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Gear and equipment forum

help buying my first backpack

Posted by christay2009 on 11/7/2009 at 23:44

hey,

I've read the article on travelfish but have experienced some difficulty identifying a decent backpack. The Travelfish articule mentions that, really, you want one thats waterproof...but i rarely find any reference to this in the details. Often i just see something about a "detachable rain cover" which would point to the pack not being waterproof?!

anyway, i was considering going and trying this Karrimor pack on but what do you guys think. Its the 'Bobcat' pack 60-65 lts - i found it at https://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com

features are apparently;
>Supercool back system
>Hydration system compatible
>Side compression straps
>Base load straps
>Fixed side pockets
>Pocket in lid
>2 mesh wand pockets
>Front pocket
>Lid shock cord carrying system
>Grab handle
>Chest strap
>Ice axe/walking pole attachment
>Weight: 1480g

seems to have quite good reviews online and is quite cheap too

any advice appreciated
Christay2009

#1 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by SBE on 12/7/2009 at 04:16

Here's a better link to save you rummaging through the whole of that other site to find the rucksack in question!

http://www.karrimor.com/SS09/Bobcat%2065.htm

Looks nice but how does it close ...drawstring or zippers? Personally I much prefer a backpack I can lock. Manufacturers much prefer to sell ones with drawstrings.... probably a lot cheaper to produce, especially if they're giving a life-time warranty.

Being able to lock your rucksack won't mean you CAN'T get robbed but it's less likely. It's just easier for a potential thief to have a look see without being caught. Some people say a lock attracts thieves but I think theft in SE Asia is mainly opportunistic... it happens most often when people are drunk and careless.



Weight is important, get the lightest one you can. Comfort is important too. It's best if you can try it on. See if you need all the gizmos...having two compartments is useful for separating dirty/clean clothes but do you really need an ice axe/walking pole attachment?;-)

You can DIY enhance whatever weatherproofing there is by packing stuff in ziplock bags. Even lining the bag with a bin liner would help keep dust and water out. Grab a few different sized ziplock bags from the kitchen anyway ...useful for separating stuff so that you can find it quickly as well as keep it dry. eg I always have an "electrics" bag...chargers, spare batteries, torches etc.

Try and get "quiet" plastic bags though...nothing worse than the rustling noise of people rummaging about in their rucksacks when you're trying to get to sleep!

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Posted by christay2009 on 13/7/2009 at 00:21

thanks for the reply, i'm planning on going and trying it on this week so i can find out if it has zips or not. I agree that zips are a must. I definately dont need a walking pole attachment!! I'll see what the man/woman in the shop suggests too

thanks again
chris

#3 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by amazon_blonde on 13/7/2009 at 05:34

Chris,
I think it totally depends what you're going to be doing with your backpack. I've travelled a lot and always taken a very technical pack designed for backcountry hiking, but I mostly end-up carrying my pack a lot way with a lot of gear (on our last trip we did several weeks in Nepal and had to carry climbing gear the rest of the time). I agree it's hard to find a totally waterproof backpack. In Canada, Arcteryx makes a mean one, but it's expensive and I don't like the overall design. So I tend to go for a pack with a very waterproof bottom (in case the ground is wet) and and rain cover.
But it depends what your needs are ... my sister just uses a backpack to carry a limited amount of clothing with her from place to place. She does not need a technical pack. She does not need waterproofing. She needs a pack that is convenient to pack/repack every day and that provides good access. So she has a zip up travel pack that opens all the way up (like a sardine can, if you will) and she can lock the zips shut.
Personally, if I was to take a trip where I didn't need the technical weight-bearing features of my pack, I'd borrow hers. It's more secure, less noticeable, takes the abuse of luggage-monkeys better, and easier to pack/repack.
It's critical to think about how you're going to use your pack, and then go from there.
But don't get too big a pack. I agree with Brucemoon's minimalist approach to packing and would take just a carry-on if I could (and I used to) but now have too much gear for climbing to ever contemplate that.
Hope that helps.

#4 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by christay2009 on 13/7/2009 at 15:59

that does help, thanks for the reply. Well, i doubt i'll be doing any climbing but probably a little bit of trekking (although beginner/intermediate level and probably short in duration) so i guess i also just need it to get my stuff from place to place. Then again, im likely to get more adventurous as time goes on so wouldn't mind a pack that could cope with that too. The pack i mentioned above has been labeled a "good starter backpack" which certainly suits my level of experience. What do you think to a 65 lt, too big?

Do you know how big/small does your pack need to be for it to be classed as carry-on? and any chance you could post a link to your sisters pack, or one similar?

thanks very much
Chris

#5 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by SBE on 13/7/2009 at 16:40

How tall and strong are you are you young man? 65kg is OK though I have a 50kg bag myself and I find that's enough, even with fins, mask and snorkel.I keep clothes to a minimum as it's easy to wash and dry them quickly. (It does get boring having to wear the same clothes all the time mind you). Electrical stuff (batteries etc), toiletries (shampoo, sunscreen etc) and books are what weighs the most.

Electrical stuff is difficult to cut down on as every bloody device seems to have its own dedicated charger. One of the main reasons I chose my current camera was that it took rechargeable AA batteries, the same as my torches and small SW radio. (One less charger to lug around!)

Shampoo...you can get shampoo in sachets almost everywhere so you don't have to carry a big almost empty bottle around. Sunscreen you need but I don't think they do sachets of that unfortunately.

Books can be exchanged as you go along in guesthouses or bookshops in SE Asia (great system, I wish they had it in Europe!) so you don't really need to take more than a couple with you unless you are going way off the beaten track. And instead of lugging great heavy LP tomes around you could download stuff from TF and put it on an ipod if you have one. Make sure you have a map of some kind, either paper or electronic, though. I remember the first time I went to Sulawesi I didn't have a guide or a map and I wandered off course a bit due to Ramadan. I hadn't a clue where the buses were going as I didn't recognize any of the place names and spoke about 5 words of Indonesian so that was interesting.

I've always managed to take a 30kg daybag onto airlines but remember the silly liquid restrictions...sunscreen etc will be consfiscated.

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Posted by amazon_blonde on 14/7/2009 at 00:15

Go to the website for your airline and it will give you the dimension of carry-on. It's similar for each airline, but it's the dimensions and not the overall litres that determines whether it's carry on. There's also a weight restriction, usually between 5-7kg in Asia and 10 kg in North America. With a 65 litre pack (which is not the same thing as a 65 kg pack!) you will be hard pressed to keep yourself below the 7kg mark.
I find that a 65 litre pack or thereabouts is really the biggest you want to carry unless there's exceptional circumstances. If you can keep it lower, that's great. My ideal is about 50 litres, but many first time travellers just can't manage to only take that much gear. If there's a 65 litre pack you love, go ahead and get it, but maybe try not to pack it full? Keep in mind that you'll want to buy souvenirs and things.
There are many different brands of "travel packs" as opposed to "back packs" and I'll include a few links below. They almost always include an attachable daypack. People either love or hate that idea. I hate it -- it totally disrupts the weight distribution, it's the worst place to put your most valuable stuff, makes the bag a really strange shape, etc. (I could go on and on). But my sister loves it, so go figure. If I used one, I'd just leave the daypack off. They are usually good value anyways.
Here's a few examples:
http://www.eaglecreek.com/bags_luggage/backpacks/Thrive-65L-10066/
http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442617761&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302883912&bmUID=1247505104924

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Posted by SBE on 14/7/2009 at 01:55

Oops sorry, amazon blonde is quite correct... a 65L capacity backpack does not equal 65kg in weight (unless you fill it with water). Don't know why I wrote that!

My 50L bag usually weighs in at 12kg or less on the scales at the airport....that and a day bag is all I can comfortably carry for any distance. I quite agree about the attachable daybags... often fiddly to attach to the main backpack and too small to be used as a separate weekend bag for short trips but some people like them.

I've never had my hand-luggage weighed or measured in SE Asia though the airline staff do often ask to see it when checking in. As long as it looks reasonable to them you should be OK.

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Posted by christay2009 on 14/7/2009 at 02:16

firstly, thanks for the replies!

SBE - i am just under 6ft and strong as an ox!! no, not really haha. You speak sense, especially about the shampoo and the countless chargers. I think i'd prefer to travel light but i've no idea really how much i could fit into a 'whatever' litre bag?! I knew you meant litre and to kilogram, no worries :-)

Amazon_blonde - I definately wouldn't fill a 65 lt, as you mention, i'd want some room to fill out! i think a 50-55lt bag would probably be enough and i agree, a minimal approach seems the way to go. I dont particularly have strong feelings about the 65lt its just cheap and available everywhere!! I'm not sure i'm a fan of those bags either, they don't look too good to me. I think i'd probably just put a daypack in my main pack for use when needed.

Thanks for all the help
Chris

#9 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by Rohan on 14/7/2009 at 07:31

Chris

When I bought my pack, I found that your height has a lot to do with the size pack you want. I bought an 80L pack. For most people, that is too big, but I am 6'2" and solidly built. I found that the smaller size packs would not sit properly on my back and hips. I suggest that its worth getting a bigger pack than you need to fit your stuff in if that pack fits you more comfortably. You don't have to fill it when you travel.

#10 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by amazon_blonde on 15/7/2009 at 09:27

Rohan, did the smaller (in litres) backpack you tried on come in different frame sizes -- i.e. small/medium/large? I agree that frame size is important if you're tall (or if you're short for that matter), but most higher end backpacks of the 50L variety come in different frame sizes so you should still be able to get a good fit. the more voluminous packs (i.e. 80L) will generally have a more extensive frame/waist-belt system because it's designed to carry a heavier load, but this shouldn't be too much of a factor for basic travel.

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Posted by Rohan on 15/7/2009 at 18:15

Amazon Blonde

I don't recall. However, I do remember of the backpacks I tried on, the 65-70L ones were all a waste of time for me. My 80L pack has an adjustable harness, but even then with my height I have to have that at close to the maximum extension.

Rohan

#12 Rohan has been a member since 16/6/2009. Posts: 63

Posted by christay2009 on 16/7/2009 at 04:09

i went to have a look at afew packs today but pretty much ALL of them used drawstrings for the main compartment. I thought that zips were reccomeneded because you can padlack them? im just abit worried it won't be as secure. On the other hand, i'm not sure they'll be much in my main pack worth stealing as i'll probably remove that stuff and keep it on me [in a day pack or about my person]

any advice appeciated, thanks

#13 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by SBE on 16/7/2009 at 07:32

Yeah I know they nearly all have drawstrings... I wish we could boycott the manufacturers until they produce something backpackers actually want!

I spent a couple of days in BKK looking for an affordable backpack with zips earlier this year and failed to find any. The only ones they had cost about 300 euros and were very heavy and uncomfortable on account of wheels and other useless nicknacks I didn't need. I ended up buying a 50L one on the street for about 25 euros... so far it's been fine but usually the stitching and zips go very quickly on fake cheap ones so I doubt if it'll last long with the kind of abuse I inflict on backpacks!

My advice is to take a sturdy lockable daybag and keep your precious stuff in that. Maybe a pacsafe portable safe if you can afford one. My son got me one of those wire mesh things a couple of years back but it adds weight and I can get my hand through the holes in the mesh anyway so I've never used it. Wanna buy it? Cheap cheap! ;-)

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Posted by MADMAC on 16/7/2009 at 15:36

Any real man needs a large pack - minimium 70 liters. After all, you need room for wine, guns and other paraphenalia that real men find essential on the open road.

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Posted by christay2009 on 16/7/2009 at 20:32

SBE - yeah, i can't really understand why drawstrings are so popular [at least with the manufacturers] when they don't seem nearly as practical. I was thinking the same thing; daypack with any valuables in it kept with me. I won't have a treasure trove of valuables with me anyway, just standard ipod, passport and money really. I'll probably go for the above pack then so might leave some cash left for a decent daypack

cheers
Chris

Madmac - real men don't use packs, everything they'd ever need is worn about their person!!

#16 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414
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Posted by amazon_blonde on 18/7/2009 at 02:20

I've always ended up with drawstring plus zipper backpacks. The zippers are convenient for getting access to my stuff, but because of the top drawstring, the zipper is useless for security. But, I just don't put anything of value in my main backpack. All valuables (which includes glasses, contacts, meds, etc.) goes in my fairly large daypack, which doesn't leave my body/sight. I've never had an issue with that approach.

#17 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by busylizzy on 18/7/2009 at 05:16

"I've always ended up with drawstring plus zipper backpacks. The zippers are convenient for getting access to my stuff, but because of the top drawstring, the zipper is useless for security."

As a means of countering the security issue, you could consider sewing up the drawstring part at the top. Not sure that I would bother personally - but just a suggestion for anyone else...

#18 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,153
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