Gear Review: Marmot Trans Hauler Day Pack

The Marmot Trans Hauler first grabbed our attention when we noticed staff members for the Adventure Travel Trade Association toting this pack. We know these folks log lots of miles, and they had good things so say about it.

This fall, we tested Trans Hauler packs in Africa and determined they were perfect for travel that involves a bit of hiking. While the pack offers plenty of space to hold lots of gear, it’s sleek enough so that it never bogged us down, whether we were stuffing it into airplane storage compartments, or wearing it on treks across the Namibia desert.

Here’s what we liked about the pack…

It’s roomy, with easy accessA26810_1027_transhauler_pack 0004

With 28 liters of volume, this is bigger than a book bag, but smaller than something you’d use for backpacking. As a result, it works really well as a carryon for trains and planes, and also proves useful for day hikes. We were able to stuff everything we needed into the Trans Hauler, and the main compartment opens wide, so you can easily dig around in it, and stuff in a jacket, or pull out a book. Also, the zippers are easy to open and close because they’re outfitted with large loops of cord that you can grab and pull without fumbling. We noted that even though the pack is spacious, it’s also sleek, with a trim cut and cinch straps to make your load skinnier. As we were traveling, we never felt as if we were hauling something bulky.

It’s tough enough

The outer fabric of the Trans Hauler is a sort of flexible armor. Smooth and stout, the coated material is water-resistant, and easily withstands the hard knocks of travel. For a little added protection, the pack also sports waterproof zippers. One of the most helpful features is the molded back panel. This makes the pack somewhat rigid, so that it can haul weight effectively, and it also prevents gear from poking and prodding your back. Also, the molded back panel serves as a padded shield for a compartment that has sleeves for a 17-inch laptop and a tablet. Adding a nice touch, Marmot lined the sleeves with soft fleece.

It works well on the trail

We like versatile travel gear that serves many uses and allows us to haul fewer bags. The Trans Hauler was a good companion for long flights to and from Africa, but it also served us well during five-hour hikes where we carried water, camera gear and first-aid supplies. Because the pack has a molded back panel and wide, padded shoulder straps, it rests comfortably on your shoulders when loaded down. We did note that the Trans Hauler doesn’t have a substantial hip belt. Really, it’s just thin nylon webbing, which is removable. While the minimalist hip belt prevents you from carrying much weight on your hips, it allows the pack to fit easier into tight spaces, such as the overhead compartment of a plane.

It’s customized for travel

When we travel, we’re typically carrying business cards, pens, notebooks, phones, computers and other electronics. One reason we like the Trans Hauler is it has pockets to keep all of this stuff organized. Inside the main compartment near the top there’s a zippered mesh pocket that’s good for stashing a passport or boarding pass. An outer zippered pocket held our snacks, and we slid small water bottles into to exterior elastic pockets on the sides of the pack.

The downsides…

With one pack we did have trouble with the zipper for the computer/tablet compartment. The zipper teeth got misaligned, and it won’t close properly. We weren’t sure if this happened because we crammed too much stuff into the compartment, or if the zipper was just defective. Whatever the cause, we had the issue with only one of the Trans Haulers we tested.

Traveler’s Notebook

Retail price: $129

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