Can You Waterproof Your Travel? Our Review of the Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On—in the Rain

by  Mose Hayward
LAST UPDATED ON  2024-06-07
PUBLISHED ON  2024-06-07
The Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-on 38L with the Osprey Transporter Boarding Bag attached on top with the luggage pass-through sleeve, at a bus station in São Paulo

Your Minimalist Guide

Mose Hayward

Vagabond Lite

As I started travel this year, I was looking for a carry-on that would maximize what I could carry while keeping my stuff dry when I get caught in rainy and dirty environments.

For this travel I did not particularly need to carry things on my back, so I have let go of my previous attachment to wheeled carry-on backpacks.

And I also needed something larger than an underseat carry-on. Plus, in many parts of South America, airlines still allow you to carry a full-size carry-on at no extra charge, so why not take advantage? And some of the travel would be by bus in Brazil as well as finishing up with some train rides in Europe, where a rolling carry-on is also perfect.

In a Nutshell: The Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On

The Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38L can keep nice stuff safe in rough environments.

Pros

  • Sized correctly for international airline carry-on limits
  • Extremely durable build quality; the Osprey packs that we have used have held up for over a decade at this point. The Transporter series is particularly weather resistant, with a PFC-free treatment that repels water. It kept my stuff dry in heavy rains.
  • Logical-but-not-overbearing pocket system for staying organized over long periods of travel
  • Large, high-clearance wheels keep you rolling over rough terrain; this has often come in handy for ensuring that I don’t have to pick the carry-on up and heft it on bumpy roads.

Cons

  • More expensive than other options; for about half the price, you can sacrifice some features and quality but still get a pretty good hard case carry-on that will also protect your stuff from the elements.
  • While the Transporter Carry-On absolutely kept my stuff dry in heavy rains, it’s not technically waterproof. If you need/want an IP67-rated waterproof bag that can be actually submerged under water and still keep your stuff dry, see the alternatives section below, alongside some other carry-ons that are slightly lighter or with different features.

The Osprey Transporter Carry-On Variants

The Osprey Transporter Carry-Ons are available in a variety of variants. Here are the most recent versions of this and related bags from the series and where to check pricing on each:

Wheels

  • Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38L (two wheels, our favorite version and the focus of this review, well-organized and great as a worldwide carry-on): Osprey or Amazon (note that Osprey’s video on its website incorrectly shows the older version of this bag, with the one-pole pull handle; the current version is pictured in my review here and on Osprey’s site)
  • Osprey Transporter 4-Wheel Hybrid Carry-On 36L (with partially hard shell, and four wheels instead of two): Osprey or Amazon
  • Osprey Transporter Wheeled Travel Duffel Bag Carry-On 40L (two wheels, slightly simpler with no laptop sleeve): : Osprey or Amazon

No wheels

  • Osprey Transporter Global Carry-On Backpack 36L (backpack harness, no wheels, slightly smaller): Osprey or Amazon
  • Osprey Transporter Carry-On Backpack 44L (backpack harness, no wheels, slightly larger for USA domestic airlines’ carry-on sizes): Osprey or Amazon
  • Osprey Transporter Duffel 40L (simple, maximizes internal space, no wheels, no laptop sleeve): Osprey or Amazon

The above do not work as underseat bags / personal items; for an Osprey Transporter that does, check out our review of the Osprey Transporter Boarding bag.

Browse All Osprey Transporters in Your Region

The overhead cabin bag sizer in an airport in Europe with the Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38 fitting inside, no problem; note that this will not however work as a “personal item”

When Do You Need an Ultra-Durable, Weather-Proof Carry-On Like This?

The Osprey Transporter Carry-On 38 and the Osprey Transporter Boarding Bag in the taxi in Bogotá during a heavy rain. They performed spectacularly.

As a nomad for several decades, I have travelled and lived out of all sorts of luggage. On my first jaunts in South America and Europe, I stupidly used the traditional, unwieldy backpacker backpacks so often seen in youth hostels and I even had a large suitcase. Checking luggage was a pain. And with more weight comes more potential for the luggage to break under that weight.

After learning to go more minimalist, I switched to traveling with only a carry-on. This means a lot more freedom and convenience. No need to wait for bags at the airport. Much less to pack and unpack. Much less to worry about securing. Much easier to take any form of city transport or walk.

I often opted for my favorite wheeled carry-on backpack and, on occasion when travelling with a less-minimalist partner, shared a larger (checked) wheeled backpack. The combo of backpack straps and also wheels is useful; every once in a while you need to heft your bag up stairs or on paths and then the backpack straps come in handy.

However for my recent travel I’ve foregone backpack straps, as I don’t use them that often and didn’t want to lose space. This means that there are tons of carry-on options, and any will do. Especially the higher-end carry-ons like those from Osprey, Eagle Creek, and other brands we’ve tried do an excellent job of protecting your stuff from a bit of rain or mud.

But the Osprey Transporter series was a definite step up, and I noticed this early on in my experiences with the luggage. I was waiting for a cab to the airport to leave Bogotá, Colombia, and I was stuck for a couple of minutes in a drenching downpour, with water splashing and running around my feet. The umbrella helped some, but both me and the outside of the Osprey Transporter Carry-On were wet by the time we were in the cab.

I was soggy, but the Transporter items simply needed to be wiped off. My clothes inside the luggage were still bone dry (as was my laptop), so I could change at the airport and be comfortable for the flight.

Key Features of the Osprey Transporter Carry-On 38, Reviewed with Pictures

To my mind at least, the Osprey Transporter series gives the look of a serious, ready-for-anything travel with a bit of a chic shine. The Transporter Carry-On 38 doesn’t scream out for attention but it is streamlined and looks well-built and sturdy.

The handsome bag seen from the front. The first set of zippers accesses the front laptop pocket.
The top mesh storage pockets (which I found very useful for organization) and the mesh divider for the main compartment; there is a zipped-up compartment behind this mesh flaps that can be useful for separating dirty clothes

The main compartment zips open on three sides with sturdy double zippers to reveal a mesh divider that also zips open. This mesh divider seems completely unnecessary to me; I suppose some might like it for separating clothes but to me it’s just an extra thing to open. Beyond it the main compartment is simple empty space.

The inside of the main compartment with the compression straps for cinching down luggage so you can pack just a bit more

I would personally appreciate side pockets on the inside here for organization, but if you use packing cubes or bags, you have much more flexibility in any case for keeping things organized on the go. (Osprey has its own packing cubes and organizers as well, though I prefer the Gonex packing cubes that I recently reviewed, mainly because they’re lightweight, high quality, and cheaper for a large set.)

Honestly, I’ve never actually used compression straps but some people like them for the ability to smush down their luggage a bit and theoretically pack more.

The large inset wheels have high clearance, which is great for pulling the bag on bumpy sidewalks and dirty roads.

The wheels are inset in a sturdy, hard plastic housing that Osprey calls its “HighRoad chassis”, with a curved plastic bottom to provide relatively great clearance on bumpy sidewalks and cobblestone roads while also protecting the wheels from breaking. I’ve used previous Osprey designs with this same wheel housing for nearly a decade now, and never had a wheel break; that’s another common failure point on other suitcases. You don’t need to be particularly careful with where you roll an Osprey piece that uses this design.

The pull handle operates smoothly and can lock in place at two different heights. At 180 cm / 5 ’11”, I feel most comfortable with the top handle setting and am sure it would work fine for people much taller than me too. The shorter height has the handle at 81 cm. / 32 in. off the ground and the most extended height is at 104 cm. / 41 in. The mechanism seems quite smooth to operate and secure, which is good, as this is one of the most common failure points I’ve seen on cheaper suitcases.

The Osprey Transporter Carry-On 38’s two-bar pull handle allows you to place any luggage with a passthrough sleeve on top. Note that an older Osprey Transporter Carry-On had a single bar pull handle and you may still see this available; it is not as good as any bag placed on top would be unstable.
The top of the carry-on: There is an ID slot with my contact information and quick access to business cards, followed by a quick-access pocket that is great for a small toiletry bag, followed by the main compartment access, and finally the laptop and other organizational pockets on the front panel.

The top access pocket is a good place to keep a small toiletry bag like those we review here or other item that you might want quick access to. There is also an ID card slot.

The buckle that holds your laptop in place within the front panel pocket system

The laptop sleeve is on the front panel, which is what you would expect and the best place for it. The laptop sleeve ends well before the ground, so if you drop the carry-on or you’re rough with it, you’re unlikely to do any damage. That said, since this is soft luggage, you’re not going to want to allow things to be placed on top of it if you have a laptop in the front panel. And don’t check this suitcase with a screen or laptop inside. (In any case, when flying, any electronics containing a battery are not allowed in checked luggage.)

Osprey says that this compartment fits up to 16″ laptops (which are sold with a diagonal screen measure). However I measure the interior laptop sleeve space on the Transporter Carry-On 38 at roughly 34 cm. / 13.5 in. wide and 44cm. 17.5 in. tall, with good depth as well, so you can go larger than that, if you want, and travel with a huge fancy gaming laptop plus portable screen. I expect this would carry just about any portable laptop and second portable monitor without any problem. There is plenty of space here, more than Osprey is advertising.

Ready to go: The Osprey Transporter Carry-On 38, Transporter Boarding Bag, and my favorite collapsible water bottle attached with a travel hook

There is no water bottle pocket on the outside of the Transporter (as with most carry-on suitcases), so here’s what I do: I attach my favorite collapsible silicone water bottle, which is the Hydaway, to a carry handle using my favorite travel hook/carabiner, the small Heroclip.

Side view of Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38 with the HeroClip holding the Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle 17 oz. 500 mL

The carry handles on the top and one side of the Transporter are flat, so they don’t stick out and catch on things as you roll past—a problem with some other carry-ons. They’re comfortable to grip and well-integrated into the exterior design.

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38 with Osprey Transporter Boarding Bag on top in a Brazilian bus station

Durability, Guarantee, and Reputation

The back of the Transporter with the pull handle collapsed in; the material and construction appear to be excellent and very durable

As usual with Osprey, we’re dealing with top-quality construction and lightweight materials.

The fabric used is a mix of 450D recycled polyester, 600D recycled polyester, and 420D recycled nylon; these are tougher and more tear-resistant than the unspecified grade of polyester on a cheaper, Amazon Basics Carry-On. The frame is 6061 aluminum alloy; so this means that it’s very lightweight, but sturdy—you’re not going realistically going to break it unless you run it over with a car. The Transporter’s water-resistant coating is free of PFCs, which should be healthier for both us and the environment. As noted above, the zippers, pull handle, and wheels all seem sturdy and well-built; there is no apparent skimping on the build and they should last for years.

The Osprey pieces I have owned and eventually passed on to others have lasted for more than a decade now with no issues.

Osprey puts its money where its mouth is on durability and offers a lifetime guarantee; while I have never had to take advantage of this myself they do have a good reputation for follow-up and solving customer issues.

Alternatives to the Osprey Transporter Carry-On

If the Osprey Transporter Carry-On 38 described here doesn’t quite fit your needs, check the Transporter carry-on variants listed above and see if there is another version that does work for you. Note that I do not generally recommend four-wheel carry-ons as they aren’t really any easier to roll and the extra wheels take up more volume and add a potential failure point.

The Osprey Transporter series bags perform brilliantly in the rain, but they do not have a specific “waterproof” rating, which would mean that they could literally be submerged under a meter of water for up to 30 minutes without water getting inside. For an alternative carry-on of similar quality that is actually IP67 waterproof rated (but more expensive and with slightly different features), check out the Ortlieb Duffle RG, which I also discuss here.

If you want to stay in the Osprey universe but you want slightly different features, here are the Osprey wheeled carry-ons to consider from other series:

  • Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Travel Backpack 45L (two wheels and full backpack harness system for distributing your load): Osprey or Amazon
  • Osprey Daylite Carry-On Wheeled Duffle 40L (a simpler, less-expensive two-wheeled option with detachable backpack straps): Osprey or Amazon
  • Osprey Farpoint or Fairview Wheeled 36L (two wheels, full-featured rolling backpack; the Farpoint is for men and the Fairview for women but they are actually the same, just go for whatever is available regardless of your gender): Osprey or Amazonreviewed in full here

If the price is a bit much and we were looking to spend an absolute minimum on a carry-on that is durable and keeps out water, we’d go for any cheap hardshell carry-on that fits our space requirements and dimension restrictions.

Is the Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On Right for You?

Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On 38
A very weather-resistant rolling soft luggage piece that you can live and travel out of for months; great durability and organization in a light carry-on

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