Osprey has updated its Porter product line with a new design, which I recently put to the test on my latest trip through Southeast Asia.
The Porter is one of Osprey’s best-selling products and it’s easy to see why, as it’s a sturdy backpack with a lot of organizational features and it’s ideal for many types of trips.
It is almost carry-on size. Technically, its sturdy frame makes it an inch (or centimeter) or two too big. In practice, it’s possible to fly with the Osprey 46 as carry-on luggage with all but the most stringent airlines.
- It opens from the side rather than the top for easy access
- Thick walls that stand up even if there’s nothing inside.
- Laptop compartment is in the back
- More pockets and organizational features than the Farpoint
- It lacks any back padding
- The stowable waist and shoulder straps are relatively thin
- The colors are not true to the product photos
Porter compared to Farpoint
At first glance, the Porter 46 may seem similar to Osprey’s other wildly popular backpack, the Farpoint 40 (see my review of the Farpoint 40). They’re both carry-on size, both intended mainly for traveling (rather than hiking or commuting), and they both cost roughly the same.
But… they are also designed from slightly different starting points. The Porter 46 is essentially a duffel bag that evolved into a backpack. The design of the Farpoint stems a bit more from trekking backpacks, featuring a bigger and more padded harness.
I’ve owned both backpacks and I’d say the Farpoint is slightly more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. However, the Porter 46 has many more clever touches on the inside, with many more pockets and organizational features that make it much easier to store all your travel items.
Thanks to its sturdiness, its great variety of useful pockets, and the new (much better) inner placing of the laptop compartment, I think the Porter 46 is a more fully-featured carry-on bag.
Porter 46 features overview
The Porter 46 is a duffel-style backpack with a main compartment that opens like a clamshell. In other words, you zip it open from the side, not from the top. I always like this as it provides quick and easy access to all your clothing and other main travel items.
The walls of the Porter 46 are thick and stand up even if there’s nothing inside. It’s maybe not quite as malleable as other backpacks, but it holds its shape very nicely and your items feel rather snugly protected inside its padded shell.
The main compartment is just a big space for you to fill however you see fit, but I’ll give a tip of the hat to the two small zipped pockets on the sides for smaller items. If you buy some packing cubes, you can organize this space a little more.
There are two pockets on the outside, plus this integrated travel organizer. There are spaces here for a smartphone, pens, and other smaller travel items.
I love the inclusion of this organizer and it’s much better than the more basic travel organizer on the Farpoint 40.
The laptop compartment is located on the back. I think this is much better than placing this on the front, as is common with most backpacks.
Not only are your electronics much more protected and not as easily stolen, it’s also better placed in terms of balancing the weight. With other backpacks such as the Farpoint 55, I’ve often felt like the bag got a little wobbly when putting laptops or other electronics in their outer pocket. With the Porter 46, I never felt this way. It just makes sense to have heavier items closer to your back.
Is it comfortable to wear?
So far, so good, but the Porter 46 does have some minor weaknesses.
Firstly, it lacks any back padding. The stowable waist and shoulder straps are also relatively thin, making this bag somewhat less comfortable to carry for longer periods of time.
It was still fine for me on a European backpacking trip, as I carried the bag only briefly when switching between transit modes. For this style of travel, it was fine. That said, the Porter 46 simply doesn’t hug my back quite as well as a Farpoint backpack as there’s no cushioned padding and the straps are not as wide. You notice the difference especially when the bag is very heavily loaded.
Earlier this year, I took my other Farpoint backpack on a 7-day hiking trip in the Himalayas. While the Farpoint bags are not necessarily designed with trekking in mind, their harness was still good enough for me to wear them for hours on end without a sore shoulder or back. With its lighter harness and straight back, I would probably not push the Porter 46 that far (but then again, that’s not what it’s designed for).
Nevertheless, the harness of the Porter 46 is still superior to many other carry-on bags. The eBags Mother Lode, for example, doesn’t have a waist strap and doesn’t have adjustment straps on the shoulders at all. So when compared to some of those “suitcase on your back” style airport bags, the Porter 46 is actually better.
While the Porter 46 harness isn’t perfect, it isn’t the worst either, and if you are staying mainly in hotels or hostels (rather than camping or trekking) it won’t be too much of an issue.
When I received my Porter 46 I was initially a bit surprised by the color. I chose the Castle Grey option, which in product photos looks like dark grey, but in reality it’s a light brown (or perhaps beige or khaki?). I like it now but it’s not what I expected at first.
If you’re after a darker color, I would suggest simply getting the Black version, which in reality actually looks more like dark grey. Osprey uses slightly reflective fabrics which can look different depending on the light. Expect the bags to look brighter in person than they do in the product pictures.
The Osprey Porter 46 is a clever backpack. I have long been a fan of the Farpoint product line, but I must admit the Porter has made an equally great impression on me. I love the numerous places to store smaller items, as well as the snug and well-placed laptop compartment. The integrated travel organizer is fantastic.
I still recommend getting a Farpoint (or a similar bag) if you’re going on a more adventurous trip or expect to carry the bag on your back for longer periods of time. The Farpoint is more comfortable to wear and also comes in two sizes (M and L) whereas the Porter is a one-size-fits-all.
That said, if you’re just going to be wearing your bag on the way to your hostel/hotel or during transit, then the Porter 46 is a fantastic choice.
Where to buy: you can buy the Porter 46 directly from Osprey. This is the easiest way to buy it straight from the manufacturer, and you can check their site for details on the All-Mighty Guarantee and check all of their size- and color options.
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