Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gear Closet: Granite Gear Cross-Trek Travel Duffel

Years ago I came to the conclusion that when I traveled I prefer to carry a backpack. I found the ability to just throw my bag over my shoulder and go was incredibly liberating, and since I don't particularly like to check my bags if I can help it, a backpack has always been the best way to get al of my gear on and off an airplane in an efficient manner. But, carrying a backpack isn't always the best option depending on the type of travel you are embarking on. Sometimes you need something that is a bit more versatile and can carry your gear in a more efficient manner. After all. stuffing a suit into a backpack isn't usually the wisest thing to do, and keeping all of your gear organized can be a challenge too. Enter the Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffels from Granite Gear – a set of luggage that is designed with the outdoor adventurer in mind that manages to provide all of the advantages of both a suitcase and backpack.

I took the 26" Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel with me on my recent trip to Egypt, and found that it performed marvelously. Not only did it have plenty of room for a 2.5 week trip, it made it very easy to organize the things I carried with me as well. My duffel – which is the second largest that Granite Gear makes – offered 4800 cubic inches of space, which translates to 78.5 liters when comparing it to a backpack. In other words, there was plenty of room to carry lots of things, which is a luxury I don't always have with a pack.

When I first started using the Cross Trek I was immediately impressed with its build quality. Not only is it made from very durable fabrics designed to protect its contents from the elements, the duffel's wheels, zippers, handles, and various other components were all incredibly sturdy too. That was good, because the bag would certainly be put to the test in Egypt, where it would endure three flights just to get there, only to be tossed on and off multiple buses, loaded on top of 4x4's, carried across sand dunes, and up countless flights of stairs in hotels. After all of that, I'm happy to say that my Cross-Trek duffel came home little worse for wear. In fact, it barely looks like it has gone anywhere, other than collecting a bit of sand from the Sahara.


If you've read any of my gear reports in the past you probably already know that I value versatility out of any product that I use. Granite Gear has certainly delivered in that category, as this duffel has multiple handles for lugging it around, including a telescoping stow-away handle that can be used to pull the bag through the airport on its sturdy and dependable wheels. Best of all, the bag can be converted into a backpack in a pinch, as it also has a set of hidden shoulder straps and a hipbelt that can be employed in an emergency. This comes in very handy when you're in a hurry, and you'd rather strap your gear to your back rather than pull it along on wheels or lug it by the various handles.

The interior of the Cross-Trek is no less versatile either. It features multiple compartments for storing your gear, including one that comes in handy for stowing dirty clothes that you no longer want to use. Each of the different pockets and compartments proved useful throughout my trip, and they are so well laid out that I never once got confused as to what items were in which location. There is even an expandable drop bottom compartment that can provide extra storage should you find your bag getting full. Granite Gear says that it will offer up to 18% more space when needed, but it can also be zippered shut to keep the bag as svelte and streamlined as possible when not in use too.

Once you've loaded up the duffel with all of your gear, two large compression straps – with very durable buckles – help to secure the load inside the bag further. In my case, I packed light enough that this wasn't really necessary, but I did use the straps to help keep the duffel as small as possible, and it was a good way to seal up the interior while traveling.

One of the things I like best about the Cross-Trek Duffel is that it deftly mixes the ability to be very civil with the option to get adventurous too. This is a bag that I could take with me on just about any trip, since it can easily survive a weekend getaway with the family, as well as a journey to more remote and demanding areas in far flung corners of the globe. There are still plenty of expeditions that will require the use of a backpack of course, but this duffel is capable of going just about anywhere. And since it is so durable, it can survive just about anything you throw at it.

The version of the Cross-Trek that I carried to Egypt carries a price tag of $189.99. For a trip of that length, it was just about the right size, although it may have actually been larger than I actually needed. I am a notoriously light packer however, so I'm sure most people would appreciate the additional storage that the 26" model affords. The Cross-Trek also comes in a 22" wheeled carry-on version ( $169), a 22" wheeled carry-on with removable 28L pack ($189), and a gigantic 32" model ($209). In other words, there is pretty much a size for just about everyone, with each filling a specific niche.

The Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel is adventure luggage at its finest. It provides all of the options adventure travelers need, and can be quickly converted into a backpack when necessary as well. If you're in the market for a piece of luggage that is rugged, versatile, and spacious, Granite Gear has just the thing for you. I look forward to carrying my duffel with me on many future journeys, as I know it will be the perfect companion.

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