If you are looking for an honest review of the Osprey Porter 46 liter backpack, I promise you won’t find a more experienced Osprey Porter tester than me.
How can I be so sure?
Because over the past 9 years, I’ve taken an Osprey Porter 46L backpack to over 60 countries across six continents. I’ve taken the bag through the Amazon jungle, over the hills of Nepal, backpacking through Europe (4 times), through Mexico for six months, all around South America, on a road trip in Tasmania, on safari in Kenya, … ok you get the point: I travel full time and write a travel blog for a living, so I’ve put my Osprey porter through some serious testing!
So, after all that hands-on testing, and after comparing it to the best travel backpacks I could find, how does the Porter backpack hold up?
Read on my for my detailed review of the Osprey Porter 46 backpack:
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I've personally taken this bag to over 50 countries, and it's held up remarkably well! A timeless design and high quality construction are why this is still the most popular bag you see most often in Europe's hostels. If you're on a budget but can't sacrifice quality, choose the Osprey Porter.
My Personal Experience With the Osprey Porter 46 Backpack
Here’s my bottom line on the Osprey Porter 46: it’s a solid all-around backpack for travelers who need more space, including long-term travelers, and digital nomads. It offers the versatility and functionality of a backpack but the style and ease of a porter bag or suitcase. It can be strapped down to carry-on size, or it can expand to hold more volume than most of its competitors. I would personally highly recommend this backpack to most traveler, except for hardcore hikers who need a little more serious backpack for handling the wilderness. Perhaps most importantly to me, the Osprey Porter is also enormously affordable budget backpacker considering how long it will last you.
With that said, it is not the only backpack out there, and Travel Lemming’s writers have tested other travel bags that offer newer designs which arguably beat the Osprey Porter. Chief among these is the Tortuga Setout, which is our overall top-rated backpack as of 2021. For more detail on those, jump to the section below Osprey Porter Alternatives.
After 60+ countries across six continents, I have a lot to say about the Osprey Porter 46 backpack! So let’s dive right into the nitty gritty of why I think this is the best casual travel bag out there:
Features and Specs
For such a simple-looking bag, the Osprey Porter 46 is loaded with features you’d usually find on much more high end backpacks. Here’s a quick rundown of the key features and specs:
- Cost: affordable (check latest price on Amazon).
- Size: 46 liters, 25 x 15 x 13 inches
- Weight: 3.4 lbs (1.54 kgs)
- Gender: Unisex
- Colors: Black, Castle Grey, Diablo Red, Mineral Teal
- Pockets: top pocket, laptop sleeve (up to 15 inch), stowaway pocket for straps
- Features: straitjacket compression for packing, stowaway hip belt and shoulder straps
- Adds ons: D-ring attachment for adding an additional shoulder strap, Osprey Daylite backpack compatibility
Pros of the Osprey Porter
- Carry-on size (if not over-packed)
- Rugged design
- Lifetime guarantee
- One very large and easy to use pocket
- Simple and stylish look
- Convenient straitjacket compression
- Easy to attach daypack
Look, there is a lot to love about this backpack. And in the six years I’ve been using it, Osprey has continued to make improvements over the model I purchased (e.g., by adding a laptop sleeve).
First, it’s the perfect size. Just check out my around-the-world packing list to see how much I fit inside it!
Second, my absolute favorite thing about the Osprey Porter 46 liter backpack is that it easily and quickly converts from a backpack that you can comfortably carry on your shoulders to a porter bag.
Why is that important?
Well, for one thing it means you can check this bag, put it under a bus, or store it somewhere without worry that your backpack straps are going to snag something. But it is also great for those times when you don’t want to “look” like a dirty backpacker who just rolled out of a hostel dorm bed with a huge bag on your back.
I also love that you can attach any Osprey Daylite daypack to the back of the bag and carry them together. It’s a perfect and affordable compliment to the porter backpack.
The Osprey Porter is also an enormously rugged pack and I’ve really put it through the ringer. I’ve taken it through the jungles of South America, the mountains near Denver, Colorado, backpacking through Europe, and hundreds of other places! Heck, I even had it with me when I was doused with water during Thailand’s Songkran festival (and I still managed to keep my electronics dry!).
Cons of the Osprey Porter
- Not built for hiking/camping
- Very minimal harness
- Not much padding on straps
- Minimal pockets
- Zippers can get caught
There’s not a whole lot that I would change about the Osprey Porter 46, but no backpack is perfect.
For one thing, the fact that the straps hideaway has a downside: they by necessity don’t have as much padding as you might find on a more serious hiking backpack.
This means that, while the bag is comfortable for general carrying or even short distance hikes, after a few kilometers the straps start to pull at my back a bit. So if you’re just planning to walk around cities or do some very light hiking, it’s fine. For anything more hardcore, you need a more serious backpack. That’s the price you pay for the hideaway feature, though!
Another drawback of the bag is that it doesn’t have a bunch of pockets. I think this is mostly a good feature, as I find it easier to pack my bag with one big pocket, but it does mean you have to pay more attention to organizing your stuff.
Lastly, the only annoyance I’ve ever had with this bag is that sometimes the zippers catch on the little slip of material that’s meant to protect them. It can be a pain to get them uncaught, but it’s only happened a few times in six years of traveling.
Best Osprey Porter 46 Alternatives
I love Osprey Porter 46, and have for years. But a lot changes in a decade, and since I started traveling, we’ve seen some newer and more innovative backpack companies put out some pretty awesome alternatives to the Osprey Porter.
While I think the Porter is still the best option for those on a budget, if you have the cash to splash, here are some alternatives bags to consider instead, based on your reason for not choosing the Osprey Porter 46:
Salkan’s The Backpacker
I use Salkan now because it's THE most comfortable backpack I've ever found. The straps and weight distribution are unbelievable - it barely feels like I'm carrying it! Perfect for those long walks between hostels. I also love that it's BOTH front and top loading, the built in laundry bag, and the customizable colors. For a serious backpacker like me it's worth the investment. Note: You can get the main bag alone, or the "Backpacker" bundle with Salkan's stylish daypack.
I recently switched out my Osprey Porter to try out this bag instead. Like Osprey, Salkan offers a very solid 2-in-1 backpack/daypack combo system. In a lot of way it’s pretty similar to the Porter, but I find that Salkan is much easier to carry because of all that comfortable padding. If you’re just going for a minimalist look or are on a budget, though, the Osprey Porter is probably still you’re best bet.
Read more in my full Salkan Backpacker review.
We tested several backpacks, and the Setout came out on top. Features we love:
- Opens like a suitcase but is carried like a backpack
- Different sizes for men and women
- Carry-on friendly
- Great padding on straps, plus waist strap has pockets to hold your phone, wallet, or passport for convenience
If you’re looking for a high quality premium backpack that is carry-on compliant for most airlines, look no further than the Tortuga Setout. My staff writer did a full review of the Tortuga Setout and was blown away by how super practical this little backpack is.
Tortuga seemingly thought of everything when they designed it – it loads like a suitcase but carries like a backpack (and looks stylish to boot!). Oh, and it even comes in separate designs for men and women – making it one of the most ergonomically comfortable backpacks on the market.
Osprey Atmos 50
Like I said, if you plan on doing a lot of outdoor stuff, the Osprey Porter 46 is NOT for you. Instead, check out the Osprey Atmos 50 backpacking backpack:
- Same Osprey quality as the Porter 46
- Built specifically for camping and hiking
- Tons of pockets, organizers, and compartments
- More comfortable harness
Osprey Fairpoint 55
You've got plenty of space to add some extras to your pack! Though I prefer to travel light, for travelers who want more space, this is the best travel backpack for Europe. Men's and Women's versions available. Plus, it comes with Osprey's lifetime guarantee.
I’m a big believer in packing minimally, but some people just have more stuff to carry! Need a little more room than what the Osprey Porter 46 has to offer? Then I suggest upgrading to the Osprey Fairpoint 55:
- Tons of space for all your stuff
- Osprey’s lifetime guarantee
- Solid construction
- Also combines with Osprey Daylite Daypack
Recommended Addition: Osprey Daylite Daypack
If you buy the Osprey Porter 46, I strongly suggest also purchasing Osprey’s Daylite Daypack, which is designed as a companion to the Osprey Porter.
I’ve traveled with this pack + day bag combo for 6 years and I love it! The Daylite Daypack can be strapped into the Osprey Porter 46 through the proprietary Osprey locking system so that you can carry them as a single unit.
Second, it’s an awesome daypack in its own right. Here are some of its great features:
- Can be strapped into Porter bag!
- Super lightweight
- Slip pocket for laptops
- Water resistant coating
- Affordably priced
- Lots of space (I fit my drone, laptop, and a full size camera inside!)
If you’re taking the Osprey Porter 46 traveling, you’ll also need a daypack for your days out exploring, so this is the perfect combo.
Bottom Line: Should You Buy the Osprey Porter 46 L Backpack?
The Osprey Porter 46 is a really solid backpack for most travelers who need a casual bag that they can carry on their backs.
I’d call it more of a “flashpacker” backpack than a traditional backpack, since it sort of straddles the line between a normal backpacking backpack and a porter bag or suitcase.
The Osprey Porter 46 is a great backpack for solo travelers, long travelers, families traveling with kids, or just about anyone doing casual international travel.
About the only people I can’t recommend this bag for are hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. The bag simply isn’t made for multi-day long hikes through the wilderness. For that, you should get a more full-featured hiking backpack.
But for just about everyone else, after 60+ countries and some serious memories, I still am in love with this backpack.
What do you think? Have you tried out the Osprey Porter 46 L?
Scroll down and leave me a comment to let me know your experience.
Don’t like the Osprey Porter 46? Check out my post on the best backpacks for Europe to see if there is something else that suits your needs!