Choosing The Backpack

When we chose to live on the road for more than a year we realized one of the most important items we would have was the pack on our back. After some initial online research we knew this was something we would need to purchase in person.  We would need to try it on, feel the quality of the interconnections in the zipper, how the materials felt between our fingers and all the other feel goods the internet can’t offer.  For us that meant a trip to REI.

 Photo from  Preston Hollow Advocate
Photo from Preston Hollow Advocate

Since we are mainly “urban backpacking” those large monstrosities of outdoor hiking bags were immediately eliminated. Which unfortunately, is most of what is on the market. When it came to what options were still available, we initially had thoughts like, “there is no way we can live in anything less than 70 liters each.” Between needing outfit options, creature comforts, electronics, and toiletries, we felt 70 liters was even going to be hard. Keeping in mind that we plan to live out of this bag for over a year we wanted to have room for everything we would need, but also knew carrying extra unnecessary weight was going to quickly get old (and painful). It was time for us to do some serious research to figure out what was going in our bags before making a final decision.

Most people we spoke with and blogs we read had a general consensus that 20 lbs (all-in, filled to the brim) was the target weight for a pack. In order to stay around that weight, we knew 70 liters would be too big.  Filling 70 liters to the brim gets you well past 20 lbs, ouchies. Now that our backpack was shrinking, another question came up; did we want to have a carry-on size pack? We decided that this was a must. Not only would this make it easier to carry on our back, it would be easier on all forms of transit. As an added bonus, often times carry-ons are free while checking a bag costs extra and the more dollars we save the more days we travel.

Since we are going to be taking all forms of transportation in many different countries, another key feature we felt was a must was security. We wanted to make our packs appear to be hard to try and break into or steal especially since everything we own will be inside. Security features we looked for were tear resistant fabric, high quality construction, and lockable zippers.

  Image from REI website
Image from REI website

With so much security built into one bag, we wanted to make sure the bag was still easy for us to use. The last thing we want is to be in a situation where we need something quickly and are not able to get to it with ease. Some great features we saw on bags was being able to open them like a suitcase so you could quickly and easily get to everything,  smaller compartments to help with organization, and the ability to attach and detach a removable day pack for when you just need a few things with you and can leave the bulk of your items stuffed away someplace safe (not on our backs).

After we looked at what different backpacks offered and compared them to our must have list, we chose the Osprey Porter 46. It is a carry-on size, 46 liter pack with a suit-case style full zip opening for ease of use, great security, and the ability to attach a 13 liter day pack (Osprey Daylite). As an added bonus, the Porter 46 even has compression sidewalls that help keep everything snug and secure no matter what’s inside. Packs purchased!

 Image from REI website
Image from REI website

As is often the case, before committing to something long term it is a good idea to give it a short term trial. We purchased the Porter 46 and Daylite to take with us to New Zealand in April.  This allowed us to make sure the packs fit well, held up, and actually fulfilled our wants and needs. From storing them overhead on the plane to only taking the Daylite with us around town, they did great.

 Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016
Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016

We are two en route to backpack the world.

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2 thoughts on “Choosing The Backpack

  1. Thankyou for this article guys
    We are in the process of weighing up Backpacks now (we are definitely suitcase people and I personally just upgraded from a 20kg (40lb) suitcase to a 30kg (60lb) suitcase for a trip where we experienced a wide range of climates from -16 celcius in Boston through to mid 30s Celcius in Dubai and the tropics in Thailand. Of course we needed a range of clothing types for theses various locations but we did NOT need so many choices and some pieces never saw the light of day the entire trip.
    Backpacks at 45l will be a bit of a shock but we are looking forward to having a simpler wardrobe to work with. we are also looking forward to being a bit more independent and not reliant on hotel transfers, etc.We have read a lot about the Tortuga backpacks that seem very popular for this purpose but man are they UGLY!.
    We love the look of the Osprey backpacks. Did you travel with laptops? if so, were there any features in them that supported travelling with tech? would love to hear more.
    Thanks again for your article. looking forward to reading more from you.
    Shaun and Mark

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment, guys. We do travel with laptops (Mac for Kevin, Windows for Brad), but we don’t keep them in our "big bag" (46l). We carry our laptops with us in a smaller Osprey Daylite bag. The Daylite doesn’t specifically provide any special protections for a laptop, but it does have an inner sleeve in the main opening where we typically keep them. We’ve been carrying them around this way for over a year (40+ countries) and besides a few scratches they’ve made it no problem. You could probably track down a smaller pack that has laptop focused features if that is an important need of yours. Having a smaller pack has been great for things like short overnight excursions, stowing groceries for a long days out and about … basically all the daily things when it’s just nice to have a bag.
      Hope that helps!
      Brad and Kevin

      Like

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