It's no secret that here at Gearflogger we love us some small-to-medium size backpacks. A backpack is just a small garage you carry around with you, or as George Carlin said, a place for your stuff. All packs can be just an open sack, or be specifically designed for biking, school, climbing, or, in the case of the new Gregory Border Traveler 30, for travel.
We generally stay away from the big controversies in life: roll your tent or stuff it, bark up or bark down, and, of course, is chamomile really tea? But here we are taking the brave step of weighing in on the single open compartment versus lots of organization in a pack debate. And our conclusion is… if you only have one pack, it should be open, but if you can have a pack specifically for travel purposes, organized is the way to go. And if you're going organized, the Gregory Border Traveler 30 makes a strong argument for the dedicated travel pack, thanks to just the right amount of organization. Bear with us, there's lot to unpack here. Get it? Unpack? (editor's note: really? that's just lazy. how much do we pay you anyway?).
The Border Traveler 30 is a 30 liter (litre? ruh-roh!) airline carry-on compliant size is perfect for a long weekend, or even a minimalist week or longer on the road. The first thing you notice when you open it up is the luggage-style clamshell design that gives you easy access to everything inside. The second thing you notice is the gold lining color makes even small items easy to spot.
There is one large zippered compartment on each side, and the zipper goes completely around three sides for full access once again. Each large compartment is also accessible from the outside, thanks to a zipper on the top and bottom of the pack, handy if you need to quickly stow or retrieve something. One side has an ActiveShield Polygiene StaysFresh lining that is based on silver chloride (salt) to inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria and fungi. In practice this allows you to move things around in the pack so that your skankiest clothing is in the ActiveShield compartment. Both compartments have a small lip all the way around that is nice to keep stuff in place while digging around. The only other organization inside is a set of two flat zippered mesh-faced sleeves on the cover of the non-ActiveShield compartment. These are perfect for cables, paperwork, toiletries or anything else that you can pack flat-ish.
Outside the pack has one small pocket on top sized for a Kindle, sunglasses or a small tablet or book, and a larger front pocket with full-length side zip. This pocket also has a smaller flat mesh zip pocket inside, also Kindle-sized, which would keep whatever it held away from the sides of the pack and hence edge contact with the ground (except for face-on contact). The narrowness of this pocket is one of only two nitpicks we have with the Border Traveler 30, as it is just an inch-and-a-half too narrow to hold a normal size magazine or 8.5 inch wide paper notebook.
There is a dedicated electronics sleeve behind the padded backpanel. It does float a couple inches off the bottom of the pack, but not off the sides, this being our second nitpick. Since the Border Traveler 30 is designed to be carried as a duffel, it would be nice to float this pocket a little off the sides as well, and maybe even include an open flat second pocket inside to separate magazines, etc. from laptops and tablets. Finally, there is a side pocket with a zipper that when open accesses a mesh quart/liter/litre size bottle pocket, and when zipped close perfectly holds a selfie stick, travel umbrella or similar skinny thing.
On the carrying option side, you've got a pair of comfy adjustable padded shoulder straps with adjustable sternum strap, plus the top and side duffel grab handles, plus – and this is really nifty – a sleeve behind the backpanel that allows you to slide the Border Traveler 30 over the handle of most rolling luggage in case you're going heavy (i.e. with family). There are a few other touches, like four corner lashing points on the front and a small webbing loop on each shoulder strap, all of which allow a small degree of customization for hanging things off the pack or hanging the pack off things.
In actual use we found it easy to pack and easy to carry. It can be used with or without various sizes of packing cubes, for our purposes we found it easier to just roll or fold clothing and put them directly into the two large compartments. That way we could just open the pack and start living out of it, being too lazy in general to actually unpack and store things. We call that a win around here. Bottom line: we really like the Gregory Border Traveler 30, it's now our go-to travel pack.