My wife and I recently took a four day trip to Mexico City. To keep things simple and avoid any lost luggage on our transfer to Dallas, I just wanted to bring a bag. That, and the last time I was there, someone went through my checked bag and stole several things. (I still love you, Mexico.)
The easy choice was the Chrome Urban Ex 2.0 Rolltop 30 Liter Bag ($160)—my go-to for shorter trips. One of the biggest assets is the adaptability of the pack size. The main compartment is big enough to hold everything I need for three to four days, including clothes, toiletries, a laptop, a rain jacket, and an extra pair of shoes. Thanks to the roll-top closure, it can also expand to hold four or five liters of extra stuff on the way home, and it can be cinched really low and doubles as a small backpack.
This adaptability came in handy several times during our trip. In Mexico City, the bag was great for day trips when all I wanted to pack was a rain jacket, long-sleeved shirt, and water bottle. Some days we walked up to 15 miles and the bag was fine whether it was barely there or was weighed down with water and gifts.
When it was time to go home, the ability to turn up the volume proved essential. As a parent, of course, I couldn’t come home empty-handed. After some careful shopping – the kids didn’t buy anything too big – I was able to expand the rolled top just enough to fit everything in and close the buckle. I looked ridiculous because the bag was now very big, but everything stayed in place, and the overfilled bag still fit very well in the overhead compartment of our plane, a newer Boeing 737.
I’m also sold on the organization of the Chrome rolltop. Inside, the bag is refreshingly simple. There is only one cavernous main pocket, a laptop sleeve (inside the main pocket) and two small exterior zippered pockets. I’ve come to hate “feature-rich” bags with pockets because I end up spending too much time trying to find what I’m looking for. There are very few places where something can hide in the Chrome bag.
Lastly, I love that the Chrome bag is waterproof. The weather was dry in Mexico City, but if we had been caught in a rainstorm, the fully welded 600 denier polyurethane coated polyester would have given me the assurance that not a drop of water would destroy my books, postcards , electronics or any other object stored in the bag.
I liked the Chrome bag so much that since returning from Mexico I’ve been on a roller coaster ride and researched two other packs that you might also consider:
Osprey Transporter Roll Top ($165)
The 25-litre Transporter has more features than the Chrome, but doesn’t exaggerate. My favorite accessories are the mesh back that breathes well on sweltering days, two side mesh water bottle pockets accessible while I’m carrying the bag, and a side zipper that easily stores my laptop without opening the rolltop. compartment. The bag isn’t as waterproof as the Chrome – the Osprey’s seams aren’t sealed – but it still keeps most moisture out.
Ortlieb Commuter City 27 liter backpack ($180)
Even simpler than the Chrome bag, the Ortlieb backpack has a huge pocket, a laptop sleeve and an outside pocket. Like the Chrome, it won’t leave a drop of water in the main pocket, even if you spend an hour in the rain. Crafted from a feathery yet still durable nylon, the bag itself weighs just 28.2 ounces. (Compared to 32.5 ounces for the Chrome bag and 32 ounces for the Osprey bag.)