Pick a Pack

Backpacks or “Travel Packs” offer a practical luggage choice for European travel even if you are not “backpacking” or “hostelling” through Europe. Backpacks provide a practical option for family travelers as they leave your hands free to tend to little ones. Backpacks are a little more malleable than rolling suitcases and accommodate easily into airplane overhead bins. This is important if everyone else on the airplane is trying to cram their rolling suitcases into the overhead bin. Backpacks also come with various compression straps to really compact your load.

Construction on a backpack is pretty straightforward and you may only have to worry about a busted zipper and not about broken wheels or handles. Without all that extra hardware backpacks also weigh significantly less than rolling suitcases. Carrying all your possessions on your back will also ensure that you pack light. Wheeled backpacks or convertible backpacks are now also available. Convertible backpacks convert to a rolling suitcase because the straps usually zip up into the back of the pack.

Backpacks can either be front loading or top loading. Top loading backpacks are packed from the top, the advantage being that you can really stuff the bag to the gills. However if you want to reach something at the bottom of the pack you must unload everything to get to it. A panel or front loading backpack zips all the way around so you can unzip and see all your belongings a likewise get to them easily. Traditional “hiking” backpacks tend to be top loading. “Travel” backpacks generally tend to be front loading. Some travel backpacks come with added features such as lockable zippers, grab handles, stowaway pockets for straps, and added interior organization.

Outdoor outfitters carry an assortment of traditional backpacks and increasingly an assortment of travel backpacks. Let your salesperson know that you need the backpack for travel and that you want the pack to conform to airline carry on requirements (it’s always best to double check measurements with a tape measure). In selecting your backpack try on different backpacks to determine the correct fit. Your salesperson will help you select the right size based on your height and torso length. Inspect the seams, stitching, and zippers on the backpack, these all need to hold up to some serious abuse, especially if you are stuffing it tightly.

Backpacks should be padded around the shoulders and hip belt. A padded hip belt, while not the coolest looking thing will help distribute some of the weight off your back and shoulders. A sternum strap, though not necessary, stabilizes the pack and diverts some of the weight off your shoulders. The salesperson should also make weights available to put in the pack so you can see how the backpack will feel fully loaded (about 20-30 pounds).

Leave a Reply