Well, friends, this will be the first blog of many starting to share what I use along my travels. I’ll be recommending some things that I actually purchased myself, but also give recommendations of what to look for if you choose to go another route. I’d say at this point I’m a fairly seasoned traveler, so I can say with some confidence I found some things that work well, and more, things I would recommend avoiding.
I hope for new travelers this can help shed light on some necessities for travel, and also see that acquiring the right things doesn’t have to be all that expensive. In fact, nothing I purchased before my three-month and two-month backpacking Europe adventures did I spend over $100, and that was only one item, which was my NorthFace rain jacket. I wasn’t really willing to gamble on that because even though I’m from Seattle, I’m a super baby when it comes to getting wet.
So, the first review I thought would be helpful was what I felt is one of the two most important items when I was heading out on my journey: the backpack.
Why is this so important?
Well, it’s your home for however long you’re away. Its also your safe for valuables because any valuables you have are going to need to fit in there. And where ever you go, you’re going to be carrying it. Having a backpack that’s comfortable, or at least doesn’t rub the wrong places, is absolutely essential to not be cursing every step you take while you venture on your journey.
I’ve used a couple different backpacks on my adventures and I’ll share with you the pros and cons, and you can see what best fits for your holiday.
The very first trip I took, I borrowed a backpack from a friend who had used it while she explored Ireland.
If you’re a visual person like me, you can look at it first here: Kelty Redwing 50 Tactical. (A similiar pack I’ve found is also Osprey Women’s Aura AG 50 Backpack, Silver Streak, X-Small).
Now, let’s break down the pros and cons:
The pros of this are many. In fact, it was my favorite backpack I’ve used so far and here’s why:
It’s a front-loading backpack which is essential in any backpack you pick! Trust me.
What’s a front-loading backpack? It means the zippers go all the way around the pack, so you can open it up and see everything inside, exactly like if you had a suitcase.
Why is this important?
When you’re traveling and moving places every couple of days (or sometimes every day like I did) being able to see everything you have and get what you want saves you so much time and frustration. Opening up you pack, along with the assistance of cubes (I’ll talk about in a later post), gives organization and sanity to the hectic life of travel.
Also, if you’re staying in hostels, you want to be able to keep your stuff close to you and secured (I had an external charger stolen once while I was in the shower- thieves are pretty quick!). With a top load, which is self-explanatory, you can only load things from the top hole. If you’re trying to find your underwear and it’s dark at night and you just got in to the hostel and don’t want everyone in the room to hate you upon arriving (and like to wait until they find out you’re a loud snorer instead to hate you *guilty*), you’ll really find an appreciation for being able to use the light on your phone to scan overtop and find what you need quickly.
It has ample pockets for storage. Along with the main compartment, there are two zippers for storage on each time, plus the top compartment. The top compartment became a saving grace for me when I had acquired too many trinkets along my travels and space was getting tight. I also used it to store my wet rain jacket when it was no longer needed, which was a huge help to not get my other clothes wet and mold smelling (laundry is a super pain when backpacking, you want to save it for when you really need it).
It has a padded waist belt. This was also one of my highlight favorites of this pack. I walked a lot with this pack on, between trains, hostels, AirBnBs, you name it. While I never had to spend an entire day with it on, you do end up having it at least a few hours, and it adds up on your shoulders. The padded waist band helped relieve having all that weight on my shoulders and disperse it amongst my (well-sized) hips. When I had the buckle on my hips, I wouldn’t even mind carrying the bag extended periods of time. Weight dispersion is a huge benefit with the padded belt, and I would highly recommend finding one with it. Also, I added in padded. I don’t know if all packs offer padded, but think about a seatbelt material on your skin for hours, tight enough to hold up a bag, versus a thick Tempurpedic material pushed against your hip bones. Huge difference. Get the padding.
There is an option for a rain cover to be added. I never used this feature, but I suppose if you’re going somewhere where you anticipate rain often, or in large amounts, this would be beneficial. I would have loved to use it in Ireland at 2am when I was stuck walking the streets in a torrential downpour, but I had opted out of the cover to have more space for other things (see: snacks).
“So what’s the bad part about this pack? Because it sounds great!” you say. Easy Grasshopper, I’m getting there.
The most obvious:
If you clicked that link for the visual I set you up for, you probably glanced at the price. I know I just said I never spent over $100 accumulating my things, and I didn’t lie to you (I would never!). But I borrowed it from a friend, so I didn’t actually buy it, I just had to return it when I was done. I’d totally recommend hitting up friends for loans on these kinds of things if you can. Especially if it’s your first trip because then you get a tried-and-true recommendation from a reliable source and you don’t have to commit if you’re not sure. I’m a commitment-phobe (to anything including and not limited to my cell phone provider) so this was the perfect option for me.
If you’re ready and able to make the medium investment, try it on at a near hiking store or check that its free returns from Amazon (I cant count how many things I used this for when trying out products pre-trip). From reviews I’ve read in my ample searching, they do seem to hold up a lengthy amount of time. If it’s outside your budget, no worries, I have a more budget friendly option coming up, that I used for my next trip.
The extra pockets.
“But wait! You just said that was a perk you big, fat, liar!” Well, it is. But it is also a con, depending on what you’re looking for. The extra pockets on the outside are great, especially for organizing different things (I kept my Skittles in one, Gushers in another, etc) but there is some cost to the main compartment. You do lose some space.
Additionally, the narrow shape of this backpack did decrease space and I had to be mindful of the way I put in my packing cubes. My friends had a much boxier backpack than I did, and while I could get in four packing cubes of clothes, they had 5-6 full-sized and room for some small ones, too. They also kind of looked like a turtle when we were walking (if I’m being honest), but this isn’t a fashion blog so if you’re looking to travel while maintaining a super hot Kardashian look, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m about practicality (and no pants) as much as possible. “Elastic band whenever I can”- That’s probably what my gravestone will read.
It’s not always carry-on friendly.
Some airlines are quite particular about the measurement requirements, especially the budget airlines *cough looking at you RyanAir cough cough*. But getting a $20 flight to travel three countries over, budget traveler’s have to suck it up. I mean, that extra money can go to more pasta in Italy, you want to make sure you spend your dollars (or euros) on the IMPORTANT stuff (see: carbohydrates)
I did see some people on the commercial flights with some bigger bags, similar to mine. I may have been able to sneak it on a few flights, but I’m super adverse to confrontation, uncomfortable situations, or being embarrassed in public, when I’m not in control of embarrassing myself, anyway. I was also traveling with over 3 ounces of liquid because I’m high maintenance and was worried I couldn’t find my special conditioner for my tangle-y, long hair, which means I checked my bag on every flight.
I usually check my bag when I fly domestic because I am an OCD over-packer that is also indecisive. But I didn’t get to embrace my neurotic tendencies this trip. Checking a bag is a nuisance when you get off the plane, because who wants to stand around other grumpy people for almost an hour while trying to figure out that they actually put your bag in a hole in the wall 20 meters away with no signage (Ireland).
And additionally, checking a bag means paying more money. More than once the cost of checking my bag cost more than the flight. My first 3.5 month trip I took 7 or 8 flights and at $35-60 per flight, it adds up. It’s something to consider if you take a route with lots of flights.
The second bag will be an easier explanation, now that we covered why each things are important. My next trip to Europe I took this gray fox : Hynes Eagle 40L Carry On Approved
Its a front load.
The shape of the pack allows you to get in more packing cubes, and while it has less Liter-size than the other, seemed to hold more because of the squared off shape.
It passed the carry-on test for every single flight I took, RyanAir included. This saved me a decent amount of money.
The cost of the bag is super affordable without sacrificing durability.
It doesn’t have the padded waist belt. This was what kept me from announcing this as my favorite bag and awarding it a trophy. It not only didn’t have a padded waist belt, it didn’t have a belt at all. I quickly noticed when this was on my shoulders after a short period of time. The only thing that saved me was being able to wear it like a laptop case intermittently.
Its a bit small. However, I believe this is the trade off to not gamble it being carry-on size. I did backpack over two months in this one, from bathing suits to snow gear, and I was able to fit it all in. It’s doable, just be mindful.
Last thing: This backpack, Hikpro 20L – The Most Durable Lightweight Packable Backpack came with me on all my trips. It wraps up into the size of a sandwich bag (seriously) and weighs just a few ounces. I was able to throw it in my bag without worrying about weight requirement, and would use it during the day when I needed to pack snacks, water, my wallet and a back up jacket. It was a life-saver and I would never travel without it. I can’t find a con about it, other than maybe I wish it had a cool design, like a bunch of cats or a unicorn or something.
Alright guys, that’s all for now. If you have any questions and want an opinion, you can always contact me through the contact page and I’ll try to help the best I can!
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