When people think about choosing the backpack they need for their travel they often have a preconceived notion based on what they’ve seen other people use. Obviously, it’s always best to choose the right pack for you, but even more important is to choose the right pack for what you’re going to be doing. Most large backpacks are really made for camping and hiking, true backpacking, when it comes to travel you needs will likely be different. Let’s first take a look at what the traditional backpacker needs to look at for taking a hike, and how that changes for the traveler.
For the backcountry backpacker Size and Fit are the most important factors. These are important for the traveler as well, but differ in a few specific ways:
· Size. When a hiker is going into the backcountry, he or she needs to ‘pack in’ all their own food as well as a cook-stove, tent and sleeping bag, and then all the other gear like clothing. A traveler doesn’t need quite so much large equipment. A backpacker might be looking at a 60L-80L outdoor rucksack, depending on the type of trip, while the traveler should be looking at 40L-60L. (For our 21 months we had under 50L by the end)
· Fit. Have you ever met a traveler, who sleep in a hostel and takes a bus from city to city, who wears his pack for 8 hours a day while hiking over mountains? No…me neither. After making sure your pack fits all the gear you need to survive, making sure your back doesn’t fall apart at the end of the day is the next most important job of the backcountry backpackers pack.
For the traveler, the backpack game is different. The traveler carries his or her pack far less time and over far fewer mountains. The traveler should be concerned with comfort, yes, but that applies more to security and convenience than it does to size and fit.
· Pockets. Lots of different compartments helps to keep your life organized. Remember, at home your milk is stored in your kitchen and your shoes are in your closet, keeping some semblance of organization is a plus. Also, are you carrying a laptop or a tablet, you’ll probably want a sleeve against your back to keep this safe.
· Security. For me, this comes in having a smaller, nondescript pack. For others this means having locks all over the thing. After 21 months on the road, and never having anything taken from my pack, I’ll keep it small and unappealing.
· Comfort. Those big packs come with lots of big cushions. Sometimes it is better to save on bulk, make sure you bag can fit in the overhead bin space on an airplane, and go lighter and forgo the extra cushioning.
· Waterproofing. This doesn’t hurt and can only help. Even if the pack is only water resistant it can mean a big difference in comfort if you’re caught in the rain.