The Rutstrum Gear Cruiser is a very good portage pack.
Source: received it as a personal gift
The Rutstrum Gear Cruiser is a very good portage pack. It's probably more space than you'll ever need.
- Minimalist, three pockets and nothing to break
- Super durable; Canvas and leather are pretty hard to ruin
- Classic looking
- No frame, so overloading it makes it a hard to carry pack
It's huge, easy to adjust to your dimensions, and extremely simple. It's heavy and the size makes it easy to overpack.
I find it surprisingly enjoyable for fairly small loads, since the one huge pocket makes it easy to just throw things in and head out. For portaging that's all you really need too. Use the included pack liner and your stuff will stay dry no matter how wet the pack gets.
The sternum strap is OK, and I was surprised how often I found myself using the Tump line (that forehead strap that comes with it) for heavier loads. It really allows you to shift the weight in a different way, which makes longer portages a little easier. It's also easy to carry a canoe without the pack getting in its way.
It won't compress to become small, but I've never really been bothered by slightly oversized packs.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that I love 1. how it fits in canoes (sits stable almost no matter what it's packed with) and 2. perhaps most importantly, I love that when lifting it into and out of canoes, you just grab the huge top flap, and it's really easy to lift and move that way.
Top carry loops on traditional packs aren't really comfortable to lift decent loads up and down with, and getting at the straps isn't always convenient (since typically traditional packs are laid down on the straps in canoes, to let the frame keep your gear out of any water).