Not everyone likes backpack-style hand luggage, but every time I need to climb stairs or walk over uneven ground when traveling, I remember why I prefer it to anything with wheels.
Many day packs, however, lack features typically found in suitcase-style bags. I like having a dedicated electronics compartment and laptop protection, for instance, and most backpacks don't have much in the way of cushioning or weather resistance.
It's also nice to be able to hide the backpack straps when I don't need them, to stop them getting caught up with other bags, or to fit the case within airline size restrictions.
The makers of the Arcido Travel Bag got in touch, claiming to have come up with the “ultimate carry on”. Their Kickstarter campaign to fund the bag's production had blown through its goal in just three days, and they wanted to send me a review sample to showcase their new luggage.
I've now been using the bag for about a year. Here's how it's fared.
Features and Specifications
The most noticeable feature of this bag is the material it's made from. While most carry-on bags, especially backpacks, are made from ballistic nylon, the makers of the Arcido have opted for a sturdy 16oz cotton canvas instead.
Coated with a hydrophobic (water-repelling) spray and fitted out with waterproof zips, it's more resistant to bad weather and travel mishaps than most other soft bags I've come across, and that's reflected in the five year guarantee.
At 21.5 x 13.5 x 8 inches and with a 35 liter capacity, the bag easily fits within the official carry-on dimensions for nearly all US domestic and international airlines. Check with your carrier if you're concerned about those limits, but it's unlikely to be an issue for most flyers.
Like most hybrid carry-on bags, you've got the choice of using the Arcido as a case (with top and side handles), messenger bag via a removable strap, or a backpack.
The pack straps clip into place within a few seconds when you need them, and tuck away when you don't. There are no waist or chest straps to spread the weight of heavier loads, however.
On the inside, there's a single large compartment with a zip-up cover, plus a clear waterproof plastic pocket large enough for your liquids or wet clothes. After unzipping a piece at the back, the solid backplate can be pulled back to reveal a separate full-length section with a few loops and pockets of different sizes, intended for things like passports, smartphones, pens and other light items, plus a hook to attach the included laptop sleeve.
That sleeve is large enough for a 15” laptop, and hangs suspended within the bag to avoid drop damage. Making the sleeve removable is a nice touch, as it means you can use it to protect your device outside the bag as well.
Rounding out the “extras” list is an RFID-blocking travel wallet with space for a passport, a few cards and some paperwork, and a clear, smallish toiletry bag. You'll pay a little more to have these included in your Kickstarter pledge.
Real World Testing
Taking it out of the box, the Arcido struck me as a solid, if unassuming piece of luggage.
The dark grey material and subdued logo design don't shout out for attention, and it looked much like any other plain, small suitcase.
As mentioned above, the difference is in the materials. The thick canvas outer felt sturdier than all the nylon backpacks I've used in the past. To test out the waterproofing claims, I put the bag in the shower and threw several large glasses of water over it. The water beaded and ran straight off, none made into the interior, and the fabric was dry to the touch again in under half an hour. Impressive!
The downside of using canvas, of course, is the weight. The Arcido was heavier than most other soft carry-on bags and backpacks, tipping the scales at 2kg (4.4 lbs) when empty. If you're flying domestically, that likely doesn't matter – most airlines have fairly generous weight allowances, or none at all.
Many international airlines, especially the budget ones, however, have carry-on weight limits in the 11-15 pound range, which could prove more of an issue.
Packing the main compartment was easy, due to it's rectangular shape and lack of unnecessary partitions or pockets. I was able to fit in enough clothes for a five day trip, including shoes, rain jacket and a pair of jeans, and still have room left over for souvenirs.
I was impressed with the laptop sleeve, and the hook mechanism that attached it to the inside of the bag. It was easy to expand and reduce the width of the sleeve to handle different-sized devices, and it hooked and clipped into place easily. Having it in that separate section at the back is smart, making it easy to remove at security without having to disturb everything in the main compartment.
There was enough room in that section for a book or e-reader, phone, pens and other things I'd need in-flight, so again, there's no need to open the main part of the bag in the confined spaces of most economy flights.
Converting the Arcido into a backpack was quick and painless. The straps pulled out from behind the top of the back plate, and clipped into rings mounted on either side towards the base of the bag. Switching it back to a suitcase only took a few seconds.
With around ten pounds of clothes and electronics inside, I wore the backpack up and down several flights of stairs, and around a hilly European city for about half an hour. The straps were adjustable, and once tightly cinched, wearing the pack was comfortable for short to medium distances. The lack of a waist strap meant I wouldn't want to walk much more than a mile or so, however, at least with that amount of weight in it.
Like all but the smallest day bags, I didn't get much use out of the Arcido in “messenger bag” mode. While the strap attached quickly and easily, the size and weight of the bag made it awkward to carry and maneuver when full. It'd be fine for carrying around an airport or similar, but given how easy it is to set up the backpack straps, I'd opt for those every time.
Overall, I liked the Arcido Travel Bag. It's clear that plenty of thought has gone into the design and set of features, and the use of canvas and waterproof zips means it's much more resilient to weather and taxi drivers than most of its competitors. It's easy to pack and use, and won't attract undue attention.
The only real concern is the weight. The extra pound or two certainly wouldn't be enough to stop me from buying the bag, but it is something to consider if you plan to regularly use the Arcido on international airlines, or can see yourself needing to carry it fully-loaded for an extended distance.
If you're interested in picking one up for yourself, you can -- prices start at a little under $200, with free shipping within the US.
Update: One Year On
Standing up to a few weeks of travel is one thing, but most people expect their luggage to last a lot longer than that. After a year of regular use, how has the Arcido fared?
The bag has now accompanied me on several trips, to countries as diverse as Greece and South Africa, Portugal, Namibia and more. It's held up well to the abuse I've given it, with only minor damage.
The pull tag on one of the front zippers broke -- it's still possible to open and close it, it just takes a bit more work. Other than that, the bag still functions as well as the day I got it. That heavy-duty, waterproof canvas seems to be doing the job!