Friday, September 10, 2010

It’s Not Only Fine Backpacks That Make Fine Backpackers!

My new backpack has arrived!  And oh, what a long journey it was: a relationship of 1.5 years had ended before the damn thing crossed the ocean…  But at last it’s here - and I’m happy.
…Shopping for a backpack is not easy.  Backpacks are to backpackers what boobs are to women: they come in different shapes and sizes and your entire style is defined by them.  Adding to the resemblance, there’s an endless debate about which are better - big or small - with big (shocking!) slightly in the lead.
Being somewhere between the categories in the boob department, I’m definitely a small backpack girl.  This year I have successfully traveled to Cannes with just one 35 liter pack.  It might not sound like much, but it’s an uncanny achievement for a chick!  Think 7 days, 2 outfits a day (something light and small for the beach as well as something warmer and fancier for the night).  Plus matching shoes and handbags, toiletries and make up…  On top of all, I carried half of all Radioaktive promorabilia: 50 booklets, 30 USB drives, 200 business cards… 
How did I do this is a topic that I’ll elaborate on in the upcoming entry “What (Not) to Pack”.  Meanwhile just trust me: thoughtful packing for warm weather doesn’t require much space.  40 liter backpack is perfectly sufficient given that you’re traveling in the tropics or during summer months in moderate climates.  (Those who prefer not to take my word for it are welcome to explore this brilliant article:
Choosing small is one big decision, but other questions remain.  What price range is “reasonable”?  Which brands offer “best quality”?  Internal or external frame?  Or fuck the frame altogether and settle for a slick ultra-light 1.5 pound Equinox?  
There are two main backpack characteristics that will make or break your trip: “comfort” and “reliability” - in that order.  (Anything else - from color to speciality pockets - is just a matter of taste and will hardly impact your travels).  Your backpack should be sturdy enough to still hold your shit together after weeks of being tossed around on all sorts of buses, boats and tuk-tuks, but it’s even more important that it should never-ever under any circumstances cause you any physical pain.  A light (40 liter pack shouldn’t weigh much more than 15 pounds in the perfect world) comfortable backpack that you can take as a carry-on on a plane or stuff under a seat of a bus is independent traveler’s biggest blessing.  Walking for miles with all possessions strapped to your back and still enjoying sites is the ultimate definition of freedom.
So make sure that you google the name of your preferred pack together with the word “reviews” and read carefully.  I guarantee that you will change your mind many a time - until, that is, you find The One. I think I did.  
My criteria were the following: 
- weight: under 4 pounds/2 kg
- size: up to 40 liters
- frame: internal (for better distribution of weight)
- and a few useful extras: external sleeping pad straps, built-in rain cover, wastebelt pocket for often-accessed essentials, etc.
After weeks of research I proudly present you my new travel buddy: REI Lookout 40 (female edition).  Still has to be tested on the road, but so far - like in the beginning of any relationship - I’m convinced that this is my best pick yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment