Wil experiences a revelation after testing the voluminous Dakine Split Roller travel bag
I’ve recently come to the realisation that, for far too long, I’ve been attempting this whole travelling journalist caper completely the wrong way.
Over the years, I’ve battled numerous plane, train, ferry and car journeys with just a big ol’ hiking pack. Yes, point and laugh at me and my inexperienced traveller ways as you like, but I will say that my cheap and well-worn 65L Black Wolf pack has served me well over the years. From my early backpacking days, through to several overseas relocations, it’s lasted a good while and is (*touch wood*) yet to give up despite being overloaded to zip-bursting proportions on many an occasion.
Trouble is, when you’re lugging around a dozen copies of Singletrack along with all your riding gear, shoes, pedals, cameras and assorted content creation paraphernalia, it becomes especially heavy and awkward to manoeuvre. That’s made all the more apparent when I’m carrying my regular work laptop backpack with me, which results in the somewhat embarrassing double-backpack conundrum.
Upon reflection though, I might have just realised the root cause of my terrible posture.
Having grown rather jealous of all the sleek travelling apparatuses used by the experienced mountain bikers I’d bump into on various press trips and riding holidays, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and try out one of these dedicated rolling duffel bags.
Dakine Split Roller Bag
The bag I’ve been using and abusing for the past year is the Dakine Split Roller 110L.
Pitched at surfers, snowbunnies and dirty mountain bikers, it’s a huge compartmentalised rolling duffel bag that comes complete with two roller wheels, an extendable handle, and a neat clamshell construction that allows the bag to split into two halves via a near 360° zipper.
Confirmed weight for the unloaded bag is 4.7kg (10.34lb), leaving you with a fair amount of breathing room to get up to most airline’s limits for a piece of checked luggage. If you’re running it at minimum capacity, two large compression straps help to snug everything down as tightly as possible.
There’s a range of colours to choose from, and if you don’t need as much space, Dakine also offers the Split Roller design in smaller 85L and 75L sizes, with the smallest one coming in quite a bit cheaper at £115.
Collapsible & Adaptable
Unlike a traditional rolling travel bag, the Split Roller uses more of a duffel-type construction, with heavy duty Nylon and Cordura making up the external walls of the upper pack. This allows it to be easily compressible when carrying smaller loads, and it’s also collapsible when not in use.
The two ‘wings’ that reinforce the corners of the bottom end of the pack can be easily removed, and that allows the upper to squish right down into the hardshell outer case.
Look at them. So round. So efficient. So rollable.
Having pulled a couple of full laps around Planet Earth with the Dakine Split Roller by my side, I can confirm that rolling luggage is the future I should have embraced long ago. It just makes porting your crap so much easier. Well, providing you’re not walking across gravel, then it becomes the most difficult thing in the world.
Dakine has spec’d 8cm urethane (read: plastic) wheels on the Split Roller bag, which have proven to be plenty durable throughout a year of use and abuse. However, they are replaceable should one meet an untimely death.
Secretly tucked in the reinforced back panel of the Split Roller bag is a retractable handle, which sits flush while in stowage mode. A simple push-button unlocks the handle to extend it for when you’re on the move.
The bag has numerous external handles, which makes lobbing the pack into the back of a van or onto a luggage shelf in a bus a lot easier. There’s a bunch of extra Nylon loops sewn into the fabric upper too, so you could always add a shoulder strap if you saw fit.
Despite those adornments, there’s a distinct lack of flappy bits and excessively long straps to potentially get caught on airline conveyor belts – something that can be a problem with hiking packs. I’ve had a mate who’s hiking pack was ruined after a baggage handler had chopped off a shoulder strap that got caught somewhere between leaving the plane’s cargo hold and arriving at the baggage carousel.
Other useful travel features include a tucked-away ID tag, and lockable YKK zippers – something I’ve been able to make use of while staying at dodgy hostels.
Mountain Bike Ready
Aside from the wheels and retractable handle, my favourite aspect of the Split Roller is its neat compartmentalised storage. After all, I need all the help I can get when it comes to organising both my life, and my kit.
The Split Level construction sees one huge zippered compartment for the hardshell base half, and two zippered compartments for the soft upper pack. The biggest and smallest compartments get an open mesh flap so you can easily spot the exploded container of chamois cream, while the medium compartment uses a solid flap that’s designed to quarantine wet/muddy/odorous kit.
The split compartments work pretty well for mountain biking, since you’re able to separate riding kit from civilian apparel. It also means if you’re carrying tools, shoes or any other harder-bodied wares, you can isolate them from more delicate items like your helmet. That said, I’d love to see dedicated shoe and helmet compartments.
For further storage, there are two zippered pockets on the outside of the pack. These are useful for anything you want access to more readily, though I tend to use these for especially-minging bib shorts, socks and undies that I’d rather keep safely away from pre-soiled clothing.
Within the first overseas trip with the Dakine Split Roller bag, I understood exactly why this is such a popular bag amongst the mountain biking fraternity. With its clever split-construction and separate zippered compartments, it has made my current 7-week trip away from home that much easier. In fact, I’m not entirely sure how I lived without a roller bag for so long.
At over £150 though, it’s an expensive bag. But it is well made, and so far it’s proven to be plenty tough. As with a lot of quality travel goods like noise-cancelling headphones and expensive merino underpants, it’s the sort of thing that high-mileage travellers will appreciate more and more over time.
|Product:||Split Roller 110L Bag|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 12 months & two complete laps around Planet Earth|