Wanna go backpacking but have no idea where to start? Fear no more… Lets plan a great backpacking trip.
What is backpacking?
Backpacking is a term used by avid budget travelers (or avid campers) who like to travel on minimal budget for extended periods of time. Backpackers usually buy a backpack to carry everything they will be using and living with for their travel experience.
Now for the first step: buying a backpack. Buying a backpack is not that difficult. However, this backpack is not like the one you took to school. DO NOT USE THAT TYPE OF BACKPACK. It’s not the right size for traveling.
A travel backpack is larger in size with many pockets and straps to help you carry multiples items in a convenient way.
A Typical Backpack
Every backpack has a basic structure. It has a main compartment and shoulder straps… From here every backpack can be different. It’s up to you and what you’re looking for.
Some backpacks only open at the top and uses a draw-string to close. Other backpacks have a draw-sting and a side zipper for convenience.
Most packs have two side-pockets for water bottles or umbrellas. Others have a top pocket a back pocket and side pockets. It all depends on the size of your pack.
More expensive backpacks offer cushioned back pads, spinal protection and support. They also come with a chest and stomach buckle that will distribute the weight while you’re walking around. All those things really make a difference. If you get a chance to look at one in person, try it on, see how it fits… but I don’t think its necessary.
Americans are not used to measurements in liters. Even I’m still confused by this. But, backpacks are measured in liters… So, let’s get to it!
Most backpacks are between 25 and 85 liters. 25L is roughly the size of a book bag.
Bags around 25L are great for daypacks. These bags can hold a few good items, a book, a coat, the daily essentials. They make a great bag for a day trip or weekend getaway. I would stay away from buying one of these because chances are, you already have a bag lying around your house that you can repurpose for a day or weekend trip.
Bags around 65L and up, are used for long hiking trips. Although, these big bags are great for storing lots of items, they’re primary function is for long-term camping trips. Some people literally carry frying pans and such in these packs… Unless you’re going camping, I don’t think there’s a use for a bag this big.
Learning to pack light is a great skill to have. However, I feel like this is something that’s learned as you trek along. Although, my you may want to pack a lot of things, lets not do that. As much as you may feel like a marsupial, lets not carry our entire house on our back.
The perfect size would be thirty-five to forty-five liter pack. Anything smaller or bigger is too much or too little. As a rule to live by your goal is to always carry-on your bag and never check-in a bag. I took a screen shot of a couple of different sizes for your reference below. I’ve linked each image to Amazon. I recommend you check them out, read the reviews… Perhaps you’ll even find one you like… I’m not saying these are the perfect packs for you, just offering them as a starting point.
If you’re a bargain hunter you can find some awesome deals. I bought my first backpack for $25 at a Flea Market. It was enormous and very sturdy. In fact I still have it, but don’t use it often. Since then, I’ve attained a smaller backpack that I LOVE and use for every trip I take.
My new backpack was around $300, its water-resistant and can double as a gym duffel bag. It has two side pockets, a laptop compartment in the back, comfortable shoulder straps and a chest buckle to distribute the weight when it’s on my back. The best thing about my new pack is that it meets all the requirements for carry-on sizing.
Prices can range from $25-400. If you get lucky like I did, the first time around, and find a great deal for a great pack, you should go for it.
Let me break it down for you:
So, how do you choose which pack is right for you? Lets start at the beginning. Pick a pack that you can carry-on with you. Checking a back (any bag) takes long and makes things more stressful. If you’re doing layovers within certain countries, you have to pick-up your bag, re-check it and go back through security. That can cause you to miss your next flight, not to mention the amount of mental stress you will have. Lets eliminate unwanted stress and go for a pack that’s around 22″ x 14″ x 9” (this is the size requirements for a carry-on bag.) A bag this size with good shoulder straps and perhaps some back support will go a long way.
Buying a bag of this size eliminates other stressful elements as well. You may not know it now but having a bigger pack means you’re probably going to take more stuff. More stuff means a heavier load on your back. It also means you will most likely take things you don’t need or may never wear. (More on packing on a later post… lets focus on the backpack for now.)
In 2009 I took my giant $25 pack on a 7 day trip to Copenhagen. I filled it to the brim. It was so heavy and so big. I flew on my own. However, when I sat down it just so happens that a friend of mine was sitting in the seat next to me. This was a lot of fun, but when we landed he insisted on going sight-seeing right away. So, we dropped off his luggage at his hotel room. I decided to take my pack since we were going to be walking by my hotel room. I figured we could drop it off and then continue our tour.
After a few hours of walking (and never getting near my hotel room) with what felt like 50 lbs on my back, I was exhausted, tired from the flight, jet-lagged and cranky AF. I was over it. If this pack was smaller I would have packed less. Instead, I packed like I was going to be in Copenhagen for 2 months. My friend was upset because I was being cranky instead of enjoying the vacation. Don’t be that guy… Don’t get a small back, just don’t get a giant bag. Carry-on size but big enough for your things.