Throughout most of my adult life, I have spent my spare time either hiking, camping, backpacking, or traveling. I love it. My wife and I both do. I also work at REI, where I’ve been trained to fit backpacks for a variety of people and their journeys. The number one question that I receive is “Which brand of backpack is best?!” So, these are my top three answers to that very question…
Breaking Down The Catagories
Different adventures necessitate different backpacks. It’s important to find a pack that does the job correctly and with ease. And to break it all down into the simplest terms so that it’s easy to understand, then target what you’ll be needing for your upcoming adventure.
A day pack (closer to your traditional everyday backpack) gives you the ability to run around, do errands, go the beach, and store small necessities. The weekend pack gives you the ability to plan up to three days of adventure, with light equipment.
The Weekend and Long Journey packs give you the opportunity to plan one to six months of adventure, with loads of space distributed throughout. With the long journey packs, I’ve shared two versions- one for the women and one for the men. They’re identical packs but each represents a common ideal for different shapes, sizes, and goals.
Daypack: CamelBak: Rim Runner 22 hydration pack (unisex)
The key to any successful quickie adventure is to have a reliable daypack. It’s a staple for any outdoor travel or activity, be it hike, bike, flight, or stroll. Generally, what most people look for in a good daypack is the ability to carry enough water and food for a full day out with a few light accessories.
The Rim Runner 22 provides comfort, water flow, and storage for all day adventures. This pack has adjustable hip straps for pack control, hip zip pockets for your essentials, and a new Crux reservoir that delivers 20% more water flow. The main compartment is sufficient for all of your larger equipment and the two smaller pockets can be used for storing much-needed items such as energy bars, earbuds, or possibly a pair of sunglasses. It’s a great pack to get you there and back in one piece, staying hydrated all the while.
Weekend Warrior Pack: Osprey Exos 38 (unisex)
When looking for a weekend adventure backpack, I prefer a lightweight pack with 30-40 liters of space. The Exos 38 is a great fit for any weekend journey. It’s lightweight with shoulder and hip cushioning, creating a very comfortable fit. It also has pockets on the hip and shoulder straps, allowing for quick access to items such as a small camera, headlamp, knife, or snacks. it has trekking pole loops and a front mesh elastic pocket for a light jacket or maybe even a map. Inside the main compartment, there is a dedicated Hydration sleeve.
These packs come in small, medium and large but are not adjustable. So visiting a shop that specializes in selling outdoor gear is necessary, in order to size your pack correctly. The pack has great airflow for your back, due to its airspeed suspension system. It is a top-loading bag with a good size opening to manage all of your gear. You can also, completely remove the top lid, allowing the pack to weigh as little as one pound, fourteen ounces. It then has an integrated flap to aid in the protection of the top-loading compartment from the elements. Personally, It’s best to keep your total weight to around twenty to twenty-five lbs to maintain comfort. The max weight quoted for this pack, however, is thirty pounds.
Long Journey Pack: Gregory Deva 60 Backpack(Women’s) & Gregory Baltoro 65 Backpack (Men’s)
These are pretty much the same exact pack, with the exception of the strap design and the liter size. Because they are nearly identical, I’m lumping this into the same review. Plain and simple, I am in love with this pack. Jen doesn’t know it yet but she will be sporting the ladies version soon.
These packs are a great choice for backpacking due to the way they handle heavy loads. The Baltoro’s comfort is due to their A3 response suspension frame that runs from the lumbar up through the back. It comes with a removable back pad that fits directly on the lower lumbar for added cushion while carrying heavier loads. This pack also hosts two hip belt pockets, with the right pocket being waterproof for the storage of any delicate items that you might want to keep dry. And yes, it will even fit a standard size smartphone.
Both of these packs come with three points of entry for easy access. Your items can either be accessed through the top, middle or sleeping bag compartment. Both the hip belts and the shoulder straps are adjustable for fine tuning your comfort. They are part of the pack’s A3 design that allows free movement of the hips and shoulders. Included with the packs are a self-contained rain cover as well as a sidekick daypack. Located at the top lid, are dual pockets for maps and other small items. The pack also features an angled pullout water bottle holder, tool loops for trekking poles, and loads of additional compression straps for Climbing ropes… This pack has it all.
That’s A Wrap
There are many factors that go into finding the pack that is right for you; right for your body type, height, weight, and goals. I fit packs for people all day every day at REI. The most important factor is not the Brand or what it costs but how it fits. If you’re just ten miles into your hike and already miserable, it’s not the right pack for you. So take your time to find the right backpack before you depart. Do your research, meet with a representative, and try them all on. That being said, once you find your perfect match- pack it up, get it out, and see as much of the world as you can!