We have long loved Granite Gear’s overnight packs for backpacking (in fact, our son took the Granite Gear Lutsen on a trek across Oregon last summer). Worth checking out for 2017, however, is their Cross Trek series for travel, and their Cross Trek 36 liter backpack in particular.
The Cross Trek 36 L is a hefty pack, with just about every bell and whistle you could want. It’s not your lightweight, stuff-into-its-own-pocket type travel backpack, but rather your go-to pack to carry all the stuff you need to get there. Now, the Cross Trek could be used as a day pack (for touring a city or a day in a national park, for instance), because it has useful side compression straps that can slim it down when you’re not over-stuffing it, but we’ve been using ours as a carry-on for international travel and as the family travel workhorse: i.e., it carries all the gear needed for a family for the day, and yeah, usually Mom carries it.
How the Cross Trek backpack performs: I used the Cross Trek when I needed to bring kid-gear along on an all-day airplane travel day. The 36 liters is really spacious, and certainly enough room for books, music, various gadgets, and a few clothing items x three kids. It didn’t quite fit under the airplane seat when full, but easily slid into the overhead. My teenage son even used the Cross Trek as his only bag on a weekend trip, so that’s definitely a possibility as well.
The Cross Trek does well on travel days because in addition to very supportive and comfortable backpack straps, it has a side handle so you can carry it like a duffel if needed (useful if you already have a smaller backpack you need to carry). The aforementioned compression straps lock things down and there are multiple pockets for everything from a laptop (17″ or smaller) to your cell phone and keys. You get a pass-through slot on the back so you could slide the Cross Trek over the handle of a roller bag for easy transport through the airport, and a padded, multi-pocket organizer for all the little items that accumulate when you travel with kids.
The outer material is weather-resistant, so if the bag sits on a tarmac for a while (if gate-checked, for instance) it won’t get wet in a reasonable amount of rain or snow, and all the openings gape nice and wide when you need to get to them (I hate it when backpacks only open partway). The backpack sits well on its own, so it won’t fall over when you need to set it down.
Overall, use this Cross Trek as the family pack horse for a trip, or as your only pack if you travel solo. It’s only $99 from Granite Gear, and comes in gray, black, or a brighter blue. As noted above, it is part of a travel series of packs that includes several wheeled bags as well.