Backpack Basics

So, apparently ‘travel blogs’ are meant to be filed with useful, fact filled posts about gear, places, schedules and the like. Not random, nonsensical posts about whether travelling actually requires travelling (because that’s just silly). 

So, here goes. 

Backpacking. As obvious as it seems, there is a backpack involved. Now pay attention, this is important. Your pack will be house, your garage, your storeroom, your safety blanket, at times, it’ll be your all. So don’t skimp. Equally, you don’t need to refinance your house. 

  • Quality, particularly around seams and the zips is a must. This will be the area taking the most wear and tear.
  • Size. Now, bigger is not better here. Anything over 75 litres is going to be tough to carry for any sort of distance. Equally, a well packed 75 litres is roughly 20 kilograms, the default weight for many airlines before they start charging overweight tariffs. It you need to pack more than 20 kgs on a backpacking trip, you’re doing something interesting (Who am I to call somebody wrong).
  • A day pack. Many packs come with a detachable day pack, which means that your main pack can be locked up in a hostel, while you carry only the essentials with you on a day’s sightseeing. Secondly, the day pack can be attached to your main pack when travelling long distances, one pack is easier to handle when using public transport.
  • Waterproofing. The advantages of this are obvious. IT KEEPS YOUR STUFF DRY!! If the material is not waterproof, make sure your pack has a rain jacket.
  • Can the multitude of straps be tucked away? Nothing will tick baggage handlers off more, and nothing increases your chances of a rip or breakage than loose straps.
  • A waist strap. Non negotiable. It’ll make carrying a heavy loads that much easier on your poor shoulders.
  • Try it on before you buy. Make sure it can adjusted to fit your body size. It MUST be comfortable.
  • Last, and possibly most importantly – you need to choose between a traditional ‘top entry’ pack or a ‘side entry’ back. For my money, it’s a no brainer. Using a top entry pack will mean that you spend far too much time unpacking and repacking your kit, to get that elusive piece of gear. When you need your iPod before the 2 day bus trip from Hanoi to Saigon, odds on it’ll be right at the bottom of your pack. A side entry backpack will solve all the problems.

Right, that’s it. Informative, fact based and (kinda) impartial. 

My bag is a K-Way Transit 75. It gets two thumbs up from me,and naturally has all the features mentioned above. Read more here

Published in: on 24/06/2010 at 10:34 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Backpacking: An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the distance they planned to go in twice the time it should take. Author Unknown

    Thank heavens I’ve reached the age when backpacking is no longer cool. I like a porter to carry my suitcase to my room 🙂

    • I look forward to the day I stay somewhere with a porter.

  2. I am at the age that backpacking is thankfully no longer an option! I love those suitcases with wheels 🙂

    • I hear they make backpacks with wheels these days. Kind of superfluous I thought, but sure someone buys them.

  3. The tip I always give people buying a bag is to go out and try a few on. It’s all well and good buying one with all the features, but if it sits uncomfortably on your back, then you should look elsewhere. Comfort should be one of the highest factors in buying a backpack.

  4. Some good tips here. But I think 75L is far too heavy. I used a 70L when I first went backpacking but it was just too big. I now use a 55L and it has been perfect. The thing is, if you bring a 75L backpack, chances are you’ll be carrying stuff you don’t need.

    If you don’t plan on carrying your bag much then it doesn’t matter, but as Bill Bryson says, ‘take only what you need, which should be a lot less than what you think you’ll need’.

    Nice blog. I like the long posts.

    • Fair point Jimmy. Less is usually better I guess, so suppose it comes down to personal preference, or how much/little you can truly back.

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