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How to Choose the Best Backpack for a Round the World Adventure Trip
There are many great makers of backpacks out there, from basic name-brand bags such as Black Diamond, Arcteryx, Eagle Creek and Lowe Alpine, to the more professional mountaineering cooperatives such as MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) and REI, or even the expedition and military-grade packs available from Mystery Ranch / Dana Design and CamelBak. So what to choose?
For people only planning to take the occasional hiking or camping trip, a name-brand pack is the cheap and cheerful option. However, if several months of cross-country exploring is on the cards, something from a mountain co-op may be the preferred option. These bags tend to be of higher grade quality and durability, and will last for many years if treated right. For the more extreme backpackers out there, the latter grade Mystery Ranch and CamelBak designs are surely the right choice – although a choice which commands a dollar premium.
Think About the Backpacking Itinerary and Agenda
Consider how long the backpacking trip is – if money is less of a concern, items can be bought as they needed. But if like most backpackers the budget is on a shoestring, a backpack large enough to carry clothes and tools for the entire trip is needed. Generally speaking, if the excursion is for a week or less, anything below 30 liters should be sufficient. Add another 10 liters for each month of travel, up to about 70 liters. Anything over this and the pack will be too heavy to carry comfortably for the average traveler.
Another important factor is destination, as this will direct the type of clothing and tools that will be needed. If travels are to hot climates, clothing will take up far less room than in cold, or sub-zero climates. Likewise, if the agenda includes third-world or urban areas, a tough, secure and discreet bag is essential – nothing screams ‘tourist’ more than a bright blue and orange 60 Liter backpack.
Consider Your Health, Not Just Your Wallet
Look ahead to the types of transportation that will be used – walking and hiking, cycling, or taking public transport? If the latter ensure that the pack that is purchased can be safely stowed or locked, and that it’s not too big to take on a bus. If hiking – it is wise not to choose a bag that is even slightly uncomfortable – after a few hundred kilometers, that ‘slightly’ will have transitioned to ‘unbearable’. Also pay close attention to the frame of the pack – does it have an internal frame or an external frame? If the intention is to wear the pack for an extended time every day, an external frame will ease the load by correctly balancing the weight, and thus, preventing easily avoidable back problems 6 months down the road.
If there are places to stay throughout the trip or vacation, it can be very advantageous to have a detachable daypack – a feature which should not be overlooked and is often available on many modern packs. With this, many choose to leave the main pack at the hotel, hostel, or their host’s abode whilst they go exploring.
Convenience is Worth it’s Weight in Gold
Finally, always choose a front-loading backpack over a top-loading pack, if the option is available. A front-loading pack, as it’s name suggests, allows a backpacker to take things in an out from the front of the pack, as opposed to digging through clothes and items in a desperate attempt to find that elusive passport at the bottom of the bag. Multiple compartments are a bonus, but in most cases buying half a dozen Eagle Creek compartment bags will solve all organization woes.
There are hundreds of bags and backpacks on the market, so backpackers should shop around before handing over that hard earned cash which can be so necessary for other travel expenses.