General backpack advice
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Feb 9, 2013 5:07 AM Last Post By: backlasher
Feb 3, 2013 1:59 PM
General backpack adviceMy partner and I are hoping to travel around Europe later this year via public transport and by foot. Although he's made similar trips before, it'll be my first time doing anything like this and I'm completely unequipped.
I was just hoping for some very-beginner advice on a backpack, which I'll want to last me a good few months. People I've asked have suggested far larger than the 35L average I've seen suggested on other posts here. I've looked around online and I'm going shopping to look at some tomorrow, but so far I'm pretty overwhelmed by all the choices! I'm curious about types of backpack and if there's anything in particular that I'm going to need, like daypacks.
Like I said, I'm completely inexperienced here, so all advice is handy!
Feb 3, 2013 7:48 PM
11) Smaller is better; you don't need nearly as many clothes/tech toys/toiletries/whatever as you think, and you can keep your belongings safely by your side instead of worrying about it in a luggage compartment.
3) Fit is important. Think about how much stuff you'll be carrying around - something with a reasonable internal frame is recommended, especially if you plan on hiking around.
4) For a daybag, you can look at either a packable daypack, or get something really simple while you're there. As long as it can carry some money, a water bottle, guidebook or whatever, and have a little room to spare, you're good. Unless you're a photographer like me and carry around 10lbs of camera gear...
Feb 4, 2013 10:48 AM
2Scroll down through threads here and read any that seem relevant to you. What backpack to buy and what to pack in it is asked in one form or another repeatedly. There is nothing new about your question and answers have been given countless times.
Here is a thread to start with: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2280830
Before you can buy a pack you must FIRST know what you will pack in it.
Then your choice is backpack or travel pack. Research the difference between the two. If you do only city travel a travel pack like the Osprey 40 may suit you best. If you want to do some hiking though, you may opt for a 'normal' backpack. Travel packs also don't seem to come any smaller than 40L.
There is a thread a few down from here about daypacks, yes or no? Read it.
Once you start to get a handle on what you think you should do, then ask here for pros and cons or more detailed questions.
Feb 4, 2013 5:09 PM
3When you get on a train or bus, there are steps. When you go down to the subway, there are steps. The smaller the pack, the easier it'll be to navigate the transportation and, like it was stated, keeping your belongings with you is a better way to travel. I wouldn't take a backpack larger than 40 liters or more than 25 pounds. I've washed my clothes in sinks all over Europe and it's easy. There are a lot of books and websites devoted to this kind of travel, so you can learn how to do it before you go.
Feb 4, 2013 6:19 PM
4Echo the comment above on asking yourself what you will be packing in the bag first before you go and buy one! I'm all for a smaller bag, but at the same time we've been going for almost a year on the road, and I took a 60L backpack and 18L day bag. Bigger than average, but we've brought a lot of things other people could do without e.g. two DSLR, a tripod and a laptop.
Like I said, depends what you want to take and want to get out of the trip! We've got a couple of backpacking packing lists for myself and my wife that you can check out to compare against the size of your bag - we fit everything on the lists comfortably into our bags. http://www.worldlynomads.com/index.php/backpacking-packing-list/
Hope that helps, it's a big decision to make!
Feb 5, 2013 9:19 AM
5When I was shopping for my first backpack I quickly realized that the size I wanted was quickly overridden by having to choose the only pack that was comfortable. I settled on an 80L Gregory pack that has much more capacity than I need for my trips but it was the only pack that fit comfortably.
Go to a store where the staff is somewhat knowledgeable and try on every pack in your price range. You might discover your options are much more limited based on comfort and fit.
Feb 5, 2013 10:43 AM
6When I read about 60L and 80L packs I shudder.
The term 'backpacking' originated in N. America and referred (still does) to someone who went hiking/camping for multiple days in the wilderness and had to carry everything they needed including tent, stove, sleeping bag, food, etc. on their back. Today the term as used here on the TT also refers to someone travelling with a backpack rather than with a suitcase.
Backpacking as originally defined is all about weight. There is a saying in wilderness backpacking circles which says: 'The ultimate backpacker is s/he who travels with the least weight and the most comfort.' You could add to that the word safety as well. What to pack is about finding the balance between weight and comfort/safety. Every individual has to decide what is a necessity for them (ie. camera, tripod) of course, but then trying to find how to balance their needs against weight is a common task.
For some unknown reason, while wilderness backpackers can be and often are obsessive about reducing weight, the same is not true of the typical traveller with a backpack. All the knowledge is there and available from wilderness backpackers but not consulted by many travellers.
As someone who has done a fair bit of both, here is a tip for everyone reading this thread. You MUST know the weight of every single item in your pack. If you do not, I guarantee you that your pack weighs more than it has to without losing any comfort or safety. As soon as I see a suggested packing list that does not at least state the total weight of the pack (preferably an item by item weight), I am 99% sure the person has not given enough thought to weight.
For every item you decide you need to carry, there is a lightest weight answer. For example, the pack itself can vary in weight by several pounds/kilograms. Your footwear (arguably the most important piece of gear you take) can vary considerably in weight. A t-shirt can even vary signifigantly (when multiplied by the number you carry). The more fanatic wilderness backpackers have been known to take a standard plastic toothbrush, cut off half the handle and drill holes in the remaining half to reduce the weight. That may be excessive but it indicates how every item can be reduced in weight.
I am not picking on worldlynomads or planetsplinters but I would like to hear what their respective packs weigh and compare them to my list linked above which weighs 7.56kg./16.67 lbs. wet weight. Dry weight is no food or water, wet weight is with food and water.
Consider this. A wilderness backpacker who must carry food, stove, water, shelter (tent, sleeping bag), etc. should obviously have to carry more weight than a traveller, as typically found here on the TT, with a backpack. Yet my experience here on the TT is exactly the opposite. Why?
Sure people can say, well the traveller doesn't carry their pack on their back all day, every day as a wilderness backpacker does. They just carry it from the train to the hostel primarily and walk around a city with a day pack. That's true but it really doesn't mean much. Sometimes a traveller does carry their backpack for more than just a half hour. However much you carry it, it is still comfortable/uncomfortable when you are carrying it.
Every time I see a 'backpacker' struggling in a railway station to heave a huge pack onto their back and staggering under the weight of it, I shake my head.
Here is an article that shows you what weight classifications wilderness backpackers aim for. Keep in mind that a traveller should only need to carry LESS than a wilderness backpacker. Take all the stuff you plan to carry and weigh it, including the pack itself and see how you compare. http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ultralight-backpacking.html
As I said, get your packing list right first and see what size pack you need. Whether you travel for a week or a year, the list does NOT change.
Feb 5, 2013 10:52 AM
7Here is a simple test to see if your pack weighs too much for you. What weight you can carry will vary depending on your height, weight,strength obviously so there is no way to tell an individual what weight they should carry. A rule of thumb often used is no more than 25% of your body weight but it isn't infallible.
This test is a better way to decide in my opinion. So here's the test.
Stand up with your pack standing upright on the floor in front of you and the harness facing you. Reach down and pick it up by one shoulder strap. If you are right handed, pick it up with your right hand on the right shoulder strap. If left handed the opposite. Now lift the pack with that one hand and at the same time, sling it onto your back over your shoulder. Now reach around behind you with your other hand and put that arm into the other shoulder strap. Pack on.
If you cannot pick it up and sling it on with that one hand, it's definitely too heavy. The easier it is to do it the better. This test will tell you your MAXIMUM weight. It will not tell you the LOWEST weight you can get your pack down to.
Feb 9, 2013 5:07 AM
8You've received some excellent advice, especially about weight. I met a young lady from NZ on a train out of Nice, France who wore her pack all the time because she had so much trouble getting it on. You don't need all those clothes and other things. The primary word is need. Take only what you really need to be comfortable and safe.
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