It seems logical to start this section with the bag itself. Without which I’m going nowhere and because of this, my bag has taken on far larger meaning to me than I had envisaged. I know it sounds hyperbolic but it’s starting to feel like me and my bag off to see the world and I have developed an attachment that you wouldn’t usually associate with an inanimate object. You see it will carry all I require to exist for an extended period of time and therefore represents all the support of friends and family and home (any other solo travellers care to comment on this phenomena?).
On a less esoteric note this bag is probably the most important purchase after flights. Too small and you will find you are constantly wishing you had that ‘thing’ you couldn’t fit in. Too big and you will over-pack, spending the entire time feeling like a pack-mule and be generally pissed off!
Hidden amongst the endless supply of opinion on how to choose the right bag there is some excellent guidance to be found. Some people go as far as to state definitively ‘this is the one bag you should use for long-term travel’ but I choose to listen to the more generic guidance on how to choose a bag and then go my own way. There is an excellent section on choosing your bag on the REI website.
I looked at a number of bags and through my obviously extensive knowledge, immediately decided to go for the first one I saw… the Berghaus Atlas II Military Rucksack. But was this the right choice?
This rucksack is made to the exacting standards you would expect from a Berghaus product and is therefore extremely functional and durable – you could definitely take this up a mountain and it has a whopping 100L capacity, rigid yet light-weight aluminium frame and top and bottom loading for ease of access to all your gear. But would it be flexible enough for a more varied back-packers trip rather than a pure hiking/mountain climbing endeavour? In the end I decided not, mainly because of the day pack system – you have to unzip the side pods and then zip them together to create your day pack. A clever system but I decided that this would not be ideal when at airports and train stations. For me I wanted to be able to separate my travel essentials from my bulkier items and be able to stash the larger bag with minimal fuss.
After moving on from the Berghaus, I started to look at more travel-focused, as opposed to hiking backpacks (until I started looking, I thought rucksacks/backpacks essentially came in one form and one was much the same as the other).
Another manufacturer I started looking at was Osprey . They make premium quality travel equipment and you will pay for that quality. Shopping around on e-bay can find you discounts as always but you are still looking at £150+ for a top-end pack. They do some excellent packs made with the ‘touring traveller’ in mind. The Waypoint 85 was the option I was most drawn to.
It’s a stylish pack with excellent options for internal organisation and most importantly a detachable day-pack which can be unzipped from the main bag – perfect for flights, trains and any situation where you can leave your bulky pack in a secure place and take your essentials for that day’s activities. While this bag would definitely be top of my list if money was no object It was a little rich for my blood at prices around £180.
On the subject of budget the cheapest, suitable option I found was the Vango Freedom 60+20. Quoted on their website as £85 I actually found it for £69.99, at Argos of all places.
While it seems to tick all the boxes in terms of functionality – full circumference zip access to main compartment, lower zippered compartment, lockable zips and hydration compatible day sack – it felt a little lacking on the quality side and I felt myself questioning whether it would last the duration of the trip. Maybe this was based on solid reasoning or maybe the fact the first time I saw it was on the Argos website tainted it for me but I decided to give it a swerve.
Which was all a long winded way of bringing me to the rucksack I ended up going for; the Caribee Mallorca 80 Gap Year Travel Pack. It has everything I was looking for in a bag that is neither a 100L behemoth nor a 50 litre pup. With a combined 80L capacity this bag should do me just fine and it comes with a impressive 2 year warranty for your peace of mind.
Like all the others I have mentioned it has a detachable daysack, storage management system (read compartments and mesh pockets), a sophisticated and well-padded harness, full top loading and a built in waterproof cover which unzips from the base of the bag, a particularly nice touch. I also liked ergonomics of the day-sack – the external webbing and bottle pockets should make it more flexible for day-to-day use. Combine that with the 900D material used and I am confident this one will be with me on many more trips in the future.
The Carribee website seems to have a glitch this page so you cannot access the full list of specifications, but the short video gives a good run down of the bag and it’s features. I would also shop around, the RRP is listed £139 on the Carribee website but I found it for £118 here.