Hands down, the Lowe Alpine TT Tour is the ultimate travel backpack. Why? Because it is made especially for travel as oppose to hiking — like most of the packs travelers use. In my 12+ years of world travel, I’ve tried and tested out plenty of different backpacks, tote bags, and other luggage carrying devices. For around the world style travel, which may include regular bouts of walking distances of 2+ miles, I’ve found that a backpack is the best way to haul my gear. This is unsurprising, as the back is perhaps the optimal location on the human body to place a heavy load. So for many years I’ve been using many different types of backpacks, and have never really finding one suited to meet the demands of world travel in full. Until now.
I picked up a Lowe Alpine TT Tour 70 liter backpack this summer, and have since used it in Maine, Iceland, Colombia, and Mexico. I’ve climbed mountains, rode a bicycle across a country, rode on multiple airplanes, taken many taxis, a plethora of buses, and walked hundreds of miles with this backpack. It has withstood the Vagabondjourney.com test throughout, and earned our top backpack recommendation for 2012.
The difference between a travel backpack and one for hiking
The TT Tour backpack has the word “travel” clearly stamped on it, and this is what this bag is made for. Most of the other backpacks we’ve reviewed and used were made with trekking or hiking in mind, which means that they often had unlockable external pockets, an inconvenient loading system, and many random straps and attachments hanging off of them in all directions that were prone to getting caught in airport machinery, on train benches, or in the luggage hold of buses. A hiking backpack is not necessarily a good travel backpack, the two activities are very different and exert different pressures on a pack.
In point, walking long distance is a part of traveling, and a good travel backpack should be fully usable in the hiking/ trekking context and should meet all the criteria for these activities in full. But a travel backpack must also meet an additional criteria on top of this:
In point, a good travel backpack should be fully and easily lockable, it should have a main compartment that you can easily open to remove/ put in clothing and other gear, it should have multiple handles on multiple faces to make for easy carrying, its harness should be solid and comfortable, it should not have external pockets which can be easily picked by a thief, and should not have any odd areas or straps hanging off it that could be caught on a plethora of things when traveling in crowded cities or in the process of flying.
The TT Tour met all criteria in full, as of now this is the it is the best travel backpack on the market.
The most important element of a backpack is the harness — the shoulder, waist straps, and back molding. This is the part of the pack that connects and distributes weight to the body, and if it is not made properly the entire backpack can become horribly uncomfortable to use. The search for a backpack begins and ends with the harness — many other deficient elements can be manipulated or rigged — and the way this part of the bag takes and distributes a load often means the difference between enjoying your journey or being in pain. Having said this, the TT Tour 70 has one of the most comfortable, well made, and well designed harnesses we have yet tested here at Vagabondjourney.com.
Like a hiking backpack, the harness of a travel bag should be comfortable, well padded, and positioned so that it distributes most of the bag’s weight onto the user’s hips. Hiking, or at least walking long distances, is a part of travel, and the designers of the TT Tour knew this well as they put together a harness system for this bag that is the equal of any hiking backpack on the market. This is probably the most comfortable backpack I’ve yet used, as its load distribution design approaches perfection. I cannot think of anyway to make this part of the bag better, it does exactly what I want it to do.
Like the Kelty Redwing backpack that I once used, the Lowe Alpine TT Tour has a “suit case” style zipper opening for the main compartment. This means that you can unzip the bag and fully open it as though it were a suitcase. This is absolutely a vital aspect of a good travel backpack. In point, when I check into a hotel I want my backpack to act as my dresser and shelves. I want to be able to open the bag and quickly access my gear without needing to dump everything out.
I first thought that the zipper was a potential breakage hazard, but after my years with the Kelty and now the TT Tour I know that these zippers rarely break. One point of caution is to zip it up carefully, as even though there is a layer of fabric designed to prevent this, but clothing can sometimes get caught in the zipper — but the times this has happened to me have been rare.
Beyond the zipper, the main compartment of the TT Tour is surprisingly large and has squared off corners like a suitcase — which is good for being able to pack in a maximum amount of gear and serves no disadvantage to performance.
There is also a separate internal pocket that runs along the inside of the bag’s “door” that is designed to carry dirty laundry or other things you would prefer to be separated from the rest of your luggage.
The main compartment is also fully lockable, as there are rings on the zipper handles that are designed to be clenched shut with a padlock.
The exterior of the TT Tour is made from a water resistant, high tech fabric that is both tough, light weight, and resistant to dirt and grim. My model is an inconspicuous grayish/ brown color interspersed with black — officially called Truffle / Phantom Black — which blends in well with the rampant exposure of random crud and crap that a travel backpack is often exposed to.
One of the best aspects of this backpack is that it has no easy to access external pockets, which makes it uniquely resistant to petty theft. There is one external pocket laid over the main compartment and another at the top of the bag, but both of these orifices are made inconspicuous by flaps of fabric which act to inhibit detection from pickpockets. These external pockets also utilize the bag’s interior space, so, if the traveler choose, they can be left unused without the loss of much storage capacity.
One of the most amazing things about this backpack are the additional design perks which optimize it even further for the travel context.
One such perk is the fact that it has a build on, retractable flap that can be easily zippered up over the shoulder and waist straps — essentially transforming the backpack into a suitcase. This is a great addition, as it provides the traveler with the ability to completely enclose the straps within the exterior of the pack when flying or taking public transport. When not in use, the flap can be rolled up and inserted into a special compartment at the bottom of the bag. The flap is also permanently attached to the bag, so there are no worries about losing it.
The TT Tour backpack also comes with a removable shoulder strap which can be used when the bag is in “suitcase mode.” This can be especially helpful when moving through airports, bus stations, or making quick transfers where you don’t really need to take out the straps but would still like to carry the bag “hands free.”
Another great adaption of the TT Tour is that it has two well attached handles and a nail loop. One handle is at the very top, another is on the side, and there is a loop above the straps so you can hang the bag from a nail in a wall. These handles make carrying, handing off, and transporting this bag a little easier.
In conclusion, the Lowe Alpine TT Tour 70 liter backpack was made for world travel, and it shows. I’ve tested this backpack in rural, mountainous, and urban environments, and it has passed all the trials I’ve subjected it to with amazing precision. I’ve tried hard to find some element of this pack that could be improved upon, but, for once, I’m stumped. It is rare that a mass production travel product lives up to and meets all the specs of a specialist in the field. In point, I could not have custom ordered a better backpack for world travel.
Vagabondjourney.com stamps this backpack “approved and recommended.”
The Lowe Alpine TT Tour backpack retails for between 150 and 200 USD. Shop for a Lowe Alpine TT Tour 70 Backpack on Amazon.
*Wade Shepard and Vagabondjourney.com are in no way associated with Lowe Alpine. The bag that was tested was paid for in full by the author.