Gregory Alpaca 22 Rolling Bag
Gregory’s new Alpaca 22 rolling case arrived on my doorstep for testing the day before I crossed the Atlantic for a month-long trip to Europe. Lucky for me!
I had been lusting over its big wheels, wide handle, and waterproof fabric shell, but I didn’t expect the bag’s sense of timing to be perfect, too. And now, after seamlessly living out of my bright red Alpaca 22 rolling case for nearly two weeks, I can honestly say it’s made my journey so hassle free that I feel a weird sense of gratitude toward it.
When the UPS guy delivered the Gregory Alpaca 22, I quickly emptied the contents of my already-packed old roller bag out onto the living room floor and prepared for a transfer. I was a little surprised I’d been dealing with that old thing for so long since it’s really just a sack on wheels. It doesn't have pockets to stash travel documents, a place to attach a key chain, or separate storage for my little bag of toothpaste and mouthwash. The 53-liter Alpaca is a huge improvement. It has a great inner mesh zipper pocket for organization, as well as an external zippered pocket that I use to keep my passport, ID, and boarding passes readily available. Another cool feature: the bottom of the case is perfectly flat, so I no longer have to cram individual socks into the space between the handlebar posts in order to maximize space.
Gregory’s Alpaca 22 isn’t a typical nylon wheelie bag, nor is it a squishy duffel without any support. It’s kind of a hybrid, made of a rigid bathtub-style bottom with sides and a top made of a TPU-coated nylon that reminds me of the abrasion-resistant stuff on the haul bags used in big wall climbing. Basically, no airport in the world can destroy this thing. There’s some rigidity in the walls, so it offers some protection, but it's also compressible enough to shove into tight spaces when the need arises – something I can’t do with a hard-shell roller bag. This is particularly handy on tiny airplanes and puddle jumpers where the luggage compartments are smaller than normal.
The Alpaca sports some gigantic 4” wheels, much like 29er mountain bikes and their oversized tires. The result is that the Alpaca simply rolls over just about anything in the way. The wheels don’t snag on stuff of the ground; they just keep going. They roll over cigarette butts instead of dragging them; they roll over shag carpets instead of getting bogged down; they roll through deep puddles and snow without getting drenched. They turn the bag from a mild-mannered airport wheelie into an all-terrain machine. The wheels even blazed through my yard en route to the car – not an easy task with the deep and sandy decomposed granite and rounded 1” river rocks. While traveling, I’ve had to drag this bag through snowdrifts and long, muddy dirt roads, and surprisingly, it just doesn’t get stuck. I’m headed to Italy next week and I’m simply not worried about having a roller bag on bumpy, rutted, cobbled streets.
Back to my trip... Of course, as is usual, I was late to the Denver airport as I left for Europe. I had to sprint through the terminal, and that’s where I first truly appreciated how cool the Alpaca 22's ultra wide handle is. My old wheelie bag’s handle was centered on the bag and was just wider than my hand, which basically required me to tow it directly behind me. The Gregory Alpaca 22’s handle is as wide as the entire bag, so if I grab the corner of the handle, the bag is off to my side. That means I can literally run without the Alpaca nipping at my heels. This is more than just an evolution in wheelie bag design, especially for adventurous travelers who often require speed and agility to navigate through train stations, airports, and who-knows-what in the middle of nowhere.
Before testing this bag I tended to choose a regular backpack when I went traveling due to its increased maneuverability. But now I’m picking the Gregory Alpaca 22 – which, by the way, I can also turn into a backpack should I so desire by attaching its included backpack style straps. Pair the backpack straps with the grab handles everywhere, and you’ve got a bag that can manage just about any sort of travel.
The Gregory Alpaca comes in two sizes, a 22-inch model that fits in the overhead bin, and a 28-inch model. It’s available in black and red. The red bag works best for me because it’s way more visible on the carousel if I have to check the bag.
Bottom Line: Unbeatable, off-road roller bag perfectly suited for adventure travelers -- N.W. (Jan 2012)
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