» Pre-Travel 1/30: Picking the Right Backpack
  • Pre-Travel 1/30: Picking the Right Backpack

    Mar 02nd • Posted in personal, travel

    So, I suppose I’ve been neglecting getting ready for my trip. For instance, I didn’t have a freaking BAG until today. Whoops. In any case, I’m going to write a post everyday and attempt to do something in order to get ready for this trip. I’m a little late on my March 1st post– but since it’s one of the most important parts of the trip… I decided I’d better write about it first. Especially since my visit was yesterday and I might as well do it now. OK.

    Goldilocks found the “right fit”: The Osprey Ariel 65L!

    First off, I want you to meet my travel pack for this trip: The Osprey Ariel 65L Pack.

    Shoutout to Jason from the Lincoln Park Chicago REI store for helping me out with such a sweet choice and being so patient and helping me. Basically, I knew nothing about picking a travel pack– and I was all set to buy something cheap online without having to fit it. I didn’t realize that sizing was super important and that it is imperative to go to a store in person to fit it. If you want to find out more about how I picked my travel backpack, jump to the cut. Disclosure: None of this was sponsored. These are all my own opinions, I bought these products with my own money. I just had a really fucking great experience at the REI store that I’m writing about it.

    Before heading to REI, I had already bought a separate travel pack– a convertible Eagle Creek wheeled backpack. Unfortunately, when I tried it on– I realized that the wheels were going to get way too heavy, and the way the pack was configured just didn’t sit right on me. The pack was also a costly amount (over $300, I believe) and I wasn’t feeling good about it. There was something in my gut that said this wasn’t the right bag for me. Mainly because I didn’t try it on in store because I’m a dumbass. In any case, throughout the past couple of months, I’ve been attempting to find the *right bag* and doing my research, and here were the qualities that stood out most that I needed in a bag:

    1. The Right Size: I’m a maximalist when it comes to packing. My friends and family can all attest to this: I am a nightmare. On other sites, I had noticed that most people tend to stick around the 45-55 L range. I had also talked to The Plus Size Backpacker, and with her advice, I realized I would probably need something a little more substantial. I chose to pick a pack between the 50-70L range. I wanted either a 55 or 60 L backpack, because I could pack a fair amount and get away with
    2. The “Right Fit”: From my research, I knew that I would  have to have the weight mainly on my hips. This definitely doesn’t feel like a normal backpack– but it takes so much weight off your back, I don’t know why most backpacks don’t have hipbelts for people’s comfort! Unfortunately, I learned along the way (trying on various packs) that hipbacks/torso sizes are hard to come by. For instance, I had no idea that backpacks (despite my research) were sized by torso size (the top of the hip to where the shoulders hit.) I’m short as hell— which made this a very difficult fitting. My only suggestion and takeaway from this whole experience was: Go to a store and get fitted IN PERSON. It makes all the difference. 
    3. The Loading Mechanism: This one I wanted, but (as you’ll find out) I ended up not getting the right thing. I wanted a front-loading backpack so I wouldn’t have to dig and go through a bunch of crap from the top. I’m a bit of a messy packer, so a top-loading backpack would prove to be a little more difficult. However, I would have been fine with a multi-loading backpack, and that’s what I found. It’s not ideal (I really wanted a front-loading) but other factors were much more important that I let this one slide.

    The most important thing that I learned about backpacks is that you must go to a store and get fitted in person. There are no amount of measurements that can help you out without going into a store and trying on packs. I went into our local Lincoln Park’s REI and got fitted with Jason. I told Jason what I wanted out of my trip/backpack (long-term backpacking trip in Europe, somewhere between 45-60L, something comfortable, nothing too big or too crazy) And he made some suggestions. As a ridiculously short plus-sized woman, I have found that it is EXTREMELY difficult to get fitted for a backpack. Jason first suggested the Kelty Redwing 50L. To be fair, it is an awesome backpack, and if I wasn’t so short, I would totally buy it. It’s the right price and right size. However, The Redwing just hit way too low on me. The torso of the bag was too big, and this was a S/M size bag– meaning that there was nothing smaller available. The person helping me saw this as the hip belt was around my butt and not my hips, and we soon realized that we had a dilemma: we needed to find a smaller pack.

    I was then given the choice of getting a 70L pack. I’m not sure what it was, but I remember it being an REI pack on clearance. It was front-loading, but a little too big for my tastes. The original hipbelt was a little too snug– but luckily, Jason found another hip belt and replaced it for me (and in the process, cut himself while trying to take the plastic and velcro in order to replace it. At this point in time, it was like an hour and a half in and I was all: “Yeah, if I don’t buy something from him tonight– I’m going to feel like a total fuck.”)

    This is a picture of the REI 70L pack that Jason (the cute guy behind me) suggested. It’s as big as me and more than half of my body…. LOL.

    With the hipbelt replaced, it was a better and snugger fit– it actually fit perfectly. But the more I trekked around the store in it, even when we moved the lumbar support up to the highest level, and tightened all the straps, the backpack just wasn’t sitting right on me: I was still. too. fucking. short. The pack didn’t hit directly on my back, but left a little gap in between. The only reason why it looks fine on me in that picture is because I’m leaning forward. Because I was so short, and even with the tightened straps, the straps hit me at an uncomfortable angle, and it would cut into the shoulders. I couldn’t carry around a heavy 70L bag with all that weight! This is what frustrated me: the hipbelt wouldn’t fit me as a plus-size woman, but if I went a size up, the torso wouldn’t fit.

    We looked back at the wall and realized that I would probably have to find a model with an interchangable hipbelt… and due to my height, we’d need to find an XS model. (Fucking curse being short!) This is where the Osprey Ariel 65L came in. I remember during my initial searches, the brands that came up the most (for women’s packs) were Osprey, Gregory, Kelty, and Eagle Creek. In any case, the Osprey Ariel isn’t perfect– but it’s a bag that fits me the right way, and holds a lot of shit. Maybe more than I need, but a lot, nonetheless. (We’ll see how I fare with lugging it around.) I’m definitely going to have to invest in some packing cubes in order to pack this thing, due to the majority of it being a top-loader (it has a J front zip-pouch, and a separate zip pouch, as well as a bottom pouch.) But due to the right fit, I let the other things slide.

    So, it’s not perfect– but it fits me the right way, which honestly– is priority above all else. I’d rather have a bag I have to struggle with convenience wise, rather than struggle with my health eventually.

    I’ll update you guys once I actually start travelling with it.