A problem these days for short haul flights is the ability to carry on all your luggage and avoid hold baggage fees that can sometimes as much as double your fare! The added bonus of being able to skip through the airport without waiitng for the hold luggage to arrive means you can be away from the airport, in a taxi or your hire car in a matter of minutes. There are now a number of bags being designed specifically to provide as much carrying capacity, within the baggage limits of the majority of airlines, to allow people to do this.
The Lowe Alpine AT Carry-On 45 is such a bag, aimed at the outdoor market but with features that put it firmly in the realm of many travellers who like efficient carrying method in a stylish pack. A recent trip to Chamonix for a long weekend gave me an opportunity to test this bag and compare it to the more traditional hard shell, wheeled suitcase used by my travelling companion.
The Lowe Alpine AT Carry-On 45 isn't a trolley bag - it has no wheels or handle for dragging it behind you - however having a personal long-standing hatred of trolley-type bags put the Carry-On 45 at a distinct advantage in my book. If you end up in a hurry to catch a flight or connection, then you are way faster with a pack on your back than any other method. In this case we ere in a bit of a hurry so it was soon one - nil to the Lowe Alpine Carry-On 45.
The space offered in the bag was comparable to the standard small suitcase. The packing is more like a traditional suitcase than a normal climbing or walking pack, with a large single open compartment to take the bulk of your items. This is great for conventional travel but it is less easy to stuff your kit in as you can with a normal rucksack. That said, there is enough room for a weekend away climbing and clothes, although you might struggle with a rope.
The bag has many excellent features which have all been well thought out. An excellent padded laptop/tablet pocket is easily accessed via a side zip, there are two smaller pockets which can be used to keep your documents and travel items for easy access, there is also a mesh inside pocket to separate your kit inside the main compartment, and a water bottle side pocket.
For carrying most will resort to the normal double back straps, but these can be neatly tucked away if you wish and replaced with a single courier-style strap. There are also two solid handles for lifting the bag into a car or an overhead locker.
In use the bag was versatile and easy to pack. It didn't suffer from the 'too many pockets' problem some of these bags have which leave you scrabbling for your ticket or passport by searching all of the 10 different hidden pockets! If you use it as your only bag on the plane, then it will also be your only bag at the other end. In that respect the bag was less good since it hangs a little low on the back for a normal climbing sack and doesn't have a weight belt which would have been a useful addition. It is also is a little sweaty if you do take it on a longish walk, but fine for short crag approaches.
At 55 x 35 x 20 - 25cm the dimensions are fine for EasyJet, Ryan Air, Jet 2 and British Airways but not for every airline - best check if you are unsure. It weights 1.36kg so isn't the lightest bag around but there is a 'LightFlight' option available at 810g and £20 cheaper although obviously a bit less robust.
A superb bag for frequent short-haul travellers. It has plenty of room for a weekend away cragging, or walking. Isn't the best bag for heavy active use in the hills but out performs most other standard suitcase solution for those who prefer their luggage on their back and not dragged behind them on wheels. At £85 this is a great value pack.
Price: £85 (or £65 for the Lightflight Carry-on 45)
Weight: 1.36kg (or 810g for the Lightflight Carry-on 45)
MORE INFO: Lowe Alpine