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Travel 101–Backpacks Without the Backache

June 24, 2010

Backpacks are the perfect travel pack for the person who is all about convenience, mobility, and ease.  They are an absolute must for ruffing it outdoors on hiking and camping trips, but even if you are planning an easy, pampered vacation, backpacks beat the suitcase in many ways.

Why I Prefer Backpacks Over Suitcases:

  • Your hands are free–free to snap photos, shake hands, hold the door open for a stranger–anything and everything.
  • You can run and catch the train–try that with a wheeled suitcase and it will probably tip over, and possibly take you with it (flashback to me as a 10 year old, stuck under my suitcase, pancake-style.)
  • You blend in more–suitcases are a dead give-away that you’re a tourist, but backpacks give more of a laidback vibe and are used by plenty of people for your basic weekend getaway.
  • You can actually take a flight of stairs and handle an escalator, which is especially important abroad, because the U.S. is rare for how many handicap-friendly facilities it has.
  • You can get through a doorframe.  Seem silly?  Better be safe than sorry–when you see tourists whose suitcases are so wide they can’t get into a tiny shop door…well, that is no fun for them.

Packing Tips:

  • Pack lighter items (such as clothes) on the bottom and heavier items (such as books or shoes) on top to focus more of the weight on your hips and lessen back strain.
  • Keep your heaviest items closest to your back, centered between your shoulder blades.
  • However, if you are doing serious off-trail hiking, the opposite applies—you want to keep heavy items lower in your pack to lower your center of gravity and increase your stability.

What to Look For in a Backpack:

This mainly depends on what your own needs are and what your trip entails.  Of course you want durability, and maybe certain pockets, or a water pouch on the side.  All that is easy.  But questions like do you want an internal or external frame, or a frameless backpack all together, are trickier, and the answer really depends on you.  This is when it’s great to check out backpacks at a place like L.L.Bean or REI–the people who work there are unbelievably nice and super helpful.  You may be able to scout out a better deal online, but you’ll be sure you’re getting the right backpack for you when you get an expert’s help.

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