North Face DoubleTrack
Seemingly designed as if all the items on an adventurer's wish list were simply crammed into one package, North Face's DoubleTrack 21 is that engineering oddity that magically just works. The result is a beautiful shape-shifting mutant that's as comfortable going to the beach for a long weekend as it is bouncing around India for a month or two.
For us, the DoubleTrack excels because it's all about options. It's an airport-friendly wheelie bag with a pull-out handle that slides easily into virtually every overhead compartment. The detachable daypack has a hydration and audio port and side-stretch water-bottle pockets. It's sturdy enough to backcountry ski with and big enough to carry a laptop and all your other electronics.
The main bag also turns into a real-deal backpack, with ergonomic shoulder straps and a hip belt that has cant adjustment to help distribute the load. Even so, you'd never be able to tell any of that from looking at the sleek design, heavy duty lockable zippers, and lightweight retractable handle. Mesh pockets and compression straps on the interior keep your stuff organized and tight – you'll be amazed by how much stuff you can comfortably fit into it. Our itineraries with the bag have included holding everything from a weekend's worth of clothing for a wedding in Cape Cod to a pile of ski gear for a month in South America, and we never ran short on space or options for carrying it all. [$299; thenorthface.com]