The backpack has been a mainstay of adventure travel for decades, and for good reason. A good pack not only allows you to carry all of your gear safely and securely, it is also equally convenient for navigating through a busy airport, as it is for use on a trail. But sometimes a backpack just doesn't provide the level of versatility, or storage capacity, that you need for a longer trip. It also isn't the best way for carrying something like a dress suit or other items that can't simply be stuffed into a bag.
For those occasions, you need something a bit more refined.
Enter the Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel from Granite Gear, a piece of luggage that resembles a standard suitcase offers the continence of a duffel bag, and can quickly convert to a backpack in times of need. This is a bag built with the adventure traveler in mind, although it can easily be used in a wide variety of situations.
Built out of incredibly durable materials, the Cross-Trek Duffel is designed to not only resist the wear and tear that comes along with being (mis)handled at the airport, but exposure to the elements as well. Granite Gear's proprietary Repelaweave and Repelagrid fabrics help keep the interior of the bag completely dry, while also protecting the contents from moisture as well. Two large compression straps – complete with high-quality buckles – help to secure interior items further, preventing them from being accidentally jostled about while in transit.
This provides a nice sense of security, and the realization that your gear will arrive at your destination in one piece, and ready to go.
The Cross-Trek also comes equipped with a set of very rugged wheels that are as good as anything that I have found on a piece of luggage. Whether you're rolling the bag over a completely flat and smooth surface or pulling it across a cobblestone road, these wheels are up to the challenge. A high quality, telescoping handle, made from aircraft aluminum, aids that process further. When not in use, the handle conveniently disappears inside a zippered enclosure as well.
If you'd prefer not to roll your luggage around, the Cross-Trek has you covered with a couple of other options as well. For instance, it has several handles on top of the duffel that help when lugging it from one point to the next, and there are hidden shoulder straps, and a hip belt, that quickly convert the bag into a backpack when necessary too. Both options come in very handy, but as someone who travels with a standard weekend duffel on occasion, the lack of a shoulder sling seemed like an oversight at times.
Still, considering all of the other available options for transporting the bag around, it wasn't something that I missed for long.
Inside, the bag is quite spacious, providing plenty of room to bring everything you need on an extended trip. It includes extra compartments that come in handy for keeping things organized, and I especially appreciated the inner pocket built for storing dirty laundry. This truly helps to keep your clean clothes separated, making it easier to locate the items you want or need. A zippered divider curtain adds additional packing versatility in terms of the organization if needed as well, but conveniently rolls away when not in use.
The Cross-Trek Duffel that I tested was the 26" model, which provides approximately 4800 cubic inches of space. When compared to a backpack, that comes out to about 78.5 liters of capacity – much larger than what most of us carry on a typical trip. But should you find that still isn't enough space for everything you want to bring along with you, there is an expandable drop-bottom compartment which can add an additional 18% to the capacity.
On my recent two week journey through Egypt, I got the opportunity to put my Cross-Trek through its paces. Not only did it perform well rolling through the airport, it also had to contend with being shuttled on and off buses, screaming through the desert atop a 4x4, and an evening of camping in the Sahara. Through all of that , the bag performed marvelously and came home looking practically brand new. Aside from a bit of sand and dirt on the exterior, the bag looks like it hasn't been used at all, and remains completely free of nicks, scuffs, and tears that often occur on a prolonged trip.
I was equally impressed with the duffel's ability to swallow up all of the gear that I brought along on the trip. I am a notoriously light packer most of the time, but the increased capacity, and a higher level of versatility, that the Cross-Trek delivered allow me to indulge myself by bringing a few extra items that wouldn't normally make the cut. The 26" model had no problem carrying everything I needed and allowed me plenty of space to bring a few things home with me as well.
The Cross-Trek Collection includes a variety of bags in a variety of sizes. Granite Gear starts the line with a 36-liter backpack which is high in quality, but doesn't include the handle and wheels found on the other models. From there, the company offers two carry on bags in the form of the 22" Wheeled Carry-On, and a similar model that includes a removable 28-liter pack. Those bags run $169 and $189 respectively. The 26" Wheeled Duffel that I tested and the 32" model are nearly identical, other than the changes in size.
They cost $189 and $209 each, which makes them a relative bargain, all things considered.
If you're in the market for a new piece of luggage and want something that you can carry with you on just about any adventure, it is tough to beat the Cross-Trek duffel bags. They are durable, versatile, and spacious, which is exactly what you need when hitting the road for an extended period of time. This is a bag that can survive just about anything and will deliver your gear to the destination in once piece. Granite Gear has a real winner on its hands here, and I expect that this is a product that will be very popular with adventure travelers.