The Porter backpack is one of Osprey's all-time best sellers along with the Farpoint. Because of that, it was redesigned last year, to include some cool features that the old Porter lacked.
Does the change mean improvement? In this case it does. So, we won't compare the Porter to its older version – the current redesign has been around for a while, and you can't even get the old one anymore.
Instead, we'll take a look at all of its features, and see what it is exactly that makes this particular backpack so popular.
We gave the Porter 46 backpack a pretty high grade. You can see a breakdown of how we rate its individual features right here:
I think this gives you a pretty good overview of what you can expect from this backpack. Generally, it is an excellent backpack for travel because it has all the features you would want your carry on to have. It is also pretty comfortable, with one small downside in that aspect. The backpack is also really spacious, and it has a ton of organizational features that you will love.
So, it gets a B++. The value for money is somewhat questionable, since it is a pretty expensive backpack.
You can read about each of these features in much more detail in the later sections of the review.
I know you want to know everything about the features of this awesome pack, but we need to start with the basics first. So, take a look at the specifications of this pack:
The Porter 46 is actually a little bigger than the average carry on. And judging by the dimensions alone, no airline would let you carry this on board. Luckily, that’s not how things work, and most airlines actually do treat this backpack as a carry on. I’ll give you more details in a later section; for now, it’s enough to know that it is large enough to fit clothes for several weeks.
The pack has a pretty big capacity – 46 liters is more than you will see in any carry on suitcase. Which is what makes it such a good choice for frequent travelers, especially for those who are pros at packing. This backpack could save you so much money if you are planning a really long trip, which includes flying to several different places.
Additionally, it is super lightweight for a pack of its size. 3.4 lbs is nothing – a suitcase as big as this backpack would weigh at least twice that. This is particularly important since you will be carrying this pack on your shoulders most of the time, and the lighter it is the less you will struggle with it.
What about the materials? So, this backpack is made from two types of Nylon. The main body of the pack is made of 420HD Nylon Packcloth, and the accents are made of 420D Nylon Wave Ripstop. Both are exceptionally durable materials, and they pretty much ensure your Porter will live a long life.
In addition to that, Nylon is extremely popular in luggage mostly because it is water resistant by nature. Overall, it is one of the best materials for backpacks and suitcases, but also one of the more expensive materials, hence the pretty high price tag of the Porter 46.
Do a Google search for a travel backpack and you will find hundreds of different products. However, only a handful of those will actually include features designed to make your travels easier, and the Porter 46 is one of those.
In this section, we’ll check out all the features that are specific to the “travel” part of this backpack. Spoiler alert, there’s a lot of them!
The Porter pack features two D-rings on its side that allow you to attach a shoulder strap. This is especially convenient for travelers, because it basically allows you to carry your backpack like a duffel.
I don’t think that carrying a heavy backpack on one shoulder is more comfortable, but it is what some people prefer. And if you are one of those people, I think you will really appreciate this feature. Additionally, if you are travelling with more than one piece of luggage, this allows you to carry all of them at once.
However, a shoulder strap is not included in the purchase. But I wouldn’t necessarily call that a downside – most of us already own something with a removable shoulder strap, so you don’t really need to go and buy one. Just take the favorite and most comfortable shoulder strap you own and attach it to the Porter 46.
If you look just the numbers, then no. It exceeds the size restrictions for in-cabin baggage of most airlines, at least in the US
However, keep in mind that this is a backpack. It does not have a rigid frame like most suitcases do, which means that you will be able to stuff in the carry on luggage checker most of the time. I also did some digging to see what other people are saying – can you bring this inside the cabin?
And the answer is yes. Most people never had to check this backpack, because it is so pliable. No matter how much stuff you pack in it, you will be able to squeeze this in the overhead compartment. In addition to that, the compression straps really help to make it look smaller. As long as you don’t over pack and really cinch in the backpack, you will be allowed to carry it on board.
You know how your suitcase usually has three grab handles – top, bottom and side? We, so does the Porter 46. And that is because they wanted this to be a true travel backpack.
The grab handles really help you be in control of your luggage, as opposed to it controlling you. And you know what I’m talking about – just think of the last time you saw someone struggling to maneuver their suitcase. Or pick it up and place it in the overhead compartment without any issues at all.
Porter’s handles are sturdy and soft, and they will feel comfortable in your hands. Plus, they make it super easy to pick up the pack and neatly store it in the overhead compartment in a matter of minutes. They are made from the same sturdy Nylon like the body of the backpack, and you really don't have to worry about one of them accidentally ripping.
This is a particularly important feature. Both the harness and the hipbelt can be zipped up in their own pockets, giving your Porter a completely flat back. This makes it so much easier to store it over or under your seat, since nothing is dangling from the pack or getting in the way.
Additionally, this is a pretty useful feature if you decide to use the shoulder strap. It sort of transforms your pack into a duffel, and you don’t have to worry about hipbelt or shoulder straps dragging on the ground. And definitely remember to use this when you have to put the pack in the carry-on size checker – the hidden harness will make the pack look smaller, and it will fit into the checked more smoothly.
To hide the harness and the hipbelt you will need to unbuckle both of them - basically detach them from the backpanel. Then you need to neatly fold them in their pockets, and that's it. Anyway, here's a helpful video that will show you exactly how to do this:
Quick and easy, right?
Unfortunately, the laptop and tablet compartment is not 100% TSA friendly, meaning that you will still need to take out your laptop when going through a checkpoint. But it is separate from the main compartment of the pack, and you can remove your laptop in a matter of seconds.
It is actually located in the back part of the Porter 46, and it is fully padded. This provides the pack with good shock resistance, and it could save your laptop’s life if you drop the pack.
The inclusion of the external laptop compartment is great, and actually a huge improvement over the old Porter backpack. It makes going through TSA checkpoints much quicker and easier, and it gives you easy access to your electronics even while you are travelling.
Unlike the larger versions of this pack, the Porter 46 does not come with a removable daypack. But it is fully compatible with Osprey’s Daylite – a small, 13-liter daypack.
There are attachment points on the front of the pack what allow you to attach the Daylite to the Porter. This is pretty useful if you are going to spend a lot of time on foot, since you can carry both packs at once. Or, if you don’t want to carry everything at once, you can bring what you need for the day in the detachable daypack.
Generally, you could divide all of your stuff between the two packs - maybe clothes and shoes in one, and electronics and other gadgets in the other. And If you are spending several days in the same place, the Daylite is the perfect bag for running around town and exploring. It can hold all your on-the-go necessities, as opposed to carrying around the entire 40lbs+ Porter.
Now, this only works if you already own the Daylite, or if you go ahead and buy it. If you are looking to get 2 packs for the price of one, I suggest you check out the larger porter packs, since they actually come with a detachable daypack.
A good travel backpack will feel much lighter than it is on your back, and it won’t cause you any soreness or pain. It will keep you comfortable throughout your travels, and you will actually enjoy wearing it. And your comfort is mostly impacted by materials used in the backpanel and harness.
Does the Osprey Porter 46 do just that? Mostly yes. Let’s check out all the different features it has that are supposed to make you one happy traveler!
This Osprey backpack is equipped with a thin HDPE framesheet. That is actually a plastic frame, which is supposed to allow your backpack to retain its shape even when it is completely empty. The frame is only 1 mm thin, so that it doesn’t make the backpack heavy or uncomfortable to wear, but that it still does its job.
This is a great inclusion – it is much easier to pack when your backpack has a sturdy frame. Especially in cases when you only pack half of it. Plus, this ensures that the pack lies flat against your back, and that nothing inside it can poke you.
Additionally, the plastic frame significantly increases the durability and overall sturdiness of the backpack. Packs that easily get deformed are much more likely to get caught on something and ripped, which is not what you want out of your expensive travel backpack. The plastic frame protects not just your back, but also your Porter 46.
A soft backpanel is crucial for your comfort. It really helps when you are wearing the backpack for prolonged periods of time, since it feels soft against your back. Porter’s backpanel is padded with a thick layer of foam, so it should be pretty comfortable to wear.
However, since the backpanel here also includes zippered pockets for the stowaway harness and hipbelt, it is not really ventilated. And that’s a downside – if you wear this backpack for hours on end, chances are you will get sweaty. Especially since the backpanel is made of nylon, which is not really a breathable material.
The lack of ventilation means that the backpanel can’t breathe and dry itself out, against your sweaty back. That probably won’t be a huge deal if you don’t wear this for really long periods of time, especially in warmer temperatures. But if you do, definitely try out some other carrying options.
A sweaty back might not seem like a big deal for you, but keep in mind that the backpanel absorbs not just the moisture, but also the smell. And walking around for hours in the middle of August could cause your backpack to get stinky, and you do not want that.
The good news is that the lack of ventilation is something only the backpanel suffers from. The harness, on the other hand, is made from mesh, which is a breathable material. Plus, it is also padded with foam throughout, so it should feel comfortable on your torso.
The shoulder straps are completely adjustable, so it should be easy to get them to fit right. Generally, you want to tighten them until there is no space between your back and the backpanel. But you also don’t want them to be too tight and cut into your skin. Play around a little and see what fits you best – I would say that you’ve adjusted them perfectly when the backpack feels comfortable and almost weightless.
And you should also play around with the adjustable load lifters. They transfer the weight from the harness to the hipbelt, which will really help make the backpack seem lighter than it is.
The purpose of a hipbelt is to transfer the weight of the backpack from your upper torso to your hips. Since hips are the largest muscles in your body, it is much easier for them to bear the weight of a backpack without causing you any soreness or pain. And with a pack that weighs more than 40 lbs, you definitely want to utilize that feature.
The hipbelt on this Osprey pack is fully padded with foam and covered with mesh. So, it is also breathable, on top of being pretty soft and comfortable. The foam-padded parts of it actually hug your hips, while the rest of the belt is made from 38 mm webbing. You can easily adjust the width of the hipbelt until you get the right fit.
There is one thing I wished was different about the hipbelt, and that’s pockets. This one doesn’t have them, which is a shame since that is a really useful and convenient feature. But it’s not that big a deal, and it definitely doesn’t impact your overall comfort.
Shoulder straps tend to move around your torso, which is why you want to use the sternum strap. It connects them together, and ensures that they will stay in place until you decide to unbuckle them.
Why is that important? Well, if the shoulder straps move around a lot, the hipbelt can’t really do its job. Which means that most of the pack’s weight will stay on your upper torso, and that you will get sore in a few hours. If you don’t want that to happen, remember to buckle that sternum strap every time!
The buckle of this strap also doubles as an emergency whistle, which is pretty cool. And also useful, in case you need to draw attention to yourself – maybe you realize you are getting mugged, or you lost your friends in a crowd and you can’t find them. The whistle can certainly help with that!
With backpacks for travel, organization is one of the key features. You are pretty much using the backpack instead of a suitcase, and you want to be able to organize all of your items properly, so you can easily access everything.
We’ll check out all the different pockets and compartments of the backpack in this section, except for the laptop compartment. I already talked about that one in the travel features section, se go back if you missed it!
The Porter 46 has a front loading main compartment, just like a good travel backpack should. This makes packing so much easier and faster, since you basically have one large compartment like on a softshell suitcase. It allows you to organize your clothes however you want, and ensures that you have easy access to everything when you start unpacking.
There are no internal compression straps in this pack, but the padded walls of the external compression do such a good job that you don’t even need them. However, the front-loading compartment means that you can’t really take out anything quickly on the go. And that’s one reason why you should consider taking a daypack on your trip.
The main compartment itself is pretty spacious, and it can fit enough clothes for a week-long trip. And if you are a packing pro and an experienced traveler, you can even fit enough clothes for a month or two in this pack – I know people who managed to do that, and I was thoroughly impressed.
There are two zippered internal pockets – one is made from mesh, and the other from plain fabric. And both of them are on the sides of the pack.
They really improve the organization inside the main compartment, since you can pick and choose what goes where. I think they are great for any smaller items that you don’t want to have to search for, like your jewelry or maybe cords and chargers. Or just stuff that you want more easily accessible than the rest, since you can reach these even when the main compartment is fully packed.
Don’t put your socks or underwear in them – if you really want to pack like a pro, put those in a small plastic bag and then inside your shoes. You will save a ton of space.
The backpack features a separate front compartment with an organizer panel. This is perfect for any items you want to have easily accessible, and which you want to keep separate from the stuff in the main compartment. For me, those are my chargers, cords, books, pens and crossword puzzles.
Inside this compartment you will find one zippered mesh pocket and several smaller slip pockets.
However, keep in mind that this compartment is not as secure as the main compartment, so maybe don’t put your most valuable things inside it, if it is not going to be in your sight all the time. Unlike the main compartment, this one doesn’t have lockable zippers, so keep that in mind.
The Porter backpack doesn't have any internal compression straps, so the external ones do all the work. But, since they include padded walls that really hug the sides of your pack, there is nothing to worry about.
Their main purpose is to completely stabilize the load of the pack, and ensure that nothing gets jumbled around. Which is pretty useful since you are basically carrying all of your clothes upside down. But other than that, the compression straps can also cinch in your backpack and reduce its size, if you don't over pack it.
This not only makes it more convenient to carry around, but also ensures that you won’t have any issues bringing the Porter 46 inside the cabin. This entire system is actually called the Straightjacket Compression, so you can guess just how well it works.
The Porter 46 features a small zippered pocket on the very top of the pack. It is easy accessible, and really it’s the perfect pocket for your toiletries – especially if you are using the pack as a carry on.
You probably know by now that you need to show your toiletries to TSA agents. And that you need to have them in a clear plastic bag. If you put that bag in this pocket, you will save a lot of time when going through the checkpoints, as opposed to keeping them in the main compartment of your pack.
Just consider how long it takes to actually open up that compartment, with all the different buckles. But if you put it in this pocket, it's just one zipper away.
At the very front of the pack there is a really slim, vertical-zippered pocket. You can’t really use it for much, but it’s pretty much the perfect compartment for your passport and tickets. The pocket is easily accessible, and just the right size for your travel documents.
But, its zipper is covered by the compression straps, so you will need to undo those first. On the one hand, this makes the compartment a little more secure, and ensures that no one else cold sneakily open it up without you noticing.
On the other hand, it also means that there is an additional step you need to take, before you can actually get to your boarding pass.
Is this an expensive backpack? Yes. But is it overpriced? Absolutely not. But the price really makes you wonder whether or not this pack is really worth it. However, that depends on a few things, mostly your own travel preferences.
In terms of “bang for buck”, you don’t get a lot. With some other backpacks, you get a lot of additional equipment, that significantly increases their value for money. But with the Porter 46, you only get the backpack itself.
However, whether or not the pack is really worth it, depends on how much you are going to use it. Obviously, if you plan to use this all the time, then you will definitely get your money’s worth. But if not, then you should probably look into some cheaper travel packs.
The Porter 46 is designed for those people who want a backpack that they can use for any trip they want. And only people who are looking for something like this will truly understand its value. But if you only see this is an overpriced pack, then definitely check out some cheaper options.
If you are looking to completely replace your carry-on suitcase with this backpack, then definitely go for it. With a carry-on suitcase, you can’t ever be 100% sure that they will let you carry it on board. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space in the cabin, and you are forced to check your 20” suitcase.
But because this is a backpack, it is much more flexible, so it’s really easy to squeeze it into smaller spaces. It could potentially save you some money in the long run, which is why it is definitely worth it.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a pack for a single occasion, and you don’t think you will use it that often, then I don’t think you will get your money’s worth. This is not a cheap backpack, and you could something more affordable for that single occasion.
But if you want that Osprey quality and durability, then you might as well go and spend your money on the Porter 46. I think you will learn to love it over time, and you will wind up using it more often than you think.
Head over to Amazon to check out the color options for the Porter 46 and all of their prices. Or, if you don't think that this is the right backpack for you, you can check out my review on the Osprey Farpoint (how it compares to the Porter) or one of its many alternatives.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!