Wednesday, July 01, 2015

How to choose that Perfect Backpack?

For a backpacker, after his passport, the backpack is his second most important possession. Like the term, ‘living out of a suitcase’, a backpacker lives out of his backpack during his travels. And hence it becomes super imperative that he carries a backpack that fits his body shape, structure and travel needs.

Choosing the right backpack for your travels

Photo Courtesy: Corey Warren, Founder of Live More Creative

A wrong choice of backpack means more shoulder pain and may be back pain too. In essence, a bad backpack causes unnecessary pain during your holiday.  You can save yourself all that pain if you follow these handy tips that I have put together based on my personal backpacking (domestic, international, city, countryside, mountain and more) experiences.

For all practical purposes, male travelers should look for a backpack in the 55 to 65 liters category while female travelers should look for backpacks in the 45 to 55 liters category. I do understand that a lot of travelers want to carry the entire kitchen sink and if you do end up carrying it, carry it in a large trolley suitcase and not in a backpack. I have recommended the volume based on the average weight that one can comfortably carry on their back for long durations without complaining of any pain.

Proper and Comfortable Fit
A backpack should hug your back in a way like how a glove hugs your hands in a snug fit. Fit is super essential in getting the right backpack. There are 3 fits that one needs to take into account: Shoulder Fit, Lumbar Fit and Hip Fit. It is best to walk into a store to see which backpack fits you best as backpack fits typically varies with shoulder width, torso length and waist size.

Shoulder and Hip Straps should be well padded, the torso section should fit the curve of your back and should be of breathable material that allows for air circulation. The hip belt should rest right at your navel.

Don’t go for adjustable torsos as these keep changing fit with use. Opt for a fixed torso backpack. 

Should it include a Daypack?

Choosing a daypack for your travels

Photo Courtesy: Corey Warren, Founder of Live More Creative

These days, backpacks come with small daypacks that can be detached from the main backpack. While, these are super convenient and helpful, I do not prefer them as they affect the center of gravity while wearing the pack. But, if this option works for you, do opt for it, as it will offer you the convenience of a backpack and a daypack in one piece and for the price of one. A good value deal!

I like my backpack and daypack to be 2 separate items.

Semi Rain Proof Pack with a Rain Cover
Most backpacks come with rain proof material, but it is their zippers that are not rain-proof. The ones that have rain-proof zippers don’t last for long. My choice is a good semi rain-proof pack with a rain cover. The rain cover can either come with your pack or it can be purchased separately.

Should not blow like a Balloon
There are many backpacks that expand like a balloon on adding clothes and gear. I do not prefer such backpacks as they affect fit, center of gravity and end up taking too much weight. Go for packs that are a tight fit and thereby ensuring fit, posture, center of gravity and weight. Such packs come in very handy while you go on mountaineering expeditions, trekking and other adventure activities. 

Many Compartments 
The ease of packing and unpacking in a backpack depends on the number of compartments it has. I prefer ones that have top loading, middle loading and bottom loading facilities. That way, I can separately take the heavy items from the top, my clothes from the middle and my sleeping bag from the bottom without tossing the contents of the entire backpack. There should also be small fit pouches where you can store things that require quick access.

Personally, I prefer my backpack to have a hidden or concealed compartment. 

Anti Tear
Like most baggage, backpacks also get thrown around at airports, train stations and bus stations and they also have to bear the elements. Hence, it is recommended that you choose a backpack that has a tough exterior with anti-tear properties.

Backpacks have to be light. It helps with airline weight regulations and is also appreciated by your shoulder.

Easy to Identify

The way I travel

Photo Courtesy: Corey Warren, Founder of Live More Creative

Like with all baggage, buy a backpack that is easy to identify or at least put some sticker or badge that allows for easy identification. 

Lockable Zippers
There is some level of mental satisfaction if we can put a lock on our backpack zippers. This helps everywhere especially at airports and in hostels. But, don’t trust these lockable zippers to store cash, electronics and/or jewellery.

Internal or External Frame
Go for internal frame. These are more rugged backpacks and all the new innovations seem to be internal frame backpacks. 

Typically, backpacks cost between USD 100 and USD 500. Depending on your budget, pick one that fits you well, will serve your travel needs and fits the above criteria.

Personally, I use a Gregory Baltoro 65 Backpack and a CamelBak 21 Hydration pack as my daypack.

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