable with a TPU outer shell that is water resistant and tough. We put both of these bags through some major abuse and both bags look great with little signs of wear. Unlike the Osprey bag, the Allpa is designed to open up like a traditional carry-on bag with a three-sided zipper that when unzipped lets the bag open up flat on the floor.  The bag also has several organization compartments including a laptop pocket on the back panel. There is also nifty antitheft zipper pull through for each zipper.

 

Pros

            The Cotopaxi Allpa Shines in the area of the organization. I had to use packing cubes to pack the Osprey pack and keep everything organized. The Allpa has packing cub like compartments built in. This keeps items organized and packed efficiently. I also really liked how the Allpa opened up flat on the floor. This made access to the contents of the bag easy a stark contrast from the Osprey Porter 46. I also liked the breathable back pad and shoulder straps. This made long hauls in the heat a little more bearable. This bag also came with a detachable water bottle carrier a huge bonus in a hot country like India.

Cons

            I had a hard time finding anything negative to say about this bag. It really did perform well. There are however a few things that I think could be improved. First The shoulder straps though breathable and comfortable lacked adjustment straps. This made the bag feel like it was hanging off of my shoulders and back even with the waist straps on. I think this could be improved with the addition of some adjustment straps at the top of the shoulder straps similar to the Osprey Porter 46. This would make the bag feel more secure on the back and more comfortable over the long term. I also felt like there were too many compartments in the Allpa. This did help with organization but when initially packing the bag it took some extra work to figure out where everything fit.

Conclusion

            Picking a winner out of these two bags was a really tough decision. Both the Osprey Porter 46 and the Cotopaxi Allpa performed well and met the needs of the trip. Both bags were durable and had plenty of room while still fitting in the overhead compartment. There are features of each bag that I really liked and disliked. In reality,

both of these bags would be a great purchase. If I were to state a winner in this battle I would choose the Cotopaxi Allpa based on the ease of access and organization options. Cotopaxi has done a really nice job designing this bag.

Hope this review helps you in your search for the perfect travel bag. If you have used one of these bags please share your thoughts on the bag in the comments section. Happy travels!

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