It Came in the Mail

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

An occasional look at products the travel industry insists we need.

WHAT: Expandable backpack with more hidey-holes than a roll-top desk.

AIMED AT: Travelers who want the portability of a backpack and the roominess of a suitcase.

HOW MUCH: $79.95 (plus shipping).

BUT DOES IT WORK?"Do you have room for this in your backpack?" asked my travel buddy, holding out a giant bag of snacks as we packed for the airport. Luckily for him, my pack still had five or six empty compartments -- and it wasn't because I'd packed light. The thing just kept expanding.

Rick Steves's Veloce Travel Pack is the clown car of backpacks: No matter how much stuff you cram in, it can fit more. Actually, "cram" is the wrong verb, because there are 11 compartments to help you organize your load: two big zippered ones, plus a padded space for a laptop, plus a clip-down flap with hidden pockets that open up to feature . . . more hidden pockets. If you still need more room, the whole thing zips open for an extra three inches of space all around. The straps and back are padded, and the sternum strap is fully adjustable.

This backpack is not for the trendy: It has an unassuming, utilitarian look, with subdued colors and no-frills styling. But as an organizer, it does the trick. On my long-weekend road test, there were compartments I never did fill up. I appreciated that -- and so did my travel buddy.

-- K.C. Summers

The Veloce Travel Pack is available in black, slate, merlot, evergreen and blue spruce from

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