Including rest days while on a long distance bike tour are an important part of extended travel. So, out on the road, when we’re not on our bikes but still somewhere we want to explore on foot, both of us will require a bag of some sort to carry our essential belongings around with us.
Although we’ve considered the simple option of slinging a shoulder-strapped front pannier over each of our respective shoulders, messenger-bag style, that carrying solution is far less then ideal when compared to a purpose-built backpack or the equivalent. Problem is, most small day packs out there, even those marketed as “travel packs”, tend to consume lots of space when packed in a pannier (i.e. not in use) or almost always tend to be the result of sweatshop labor.
That’s why it was particularly eventful when I came across the unique offerings of Barefoot Enterprises out of Colorado, USA. And I do not use the term “unique” idly. Not only does this cottage industry produce a remarkable travel-type daypack – the aptly termed “Wanderlite” – but they do so in the spirit of Paul Newman’s “Newman’s Own”, among other notable examples. That’s right, as per the company literature: “All profits from the sale of Wanderlite Packable Daypacks are donated to World Vision to aid in the development of safe drinking water and sustainable community agriculture in Africa.” Like you, I’m lucky if I can count on one hand the numbers of businesses I’ve come across that operate in this manner. And, until now, I couldn’t think of any that do so in the manufacture of “outdoor gear”. Plus, World Vision gets a “4-star” rating from Charity Navigator, which is not too shabby considering that in order to qualify for this top rating they must meet the following definition: “Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.”
So, aside from the charitable nature of their business model, what else is so special about the Wanderlite daypack?
Well, for one, when folded up and rolled away, the stowed pack consumes the amount of space equivalent to a 12-ounce beverage can. And while others might pack even smaller and/or weigh even less, they do so by incurring two major penalties:
One is payload capacity. In other words, how many fruits, vegetables and loaves of bread one can conceivably nestle in amongst a camera, notebook and rain coat. All of this pack’s nearest competitors would have you wandering back to the hostel or campsite with your arms full of “spillover” or, worse yet, needing to make two back-to-back trips to porter the same amount that easily fits in one load with the Wanderlite. This results from those other brands’ relatively small carrying capacities. Thanks to its max capacity of 32 liters (that’s 1925 cubic inches!), the Wanderlite will let you comfortably carry most, if not all, of whatever you may need. By comparison, the nearest sweatshop competitor clocks in at about ½ the payload capacity. I don’t know about you, but I’m always wishing I had just a little more room in my daypack.
The other liability has got to be durability. The Wanderlite utilizes a very durable and long lasting fabric (420 denier pack cloth) in its main construction and smartly uses seatbelt material for the straps, yet still weighs in at a mere 8 ounces. That’s pretty svelte when you consider how much stuff this pack can haul. Sure, someone can construct a lighter day pack. But how will the super-lightweight material fair after a few months or a few years of constant use? Most of the descriptions that accompany the ultra-lightweight products out there always feature a disclaimer, something to the effect of: “Not for use by people unknowledgeable of the limitations of this fabric….” I’d rather rely on my gear to provide long-life along with the occasional non-catastrophic failure, like a small hole or abrasion, than watch as my load of oranges and mangos spills from the un-repairable gash that erupts from the space age fabric of my four month old super-duper-ultra-lightweight bag.
My only concern with the Wanderlite has to do with the no-name zippers it employs on both the main bag and the small front pocket. To date, I’ve had horrible luck with non-YKK zippers – and these no-logo versions look suspiciously like cheap knockoffs. But, I’m happy at this point to rely on the substantial manufacturer’s guarantee that accompanies this bag – a “no-quibble” lifetime warranty!
The Wanderlite is a hard-wearing and utilitarian consumable married to a charitable endeavor. As a conscientious consumer, I really don’t know what more you could ask for.
If you’re in need of a messenger bag, check out these two excellent options:
Courierware (made in Vermont with lifetime warranty with customizable options) -or-
BaileyWorks(made in New Hamsphire with lifetime warranty).