Gear and equipment forum

What do you look for in a good backpack?

  • somtam2000

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    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Indonesia
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    I've just updated the section on what to look for in a new backpack and was wondering what do you look for when you're shopping for a quality backpack?

    Got a tried and tested pack that has lasted you for many trip? Please share your advice and suggestions with others on the forum.

    In the story I've linked off to a few well-regarded backpacker manufacturers -- please feel free to name drop other brands you think should be listed.

    You can read the full backpack report here.


    #1 Posted: 19/10/2008 - 08:02

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  • basho

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    10th May, 2008
    Location United Kingdom
    Posts: 24

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Arc'teryx - the best you can get. True waterproof, very tough and high tech.

    #2 Posted: 27/1/2009 - 15:05

  • TheGoose

    Joined Travelfish
    30th January, 2009
    Posts: 29

    Smaller the better - as long as you have your passport, you can buy anything else you may need whilst on your travels. It's worth paying more for a waterproof and sturdy backpack.

    Remember, a cheap backpack is cheap for a reason.

    #3 Posted: 5/2/2009 - 18:51

  • mattocmd

    Joined Travelfish
    13th June, 2007
    Location United States
    Posts: 365

    Never buy the ghetto cheap backpacks at the thai markets. They really suck, you can just tell by looking at them.

    My LL Bean is fantastic and everyone compliments me on it. The quality is great and the salesman will help you find one that fits properly.

    Quality is most important, but it must fit you well so that you can walk a long while in it and it doesn't cause much strain. Your back shouldn't hurt after you wear it.

    #4 Posted: 6/2/2009 - 19:50

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
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    when you're a 5-feet-nothing girl (who can fit into a 75L backpack), helps a lot to get a one designed for smaller female frame & skeletal structure. been using a Tatonka 'Luna' for past 5 years, weight transfers pretty well to hips, stable (important when climbing) & feels like nothing on shoulders at all. pretty tough too.

    Arc'teryx is good if you can afford it.

    #5 Posted: 7/2/2009 - 08:32

  • samuel99

    Joined Travelfish
    13th February, 2009
    Posts: 3

    I've always made do with two bags. One a US Army style canvas sausage bag (with a home-made padded rope sling that goes nicely over the shoulder), and secondly a more traditional daypack for just wandering around town.

    I found the US Army bag really good for the following reasons:
    1) Cheap: cost about $20 at a disposal store
    2) Hardy: it's a very hardy, durable piece of work
    3) Simple: no more "damn which pocket did I put the condoms in" moment. There's only one place for everything.
    4) Antitheft: lowlifes don't seem interested in a scuffed up canvas sack, they're far more likely to go for a $300 snazzy pack

    The only negative is that it isn't really all that waterproof. It's ok in light rain, but if it pours then I need a day to dry everything out.

    Works for me.

    #6 Posted: 13/2/2009 - 10:40

  • KRStamm

    Joined Travelfish
    10th September, 2007
    Posts: 38

    Go get a backpack fitting at a local outdoor store. Until I did it I was always somewhat uncomfortable and now I love my pack. Since there are so many kinds of packs it is usually worth the hassle of going and talking to someone to find the perfect one for you. I usually write down the info and check the reviews via the internet. I am a big fan of Osprey packs because of the back ventilation and durability as well as numerous zippers to get in the main compartment.

    #7 Posted: 10/4/2009 - 09:38

  • SBE

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    14th April, 2008
    Location Global Village
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    What Somtam wrote in the "how to chose a backpack" section is very useful and like the previous posters I'd agree with most of it, but he says not to buy one that needs a cover to make it waterproof. Well, a cover also keeps the pack clean so I'd suggest you use one anyway. My old pack died this last trip after about 10 years of loyal service. Probably bunging it in the washing machine a few times had something to do with its demise, but backpacks get quite dirty after a few months on the road.

    Anyway, I had to get a new backpack in Bangkok about three months ago. I spent a day going round all the posh shops selling genuine ones and failed to find an affordable quality replacement that was lockable. Nearly all the models in the shops had drawstrings rather than zippers. The only lockable models I found cost over 300 euros, most had wheels (ie too heavy) and non of them were very comfortable to carry.

    I ended up buying one on the street ...a 50L Alpine Lowe (according to the label anyway) for 1100B. I expected it to fall apart within weeks but it hasn't. I've had it three months now and so far no problems at all! The stitching seems solid enough and the zips all still work. It's actually even more comfortable to wear than my old backpack, and has lockable zips, useful compartments and comes with a waterproof cover so it's still looking like new. I may just have been lucky, but from what I've seen so far I think it would probably be adequate for the occasional short term traveler on a tight budget.

    #8 Posted: 13/4/2009 - 15:06

  • BruceMoon

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    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    #9 Posted: 5/7/2009 - 05:49


    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6956
    Total reviews: 10

    You're mine kinda guy. I have two of those bags, I should start using one for my periodic trips to Bangkok.

    #10 Posted: 7/7/2009 - 18:02

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  • angfonz

    Joined Travelfish
    7th July, 2009
    Posts: 36

    I am what I'd like to think of as "in the loop" as far as outdoor equipment is concerned. I own several high end backpacks of different capacities and have owned multiple bags from most of the top end retailers.

    With that said, REI's new Flash 65 bag is outrageously good for its price. That's a lie, its outrageously good for any price, and its cheap as hell:

    #11 Posted: 8/7/2009 - 02:13

  • apm12309

    Joined Travelfish
    4th July, 2009
    Posts: 1

    I swear by Camelback backpacks as I am fairly active with snowboarding, dirtbike riding, hiking, etc. They have a bladder that you can drink from which is key where a lot of cities you're not supposed to drink the water. I also love that they have specialized bags for your activity and your type - I bought a women's, hiking backpack for a hiking trip and EVERYONE was jealous of my bag. A little pricey but 5 years later and it looks brand new

    #12 Posted: 8/7/2009 - 02:21

  • BruceMoon

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    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    To those with 65++ sized bags, how much of your gear is still untouched when you return home?

    I've asked this of many travellers along the way, and most said that when things are shoved down the bottom, they sort of get lost there. Most said that after previous journey's they'd promised themselves not to take as much. They also said that they quickly forget the weight, etc., of these packs and the hassles at airports, on buses, etc. And, they forget to pack less when starting out again.

    Which, to my mind, suggests the 65++ pack is for those serious trekkers who go away into the sticks who have to carry everything in/out ONLY, not city/beach/GH/hotel/holiday type tourist.

    Go light and enjoy life better!


    #13 Posted: 8/7/2009 - 09:00


    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6956
    Total reviews: 10

    Camelbacks are great - but only if you're a serious hiker.

    #14 Posted: 8/7/2009 - 13:10

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