The Deuter Helion 80 ($289) is a cavernous, big-gear hauling wheeled Sherpa for travel on land, air and sea.
How I used it:
- Air travel for a four-day ski trip: Packed ski boots, ski pants, gloves, helmet, goggles, socks, baselayers, usual travel clothes and toiletries. Everything fit but only because I practiced efficient packing (e.g. stuffing socks and undies and jammies inside the boots and helmet). Final weight of bag with gear came within one pound of exceeding the Delta Airlines bag weight limit. Did not carry backpack style.
- Car travel to a remote yurt for five days of Nordic skiing and fatbiking: Packed winter cycling boots (45NRTH Wolvehammers), helmet, winter cycling tights, wool baselayers, puffy down gloves, cycling jacket, balaclava, hydration pack, xc ski boots (classical not skate), xc ski tights, bulky wool ski sweater, wool hat. Barely enough room left over for après fatbike and ski clothes. Thank god for internal compression straps! Had I checked this bag at Delta Airlines they would have laughed me out of the terminal. However, I did have to carry backpack-style because of the expansive snow-covered distance between car and yurt.
- I realized just now that I tested the Helion backwards. I should have carried it backpack-style on the four-day ski trip when it was a hair under fifty pounds.
What I liked
- Mega carrying capacity. At 80 liters it holds a lot of gear while still remaining manageable.
- It’s a roller-duffel with telescoping handle and solid wheels for smooth moving through airports, train stations and such.
- It’s a duffle bag with a hefty grab-handle for hoisting from car trunk, onto airport baggage scale or off a baggage carousel.
- Integrated harness to carry backpack-style and it works well even when humping seventy-five pounds worth of shit for five days of fatbiking and Nordic skiing across a field of snow between car and yurt.
- Not even the most sadistic and bitter Delta Airlines bag smasher could break its will and spirit.
- Good organization capacity. The Helion has a small exterior pocket and two decent-sized internal mesh zippered pockets for storing smaller personal effects.
What I didn’t like
There’s nothing that I technically “didn’t like” but there are two challenges to be aware of when using the Helion 80 as a backpack and it’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of thing.
- Unzipping the harness compartment is easy (d’uh) but you have to adjust the shoulder straps and hip belt each time because…
- When repacking the harness into the harness compartment you have to un-adjust all your re-adjusted settings so that it lays flat. It’s a bit of dicking around required.
At the end of the day the above 2 points are just nit-picky nuances/necessary evils than an outright dislike. Think of it as trying to re-fold a folded map but on a larger scale. Just takes patience and concentration.
The backpack harness system has an adjustable hip belt and shoulder straps (and both are nicely padded and comfortable) but the harness itself is not adjustable for frame size. It can be used as a backpack in a pinch and for limited distance but you won’t want to hike the AT in this.
I like it. You will too.
This is a Gear Gals recommended piece of gear for the gear closet.