To be honest, this seemed pretty overwhelming at first. You always hear about how crucial good backpacks are for long-term traveling and it makes sense. After all, these backpacks are going to house everything we own for the entire trip. It’s like the equivalent of finding an apartment to live, but for traveling.
So like the engineers we both studied to be, we broke down this problem into a few steps:
1. Choose the features we want
We googled like mad and inhaled as much info about backpacks as we could, whether it’s from fellow travel bloggers, online reviews, or youtube videos. We got a basic sense of what brands are out there and what features to look for. This really helped us narrow down our choices and set some basic specifications. For example, we decided that we wanted small bags that we could carry-on for flights, especially since the weather in Asia will mostly be warm (no need to carry bulky winter gear).
2. Try them on!
Everyone says that you absolutely must try the backpack on before you buy – now we know why! It was one thing to see the backpacks online and in-person – it’s a whole different thing to feel them on your back. Within minutes of trying on our first backpacks with weights (anywhere from 12-20 lbs each), the following became abundantly clear:
- what size backpack each of us needed (small for Julie, large for Carlos)
- how well the backpack fit – and thus how well it distributed the weight onto the hips as opposed to the shoulders
- every single extra pound makes a big (and miserable) difference
After several different outdoor equipment stores, a dozen backpacks, and lots of walking circles around the stores, our bodies made the decisions for us.
3. Scour for deals
With a pretty clear idea of which backpacks we wanted, we became hunters patiently waiting for their prey… er, online shoppers waiting for bargains. (Actually, more like Julie regularly checking online for sales, but I digress.) The key here is to find last year’s version of the pack (almost identical features, a fraction of the price) and be a little bit flexible. For example, Julie had originally wanted the 38L version of the backpack, but the 34L was on sale for much cheaper. After some discussion, we realized that the 4L difference was not a big deal for us, so we were able to get the deal!
What did we end up with??
Gregory Z40 and Gregory J34!
The main reasons why we chose these ones out of all the awesome backpacks out there for long-term traveling:
- They’re the perfect size
They can be carry-on luggage for flights. The bigger the backpack, the more unnecessary items we will bring, so limiting the size will force us to just pack essentials.
- They have multiple access to the main compartment (top and front)
A zipper down the front of the backpack allows items on the very bottom to be accessed directly, as opposed to only from the top. Backpacks that are only top-loading means you have to take out everything to get to the bottom of the pack.
- They have Crossflo technology
This is a mesh back panel that separates your back from the actual backpack so air can flow through. We figured this will be really useful in hot and humid SE Asia.
- They come with raincovers
Keeping all of our items dry is really important, especially during wet season.
- They have multiple separate compartments
We can keep our stuff better organized such as separating what’s clean from what’s dirty.
This was a tough but critical decision and we are really happy with the backpacks we chose. Hopefully they will serve us well for the next year.