Updated on September 4, 2017
Sea to Summit Pack Converter Pack Duffel Bag Review
Traveling these days can be precarious, especially when traveling internationally. Keeping your luggage locked and safe is very important, so when you want to bring your backpacking pack what’s the best way to keep it safe? Packing it alone without any locks, plastic wrap or covering leaves it open to thieves and exposes the pack and its straps to unnecessary wear and potential damage. I recently brought the Osprey Ariel 65 to South Africa and tried several different packing options before sending it overseas.
Being that it was an Osprey Ariel 65 pack, I first tried the Osprey Airporter LZ pack cover in medium for $36. This duffel like bag, weighing only 14oz., had a lot of great features including a fairly durable fabric, lockable zippers, a shoulder strap for carrying it in the airport and it stashed in its own built in pocket. The overall appearance of the bag was clean cut and professional looking as well.
As a petite person however, the pack was very awkward to carry as the shoulder strap is designed more like a backpack shoulder strap, making the bag hang down vertically and pretty low and bang against the back of the lower part of my legs. Unlike a standard duffel bag, it is also top loading. I found this to make things a little difficult when trying to get into the Ariel sleeping bag compartment, or when trying to reach items thrown into the Airporter separate from the pack like an extra pair of shoes or shirt which would fall to the bottom of the bag. It was also fairly impossible to enter the Ariel backpack’s front access point while in the Airporter duffel. Given these difficulties I looked for other types of travel pack covers.
REI offers an alternative to the LZ, the REI Pack Duffel Bag for $29.50. I looked at this in the store and it is has some similar design features to the Sea to Summit Pack Converter mentioned below but the fabric felt much less durable and they offer it only in one size of 101L, which is just huge! As a petite, I could never carry a 100L duffel over my shoulder without a struggle! The color of the nylon on the REI bag is attractive however the opening on this duffel is similar to the Airporter LZ bag in that the zipper opening is at the end. Unlike the Airporter LZ though, the carry strap is similar to that on a standard duffel bag. After checking this bag out a bit I kept looking to see what else was available.
After doing some more research I came across the Sea to Summit Pack Converter size medium for $59.95. Although a bit more expensive, and slightly heavier at 20oz., immediately this new bag was impressive as it doubled as a pack rain cover and was built from more durable nylon. The Osprey Ariel 65 fit well into the duffel with the Ariel fully packed and still had room for a pair of hiking boots, a jacket and some souvenirs on the way home. The Sea to Summit Pack also offers two carrying options including carrying it by the shoulder strap like a standard duffel as well as unzipping the top to let the shoulder straps and hipbelt of your backpacking pack slide out to wear it on your back. As a petite person, the fully packed converter was a little heavy and awkward to carry as a duffel, however for longer walks in the airport it was nice to have the option of freeing up my hands by wearing it as a backpack without having to entirely remove the duffel from the bag.
Design and Materials
The design of the Sea to Summit Pack includes a wide parallel zip u-shaped opening. Although slightly less easy to get the pack in the duffel versus the top loading bags I didn’t have any trouble loading the Ariel into the duffel. The duffel bag strap can be stored in a small velcro pocket located on the outside of the bag when not needed (next to the Sea to Summit label). It would be suggested to add a small slidable piece of padding to the shoulder strap to prevent the heavy weight on the strap from digging into the shoulders. Completely filled up the Sea to Summit website lists the dimensions as 34″ x 13″ x 11″, although when I carried it it seemed closer to 3.5 feet long and a bit awkward for my petite frame. The Pack Converter is made from waterproof 210D ripstop nylon and has tape sealed seams.
Sea to Summit went smart but simple in this duffel design with features including a lockable zipper, its own built in pocket to pack it down in, a durable cinch cord for securing it as a pack cover on a backpacking pack, a durable carry handle on the end of the bag and one on the side of the bag, and stiched in velcro adhesive for both securing the zippered open flap below the backpack when used as a cover and also securing the bag when it is stashed into its own pocket. The primary duffel bag strap can be clipped on and off of the bag and as mentioned previously, stored in a small velcro pocket located on the outside of the pack. Unfortunately though there is no extra padding on the primary strap which can dig into your shoulder pretty bad when using it as a duffel.
Performance wise this Sea to Summit converter is super durable and held up amazingly well after 6 different flights, 38 hours of flying, being hauled in and out of vehicles from Johannasburg to Kruger National Park to Cape Town, South Africa and back and forth to New York. Coverting it to a pack cover took a few minutes to do but was nice when you had to walk miles through the airports and the lockable zipper was perfect to prevent thieves from getting into it after you checked it in.
As a raincover you really have to cinch it down to be sure it doesn’t fall off when handling the pack as it was slightly big for the Ariel 65. Otherwise the fabric is waterproof and I didn’t have any issues when using this feature to protect it in light rain.
Generally though, as a petite person, carrying it as a duffel for extended periods of time wasn’t really comfortable as it was just too large and awkward with the Ariel 65 on my petite frame. I found myself dragging it a few times on the ground even because the lack of padding on the primary strap allowed it to dig pretty hard into my shoulder and I was too tired to take the 5 minutes to convert it into backpack carry mode. I guess mini wheels on this guy for the weary traveler would be nice, maybe the engineers can come up with a foldable set that velcro attaches to the bottom 🙂
Overall, if you’re looking to do some traveling and bring your backpacking pack, the Sea to Summit Converter is one option ensure that your backpack is kept safe and secure on the trip. Although a little more expensive than other options available, the rain cover feature/ability to wear your backpacking pack on your back without having to take the duffel completely off as well as the waterproof rugged fabric could be worth it.
If you’re only doing a couple weeks of adventure travel or are a larger person (say bigger than 5’6″) this is one of the better options on the market, but for ultralight backpacking and petites, I wouldn’t suggest it. It is likely if you are going backpacking for several months your main pack will be down to the <45L mark to save on weight, making this pack cover just too large for a pack that size and not really worth the added weight. A better option would be to just pick up the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil pack cover, wrapping your pack in plastic for flights if you have to check it on the plane and carrying all your important stuff on the plane with you.
A third option for us smaller folks, would be to keep our pack size down to <45L, and contact Sea to Summit telling them we would like to see their model made in a Small version (they currently offer medium and large). Additionally I would recommend using something like the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack which multi-functions as a water resistant stuff sack, daybag and carry-on.
|Manufacturer Model||Sea to Summit Pack Converter|
|Model #||Pack Converter 2013|
|Pros||Versatile, Waterproof, Very Durable, lockable zipper|
|Cons||No padding on duffel bag strap, awkward for petite individuals to carry as duffle as its too large|
|Best Uses||Airplane Travel with Backpacking Pack|
|Luggage and Bag Specifications|
|Size||34″ x 13″ x 11″|
|Compartments||1 side loading main Compartment|
|Pockets||1 Small outside pocket for duffel strap|
|Material||210D ripstop nylon|
|Additional Features||waterproof, Bag packs into its own velcro pocket|