The Deviate 85L is Eagle Creek’s latest shot at an all in one, all purpose travel backpack aimed at serious travelers. It appears to be aimed squarely at the backpacker, gap-year market, though it has some great features that make it a cut above the average pack. Thanks to its generous size and durability, it could also double as a reasonable hiking pack, though it might be a tad on the large size for some. It ticks a lot of boxes, and has some nice, under the hood features that make it a great travel pack for general purpose travel.
At First Glance
To start with, the Deviate looks pretty good. Even when empty, the pack retains its shape nicely, and never seems to look deflated or floppy. It’s a nice change of pace from many 85L bags, which can have a habit of looking a bit like limp balloons, even when half full. The outer material is all made of a kind of ripstop nylon, which has a nice texture, and gives the bag a bit of a hi-tech look. Off the bat, it certainly looks solid, and doesn’t feel like it’ll be getting any holes anytime soon.
I chose the navy blue model. The color is also nice; vibrant, but not so much as to make your eyes water. In terms of size, it’s without doubt on the big end of the spectrum. At 85L, the Deviate is big enough for pretty much anyone, though it’s obviously aimed at people who plan on being on the road for a while. For most multi-day trips, backpackers tend to prefer packs between 50-60L. So at 85L, the Deviate is massive, though admittedly that’s a matter of personal opinion.
Anyone hoping to travel light should probably avoid this bag, and go for something around the 60L range. However, this is the bag for you if you need to bring a lot of gear for outdoor sports, are a parent wit a ton of kid’s stuff to lug around, or just generally like to pack a lot or want extra space to pick up some extra souvenirs. For hikers, it might seem a little large, though remember you can remove both the day pack and brain/lid, bringing the size down to around 65L, which is perfect for most sportspeople.
So, at first glance the Deviate looks the part of a good quality pack that will last a reasonable amount of time, with plenty of space to satisfy even the most grizzled of nomads.
The Day Pack
The Deviate looks good, but what does it actually do? The short answer: a lot. The Deviate has a ton of interesting features, some of which give it quite an interesting character. To start with, the bag comes in two main parts, the main pack and a day pack. Let’s start by looking at the smaller of the two, the day pack. The pack has a capacity of 15L. It’s slightly on the small side, and non travel savvy parents will probably find it next to useless. Having said that, 15L is pretty much the perfect size for carry-on. It’s also just enough space for the average backpacker to throw in a guidebook or two, a Kindle, some snacks, perhaps a sweater or rain jacket and a few other bits and bobs. Clip a water bottle to the outside, and you’re ready for a day of light-weight exploring.
The day pack features three main compartments: an outer pocket opened with a zip on the front, and a main area for holding larger items. Inside the main area, there’s an interior pocket with RFID protection. The RFID protection is a welcome feature, and ensures your credit cards and the like can’t be scanned by unscrupulous passersby.
The Main Pack
The main pack follows a tried and true, standard design. You’ve got one massive area for the bulk of your stuff, plus a strap down brain (the little bag at the top). One thing I really liked was the fact that the brain can be totally detached from the main pack, giving you a little extra flexibility in terms of how much bag you want to carry. Just how many travelers will actually end up using this feature is unclear, though it’s definitely an intriguing twist on the usual formula. Finally, there’s also a 3L compartment for a hydration bladder.
In terms of support, the main pack performs quite well. Eagle Creek’s fixed FlexFlo suspension system works like a charm. Once adjusted properly, it’s pretty much flawless. Combined with the bag’s natural tendency to keep its shape, you have a sturdy, well supported pack on your hands here. If you do happen to find it a little bulky, make use of the compression straps to get things a little tighter.
Bells and (Literally) Whistles
The Deviate comes with a nice array of bells, and quite literally a whistle. The sternum strap comes with a small, emergency whistle on the clip, which is an extremely thoughtful feature that should be on every pack on the market. Another (potentially) great safety feature is the reflective accent added to the main compartment’s exterior. It provides a bit of extra visibility in the dark, which is great for anyone who doesn’t like getting hit by cars, or getting lost in the wilderness. Having said that, it’s a bit of a take it or leave it: some people might not like the idea of being easily visible all the time.
Speaking security, as you’d expect, all zips are easily lockable. Meanwhile, there’s another small surprise waiting inside the brain. The underside of the lid actually has a small, hidden compartment. If you’re looking for somewhere to stash your valuables, you could do worse, though it’s unclear just how waterproof it is.
Speaking of water protection, the Deviate comes with an integrated duffel bag that can double as a rain fly. It’s not the sturdiest thing in the world, and doesn’t look like it’ll survive anywhere near as long as the main pack. Nonetheless, it looks like it could provide some decent protection in a rainstorm, and provide a little extra safety during transit.
Is There Anything to Dislike?
While the Deviant 85l may be on the of the best travel backpacks in the market, it does have it's flaws too, one of which actually surprises me as it's a feature the Eagle Creek Grand Voyager used to have.
I'm talking about the internal straps that keep the clothes in place. For some reason Eagle Creek has decided to remove them from the system- I really wish they hadn't as I did find them very helpful.
The other drawback I found in this model is how the day pack attaches itself to the main backpack. Gone is the day when you could zip it to the main bag as I used to with the Grand Voyager. Instead you now have to slide one of the straps through two rings and snap it to the main bag. I know, it's hard to explain, just as unpractical it is to strap it too.
It has too many straps IMO. I just don't like to have things dangling around, hence why I prefer internal frame backpacks over external frame ones, but the Deviant has a few too many. I got used to them quickly though, but I wish there were less.
What About the Packing Cubes?
The Eagle Creek Pack-it cubes will help you store and organize your clothes. They help you have t-shirts in one are, shorts in another, pants in yet another...You might find them redundant as you can certainly travel without them (I've done so for more than fifteen years) but the truth is they help you keep your backpack organized .
The packing cubes don't come with the backpack, but you can purchase them independently. Check price for 1 set
Despite these flaws it’s hard to dislike the Deviate. It has everything the average traveler needs, and has come to expect from a pack. It’s a good size for long trips, with solid durability and some great security features. If it seems a little big, remember Eagle Creek has almost identical bags in smaller sizes. Nonetheless, the attention to detail on the 85L is really appreciated, from the detachable brain to the safety whistle, the RFID protection in the day pack to the addition of the rain fly/ duffel bag. Overall, it’s great quality, and well worth a buy for anyone looking for a decent travel pack with some unique features.
RRP: 279 USD