Sunday, April 3, 2011

finding the right backpack

I spent the last three weeks trying to figure out which backpack I should buy for my trip. There are so many different features on each backpack that I felt completely lost. Walking into R.E.I. left me flushed and flustered, so I asked some friends, family, and store workers for advice on what features I should think about.

  • Lumbar Support - Each backpack has its own special material that is used to provide lumbar support and airflow.
  • Weight - Different backpacks use different fabrics that can really make a difference in how heavy the pack is.
  • Carry-on Restrictions - The size of the bag can make a difference over whether you can carry the pack on-board during a flight, which can save you beaucoup bucks.  
  • Loading Space - Each bag has a number, which represents how many liters each pack is able to hold.
  • Loading Accessibility - Some packs load in the front, some load in the top.
I decided on the Osprey Kestrel 48:

One of the biggest factors for me in choosing a pack was whether I would be able to carry-on at the airport. I wanted to save on baggage fees and also have my stuff with me at all times to avoid getting it stolen or lost. Each airline has it's own carry-on restriction and I'll have to press my luck each time I go through security, but  any way to lower the chances of theft or loss would be ideal. While the pack probably wouldn't fit carry-on requirements if it was filled to capacity, I figure I wouldn't ever really have it completely full. The frame of the pack is also bendy, so I could contort it to fit those carry-on requirement boxes at airports if needed.

The pack is top loading, but also has a zipper at the bottom which provides additional accessibility. My sister recommended that I get a pack with bottom access since it would be a hassle trying to sort through all my belongings from the top in the case that I needed something that settled to the bottom of my pack. 

I found most Osprey products to be very lightweight. The pack is made of nylon and most reviews on R.E.I.'s  website seem favorable for this brand. The entire pack weights 3 lbs 10 oz.

I purchased mine at R.E.I., and they were able to provide assistance on how to put the backpack on correctly. They also provided pillows and sandbags to fill the pack so that I could get a good sense of how it would feel if I had all my stuff inside. They also recommended that I walk around the store for 10 minutes with it on to make sure I'm getting the proper back support.

One less thing to purchase for this trip!

Retail Price ($159)
Less 20% REI Member Discount ($31.80)
2 Carabiners ($4)

Total with Tax ($142.68)
Less REI Member Dividend ($8.90)

Total Paid ($133.78)


  1. You definitely should pack light - so something small that fits in the overhead is a good choice. Also, the weigh restrictions may vary even on the same carrier, depending on inter-continental and inter/intra-country travel...