Choosing the Right Backpack for the Right Adventure
So you’ve finally succumbed to the wanderlust and you’re off on your big trip. The one big-ticket item you will need is a great bag.
Choosing the right backpack is as important as choosing the right travel companion. Your pack will be your ground-zero, your walkabout home, and your something to cuddle in the hostel bunk when you’re homesick and you’ve had a little too much to drink.
My first pack was canvas, olive green. Over the years she gathered badges, an Aussie flag, and I even sewed in some chicken wire on the inside to make her slash resistant when travelling in South America. She was pretty simple — opened up at the front with a second zip for the lower compartment, and a zip on day-pack with one compartment and a pocket. But she fit my back perfectly and no matter how many trinkets I weighed her down with, I could carry her comfortably fully packed and soaking wet.
Canvas is pretty old now though, the new packs are made of these tough modern fabrics such as texturized nylons or polyester. They’re tougher than chicken wire, abrasion resistant and almost as water resistant as the old canvas, and much much lighter. My old pack had hardly any feature pockets and was heavy as hell. These new ones have a pocket for everything, so you can keep organized and know where all your stuff is. No more digging for your passport, there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.
Your pack is worth investing time and money to get the right one. Here at Everything Australian, I like to divide our packs into three main categories:
- Travel Packs
- Rucksacks/Trekking Packs
- Transit/Convertible Wheeled Bags
Black Wolf Cedar Breaks
This is what you need for those gap year trips where you need something that has all your stuff easily accessible, but is comfy enough on your back for any long walks to the train station. Front-opening travel packs open up like a suitcase so you can pack up quickly, but also grab anything you might need on the go.
They also often come with a removable daypack so you can leave the big pack at the hostel, and get about town with your small pack.
Added features add weight, but if you’re going on a long trip then the convenience of extra pockets and things like a rain cover are worth the extra grams. For example, I love the removable day pack and the internal organiser of my Black Wolf Cedar Breaks. The ability to keep tickets and cash within easy access without having to take off the pack is a convenience I relish.
- Removable day pack
- Compression straps - to hold the contents of the bag securely
- Multiple internal pockets for easy storage and organisation
- Wide opening front pocket for easy access to all your gear
- Make sure it has a cover to put away the straps in transit
Rucksacks / Trekking Packs
If you’re going on a lot of overnight hikes and you need something that you can walk comfortably with for long distances, you should look at getting a trekking pack. Their tall narrow shape carries loads much more efficiently on your body, but they are more fiddly to pack because they generally just open at the top. Trekking packs need to be carefully organized so the things you need accessible go in last so you don’t end up having to take everything out just to grab something from the bottom.
They also have less features than travel packs to keep the weight down but will include a few key hiking features like hydration bladder capability.
Look for something sleek and simple. Something like the Summit Gear Bluegum Pack is great because it designed and made by keen Aussie trekkers from the Blue Mountains, so you can be sure it has everything you need with an excellent build quality.
- Compression straps are important on long hikes. As you go through your supplies, it’s good to be able to draw the extra space in so you’re not rattling as you come down the mountain.
- Trek bags have a more waterproof design, with a hood covering the main opening of the bag and less zips which allow water to seep in.
- They come with handy accessory straps to secure sleeping mats or jacket on the outside of the bag
- Hydration bladder compatibility
Transit / Convertable Wheeled Bags
What a boon this is, especially for the older backpacker like me who loves the romance of a backpack but wants the convenience of a wheelbag. They operate like a travel pack opening up at the front, but the straps are generally simpler and less customizable with less padding and comfort. That’s fine if you just want a bag that you can throw on your back when navigating a busy marketplace or running for a train, but for the most part you are travelling in urban areas and can use the wheels. Something like the Black Wolf Grand Tour packs a punch in terms of space and convenience and comes with a lifetime warranty.
- All terrain wheels
- Concealed harness that zips away at the back when you don’t need it
- Zip off daypack
- Multiple internal pockets for easy storage and organisation
Finding The Right Size
As a general guide, the shorter you are, the smaller the pack should be, but it really depends on your back length. Some packs come in different harness sizes and some come in one size with an adjustable height system, so you can modify it to create the perfect fit.
Once you’ve selected your correct bag size adjust the harness and straps to fit your body, this part takes a bit of practice. Most packs have four main adjustment straps: Hip-belt, Shoulder straps, Load-lifter straps and Sternum strap. Remember most of the bag weight should sit on your hips and that there should be no gaps between your shoulders and the shoulder straps.
Backpacks for travel range in size from 50L-90L capacity.
Internally, assign separate compartments for your clothing and gadgets etc. Get a lock if your pack doesn't come with one to deter pickpockets looking for an easy lift. Find yourself a good water bottle that fits in your pack. All this preparation will pay off when you're off and running and you need to have everything organized and ready on hand. These big bags are great but it's easy to lose things in them if you aren't habitual about how you pack them. Find a system that suits you and stick to it. But most importantly, have fun. Happy walkabout!
At Everything Australian we’ve been selling camping and outdoors gear for 20+ years, so we know a thing or too. If you’ve got any questions or just need advice on picking a style just reach out to our helpful team and here. Also check out our range of products from Black Wolf and Summit Gear.