Travel Light, Travel Happy: Macpac Orient Express 65

With most things we tend to make emotional decisions and not practical ones, especially when it comes to what we bring with us. Instinctively we want to take everything we own with us, “It was good enough for me to buy, why wouldn’t I need it?” I ask myself.

Its only when I give it harsh analysis I concede maybe I only wore that top once, or where I am going is late summer and I don’t need my entire winter wardrobe just in case.

Less overall capacity means I have to discriminate or be even more harsh with what I’m taking with me, which lead me to downsize from the crazy 125 Litre wheeled duffel from jeep and move to a travel backpack from Macpac. This took a fair amount of research for me to feel comfortable with making a decision on what luggage I will be living out of for the next 2 years, minimum.

L-R Jeep Cabin bag 36L, Jeep rolling duffel,  125L, Macpac Orient Express 65, 85 (?)LG CAMERA PICTURES

L-R Jeep Cabin bag 36L, Jeep rolling duffel, 125L, Macpac Orient Express 65, (85L?)

There are so many opinions on the internet its hard to filter out the bias. I was first looking at Kathmandu packs, they had one that was a wheeled travel pack with an extendable handle. For some reason I was still taken with the ideas of having something wheeled, I must have somehow had luggage amnesia from my experiences with wheeled luggage on my 2013 Italy trip. It was great for flat surfaces. It was a total Dalek when it came to stairs, transitions from train platforms to trains and the luggage destroying bridges of Venice. The rolling duffel needed to go. I would keep the 36 Litre Jeep cabin bag, apart from its sling strap failure within the first 48 hrs of travel, it was roomy and fine for cabin luggage.

After reading a few sensible articles detailing the added weight of the wheeled option, it only being useful in limited circumstances when compared with the mobility of a backpack with a proper harness I changed my outlook.

Next, It had to be a travel backpack, these are different from their hiking and mountain climbing counterparts as they are made to be accessible the length of the pack not top down like most backpacks. The thought of rummaging through all my clothes and gear to find something at the bottom of the pack did not appeal.

I also had to sift through  opinions from “professional élite backpackers” which did dissuade me from Kathmandu’s craftsmanship as a brand, as my greatest fear is luggage bursting open on a busy street, belongings strewn everywhere, even if unfounded as most opinions on the internet lack citations, I couldn’t take the risk. These same “professional élite backpackers” probably spend their time scaling mountains or crawling through south-east Asian jungles (or would like people to think they do) so their opinions are far from unbiased, in the same breath they slated Macpac as being for kids. My planned trip through Europe was hardly going to be wilderness level hiking, so my gear choice was filtered accordingly.

Through my searching I discovered a review by someone from my country doing a similar thing. He wasn’t getting paid for this review, it was based on 6 months of use and being a good bit of kit. In some ways reviews should be after the new toy glow has worn off and the daily reality of how it improves your situation (or otherwise) becomes clear.

So on to my evaluation of the Macpac Orient Express 65’s features and why I chose this pack, maybe in 6 months of travel I will have earned the right to do a review also.

It’s a travel pack so it unzips with a U-shaped flap providing easy access to most parts of the pack. It stows the strap harness behind a zip-away flap as check in luggage and has a shoulder sling strap so it can be carried conventionally also without straps to get caught for trains or taxis.

Macpac Orient Express 65

Demo packed using the contents of my (clean) laundry hamper, I am not taking a huge beach towel with me!

Its capacity is limited enough to make sure I’m not taking stupid amounts of clothes but spacious enough to comfortably fit a leather jacket, pair of jeans, pair of light pants, long shorts, 3 t-shirts, 4 polo shirts, 2 collared shirts, a weeks worth of underwear, socks, travel adapters and chargers and toiletries. All of this is subject to change of course and I’m sure I could pack lighter. Even with all that it’s not super tightly packed. I know some people do round the world travel with 25L happily. But this is nearly half the size of the 125L Jeep I took last time. For a chronic over-packer, this is progress.

It’s a proper belted backpack with a rigid internal metal frame that distributes the load to the belt section and hips so it isn’t dragging on your shoulders. With the waist belt, the chest strap and shoulder straps on and adjusted, it makes a 15-20 kg load feel quite manageable (huge caveat on not having spent time hiking with it to know). Again my needs are very basic: from airport to train or taxi, from train or taxi to accommodation, up steep streets or stairs, with several weeks at each destination. I know, I know, I am a lazy adventurer.

It has a detachable day pack, it adds an additional portable 15 Litres. Just the thing for light exploration, with enough capacity for your sunscreen, swim-gear, a merino jumper, your camera and maybe enough for a bottle of wine to return home with after your adventures.

Macpac Orient Express 15L Daypack


There is a bit of confusion with the overall capacity of this pack, even the attendants at the Macpac store were a little hazy on how much the total litreage was, their take on it was the 65L quoted was the combination of 50 from the travel pack and 15 from the daypack. Also depending on the men’s pack sizing, s3 sizing adds an extra 5 Litres which is selected by spine length, as the Macpac attendant exclaimed “You have a really long back, people must say that all the time.” I grinned and nodded knowingly trying to restrain myself from saying something filthy in response.  When comparing just the pack to the 125L capacity of the Jeep it looks just over half, so my take on it is 65 (or 70 for us longbacks) plus 15 total 80-85 Litres!

Macpac Orient Express 65, Pack straps stowed, shoulder sling shown, daypack with straps stowed

Macpac Orient Express 65, Pack straps stowed, shoulder sling shown, daypack with straps stowed

So my total luggage litreage (at impossible full capacity) should be somewhere in the realms of 115L, which is a modest reduction from the 160L last time also this is distributed between 3 bags, mainly the cabin luggage and the Orient Express and I expect somewhere in the realms of 20-25 kg. Overall I hope this will be a more portable solution for trains and short flights (which are ridiculously cheap in Europe due to all the connecting flights). After 6 months in continent (ahaha, pardon the pun) I’ll have to revisit my impressions. If anything by that stage I’ll be wishing I had only taken the daypack.


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