Womens-guide-to-choosing-perfect-backpack

Women’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Backpack

Posted on March 2, 2015

When you are going traveling for a longer period, your backpack basically becomes your home away from home. Therefore choosing a backpack is just as crucial as choosing what goes into said backpack (more about thàt later). While planning for my big adventure I knew this was going to be one of my most important decisions. Like always, I love my research and as the departure date grew closer, I became more known into the field of backpacks and which kind I was looking for. Around this time I got into contact with the people from Osprey, a brand that is better known in America than it is here. I love how streamlined and minimal their packs are and that they have a lot of travel-savvy features. Because they have such a wide selection, I thought they were the perfect brand to use when you’re deciding between certain packs. There truly are a lot of features and different qualities to choose from so I narrowed it down to 6 question that you should ask yourself.

1. How big should the bag be (measures in liters)? Do I want to bring the bag as a carry-on?
2. Should it have wheels or should I go for the traditional pack?
3. How much does the backpack itself weigh?
4. What extra features should I be looking for?
5. Does it have a separate day-pack or not?
6. How am I going to keep all my valuables and electrical equipment safe?

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1. Osprey Wayfarer 70L // 2. Osprey Ozone Convertible 70L // 3. Osprey Xena 70L // 4. Osprey Ariel 65L // 5. Osprey Farpoint 70L

1. How big should the bag be (measured in liters)? Do I want to bring the bag as a carry-on?

Choosing the size of your pack depends the length of time you are traveling. As I’m focusing more on long-term travel, let’s say 3 months or longer, I would recommend at least a 65L pack or more. If you are traveling however for less than 3 months and are only going to warm countries such as Cambodia or Thailand, you can take a pack that is a lot smaller. Staying in the same area will make it a lot easier to pack light as well. But if you’re visiting countries such as Laos, New Zealand or the northern Indian mountains, you’re going to need warm clothes as well which take up a large portion of space. On top of that I’m planning to stay in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne and wanted some fancier options. That means I have a lot of different clothes (warm/cold, casual/smart) and I needed all the 70L that I had (and even a bit extra).

How about only bringing a carry-on? Well there are a lot of people in favor of only taking carry-on bags. The advantages are great such as quick check-ins and -outs, you are forced to pack lightly and you wont be charges any luggage fees. The downside is that you’re pretty limited on what you can take and you can’t take any big fluids. That last one would be a problem for me as I like to have certain beauty products at hand and buying a lot of travel size packets will end up costing me more. When you’re traveling for a shorter amount of time though, it would be perfect. As for those big beauty packages, I did find a solution for it in the form of solid beauty products by LUSH, but I’ll get back to that later!

2. Should it have wheels or should I go for the traditional pack?

This is a very personal choice. Some people like the liberty of getting their pack on their back and walking, whereas others (such as myself) will never find comfort in carrying a pack on their backs and will be very happy to have wheels. Let’s be honest, unless you plan on hiking from one hostel to the next, you are also not desperately in need of a pack that has to be carried. Especially in areas such as Europe, USA, Canada, Asia, Australia or New Zealand you’ll be fine with wheels. When opting for this added comfort, do consider that it also entails some extra weight as the wheels will need a support frame. I love the convertible option of the Osprey Ozone series as it has wheels but you can also carry the bag on your back up boats or stairs (this is the pack that I’m traveling with). Don’t expect to be able to walk for several kilometers though, therefore you would need the support system of an actual backpack.

3. How much does the backpack itself weigh? 

Here is a hint, go for the lightest one. When you’ve narrowed down your selection of packs, have a look at the empty weight of the bag. As you do not want to be carrying around more than 20kg, make sure that the weight of the pack itself is as limited as possible. In this way, you’ll be able to take more. Before leaving I would advise you to weight the pack and to try and stay under the 15kg mark. I’ve gone over that limit myself on more than one occasion and I can fully attest to the fact that every kilo above that 15kg mark will only hold you down (literally).

4. What extra features should I be looking for?

Every pack is different when it comes to the amount of pockets it has, the extra zippers, the way it sits on your hips and shoulders etc. But which features are the most important and what should you look for in addition to the other points I discussed? First of all, let’s talk pockets and zippers. Being able to load your pack such like a suitcase is a very easy way of packing and it will enable you to easily find that one top in stead of having to empty out your entire luggage. With these kind of packs, make sure that you have compression straps to reduce the volume of your bag and to easily zip it back up. If front-loading is not available, go for a pack that has zippers in the front or in the side. In this way, you’ll at least be able to get a garment out in a easy-ish kind of way. Also look for separate compartments, a pack with only 1 big compartment isn’t very handy. With seperate compartments you can easily divide your dirty shoes and your clothes. You can pack your sleeping bag in another compartment for easy access and make sure to put the heaviest items closest to your spine. Compression straps on the outside of the bags can also be very handy as you can put a jacket or sleeping bag through it.

Some packs have a waterproof cover whereas with other packs you will have to purchase it additionally. Make sure your pack has waterproofed zippers and that it is made of water-resistant materials so that you’re clothes don’t get soaked at the lightest downpour. What I always do when buying a new pack is to spray it with a water repellant spray as well. A waterproof cover however is always a good idea even if it doesn’t rain. When the bags are being transported they’re being thrown around a lot and they get piled on top of each other. Slipping your waterproof cover around will protect it better and will keep it looking nice for longer.

If you choose a backpack without wheels, the fit is one of the most important criteria that you need to look for. It’s not because your friend is happy with her pack that it will suit you as well. People have different sizes and shapes and therefore need different packs. That is why a lot of the brands now are dividing their offer up in bags made for men and women (and some unisex ones). Going for the female fitted bags means that it will most likely rest better on your hips than the male packs. Osprey also has a very easy (free) app to help you with that question. It will size you up and give the options which will go best with your body-type. Next to that you should look for wide and padded shoulderstraps (the wider the straps, the more the weight of your pack will be divided) and a padded hipbelt. Remember that to walk comfortably, you will be carrying the most amount of weight on your hips so make sure that those are a perfect fit.

Another handy feature is the ability to lock your zippers. My zippers have holes in the metal so you can lock them up but you also have bags with integrated locks. Mind you, if someone wants to steal your bag, they will, but most of the time they’ll want to go through it quickly and if your bag is closed than they will pick another bag. For the things that are of real value though, it’s always best to keep them close to you in stead of in the loading part of the bus.

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5. Does it have a separate day-pack or not? 

A lot of the backpacks (especially the packs of Osprey) have a detachable day-pack. A feature of which I’m personally a big fan. I’ve used my day-pack (which is 15L) on several occasions. When I’m on the move, I detach it from the daypack and use it to put all my electronics in. In this way I have everything safely with me and I don’t loose it out of sight. When I’m stationed at one location or I’m going to a day-long scooter-ride, I just repack quickly and have everything I need with me for the day. My daypack has two compartments, the front which has a separate phone pocket, some dividers (big enough to store my travel wallet) and a little clip to attached your motorcycle or hotel key to. The only thing that I would wish of my daypack would be an expandable zipper to add some weight. Mind you, if I would be able to expand the day pack and put it back on the big pack, it would get rather bulky.

6. How am I going to keep all my valuables and electrical equipment safe?

As I said in the previous question, I keep all my valuables in the daypack attached to my Osprey Ozone 70. The biggest advantage of this bag is that it has a padded laptop sleeve. The rest of my electrical equipment also fits in it and I don’t have to let the bag out of my sight as it fit very comfortably on my back. Osprey even has certain bags that allow you to use your tablet or phone without taking it out of the pack. This way you know you’re safe because people don’t see what you’re carrying.

If this article has left you wondering on what to pack, you can read great packing tips from an expert here. I’ll be updating the printable packing list asap to accommodate long-term travel trips. Are you planning a trip? If so, what would you love to have in a pack?

This post was written in collaboration with Osprey as they were so kind to offer me their Osprey Ozone 70 bag to use during my trip. No other compensations were offered and all my opinions are the same than if I would have purchased the backpack.