Hands-on Gear Review

Eagle Creek Universal Traveler RFID Review

Best Buy Award
Price:  $130 List | $130.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Comfortable, lightweight, versatile, great value
Cons:  Smaller size limits length of trips possible, no suitcase style opening for easy and wrinkle-free packing
Bottom line:  This is a great pack for the lightweight but frequent traveler who wants a versatile bag for everyday use as well.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Volume of Main Pack (liters):  35L
Measured Weight (pounds):  1.6 lbs
Dimensions (Inches):  20.5 x 13.5 x 9
Manufacturer:   Eagle Creek

Our Verdict

The Eagle Creek Universal Traveler is an excellent choice for quick trips away from home or as a carry on when you're checking bags for a more extended trip. This pack was very versatile. It is comfortable for long days out touring a new town, and rugged and featured enough for day hikes. We also found this pack useful for our daily commute and coffee shop runs. We like the RFID blocker for those who frequent busy metropolitan areas and want to keep scannable credit cards and passports safe from the modern pickpocket. All of these things made the Universal Traveler a universally useful backpack, and for a relatively low price, it's a great value.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Travel Backpacks and Carry-On Alternatives


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti

Last Updated:
Wednesday
November 22, 2017

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The Universal Traveler from Eagle Creek earned the second spot in our review, as well as the Best Buy from quick trips. This high scorer is a quality travel pack that has what it takes to accompany you near and far.

Performance Comparison


The Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID is a highly versatile travel backpack.
The Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID is a highly versatile travel backpack.

Comfort


The Universal Traveler has excellent padding and a sleek design that makes it a very comfortable small to mid-sized travel backpack.


The hip belt doesn't add much to the relatively high score of 8 out of 10 we gave this pack for comfort. Instead, the flexible back panel and well-designed shoulder straps ensure that this model rests comfortably on your back, centering the load and moving fluidly with you through crowded airports and busy streets.

The Universal Traveler proved universal enough for our daily commute and coffee shop runs.
The Universal Traveler proved universal enough for our daily commute and coffee shop runs.

The relatively small size makes it hard to overstuff this pack, which may be a downside depending on your needs, but it does ensure this backpack doesn't become unwieldy and therefore uncomfortable. This contender scored very similarly to our Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Overhaul 40, as it is also a well-designed travel backpack that resembles a school backpack with extra travel features.

In terms of comfort, this pack felt like a daypack version of the Kelty Redwing 44 with the supportive but soft shoulder straps and close fit of the frame (or back panel). The shoulder straps and back panel are made of breathable materials, which makes it even more suitable for day hikes.

Features


The Universal Traveler nearly usurped our standing Editors' Choice winner, the North Face Overhaul, instead earning a spot as our Best Buy for Quick Trips. 'Features' is the only metric that held it back.


And this was mainly due to a lack of a shoe compartment to keep smelly or dirty shoes away from your other luggage items. This is an essential note because if this doesn't matter for you—for example, you travel with the shoes on your feet and no extras—then the Universal could be the travel backpack for you!

We loved this modern pickpocket-proofing feature.
We loved this modern pickpocket-proofing feature.

The Universal Traveler does feature an RFID blocking pocket which protects you from the modern pickpocket scanning electronically for your identification and information on your cards and passports. This is a remarkable feature for traveling through busy metropolitan areas.

Most TSA checkpoints seem to require that you remove any documents from this pocket when going through security, which can be another small hassle for the frequent traveler, but we thought it was worth it,—you can just put your wallet or passport in another pocket. The only bummer is that the pocket is not very big, and we couldn't fit our wallet and our passport in it at the same time.

Packing & Accessibility


We scored this pack similarly to its closest cousin and competition in this review, the Overhaul backpack. There is one crucial difference or tradeoff in packing styles between the two.


The North Face Overhaul is more straightforward to pack clothing in, such that it won't get crumpled in transit, splaying open more like a suitcase; however, it has only a sleeve for a laptop to slide into the pack.

In our Test Load  the Universal Traveler fit everything we threw at it. Clothing probably wouldn’t arrive un-wrinkled  but for casual travelers  it was easy to stuff and strap on a wide variety of items we might travel with  from wetsuits to gym climbing equipment.
In our Test Load, the Universal Traveler fit everything we threw at it. Clothing probably wouldn’t arrive un-wrinkled, but for casual travelers, it was easy to stuff and strap on a wide variety of items we might travel with, from wetsuits to gym climbing equipment.

The Universal is more like a traditional daypack, so it is harder to pack like a suitcase; however, it has a laptop compartment that completely zips open and exposes both a laptop and a tablet sleeve for smooth travel through TSA security checkpoints.

The big pocket (left) and the zip-open electronics sleeve.
The big pocket (left) and the zip-open electronics sleeve.

This backpack also has a discrete sleeve integrated into the back panel which can slide over the handle of a rolling suitcase. We thought this was brilliant, making this an excellent carry on for your next vacation or extended trip. Since it is such a great daypack, if you're traveling with a more extensive suitcase, this travel backpack completes your quiver of luggage. When you arrive at your destination, you have an excellent daypack for hikes or shopping or picnics—really, for day trips of any sort.

This was a sweet surprise on the Universal Traveler  making it even more versatile. We love this backpack as a carry on for bigger trips where you’ll need a comfortable backpack at your destinationâ€â€for urban adventures and day hikes. You can slide it on top of your rolling luggage for another easy transport option. This sleeve also hides the hip belt for those times you don’t need it.
This was a sweet surprise on the Universal Traveler, making it even more versatile. We love this backpack as a carry on for bigger trips where you’ll need a comfortable backpack at your destinationâ€â€for urban adventures and day hikes. You can slide it on top of your rolling luggage for another easy transport option. This sleeve also hides the hip belt for those times you don’t need it.

Durability


The combination of high-quality manufacturing and the intelligent placement of durable fabrics make this pack a very durable travel backpack. It is made of more lightweight materials than some packs in this review, but still earned an above-average score of 7 out of 10.


The upside is that the use of those lighter weight materials improve the comfort score because the pack is more supple and conforms better to your back. It also improved its score in our next metric, Weight & Capacity. For those on the hunt for a seriously rugged pack, check out the Mountain Hardwear Splitter - it's also tough enough for rock climbing.

Weight & Capacity


The Universal Traveler was a strong performer at a weight to volume ratio of 0.731 ounces per liter. It was not our biggest travel backpack, so it is best for relatively simple weekend trips, where you do not need a lot of clothing or gear, and especially if traveling via plane. This is great for the frequent traveler who wants to reduce the weight on their back.


When we stuffed this backpack to maximum capacity, it measured 21 x 14 x 11 inches. The last measurement, which was the distance the backpack protruded from our back, is two inches over the regulation size of 9 inches. This means the bag is easy to pack within regulation sizes, but be sure to pay attention to your packing job if your airline is strict. This bag was unique in its light weight because its closest competition was either a backpacking style backpack, the Kelty Redwing 40, or niche packs like the Arc'teryx Covert CO which is designed to be light weight, and makes a lot of compromises to get there.

The Universal Traveler overstuffed.
The Universal Traveler overstuffed.

Best Applications


The Universal Traveler is a 35-liter backpack made of relatively lightweight materials, with a set of features that make it particularly efficient and comfortable for airport travel. This makes it ideal for the frequent traveler who takes weekend adventures and wants one bag that can keep up with a wide variety of trip types.

The traveler is a pack that will fit in at the coffee shop, sail smoothly through TSA, and carry everything you might need for a day hike. It is very versatile, as such, and with the high quality of the design and manufacturing, it will keep up with you on many adventures.

Our tablet fit in the electronics sleeve or in this front pocket pouch.
Our tablet fit in the electronics sleeve or in this front pocket pouch.

Value


At $130, this is one of the most affordable packs in our review. It is especially well priced if considering the cost per unit of volume. We gave this our Best Buy for Quick Trips Award in the update for 2017, and it also snagged second place. It is very close in price to our other Best Buy, the Osprey Porter 46, but the features make them suitable for different types of travel, and both versatile, but for different types of activities.

Conclusion


The Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID is a great all-around travel backpack. It is best suited to casual weekend trips that involve airport travel, but it also makes a great day pack for daily use or even hikes. It is relatively lightweight for its size, but still durable enough for use on trails, around town, and through TSA checkpoints. It works particularly well as your carry on for longer trips where you're taking a rolling suitcase as well because it can slide on to the handle for ease of transport, and it will transition gracefully from town to trail, or whatever adventures your trips may include.

A look at the excellent Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID.
A look at the excellent Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID.
Lyra Pierotti

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 22, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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