The Rucksack Other Arms from the British army and the Osprey Porter are both “single” compartment backpacks where you can hide the shoulder straps. This allows you to use it as a hand carrying bag. Both the backpacks are not very high compared to their width.
If you spend most of your time carrying your luggage at your back when hiking or going to the woods and mountains, then a real backpack is most suitable. If your backpack spends most of its time in a luggage compartment of a bus, train, air-plane, mini van, taxi etc. then a single compartment bag with no extra straps or side pockets is more suitable. This setup comes close to a suitcase that you carry on your back.
Hiding the shoulder straps prevents your bag from being strangled with other parts of a vehicle or other luggage. Side pockets are normally for direct access to small frequently used items. When your main luggage stays in a luggage compartment you can’t reach it. So extra side pockets are not useful. The absence of these extra pockets makes the bag lighter and prevents stuff from falling out or get stolen. You always keep in you hand carrying bag or day pack. The extra straps and belts on a typical backpack are for attaching other items like a sleeping bag or a bedroll. Extra items attached on the outside of a backpack might come of, get stolen or get strangled with other parts of a vehicle. So therefore it is wise to keep all your luggage in one big solid compartment. Both the Other Arms Bergen and the Osprey Porter have a single big solid compartment and don’t have extra straps that you might not use. Normal suitcases have a hard shell and always keep the same size and shape. This makes it very often difficult to impossible to fit them in the trunk of a car or mini-van. While traveling in Thailand you will see people struggling with this. There these backpacks have a soft shell you won’t have this problem.
The Other Arms Rucksack was issued to non infantry units like engineers or armored vehicle crews of the British army. They do have to carry their clothes and equipment with them when moving from their barracks to field bases etc. But unlike their infantry counterparts they usually don’t have to carry it for long distances on their back over muddy trails in the woods. This backpack is also known as: The Turtle backpack, The engineer’s backpack, Other arms bergen and some other nicknames. The main construction material of the pack is heavy duty 1000 Denier Cordura. Most of them were produced with the woodland DPM camouflage pattern. But versions in black and olive green are also known. In recent years civilian companies are reproducing this backpack in MTP camouflage. Just like the other Bergen types, the pack can be extended with two side pouches from 10 liter each. These are also known as the rocket pouches.
Where most urban backpacks attach side pouches with two small straps, the side pouches on the Bergen type backpacks are attached with 4 fast release buckles and two really heavy duty zippers. This setup makes that they won’t bounce back and forward all the time as they do on most commercial backpacks. The two side pouches can be zipped into a daypack with the use of a so called yoke (shoulder straps). Most backpacks and rucksacks have a covering flap over the full top of the bag for closure and protection. The All Arms rucksack however has a double ended zip at the top of the bag. This zip is protected with a small covering flap.
The Nato Stock Number of this backpack is NSN: 8465-99-978-5364
Other Arms Bergen available at:
The Osprey Porter comes in two sizes: The Osprey Porter 46 and the Osprey Porter 65. They are made of 420 Denier Nylon Hex Diamond Ripstop fabric. While normal duffel bags or suitcases have little to no options for compressing the luggage into a smaller size, the Osprey Porter has two compression straps. These will bend the semi rigid side walls down to the middle of the bag. This will also protect the zippers. In the unlikely event of of a broken zipper you still have these straps covering the contents of your bag. The zippers can be opened over the full length of the pack. This makes it a top loader just like a suitcase. Where the shoulder straps of the Other Arms bergen can be tucked away behind a covering flap that is sealed with velcro, the Osprey Porter does this with a zipper. This seems to be a more rigid and strong solution. The 46 litre pack does match the requirements of most airlines to take the pack as hand carry luggage. The two grap handles on the pack are very strong and padded. This makes very easy to carry it with your bare hands instead of with the shoulder straps. The All arms bergen has only one hand carry handle which is not padded. Especially with a fully loaded pack this might be not very uncomfortable. Where most backpacks have a inner pocket to store magazines, or a laptop on the side close to your ruck, the Osprey Porter has a pocket to store a laptop and other office items on the front side of the bag. This pocket is accessible from the outside.
Osprey Porter 46 Review at www.outdoorgearlab.com.
Other so called “Travelpacks” with a similar design are the Osprey Farpoint and the Lowe Alpine Voyager. The Osprey Farpoint is almost identical with the Osprey Porter but it has two sleeves on the front where you hand put a bottle or a folded map inside. The Lowe Alpine Voyager comes with an extra strong anti-theft zipper. Not a bad idea since zippers on suitcases and backpacks are very easily to break open with a sharp tool or a simple ballpoint. After stealing your luggage (usually by luggage handling personnel) the thief will close the zipper as if nothing ever happened.