Whether you’re a frequent business traveler or just a thrill-seeking nomad, we all know that venturing out into the world can be a complicated process.
In place of notebook pages taped to the fridge, Post-Its stuck to your monitor, and scrawled itinerary on a sturdy coffee-shop napkin, Outer Level offers you Knapsack. This all-in-one trip planning solution aims to de-clutter your preparation process and take the hassle out of planning for your next big (or small) adventure. We delve in to see if Knapsack delivers on its promise.
Knapsack is designed for organized travelers. People who need to keep track of frequent conference trips, or those who want a flexible and straight-forward way to construct and manipulate a complicated itinerary for their trip will find plenty to love about it.
The ability to leave dates and timings unspecified will also appeal to more spontaneous people though, so there’s something for everyone in this tool.
When you open Knapsack, you’re met with a simple and effective 3-panel design. The large map is the obvious centrepiece, and it is framed on the left by the trips panel where you’ll find your trips organized into Groups. Below the map is the listing of individual trips within the selected Group, and several columns for holding the most important information about each.
The layout is pleasing, familiar, and uncluttered, which is a major plus; there’s hardly any learning curve here. The toolbar is sparsely populated with all the basic functions of the program, and for those who accrue huge lists of trips, there’s a search bar at the top right. It might be tempting to assume that the search bar is for items on the map, but it’s actually for finding a specific trip in your catalogue — there’s a separate search button for map items in the toolbar.
Despite the simple interface, Knapsack is a powerful and multi-faceted trip planning solution, so let’s take a look at the four major aspects of trip management that it focuses on.
Before launching into your trip, it’s a good idea to iron out the little details. Knapsack’s integrated map system allows you to zoom in on your destination and scout out anything from the usual things like hotels, restaurants, and museums to the more pragmatic items like parking lots and transit stations. The integrated search makes this relatively painless, though searching for specific brand names can yield…unhelpful results (incidentally, did you know there’s a ‘Starbuck Island’ approximately halfway between Australia and Africa?)
Knapsack’s integrated map comes courtesy of the amazing OpenStreetMap.org: the Wikipedia of internet cartography. While at first it would seem as though Google Maps would have been the obvious choice, OpenStreetMap.org has the advantage of being constantly updated by users. So what it lacks in extra viewing modes (no satellite or hybrid views here, sorry), it makes up for with up-to-the-minute accuracy and an ever-expanding level of detail.
This is the bread-and-butter item, where the core of Knapsack’s functionality lies. Once you’ve set up your basic trip parameters (name, duration, description), you can start adding ‘days’ within which you create individual itinerary items with the “Add Activity” button.
The items can be moved, so if your plans change or you want to test out new configurations, you can simply click and drag an activity or an entire day around to re-order things. In lieu of those Post-Its on your monitor, you can also add To-Do list items to your trip to keep track of all the things you need to get done to prepare. This is a great place to put a packing list.
You also have the opportunity to create unscheduled activities that sit in a separate sidebar above the To-Do list items.
Organize & Revisit
Besides being a simple planning tool, Knapsack intends to help you organize your past trips and make them easy to reference and remember at a glance long after you’ve returned from them.
Trips can be rated using a basic five-star system, and based on that and the trip dates you can keep track of past ventures using the built-in Smart Groups (basically these are folders that contain trips). It would be nice to be able to tag individual trips more extensively and create your own Smart Groups to contain them, but this functionality is missing. You can, however, create standard Groups and manually sort your trips into them.
Trips are also attached to the main map as pins that you can click on to bring up a ‘postcard’. This little info window is a great way to keep a quick summary of each trip, including a picture, so that you can always remember the highlights of all of your travels.
When it comes to actually going on the trip, you can not only sync Knapsack with iCal to keep your itinerary handy and editable on your mobile device (it syncs both ways, which is great), but you’re also able to export as PDF or print for easy sharing with other travelers.
Speaking of which, it would have been nice to have an option to attach or ‘invite’ Address Book contacts into your trips to make working on shared itineraries easier. No such luck for now though, so if your trip has several participating members you’ll have to use the iCal sync or exporting features to keep everyone up to date.
Despite boasting an undoubtedly robust system for managing your trips, there is still room for improvement.
Besides the items mentioned above, it would be nice to have an integrated module for searching for, booking, and saving flight and hotel information. Even just that last aspect would be incredibly useful, so that once you have everything booked you can just check your trip itinerary for all your flight and hotel information instead of needing to refer back to the original documents each time.
An all-in-one itinerary solution shouldn’t leave us heading elsewhere for trip-related information, after all.
For most people’s purposes, Knapsack is clearly an excellent one-stop solution for trip planning. The sleek interface, streamlined functionality, and attractive price tag will no doubt be appealing to the majority of travelers. Nevertheless, there are still some notable gaps in functionality that hold Knapsack back from the title of ultimate travel assistant.
- Simple, flexible itinerary creation
- OpenStreetMap integration
- Easy iCal Sync
- Uncluttered Interface
- No integrated flight/hotel booking
- No dedicated flight/train/etc. info as separate module for each trip
- No method to attach contacts to trip and share itinerary updates easily
- No way to tag individual trips and create custom Smart Groups to organize them
Overall, Knapsack delivers on its promise and to help you keep all your trip planning in one un-stressful and easy to navigate place. There’s a fair bit of untapped potential, and future updates will no doubt capitalize on the strong foundations established in the current version, but for now it’s still a no-brainer for frequent travelers — and there’s a free demo available to help you see if Knapsack fits your style.
Have you tried Knapsack? Or have you got a different trip planning system you favour? Let us know in the comments!