Monday, 17 September 2012

Kit review: Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack

Kit review: Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack

This isn’t easy to admit to, but my Rucksack Addiction has seen me collecting a huge array of different backpacks, from a tiny, purse-style rucksack, through four sizes of running rucksacks, to lightweight walking backpacks, larger winter-style rucksacks and on to travel rucksacks. My home overflows with rucksacks (and trainers. I have admitted this addiction previously.)

Like women who love their handbags, I have a rucksack to suit almost every occasion and in a spectrum of colours and designs. Every rucksack has its advantages, for example, side pockets for easy access to a water bottle; strapping for stowing a bike helmet when not in use; a rucksack with an internal laptop pocket, and a rucksack that can be as small or as large as required at the pull of a few straps.

I confess: I have a rucksack addiction
I confess: I have a rucksack addiction

And there I was thinking that my Rucksack Addiction was actually fairly satiated. It had been quite a while since I’d experienced Rucksack Envy and my level of happiness over the number and range of rucksacks currently inhabiting cupboards and drawers in my home was around 8 out of 10. (Obviously the G-Force has noted my strange obsession but because of his own love of outdoors gear he accepts me as I am.)

Suddenly floored by Rucksack Envy

But, out of the blue, and while in the airport on our recent ski and snowboard holiday I suddenly got it bad. My Rucksack Envy returned with a huge, stomach-churning jolt. Just in front of me, and while I was having trouble carrying my heavy rucksack on my back along with a snowboard bag and a small handbag style rucksack, I spotted one of the new styles of Wheeled Rucksacks. This person was happily wheeling their huge travel rucksack, while in the other hand they gripped a ski bag, which was also on wheels. I could not take my eyes off the ease with which this traveller was sashaying along.

Usually I can manage a rucksack on my back. It’s never that far to walk in an airport that I require a wheeled rucksack. And, anyway, I’ve always thought they seemed a bit like “cheating”. I thought: You either have a rucksack on your back or a suitcase with wheels. However, during that ski trip bad weather closed Chambery airport and we were forced to fly from Lyon airport. Most of the trip was done by bus but there was also a lot of walking and carrying of luggage.

And I so, so wished that I’d invested in a new-fangled rucksack on wheels.

In search of the New Rucksack Fix

Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack
Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack

In fact, the Rucksack Envy grew so large that I decided to give into my desires and look around for a rucksack on wheels to buy. Ha, and as luck would have it, I’m an outdoors kit reviewer and the lovely people at The Luggage and Bag Shop decided to take pity on me, what with my terrible case of Rucksack Envy. (Of course they also know that given my Rucksack Addiction that I will give a very thorough and comprehensive review of the rucksack.)

They have started me off with a Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack.

Review of the Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack

First up, I am very impressed by the number of pockets, sections and places to stow stuff. I like rucksacks, but I love rucksacks with lots of pockets. I’m not sure why, because I never use all the pockets and mostly I find I look through about five different pockets and sections before recalling where I placed the elusive pen, passport, lip-salve or wallet… but, still, I think I just like the option to use so many pockets and keep things organised.

The rucksack is made by Caribee, which is a big name in luggage in Australia and one that is trusted worldwide. It looks to be extremely well-made and very well thought out. I have seen too many rucksack with broken wheels or handles to buy a cheap brand.

I was pleased that the Caribee Fast Track 45 rucksack didn’t look too pretty or overly fancy. A piece of travel luggage should look like it’s meant for purpose, and not like too much time and money has been spent on the looks, while less has been spent on the design.

Great functionality in the wheeled Caribee rucksack

The essentials for a wheeled rucksack include:

* Wheels, obviously, but ones that move freely and look made to stand up to being thrown about an airport.
* A handle that will cope well with the rough and tumble of travel.
* Good balance. A wheeled trolley rucksack that falls over when you stand it to rest would be hopeless. Obviously.
* Strong and comfy shoulder straps for times when wheels are hopeless and the rucksack comes into its own. On stairs, for example. Or madly cobbled streets. Or on off-road terrain.
* A suitcase type section for clothes and another section for valuables, laptop etc.
* Lots of pockets for, well, stowing lots of little bits and pieces. I love the two inner zipped pockets within the main section of the rucksack. These took toothbrush, toothpaste, lotions and potions. Genius!
* The ability to tuck away the handle and zip up the shoulder straps etc so things don’t get tangled, or knock out the eyes of other people.
* Lots of straps and buckles that can be used to keep things tight and in place in the rucksack, and can be used to make the wheeled rucksack as compact as possible.
Every single one of these essentials gets a “gold star” with the Caribee Fast Track 45 wheeled rucksack.

Test-travel with the Caribee wheeled rucksack

An overnight stay at a friend’s, via a train journey and then a bus trip, gave the Caribee a good workout. For some reason I take as many clothes, trainers and bits and pieces for one night away as I would for four nights. The Caribee consumed all of my clothing, footwear, iPad, MacBook, pens, toiletries and even two bottles of wine for my friend. As well as choccie bars, a couple of apples, etc…

Because most of the clothing could be packed in the main section of the sturdy wheeled rucksack and strapped and zipped tight, it meant the other outer section could be utilised for items that I might need during the journey. I am easily bored and so it was great to have an outer section in which I could put all the things I might need while travelling. Another outer pocket was perfect for a bottle of juice and a Creme Egg!

Shoulder straps versus wheels

Travelling on foot on pavements I preferred the option of the the rucksack with shoulder straps. The wheels are fine for pavements but I find it easier to walk fast and up and down curbs with a rucksack on my back. Although created with a robust, stiff carcass the rucksack was still quite comfortable on my back.

At train stations and platforms and on shorter walking sections I used the wheels and pull-along handle. Oh, and it felt good! I could even see other people around me suffering that Rucksack Envy that I’d so recently suffered! I’m sure I did!

Thanks to strong handles on the top and the base of the Caribee rucksack the bag was easy to lift up to the luggage rack above my head on the train. The size of the bag – which is ideal for hand luggage on planes, too – fitted into the train rack above the seats with no hassle at all. I like to keep my luggage within eye sight so it was useful not to have to place it in the carriage-end luggage rack.

Then, at the end of the journey, it was a simple case of lifting down the rucksack, carrying it off the train and popping it down on the platform, pressing the button that releases the aluminium pull along handle – and I was off and walking to the bus.

Everything went to plan on the bus, too. This is such a versatile piece of luggage!

Surprise, surprise

You have your running clothes? Your trainers? Jeans for our meal out? Wash bag? in that rucksack?” said my friend.
Yes, and I have a Macbook, iPad, toiletries, a full change of clothes, clean underwear, a small towel – and these two bottles of wine!” I replied.
It all looks so compact and neat. And easy to use,” she added.
It is. I like it. And while it’s a compromise between a rucksack and a suitcase I think it suits me,” I said.

Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to admit to the Rucksack Envy! It just seemed a little ridiculous – and anyway I’d had some relief from my Addiction!

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