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For any long trips, a backpack is the best type of bag to pack. For one, you won’t look like a total tourist, struggling with a wheeled bag on the cobbled streets of Europe. You’ll look like a pro, walking with your clothes on your back.
What to Look for in a Backpack
One very important consideration when choosing a backpack is weight. Always select a lightweight one, your clothes and belongings will weigh it down drastically and you don’t need to have that added weight to drag around.
Many bags come in different sizes, for example I am 5’3 and weigh 120 pounds and in the Osprey I’m a size small. Some brands will come in a one size fits all but have adjustable straps to make it fit your frame. Personally, I found after trying some on that I preferred the ones that are already designed to be my size. I found that they sat more comfortably around my waist and stayed more snuggly towards my back.
The ideal backpack should have waist straps that sit comfortably on your hips while the overall bag should not be raised too high above your head. During my hunt for the perfect backpack I went to four different stores and in all of them was able to find knowledgeable people to answer my questions. Don’t be shy; they are there to help. Ask all of the questions, the employees were even willing to help me adjust my straps.
Where to find a Backpack for Backpacking Trips
As I was shopping alone, the salespeople let me know if it looked like a bag was too far above my head. They likely have sold numerous backpacks and know what they should look and feel like. The man that I spoke with in Atmosphere had backpacking experience himself and spoke knowledgably about what bags he had used. All of the bags I tried on were pre-stuffed with bags to help you get a feel for size.
Originally, I purchased a 50 litre with a lenient return policy as a starting point. Converting my solid clothes into a liquid measurement didn’t work in my brain so I just wanted to get a feel for size. The 50 litre held everything I needed but left no room for any purchases along the way. I know myself well enough to know how unreasonable that expectation would be. Even on the limited budget that I set my for myself I knew I would still end up buying at least a few things.
After you think you have a bag, take it home and pack it full of everything you think you need. This should give you a good idea of space. Also, try wearing the bag around your house. Is the weight too heavy? Do the straps not sit well? Can you carry this on a 5km walk through a winding road searching for your hostel?
Keep the tags on the bag and wear it a bit with some things in it. Buying a backpack is an expensive commitment and you should be happy with it.
I ended up with an an Osprey Far Point 70. I selected the Far Point because of the detachable backpack, for you this might be less of an important feature but I knew that I would need it at least once. This bag also allows me to zip away the straps for airplane travel.
The Far Point comfortably held all of the things I needed with room for extra purchases. It also fit well despite its large size. Throughout my trip I never genuinely felt the bag was too heavy (hangovers make everything feel worse). The only thing that I could critique it on is that once I detached the backpack the first time I found it often started to unzip itself from the main bag. This could be a result of me stuffing my bag too full or not properly attaching it but it was very troubling. Another issue that I ran into, which again may be due to fullness, is I found the main zippers occasionally separated. I had locks on my bag so they kept things together either way and I have no way of knowing how far they would have unzipped.
Take your time in shopping for a bag. Do lots of research because different bags have different features. I did not do this, I made a last minute realization that I needed one two days before I was set to leave which resulted in numerous stressful drives around Edmonton to all of the camping supply store seeking the perfect bag. While I am happy with my final choice, I could have spared myself this hassle and maybe even found something better.
Where to Find Backpacking Backpacks in Edmonton, Alberta
Camper’s Village is where I ultimately made my purchase. MEC was another store that I checked out with a variety of different options. Finally, I also checked out Atmosphere. Most of these stores carried almost the exact same selection so it does not necessary matter where you end up. MEC is the only one that was drastically different.
Outside of Edmonton, look for camping stores or sometimes sports stores.
Classic me, I overpacked for my trip to Europe.
If you’ve ever read the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail or seen the movie. That is me.