In July 2012 I toured all the sports and bag shops I could find that would have trekking backpacks. I was looking for an improvement on my old backpack which is still in really good condition, but unfortunately not spacious enough. It's other disadvantage is that the bag has one opening on top and one in the bottom. I was looking for a more modern view with mid or side opening.
Alpine Lowe made the Travel Trekker II which opens like a suitcase. You get instant access to the whole length of the bag. Although you still have to dig underneath your stuff for access to the bottom, at least the bottom is not as deep down as in a traditional backpack.
There's also a rain cover, inside bags, an outside compartment for strapping on things, inside straps for holding down clothes and you can lock the zips with a padlock.
The downsides are the weight and the compartments in the bag. The backpack weighs about 3 kgs when empty, which is too heavy. The reason seems to be a quite solid structure on which the whole bag is built. The compartments are supposed to be useful for putting in dirty shoes or dirty laundry, but not really practical, as it uses a lot of space at the bottom of the bag.
You will have to be careful not to overweight the bag. And it can get quite bulky as well if you strap on a sleeping bag and some other things on top of the bag.
After almost 1 month of serious traveling through Southern Africa, I can say the bag still looks new, and I didn't particularly spare it. It's filled to burst the seems sometimes. The quality seems really good and would it not be for the weight of the empty bag, I would definitely recommend it to anyone.