Macpac Orient Express 65

Six Months Later: My Macpac Orient Express 65 Review

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When I bought my new pack in preparation for last year’s backpacking adventures, I wasn’t sure that spending $300 on it was really necessary. After six months of carrying, dragging and kicking it around the world, I’m now completely convinced it was.

What I Wanted

I had a few requirements of any new backpack that I bought, namely:

  • it had to be a lot smaller than anything else I’d used in the past. 80 or 90 litres wasn’t an option: I wanted something about half that size.
  • it had to have a good harness mechanism. Even though the smaller pack would mean less weight, crappy straps and a dodgy frame would turn carrying even 10kg for long periods into a backbreaking experience that I could happily live without.
  • it had to be tough. Not ‘hiking the Amazon’ tough, but still pretty durable. I knew that several months in Asia in the rainy season wouldn’t be easy on any item of luggage and the last thing I needed was for zips to break or fabric to rip in the middle of nowhere in Cambodia.
  • it had to fulfill all my other standard requirements for a travel backpack — opening from the front rather than the top, a ‘sleeping bag’ compartment for dirty clothes and shoes at the bottom, an attachable daypack (although I’m becoming increasingly less convinced of this as time goes by), etc.

What I Got

What I ended up with was the Macpac Orient Express 65.  The website has a million different specifications listed, but the ones that mattered to me were:

  • the main pack holds 50 litres, with a further 15 in the daypack.
  • heavy-duty weatherproof fabric
  • nearly all of the zips are lockable
  • internal compartment at the bottom for dirty stuff
  • high-quality adjustable harness (honestly, it was the most comfortable backpack I’d ever tried)
  • a strap that lets me carry the pack on one shoulder but tucks away when not in use
  • a zip-up flap that covers the harness entirely for bus or plane rides, and folds away the rest of the time
  • a separate internal mesh section for stuffing random things into that need to be accessible
  • plenty of pockets and little nooks and crannies to hide valuables in

The Lowdown

Overall I couldn’t have been happier with this backpack. It got soaked for hours on top of a bus in the Philippines, sat in a puddle of dirty water in a boat in Laos, was dropped in the mud more times than I care to remember, and got hauled around in the tropical sun every other day for months, and yet shows virtually no signs of wear.

My clothes remained dry even in the heaviest rain storms, the zips still run freely and other than being a bit faded, the fabric hasn’t been damaged at all. Even the plastic clips and zip pulls, which are usually the first things to break, are all still intact.

The only thing that detached the entire time I was away was one of the straps on my daypack when I pulled it far too hard. I’ve still got it, though, and next time there’s a long rainy weekend, I’ll probably get bored enough to try to put it back on again.

Speaking of daypacks, I removed it before my first flight last June and have never reattached it since. Suffice it to say I no longer find ‘attachability’ to be a key attribute.

Lockable zips were a great idea, both for keeping my dirty undies safe from marauding thieves in the dorm room and for stopping dodgy baggage handlers from trying to turn me into the next Schapelle Corby.  I wasn’t originally convinced about the sleeping bag compartment not being accessible from outside the pack, but in the end it was probably a good thing: one less zip to have to lock up each day.

Thanks to that great harness, the pack stayed comfortable during long walks around town, even as the weight slowly grew from 10 to 15kg by the end of the trip.

The design of the harness had another benefit beyond comfort: it was possible to hide a little plastic bag with emergency cash and an ATM card deep in its recesses, far from any prying eyes or fingers. That approach seemed to work out just fine, as the plastic bag was still there when I pulled it out at Kuala Lumpur airport before my final flight.

What’s Wrong With It?

So was there anything about it that I didn’t like?

Well, to be honest, not much. The handles on the top and side were a bit too soft to be ideal when lifting and carrying the pack with a bit of weight in it. That meant that the bag just flopped around and became uncomfortable pretty quickly, so I’d end up having to put it on my back for even short distances.  A bit more sturdiness would have helped a lot with that.

It would have also been handy if all of the zips were lockable: while the main ones were, the top and side pockets weren’t. Obviously I never stored anything valuable in them, but there was nothing to stop anybody else putting something in there.

Would I Buy It Again?

Those are very minor niggles though, in what was overall a fantastic piece of travel equipment.  I’d highly recommend the Macpac Orient Express 65 to anybody looking for a robust, practical and useful mid-size travel pack. Will I be using it for my next round-the-world adventure? Knowing what I know now, would I buy it again?

In a word, yes.  I absolutely would.

Note that I’m not receiving any sort of compensation from Macpac or anyone else for writing this review, I’m just a very satisfied customer.

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  1. Thanks for this, Dave! I’ve been looking for a proper review of the Orient Express for some time now (I already had a hunch it was the bag for me), and this is exactly what I needed to read. Macpacs sure seem to be indestructable don’t they?
    One of the best things you’ve clarified here is that the size 65L is inclusive of the detachable day pack, it’s been quite hard to get a straight answer on that!

    1. Thanks Sam!

      Yeah seriously, I reckon if I spent 10 minutes scrubbing the dirt off my pack you’d be hard pressed to tell that it wasn’t new. Of course I prefer it with the dirt on it – who needs postcards to remind them where they’ve been when there’s mud?

      That 65L thing is a bit odd, it’s not clear on the website or anywhere else that I’ve found. I’m basing it on what the (very knowledgable) sales assistant at the Macpac store told me when I was trying it out – she was very clear that it was 50+15. I haven’t filled it up with 50 one litre jugs of water to prove it yet – maybe that’s another job for a rainy weekend…

  2. Great post, Dave.

    Nice to know Macpac is still turning out great kit.

    I still have mine from a 9-month trip to South America in 1997.

    In fact, I used it when taking the kids to Italy last year. Perfect when you’re lugging your gear and one of the kids needs a pick-up/hug.

    Bloody great.

    Nice one.

  3. I agree the detachable daypack is not really a requirement. I have never attached mind. When walking with both packs, I put my pack on my back, and it’s balanced (sort of) by my daypack on the front.
    The one thing that I’m missing on my pack is the shoulder strap – I do which I had one of those for quick carrying without unzipping the harness.

    And of course you can’t beat a NZ-made MacPac!

    Mud on the pack? It’s a badge of honour!

  4. UGGHHH. This post makes me want to cry. I accidentally bought a wheelie bag. And It wasn’t THAT expensive but now I have to like. Justify buying it by like… using it. And in actuality, I really should have just bought a new pack. I used to have this awesome light blue northface pack that was expensive (but has lasted me 3 years, thousands of miles and hundreds of flights/train rides) but it is literally in it’s last 100 miles. Baby’s about to rip at the seams.

    But I just don’t know if I can afford this. It’s pretty much exactly what I want. Though maybe a little small (just like joel, I need a separate pack for all my “lady appliances”). Maybe you convinced me anyway. AHH conflict.

  5. Hi Dave and others,
    I am looking for a pack to do me on a 2 year trip to Europe, including carrying those things that I will need to ‘live a normal life’ for the majority of the time – work clothes, laptop, etc. Would a 50 + 15L pack be big enough, or is it really pushing it considering all that I will need to carry with me (think work shoes, runners, casual shoes and the outfits to accompany them)

    1. Good question. For me it kind of depends on how much you’ll be moving around, and what you’ll need to be carrying when you do. I moved to London and travelled around Europe on and off for three years, but I didn’t need to take my work clothes etc with me when I travelled so I left them in my flat or with friends.

      If it were me, I would buy this pack and then take a small suitcase or bag to hold the things you need for a ‘normal life’, that can be left behind when not needed. You may find it a little small to hold everything you need for both a ‘work life’ and a ‘travel life’.

      If you do need to carry everything on your back all the time, a slightly larger pack (maybe a 60 or 65) could give you a bit more flexibility with what you take.

  6. Hiya! I just bought this backpack for a 3 and a half month trip through South East Asia… I will be catching quite a lot of flights – do you think a flight cover is necessary? I have read quite a few blogs about buying them and can see the benefits, not sure if I really need one for this pack though?

    1. I’ve never used a flight cover, although I see a few of them on backpacks coming off the carousel. I’ve never quite understood why people use them unless they know they’re going somewhere with regular torrential rain, or they have a pack where the straps can’t zip away and risk being damaged.

      I always use the zip-away section for the straps, to keep everything contained, and haven’t had a problem so far. The pack is pretty waterproof (eg. it was absolutely throwing it down at Phuket airport the other day, and although the top of my bag was wet when it came along the carousel, everything inside was bone dry).

      1. Ok fab… thank you! I won’t bother buying one then… it’s good to hear from someone who actually uses it!

  7. Hi Dave, I’m looking at heading to south America for 6-12 months. Do u think that the Macpac Orient Express would be a good choice? My main concerns are capacity and durability. I traveled light in Thailand for 3 weeks with just the Macpac Rapaki 28 Litre, was so awesome it felt weightless.

    1. I think it’d be a great choice! In terms of durability, I’ve travelled for well over a year with mine now and it’s still in perfect working order despite the beating I give it.

      If you travelled for 3 weeks in Thailand with a 28 litre pack, you’ll be fine with the Orient Express – plenty of room for the additional gear you’ll need in South America.

      I’d say head down to the shop, throw a whole bunch of weight in one and test it out!

  8. hello dave,

    i am try to buy macpac Koru 35 old version. i was wondering if is worth to buy macpac brand.

    worth to buy macpac pack? i read a lot of rumours and news from internet that the company was took over by another company which make their quality control and manufacturing drop.

    some say the packs quality now is not as good as the old ones.

    macpac beg now made in NZ or made in china?

    please comment

    1. Hi Andy,

      I’ve heard similar rumours in the last year or two, but I don’t have any personal experience of it myself one way or the other – my Orient Express is still going strong after 2+ years of constant travelling, so I haven’t had to buy a new pack.

      Macpac got new owners around 10 years ago, and I believe moved its manufacturing offshore around the same time. There is a very long thread on this article – – talking all about this stuff, including several comments from one of the Macpac owners.

      In my opinion (and this is just my opinion) I think that the higher end Macpac gear is great for travelling and light to moderate hiking. It may not be as good as it once was for more extreme conditions, but I’ve got no way of knowing that for sure – and I don’t tend to put myself in those conditions, so don’t have a need for gear that can survive them.

      I guess all I can say is that at this point, I’d happily buy another Macpac pack to travel with when my current one does finally break.

  9. Hello!! Thank you for the review Dave!! I´m planning a trip to Asia and yesterday I saw this backpack at the store.. so today I started looking for more details… I think I´m going to buy it! I cannot carry heavy things and think that the size is the strength 😉 Thx!!

  10. Hi Dave – I bought the orient express in 2000 and the waterproofing lasted until 2011 when it started to flake off. It’s been around the world 3 or 4 times, through rain, snow, hail and sunshine. the shell remains very much sturdy and in tact and I loved it so much!! Really attached to it (sentimental value through all the travels) but currently grieving for it since it seems to have gone missing (possibly accidentally taken during a move or thrown out from storage). I’m so happy you wrote about it about it… I never comment on these things on the internet but since I’m going to Nepal soon I need a bag so researching options and keep coming back to a brand I can trust! I bought a Kathmandu pack I just bought but nowhere near the same quality or workmanship… What was the final decision that made you leave the corporate world altogether? I dream of doing it again but …. enjoy your travels. be safe. peace out traveller.

    1. Hey LG… yeah, I totally know what you mean about being sentimentally attached to a trusty old pack. Even though the one I had from 1998 to 2008 was a piece of crap compared to the one I have now, I was very sad to see it go. It died for the same reason, actually – the waterproofing started to disintegrate and just left a black sticky mess in the bottom of the pack (or more likely, all over my clothes). 😛

      The corporate world thing – well, it’s hard to say. I think I’d been looking for a way to extend my travels indefinitely ever since I started them, but that way didn’t really exist for someone with my skills up until a few years ago (and it took me a while to figure it out, even then). I was also just becoming increasingly disillusioned with the amount of time I spent each day sitting in an office doing something that felt both meaningless and dissatisfying. The number of times that I’d quit, sold everything and left to travel meant that I wasn’t really attached to much in the way of ‘stuff’ anyway, so doing it for the last time wasn’t hard either. Perfect storm, I guess? 😉

  11. Day pack straps: How do the day pack straps attach to make them straps? Do you just push that square do-flicky in that rectangular hole? I did that, but it seems to come out a lot……. Any thoughts? Can’t seem to find a pic anywhere…

    1. Hi Lesley,

      I’ve recently ditched the daypack part of this pack — it was starting to wear out and I was looking for something a little bigger anyway — so unfortunately I can’t test it, but from memory it did just attach via the plastic clips. If you’re really struggling, maybe just pop into a Macpac store (if you’re still in Aus/NZ) and ask, or take a look at the display models. 🙂

  12. Hi Dave!

    I’m traveling to Europe in December for a year! I have been looking into buying a 65 litre Orient Express for a while, and I have just seen that they are on sale from $400 down to $240. Have the bags changed at all from the model you have?

    I worry a little that 65 L isn’t quite big enough, and that I might need something larger. Thoughts? An opinion from someone experienced in this stuff would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

    1. That’s a bargain! Other than the colour, the Orient Express shown on the Macpac site looks exactly the same as the one I’ve got. If they’ve changed anything about it, it’s not visible in those product shots.

      As far as capacity goes — well, I’m still using that same pack, four years after I got it (and continually for the last 2.5 years). I’ve allowed the amount of stuff I carry to slowly increase, to the point where it’s now become a bit of challenge to fit everything in and I wouldn’t mind an extra 10 litres — but that’s mainly because I have things like my running gear, extra shirts and t-shirts and extra technology due to working from the road and writing about tech. If I was a so-called typical backpacker, there’d still be plenty of room.

      Of course, you’re going to Europe in the middle of winter, so you’re going to need warm clothes — and they take up space when you’re not wearing them. If you’re worried about space, perhaps consider investing in merino clothing, lightweight rain jacket, etc — merino costs a bit, but it’s amazing for travel. Incredibly lightweight and packs away into nothing, yet keeps you ridiculously warm for its size (and can be worn for days on end). I’ve got a merino t-shirt, long-sleeved top and socks, and it’s easily the best travel clothing I own.

      1. Thats what I thought! It was quite comfortable when I tried it.

        I will admit, the website confuses me. It says under specifications:
        “Capacity 65, 65, 70lt – includes detachable 15lt daypack”
        The source of my confusion is whether it is:
        65 (pack) + 15 (daypack)
        50 (pack) + 15 (daypack).
        Any thoughts on that? Haha

        I must pick up some good merino clothing! I have some merino socks, but I keep forgetting to invest in the other stuff as well.

        1. I actually mentioned this in the post, and one of the comments above — the website is particularly unclear, but the sales assistant was specific at the time that it was 50+15. I don’t have any real way of checking it, mind you.

          1. I didn’t even notice that! My apologies haha.
            Hmm. Being able to buy a bigger bag for the same price at Kathmandu might tip me to another brand or even just upgrade model to get the bigger size. I just worry that 50+15 isn’t big enough and I don’t really want to get to Europe and realize my mistake then!

          2. In my experience, there’s a big difference in quality between Macpac packs and anything that Kathmandu sells. If you’re sure you want a larger pack, I’d personally be buying a bigger pack from Macpac long before getting one from Kathmandu. I see they’ve got some 70, 75 and 85 litre options on the site that are also on sale.

  13. Ohh, really? That big of a difference? Well I guess these are things that I don’t know, so the advice is definitely good to hear. Either way I will have to head into the store to ask some questions I think!

    1. Definitely! I’d actually ask the salespeople the same question: “How do your packs compare to those from [Macpac/Kathmandu]?” If you strike a good salesperson at Macpac, I’d expect they’d have quite a bit to say on the subject. 😉

      1. Haha it will be fun to see them put on the spot!
        Thanks again for all of the help, these are things I just don’t really know about and it is good to hear it from someone who has done as much travel as you! I will be trying out the Gemini AzTec 75 this weekend I think and deciding between that or the Orient Express!

          1. Picked up the Macpac Gemini AzTec 75 for $300 in the end! Sales staff were absolutely fantastic.

  14. Hi Dave,
    I just got the orient express 65 as a going away gift as ill be backpacking around europe shortly 🙂 Very pleased to hear your great review. I’ve litterally had the pack all of one hour now so im still exploring its ins and outs. This may seem like a silly question but you know the zip part that covers the back straps…. where does that flap go when you have the straps out, so its not just hanging down your back?

    1. You should find that if you roll the flap up towards the base of the pack, there’s a little compartment secured by a velcro strip that you can put it into. 🙂

  15. I bought an orient express on my 30th and I still have it now….some 17 years later. Its been to India,new Zealand, hauled across the red route in the polish tatras been used as a hiking rucsac in the Scottish highlands and numerous other destinations. Its got a great harness that is still comfortable to lug heavy loads and considering that I am 6 feet 4 and not as svelte as I once was this is a big plus.
    It is absolutely bomb proof and you can hide away the harness and strap everything down .The handles are really strong and its easy to grab it from various angles- quite handy when you have to clamber down from an empty train in Delhi because you have overslept on a sleeper train and the train is now parked in the sidings 2km from the station!
    An excellent piece of durable understated kit that I wouldn’t be without. It was eye wateringly expensive when I bought it but the old saying of buy nice or buy twice is proven here.

    Only down side is the zip on day sac which is a bit crud compared to the overall excellence of the main unit but don’t let that put you off.

    1. Great recommendation!

      And yeah, I agree about the daypack. It wasn’t terrible on my version, but it just wasn’t quite as good as the main pack, and I ended up replacing it a bit over a year ago after the waterproofing material on the inside starting separating and leaving sticky goop on my stuff. No great loss, really — I wanted a slightly bigger daypack anyway, and one with waist straps that would be better for day hikes.

  16. Hi Dave,

    Just wondering about your comment:

    wasn’t originally convinced about the ‘sleeping bag’ compartment not being accessible from outside the pack..

    Where did you put your sleeping bag?


    1. I don’t travel with one, and haven’t for many years. Most hostels in Europe, Australia, NZ and elsewhere won’t let you use them anyway due to fears about bed bugs, and I don’t hike or camp using this pack. Given how often I’ve ever needed one (pretty much never), I really can’t justify carrying even a small one.

  17. Hi Dave.
    I’m trying to decide between this and the Pegasus 70.
    I’m a woman and I will be travelling around the USA for 2 months (from the UK).
    The Pegasus 70 would fit more stuff and is lighter, but I’m thinking there’s a downside. I just can’t figure out what it is…
    Your advice would be much appreciated!

    1. Hi Annette,
      I suspect the difference might lie in the harness, although it’s a bit hard to tell from the product shots. It looks a little flimsier, and may not be particularly adjustable — the descriptions on the site say “AirFlo” vs “AirFlo Flexi-Fit”. If you’re anywhere near a specialist Macpac retailer, the salesperson would be able to tell you the exact details — but either way, you’d really want to try them both on (with as much weight in them as you intend to carry) and walk around for a while. The fabric seems similar (slightly heavier-duty nylon for the main pack fabric on the Pegasus, but lighter-duty on the base), and the Pegasus only has a single compartment instead of two, but I personally wouldn’t view that as a problem.