The only time I, a SoCal native, saw big bushy trees growing up was in Home Depot parking lots come Christmas time — and I currently reside in the concrete jungle. So it's quite comical that I of all people attended a three-day-long nature retreat in the South complements of stylish luggage retailer Away. But the brand didn't leave me for dead. In fact, its newest outdoor-focused collection F.A.R.—For All Routes is the only reason I made it out alive.
Ok, my life was not actually on the line, but Away did, indeed, sent me on an luxury adventure date with Mother Nature chock full of activities to push its new line to its limits. We're talking water-resistant duffles, convertible backpacks, sleek messengers, and more nature-ready travel essentials up against the great outdoors. From flights to woodsy horseback rides, mountain hikes to leisurely botanical walks, find out just how well these duffles, pouches, and totes handled the holler.
The F.A.R. Collection
The entire collection ranges from $25 to $220 and currently consists of three duffles, one convertible backpack, a tote bag, a messenger bag, organizational cubes, and handheld pouches. (If you're curious, these F.A.R. Organizational Cubes differ from Away's famed Insider Packing Cubes because they are water-resistant, equipped with top handles, and free of the mesh top.) A second backpack is forthcoming later this fall. All items in the line are constructed with 100% recycled, water-resistant materials whether it be nylon or polyester. The largest duffle can easily hold a week's worth of clothes, while the smallest is ideal for a weekend trip (or very light packer). All the pouches and cubes come in different sizes to fit your travel and packing needs as well. Not all items come in every colorway, but there are seven in total: Black, Navy, Green, White, Red Orange, Vivid Blue, and Atomic Celery.
Some of the highlights of the line include durable fabric, a flexible and unstructured soft body design for high packing capacity, multiple handles for versatile carrying options, and overall thoughtful composition. The F.A.R. Convertible Backpack, for example, has a secret compartment to store its straps when you want to use it as a carry-on duffle. Or take the F.A.R Duffle: If it gets too heavy to hold, the handles are long enough to wrap around your shoulders, and voilà, a backpack is born. As people like to say, the possibilities are endless.
Why more duffles?
Away is quite the It girl luggage brand. Its polycarbonate hard shell suitcases populate airports everywhere. The brand also already offers the Everywhere Bag in three sizes on its site, so why more duffels? While sleek totes and 360-degree wheels will help you tackle planes, trains, and automobiles, the new line is all about the great outdoors. In a press release, Away representatives explained the goal is "helping travelers explore the outside world," with these new versatile bags and accessories. Since pandemics and planes don't necessarily mix, and many of us now opt for road trips, open-air excursions, or quick flights, I think it's a great addition to its all-star inventory.
Away invited me and a few other lucky writers to test out its new gear in the wilderness (okay, we were actually at a luxury resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains). To prepare, we were sent the midsized 55L duffel and the yet-unreleased backpack to pack, then given opportunities to test out the other totes, pouches, and packing cubes once we arrived. My extremely-outdoorsy gear included: a water bottle, some lipgloss, my phone, some bug-repellant, a baby deodorant, and a few other tiny essentials that stored nicely inside the F.A.R. pouches. I took the tiny bags to dinner, on the mountain hike, and horseback riding; other attendees used them while RTV'ing (I skipped). The pouches don't have inner organizers, so I see them as handy portable pockets that happen go quite well with the messenger. Although the acid green color of my bag might not go with every outfit, I can't wait to use it on commutes as the shoulder strap is scary comfortable.
The soon-to-be-launched backpack (coming this August!) is now my designated airport bag — it has a myriad of interior pockets, mesh organizer sleeves, cup holder, and more crevices inside that helped me triumph TSA security in an orderly fashion. Never in all my days have I secured a spot for every single one of my necessities, from my passport to a measly stick of gum.
Aside from the backpack, the 55L duffle was my true travel saving grace on this trip. While using that size as a carry-on is a bit of a risk (apparently, they ARE carry-on compatible if not filled to the brim), mine was home to a massive pile of clothes, a few pairs of shoes (tucked away in the handy F.A.R. Organizational Cube), a flattened backpack, an empty messenger, and my larger-than-life toiletry bag. The curved, soft top of the bag allowed for a high volume of items, unlike plenty of other bags aren't stacking compatible or able to handle the weight. The zippers on every single one of those items never failed to amaze me — they didn't unzip on accident or snag once. Plus, my duffle is WHITE. It came out of baggage claim with scuffs, but nothing insane.
As for those new, aforementioned cubes, let me say this: The large size fit TWO pairs of block-heeled sandals, and the medium size caressed my pair Nike 5 Revolutions with love. FYI, I'm a size nine in US women's shoes. Impressive to say the least.
So, suitcase or duffle?
F.A.R. is much more than just weekenders, but I can imagine the suitcase-versus-duffle comparison is the question of the hour. After conquering this three-day glamping excursion and synthesizing my vast knowledge of Away's inventory, I'll declare the duffle the travel essential of the 2020s. Again, a pandemic changes things. I used to be an incorrigible over-packer with a hankering for futile "necessities" and hefty hard shells — now, I get a rush over how little I can put in my carry-on. My two faves — the F.A.R. Duffle 55L and the Convertible Backpack 45L — are both carry-on compatible, multi-faceted, and truly worthy of traversing the Earth with. All in all, the collection was pretty far out.
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