Is there one bag that you can schlep on a cross-country trip across India? What if you are not traveling by plane but have chosen to rough it out on the proverbial third class-compartment or one of our gaily painted buses? The immediate, and wrong, answer would be, “Of course not.”
After all, which bag would be suitable for rainy Kerala, dusty Rajasthan, humid Tamil Nadu, and freezing Kashmir? Which piece of luggage could you possibly put through the beating that is train and bus travel in India? I mean, this is the opposite of wheeling an elegant carry-on through climate-controlled airports.
Wheels in this case would be superfluous, a liability in fact. Imagine the bus breaking down in interior Punjab. The surroundings are beautiful, no doubt, captured in countless Bollywood movies: verdant yellow mustard fields, a ramshackle tea shop serving the best masala chai you have ever tasted, and the harassed bus driver instructing all passengers to get off the bus and wait while he gets the puncture repaired? Rather than climbing off, everyone has to climb on top of the bus to retrieve their duffel bags that have been tied to the top. Seriously, would your fancy Goyard suitcase survive this abuse?
Teleporting all over India, or flying on a magic carpet is the fantasy. Failing that, the Great Indian Railways are the only, and excellent, way to not only get to know this land but also your tolerance for sensual assault, and smelly toilets. Neatniks and OCDs need not apply.
Let me tell you what the Hylete 6-in-1 backpack does not have: it does not have wheels and it doesn’t have a lock. Other than that, it is a marvellous bag for cross-country travel, particularly if you are travelling via multiple vehicles: auto-rickshaw, motorbikes, cars, buses, trains and, if you must, planes.
The problem with most backpacks in the Indian context is the coating of dust that covers most luggage like a second skin. The Hylete, unlike canvas bags is easy to wipe. The company website lists the material as weather and abrasion resistant fabric (called bewilderingly “dual-face TPU 600D”, which sounds like fertilizer). It looks more elegant than its canvas sisters—somewhat like a leather-bag lite.
There are two sizes: 40 litres and 60 litres. They do the exact same things. I prefer the 40L because it is capacious enough for everything including my portable rice-cooker, but manageable enough to slip under an airline seat. I used it as an extra cuddly pillow on the overnight train from Delhi to Jaipur.
The six options for carrying are the following.
2. Extended backpack
3. Duffel bag
4. Bigger duffel bag
5. Messenger bag
6. Separate smaller backpack
The extensions are nifty and kind of a gimmick. At the bottom of the backpack is a smaller zipped compartment that can be pulled out if needed. I used it to stuff all my dirty laundry, but you can stuff a teddy bear, football, or a spice rack should you be carrying all your MTR ready-mix paneer and dal dishes on the TGV through France.
I thought the extra strap for carrying it as a duffel was a total waste, given that a backpack is the most efficient and comfortable way to carry luggage. However, every porter in every small-town railway station thought otherwise. When I was in a group, they invariably carried my bag across their shoulders as a duffel, rather than a backpack.
The best part was the removable smaller backpack. Unlike the Eagle Creek Doubleback Carryon about which I wrote earlier, this backpack is camouflaged in the back. You won’t even realize that it comes apart till you watch the instructional video. And then you won’t stop taking it apart. I used it extensively on a camping trip. I could stuff my valuables into the smaller backpack and take it with me while leaving the clothes and shoes on site.
Two nice touches are the valuables pouch on top of the bag. Many other brands have this pretty much essential feature. Hylete has lined it with velour so you can put your sunglasses or spectacles inside. There front flap has all kinds of compartments, which are somewhat useless unless you use this backpack daily and put your wallet, cards, pens and other detritus of human handbags into their proper places. I basically stuffed my smaller purse into the front flap. In each side are insulated side pockets to stuff your shoes or your water bottle into. Bit strange to put dirty shoes and drinking water into the same compartment but you can. It kept my water cool for after a run.
Basically this is a good looking backpack that can be worn with dress shirts as well as hiking boots. I found the 60L to be a bit overkill and not as useful as the smaller 40L version.
Icon 6-in-1 backpack 40L in black/stealth black costs $200.00
Icon 6-in-1 backpack 60L in black/stealth black costs $250.00
Throw out all those other backpacks stuffed into your closet and put this one inside instead. The two-year warranty will help you decide if you need any other backpack.
Disclosure: This product was loaned for purposes of this review.
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