Up until the first MEI travel packs appeared in the early 1970s, travelers had two choices for carrying their gear: large, external-frame backpacks designed for outdoor activities like mountaineering and hiking, and suitcases. Each of these had their disadvantages. The big backpacks were rugged, but with their external frames, straps, and harnesses, they were awkward for taking on airplanes; also, they were designed so that sweaters, stoves, and the like could be stuffed into them, making them less suitable for travelers who might want, for example, to keep their clothes somewhat less wrinkled. Suitcases were better for taking on buses and airplanes, and they worked better for packing clothes, but they were hard to carry for more than short distances.
MEI travel packsthe first travel packs in the worldcombined the best of both worlds. Like suitcases, they were roomy (enabling you to fold your clothes) and allowed an entire side to be opened at once, so that you didn't have to dig down through all your stuff to get at something at the bottom. Unlike suitcases, however, they could be carried on your back for long distances, especially with the careful attention paid to comfort built into each pack. And, like conventional backpacks, each MEI travel pack was built for rugged use and featured a number of features cherished by backpackers, such as compression-strap loops for sleeping bags and heavy-duty zippers. Unlike regular backpacks, however, MEI packs used an internal-frame construction with few or no external straps, and the waist belt and shoulder harnesses could be zipped away, making the packs easy to store away on buses and planes.
Today, many companies have emulated the original MEI ideas, and internal-frame packs are all the rage (so much so that external-frame backpacks are relatively rare). And yet MEI travel packs by Mountain Equipment remain the best travel packs in the world. Why?
Well, for one thing, today most travel packs come with wheels. Nothing wrong with wheelsin fact, Mountain Equipment makes two terrific wheeled travel packs, the Magellan and the Turbo Transit I, that are quite popular. Both the Magellan and the Turbo Transit I are made with Mountain Equipment's commitment to making high-quality, sturdy travel packs. However, while wheels are great for getting bags through airports and hotel lobbies, they're less useful on dirt roads, trails, or uneven sidewalks . . . and they make a bag heavier. For those people whose itinerary might not be suited for the Magellan and the Turbo Transit, there's the rest of the Mountain Equipment"s wheelless MEI packs, which are far superior to most of the wheelless travel packs you'll find today.
Most wheelless travel packs are shaped like the old external-frame backpacks: long and tubular, which means that you have to dig down to get at your stuff. MEI travel packs are more square, allowing you to access all your gear at once. For many wheelless backpacks, the suspension system (the part that goes around your shoulders and waist) is a mere afterthought: a couple of straps with little or no padding and no way to adjust for different heights or sizes. The pack material itself is often thin and rips easily. Oftentimes there's no way to zip up and hide the suspension system. Some have no loops for strapping things on to the pack. Daypacks are often nothing more than simple bags, and they're attached to the main pack only with straps that can easily be unclasped by thieves. In contrast, MEI travel packs by Mountain Equipment, Inc.:
- are made of rugged materials, such as 1000 denier Cordura
- allow the suspension system to be hidden away
- have daypacks that attach to the main backpack both with straps and with zippers, making them both more safe and more sturdy
- have daypacks that include multiple pockets and (in some models) organizers
- include side pockets that may come attached, may be added on as needed, or are hideaway pockets that can be stored flatly on the inside when not needed
- have a suspension system designed to maximize both comfort and strength
- have many more features than can be mentioned here
Most importantly, each MEI travel pack is hand-made by Mountain Equipment, Inc., with 30 years' experience in making the world's best travel packs.
"I've hiked, biked, ridden trains and buses, and camped on six different continents, and MEI packs have been with me all the way. They're the best travel packs, backpacks, and daypacks I've ever seen, by a wide margin."
M.B., San Francisco
Mountain Equipment, Inc.
3188 N. Marks Avenue, Unit 122
Fresno, CA 93722