Dan and Ian from the TropicalMBA said it best: Thou Shalt Not Roll.
I choose to travel with a backpack, rather than a rolling suitcase because there are too many cobblestones and stairs in Europe to bother rolling and there are no roads or footpaths in many countries of the world. Wheels break. Not every country has hotels with lifts. I’ve also complained too many times about people on Princes Street in Edinburgh, tripping up folk trying to get to work, with their wheels trailing behind them. They’ve no idea where that suitcase is going. I could never take something I couldn’t heft onto my back.
I used to lug around 65 litre backpack I picked up in an army surplus store but now I’m convinced that the perfect size backpack, for me, is 45 litres. It’s small enough that when it’s not overly full, it’s acceptable as hand luggage size even on Ryanair, but large enough to fit everything I need for longer term travel.
I went searching for a new backpack this year after my 40 litre, £34 Mountain Warehouse pack wore out after five or six years. I had no intention of spending very much. Mountain Warehouse had served me well enough.
I tried on an Osprey on a whim and it ruined me for all other backpacks. For someone of my height, weight, frame, whatever, it’s the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever had the pleasure of slinging over my shoulders and strapping around my hips. I tried in vain to convice myself that others were as good. I tried the army surplus store, I even tried other big names, Berghause, North Face, Lowe Alpine, Deuter but to no avail. Osprey had me hooked.
I have an Osprey Kyte 46, specifically designed for women (Osprey Kestrel is the male version). For a six month trip to Thailand, it weighed in at 15 kilograms but never weighed me down. The pack doesn’t have an ‘air flow’ frame to take it away from your back but it does have some ventilation which will probably be perfect in cooler climes. In a humid country, no amount of ‘air flow’ at the back is going to stop you from having to wring your shirt out after walking around with it. I haven’t gone on long hikes with it yet but it’s so comfortable I look forward to the day.
Here are my favourite things about my Kyte:
- The European version comes with it’s own raincover
- Side water bottle pockets are a good size and height so I’m not worried about the bottle falling out
- It has TWO head pockets (they’re the ones that are at the back of your head when you’re wearing it, the ones you get your friend to pull your passport out of when you need it)
- It has hip pockets big enough for a wallet, mobile phone, small digital camera or whatever else you like to have handy
- Access through the bottom zip of the ‘sleeping bag compartment’
- The stretchy front pocket, perfect for stuffing a jumper in
- It has a lifetime guarantee so, although expensive, it’s probably the last pack I’ll ever buy
This is what I don’t like about it:
- The sleeping bag compartment divider – I never use it and have loosened the straps so the bag is one large stuff area
- It only comes in Teal Blue and Purple (‘Eggplant’) – the blue is fine but just because we’re girls does it mean we want to drag a lump of purple or pink around on our backs when hiking or travelling?
Here’s the spec from Osprey:
- Dual Ice Axe Loops
- Hydration Compatible
- Sleeping Bag Compartment
- Sleeping Pad Straps
- Stretch Mesh Front Pocket
- Stretch Mesh Side Pocket
- Top Pocket
- Top Pocket Underlid Mesh
Volumes and Weights
US and International weight and volume specifications
Dimensions are shown as length (height) x width x depth
IN: 25 x 13 x 11
CM: 64 x 33 x 29
IN: 27 x 14 x 12
CM: 68 x 35 x 31
If you’re looking for a backpack, Osprey is definitely worth considering. In the UK, Cotswold Outdoors has a good selection, or buy online.