OBOW Light Travel Forum > Outdoor Products carryon... $30???

I have a friend looking at this bag, and I am not familar with it. I wanted to ask if anyone here had experience with it. It's a convertable carryon bag, 20x13x9. They're selling it for $30 atCampmor.


It's called an Outdoor Products Essential carryon.

June 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSkip

I did a google search for "essential carry on" and "essential carryon" and found several forums where people happily recommended the product. I decided to order one for myself just because the bag is so very light. (and so very inexpensive) It is almost 2 pounds lighter than my current bag. Soooo I'll find out in a week or so.

June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I bought one a few months ago based on a recommendation in comments on this blog, and I'm happy I did. It can hold quite a bit, and it's super light.

June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoh

I received my Outdoor Products Essential Carryon today. It is very light indeed - the bag and the cardboard shipping box it came in weighed less than my current bag!

I can see how Outdoor Products saved on weight. The material is excellent - about the same weight as the other Outdoors Products bags (such as their duffles). From personal experience, I know that this fabric holds up well under rough conditions. The seams are all taped (no raw seams). There is no stiffener sewn into the bag - if it is not packed full I would expect it to be "floppy".

The magazine compartment has several stitched in open pockets for pens, cell phone, etc. This isn't mentioned in the description. The smallest zippered outer pocket has a full length open pocket stitched into the flap that is the perfect size for a boarding pass - easy access! The main inner compartment is unlined and has 2 tie down straps with classic fastex buckles. The lid of the main compartment has a mesh zippered pocket sewn into it similar to the ebags Weekender. On the Weekender the pocket zipper goes around 3 sides and the pocket can peel open. On the OP Carryon there is only a single zip that goes straight across the pocket, so access is tighter.

There are NO compression straps on the outside of the bag. The main zipper is probably the cheapest part of the bag, and the one thing I would change. It is a classic chain style zipper with medium sized teeth. The zipper is not lockable - you have to slide any locks through the pull tabs of the zipper. This is certainly the weakest way to lock the bag. The handle of the bag has a very nice rubber grip.

The backpack straps are thin and padded. There is no waist belt or chest strap. The clip point for one of the backpack straps is shared with a clip point for the shoulder strap (so it's a little crowded on that clip).

Other bags are nicer, but all that niceness is what adds the extra 2 pounds to them. If you are worried about weight, this bag is one to consider. Over all, definately worth $30 plus $7 shipping.

June 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I believe that if you don't go top of the line you ought to go cheap. Value is usually found at the high and low ends - not in the middle. This bag or something like the the eBags Weekender Convertible would be a great way to get your feet wet with one-bag travel.

June 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I've had one of these for a while, and use it all the time for day trips...to the pool with the family or other outings. It's a good size and holds quite a bit. I would never really consider it for a multi-day trip, or a flight. Not quite big enough, and the backpack straps are only lightly padded. Overall, I'd say it's a $60.00 bag with a $30.00 price. Get one. You won't be sorry.

July 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBradley

I've had one for awhile and it works great. I haven't flown with it but I've taken several car trips with it and no problems. I think if you carry it with either the backpack straps or the shoulder strap there isn't much strain on the zipper, which I would agree is the weak link.

July 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

My wife and I have had ours for two years. We've done 3 x three-week trips to Europe with them. She initially resisted using hers in backpack mode, but once she tried it, she was converted. I've done another 5 x two-week trips to Europe with mine. On business trips, my bag weighs between 17 and 20 lbs, depending on the season. I seldom use the outside pockets except to hold the 1 liter liquids bag for security. When UK had the one-bag limit, I was able to cram my brief case in the bag and put my small pc in one of those pockets, so they are not totally useless. Bags have held up very well. Never needed an outside compression strap. The bags sag a bit and are not elegant, but absolutely no problem with them. Never tried the shoulder strap, which one writer had trouble with. I keep looking for a better bag - and have ordered and returned them. This one is hard to beat - it's light and durable.

August 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I received my OP bag today and decided to test out the capacity versus the Osprey I have that is listed with the same specs. Made a little video about my experiment, if anyone's curious to hear me ramble on about it:


October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBerg

Thanks Berg. I've embedded your video in a post on our main blog page.

October 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW

Note that the specifications, from the Campmor page, list a volume about 16% larger than what the specifications when multiplied together suggest. That may be accurate, since pacing an unframed bag generates some curve in the sidewalls. As any total circumference tends towards the circular, in fact, the cross-sectional area, and accordingly, volume, increases, as discussed elsewhere in another thread. At $33, maybe $40 with shipping, this sort of bag costs 83% less than a Redoxx Air Boss, and it also weighs 55% less. Clearly not the top choice for a business traveler, for whom avoiding wrinkles is one priority, but it certainly might be a great choice for the budget traveler, such as a college student, just as long as one can avoid checking it.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum

Well, I'm not a poor college student, nor a budget-stricken traveler, but I would definitely use this bag. Rick (above) says he checked his without a problem, and that he used it for business as well.

If you packed it right, with some cubes or folders or whatever suits your fancy, you could lessen the wrinkles. It isn't like the bag lacks any structure whatsoever. The outsides didn't seem to bulge too much, either, which was nice. Of course that's with the outside pockets empty.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBerg

Hi Berg,

You packed the OP Essential Carry On bag in the video the way I packed mine for my recent 2-1/2 week trip to Europe - bus, train, walking, etc. Shoes vertical on the bottom, bundle in the middle, toilet kit & electronics at the top. I put the (thinner) towel in the mesh panel in the lid. I unfolded my fleece and spread it across the whole bag. 3-1-1 bag went into the outside pocket, as well as a couple of travel guides. I used bundle wrapping around a very light stuff sack "core". My clothes were dressy casual, including an unstructured blazer & jersey knit 2 piece dress. No wrinkles. There was plenty of room for souveniers (Christmas decorations, scarves, chocolates, music boxes) on the way home.

One thing I did before I left was add on external compression straps. The shoe repair guy actually opened up the seams in the sides (voiding the warrenty) and stitched the straps into the side seams. I'm not too worried about voiding the warrenty on a $30 bag.

I've never had problems with the bundle wrap method. I would proabably travel this way for business too. But I don't wear starched cotton shirts.

FWIW, I added on an Op/Tec SOS shoulder strap. Mostly I used the bag in backpack mode, especially at the end of the trip when I was carrying more stuff and jumping from train to train. And I made Lufthansa's 8kg limit. :) 6-1/5 kg out, 8 kg back.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy H

I can't see myself buying one, not with an Air Boss about to arrive, BUT, the OP/EC might make a nice holiday gift for one of my office managers, who once a year or so goes to visit her mother, likely flying Lufthansa, as she lives in Germany. Maybe I might buy another one, for my other office manager, who comes from India. BOTH Air India and Lufthansa have an 18 lb. (8 kg) carry-on limit.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum

You & I pack pretty similarly, Cindy. And sub-7 kilos is not easy for a 2 week trip- I'm impressed!

Did you find that the bag felt sturdier with the added straps? And do yours go around the entire bag, or just one side?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBerg

While I've been traveling with a Tri-Star recently, I may be going to Iceland soon and Icelandair only allows 6 KG for carry-on. I'm thinking of getting my OP Essential Carry-On out of the closet for this trip...and also get a Scottevest jacket to put some of my stuff in. Between the two, I should be able to make the 6 kg limit--especially since they don't weigh coats.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBuzz

Hi Berg,

I added straps similar to these from REI. I only added them on the sides, like the ebags weekender. My goal was to keep the rectangular configuration (while compressing it down). I feared that going around the whole bag would cause it to roll up like a burrito. Keeping the rectangular configuration makes it easier for carry on storage, and makes the bag look innocuous.

Adding compression to the bag when it was less than full did stabilize the bag, but it is still pretty soft. Compression also made the bag look even smaller. Even after I added the straps, the bag was less than 2 pounds. The straps cost $2.50 each x 4. I cut the straps in two pieces and then melted the raw ends with a flame to prevent unraveling. If you look at the weekender picture you'll see that the strap is cut near the buckle, and the other end of the strap is mostly tail. This allows for maximum compression. I took the bag to a shoe repair place and showed the shoe repair guy what I wanted. Like I said, he actually opened up the side seams and stitched the straps into the bag (like the weekender). This avoided all the problems that would have arisen with the pockets if he had tried to stich the straps to the back and front of the bag. The cost of the labor was $18. Total cost of bag plus straps plus labor was $58 US dollars. This is the same cost as the ebags weekender. HOWEVER, the bag is a full 2 pounds lighter than the weekender, so I think it is worth the hassle and cost.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy H

Ahhh, I see, you put them on the sides, very good. I can see how it would perhaps change where you decide to place things in a softer bag, packing-wise.

I have a long weekend in Sedona coming up in December, and I'll probably take this bag and try it out. Thanks for the good tip!

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBerg

Having just returned from a 2+ week trip to Asia, I must heap reluctant praise on the Essential Carryon. On top of my outbound load (3 shirts, 1 polo, 2 t-shirts, 1 shorts, 4 undershirts, 4 boxers, 4 pair socks, flip flops, sundries), I was able to pack in new shoes, shorts, and trousers, as well as 6 new undershirts and pairs of socks (Hong Kong being a world leader in good smallclothes), 2 small paintings (~12" square canvas ea.), 2 pint glasses (souvenirs from my former local of "back when I lived here"), 3 boxes of "exotic" Australian snacks, and 2 boxes of decent tea. With both wood-frame canvases and glassware in hand, checking in was not an option, but surprisingly the bag thus packed was just (but not noticeably) over the 7kg carry-on limit.

Why then only reluctant praise? The Essential Carryon is in many ways a wonderful bag. It is incredibly light, surprisingly durable, and wholly nondescript, with three-way carry and an unbeatable price point. The crazy inventory on my return is testament to the value of its simplicity--it wants to be no more or less than a nylon box with carry straps, formless and bulging with your realized desires. And while simple is sexy from a design point of view, sexy is one adjective you'll never use to describe this particular bag, particularly when full. Plainly put, it's a boxy black pig.

I usually use the kind of bag that makes you want to run off and have adventures. Sleek and simple, it is minimalism done right, tapping into a certain romance at the heart of carry-on travel. Beyond checked-bag fees and hours lost at baggage claim, paring down your material needs into X linear inches redeems travel's ultimate promise, freedom. The right bag can take you out the door with an option never to return--what's sexier than that?

That's why the Essential Carryon will never be the one I reach for first. Sex appeal, sadly, is not on its list of essentials. This is why it was relegated to being my wife's emergency "overflow" bag (it's pretty damn light, after all). And it's why on our last day, I reluctantly traded my sleek black cat of a bag (at a svelte 38 linear inches) for what I knew would be a well-fed hog. Because at some point, you have to go home again. And that, fellow travelers, is all about reality.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Well written and well put, Jay. Now what's the sexy black cat bag?

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTill

You made me laugh, Jay.

You always hear about "adventure" as being glorious and "sexy". James Bond. Angelina Jolie. Matt Damon (Bourne). Yah, that's it! Then you meet the **real** people behind those stories. Rienhold Messner (missing several toes from frostbite). War veterans (missing / broken body parts). Nelly Blye (going into insane asylums). Most of them are scarred in some way, and wrinkled from experience. And adventure? In real life it means enduring being shot at, getting soaked to the bone, having your teeth shaken loose on rough roads, and getting your wits scared out of you. Those things are only fun afterwards - in the telling - when you realized you managed to live through it all.

Like those scarred, wrinkled, real life people, your OP Essential Carry on is the real thing. Because it gets the job done instead of being flashy. Which is why you keep using it.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy H

I want one! But I can't seem to find anywhere that will ship to Australia! Must keep searching.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEnjoying Travel With Kids

@ Till

Thanks for the kind words but regrettably, the black cat bag must remain a mystery. If I can crap on at length about a bag I'm only lukewarm toward, imagine how verbose (and how overwrought!) I'll get in support of a bag I genuinely love.

Suffice to say, it is simple, slouchy, conforms to few of Doug Dyment's eminently practical guidelines, and owes its provenance to a European manufacturer better known for buttoned-up business travel than world-taking adventure.

@ Cindy

Happy I made you laugh. The post was me having a jet-lagged laugh at my own expense. I think experienced travelers (and carry-on travelers in particular) all like to pride ourselves on the little tricks and tips we've accumulated that (we think) set us apart and a little above the milling herd.

There's something aspirational about traveling smart, about hitting the road in a certain style, that has probably existed since the first Neanderthal took a stroll over the Pyrenees. And, again, there is that siren call of freedom. So it's funny to me that sometimes, despite our little pretensions, a bag is just a bag and a plane is just a way home.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I traveled to Ireland in June with the OP Essential Carry On. It worked great. I bundle packed all my clothes and carried it on. On the way home I checked it and the baggage handlers didn't destroy it so it must be tough enough. I look forward to my next trip, which is to Hawaii next month.
P.S. The baggage handlers or someone stole my umbrella on the way home.

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

I bought this bag recently, and I'm impressed. For $30, it seems too good to be true. My biggest concern, like others have mentioned, is the main zipper. It's a coil zipper (not chain). The softness of the coil zipper is another reason why this bag is as floppy as it is. However once loaded up and secured with the 2 internal compression straps, it holds it's shape extremely (and surprisingly well). It's not going to win any avant-garde design awards, but it could certainly trounce any comers in a best-bang-for-the-buck competition.

So getting back to the main zipper, I've applied about 50 lbs. of force trying to pull the zipper apart at one point, and the zipper held together, though I could see just a bit of separation while the stress was applied. But it held firm, and it never reached a point where it felt like it was about to tear open.

So my largest worry in using this bag for air travel is that I'll be forced to check it at some point, and that the zipper could fail when extreme weight or tension is applied to it. From my tests on it, I think a zipper failure to be unlikely, but I'd have this concern over any bag that used a coil zipper instead of a chain zipper.

Of course with the look and size of this bag, it just doesn't seem like anyone would single it out for getting checked when there are so many roll-aboard monstrosities they could choose instead.

Has anyone been forced to check this bag?

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob