I adore my Kathmandu Litehaul 38, it has been around the world with me from Asia to South America. It has been an excellent carry on, or checked piece of luggage. Recently, however, an update has been released and so I decided to check it out.
My Litehaul Obsession
After many, many trips, and some normal wear and tear, I thought it might be nice to get a new Litehaul 38, but horror of horrors, it was out of production!
I wept about my lack of new bag nightly, until last week. My bus passed the Kathmandu shop in London and I saw the wonderful sign “40% off flash sale”. I whipped out my phone and checked to see if it was back. I was thrilled to see that it is was there, and with all the adrenaline of the impulse buy, I had bought it before I had noticed it was a new version. When I collected it at the shop, I had an exciting surprise. I couldn’t wait to get it home and see what had changed.
Why Carry On?
Travelling on standby, I tend not to check my bag in, as there is a much higher chance that it will be left behind. Sometimes, I barely have time to make the plane, let alone my luggage making it through a baggage system. If I stayed still in my destination, that wouldn’t matter so much. But I tend to travel around, and so my bag would never catch me up.
It also makes sure that I don’t take more than I can comfortably carry. The weight limit for hand luggage for my airline is 10kg (22lbs), any more than that, and it starts to become quite uncomfortable to haul around (I guess that’s why they call it litehaul).
I do sometimes check it in, when I am travelling on confirmed flights, and so it needs to be a travel pack, with straps that zip away.
And so to the bag, and to give it it’s full name, Litehaul 38L Convertible Shoulder Carry Laptop Backpack v3
- The Litehaul 38 comes in two colours. Blue, with orange highlights and black, which is my preference. I prefer the black, as it is less conspicuous and can be used in a slightly more business-like travel environment.
- The bag has 38 litres of space and measures 53cm x 33cm x 27cm. This will fit most airlines hand luggage allowances, but you will have to pack it flat and strap it down to decrease the depth if you are flying on a slightly less generous airline (Ryanair only allows 20cm depth).
- It weighs just 1.42 kg (around 3 lbs) and so it leaves you with plenty of weight allowance to play with.
The front of the bag is quite plain. It has the Kathmandu logo picked out in white and two straps used for compressing the bag when packed. These can also be used for holding extra things, a rolled jacket or pillow for example.
I think this is where the litehaul has an advantage over some other carry on backpacks. It looks relatively smart from the front, and it’s plainness, also makes it look a little smaller. The busy front of some other packs (the Osprey Farpoint 40 for example) can give the impression that it is bigger and stuffed full.
The exterior of the bag is made of a rip stop fabric, designed to reduce any damage as much as possible. The design has changed.
It makes the outside a touch shinier than it was but if it improves durability, I’m not complaining.
You’ll also find three handles, one on the top and one on each side. This means that bag is easy to grab at any point, even if the straps are hidden away. The handles are all well padded and easy to hold. I have snatched it off a few baggage belts and never had a problem.
Here you can also see the zip lock point, which is now much larger and so can be used with a larger selection of locking methods.
The litehaul has four sections other than the large main compartment.
- A small fleecc-lined pocket at the top of the bag. I believe that this is meant to be a camera pocket but I use it for cable ties, compasses and other bits and bobs that I might need quickly if my bag is locked.
- A bottle pocket. On the old bag, this was quite tight to the bag, so when the bag was full, it became useless. They have now put a strap on it so it can loosened, or tightened as necessary. A small idea that makes a big difference.
- A padded laptop pocket. This is the back pocket of the bag and has extra padding which helps both your laptop or tablet, and your back. I’ve never actually used this for a laptop, as i tend to travel with just my phone, and so it is usually just full of paper plane tickets etc. It can easily fit an A4 folder or 15 inch laptop.
- The front pocket. This is for your little bits, pens, passport etc. This is very handy pocket if you literally only have this bag with you. I usually have a small handbag too, so I tend not to use it much. It extends down to bottom of the bag so it is bigger than it looks.
The interior of all but one of the pockets is a bright orange. It used to be green but I suppose they needed to differentiate it somehow. The bright colour makes it easier to see things inside the bag, unless everything you own is bright orange that is.
Inside the main compartment you will also find a mesh internal pocket. I don’t think I’ve actually ever used this one either but you might be more of an organiser than me.
The way I use this bag is as a backpack, all the time. The back system on this pack is called APS, Air Pod System. It is meant to keep your back cool, and it does a reasonable job but it is not as good as the systems that use a mesh barrier.
The straps are padded, fully adjustable and both have a plastic hanging loop on. They attach to the top of the bag with adjustable straps to bring the bag closer to your back for a better fit. You will also see the padded hip belt which is really comfortable and is only featured on a couple of carry on backpacks. They take the weight off your shoulders and make a huge difference as you can end up carrying your bags for long periods of time through the terminal.
The Strap Cover
The one thing I HATED on the old bag was the cover that zipped the straps away. The zip needed to be connected before it would zip up, and it was a nightmare every time. I was often holding up a queue to check in my bag as I sat next to my bag in despair.
On the new bag, it is all integrated. Hallelujah!!! The cover hides behind the back system and can be accessed by an opening on the right hand side as you look at the back. The zips are always attached and you can zip everything away in seconds.
On the old bag, there was an extra strap for those who wanted to convert it into a shoulder/messenger bag. Now, however, you use one of the straps that is already there. The left hand strap is much longer and can be manouvered to convet.
Then undo the buckle at the top of the strap.
Et voila! A stylish side bag is yours.
I genuinely think that this is a excellent carry on bag. It works as hand luggage and for checking in. It seems to me that all the changes that have been made are positive. The change in rip stop fabric design has little impact really, but the bottle pocket and the strap cover are two fantastic additions.
My new Litehaul 38 is coming with me to Hong Kong in five days and i can’t wait to show it off.