Review: Gobi Gear HoboRoll

A Backpack, Compression Sack and Packing Cube in One

Hoboroll and dog
Gobi Gear

I've come across many different backpacks, packing cubes and compression sacks over the years, but it's rare to find something that tries to combine all three.

GobiGear's HoboRoll is a 20 liter stuff sack that can be worn or put inside other luggage, has multiple compartments to keep everything separated and includes compression straps and buckles to keep the total size down.

I've actually been using a HoboRoll since the first version came out in 2013, and the company recently sent me out the updated model to take a look at. Here are my thoughts after a couple of weeks of solid use.

 

Design

The cylindrical HoboRoll has five internal compartments, with a drawstring at each end. I've long been concerned that without zips or a proper base, my gear will fall out the bottom after a while, but that didn't happen with the old version and hasn't happened with the new one yet either.

Made from ultralight 30D nylon, the new HoboRoll is much thinner than the previous model. That's a good thing – it takes up noticeably less room in my bag, and folds up into itself when not required.

The compression mechanism is nice and simple – much more so than on the old version, in fact. A pair of metal buckles is sewn into the bag, with a strap threaded through them. Once everything is inside the HoboRoll, you just hook the buckles through a matching pair of small loops on the other side, cinch the strap tight and you're good to go.

That approach is both easier and more reliable than the previous mechanism, which used plastic buckles that often popped open under pressure.

A new addition for 2015 is an optional shoulder strap, which can be hooked onto the bag via two metal snaps for wearing the HoboRoll on your back. Since I use mine inside my backpack, I don't need the strap – which means it can be left at home, and the space used for other things.

 

Real World Testing

I had the perfect opportunity to put the HoboRoll through its paces during a week-long hike where I carried only a 30 liter daypack. I needed some sort of compression system to get everything to fit, along with a way of keeping clothes together and separating dirty items from clean.

Traveling light, I was carrying two changes of clothes, plus some extra wet weather gear and warm layers for the cold mornings that lay in store. It all fitted easily into the HoboRoll, and when cinched tightly, the whole lot took up minimal space in my backpack.

This is definitely the best way to use it– when it's overstuffed, it bulges outwards and leaves extra space around the edges that's hard to fill with other things.

I found that rolling up my clothes was the best packing technique, especially for larger items like t-shirts and jumpers – underwear and socks didn't matter as much. On the nights I couldn't wash whatever I'd worn, it was easy to keep the dirty stuff separate in one or two compartments, and packing everything back into the HoboRoll each morning took under a minute.

Being able to remove a single item to get to the other things in my backpack, rather than taking out a dozen individual pieces of clothing, definitely sped things up at the start and end of the day.

 

Update

Two years after this review was first written, it's time for an update. Since the Hoboroll performed well on its initial one-week outing, I gave it a bigger challenge later in the year: a five week walk across Spain, inside the same 30 liter daypack.

It performed equally well, keeping clothes separated and compressed, without the 'popping' problem I'd had with the buckles on the previous model. By the end of the walk, it was showing noticeable wear and tear where the drawstring enters the bag, but still worked fine.

I've continued to regularly use the Hoboroll since that time, mainly for weekend trips. It's now getting to the end of its useful life, with the water-resistant coating on the inside peeling and flaking off, but should still stand up to another few trips before it finally bites the dust.

 

The Verdict

The HoboRoll is a specialized piece of luggage, but a versatile one. For hikers, campers and those who just want to fit a little more stuff into a backpack that's already bulging at the seams, the HoboRoll is a worthy addition.

At under $40 it's not going to break the bank, and extended testing shows it lasts longer and is more useful than the original. Recommended.