Since we left New Zealand in 2006 with over 50kg of baggage, we’ve been trying to pack light. In fact, we’ve been trying to pack lighter and lighter with every jaunt. Lightweight travel is good travel.
My current set-up is a two-bag Berghaus wonder: a red and grey 45+8lt Antaeus along with a black Remote20 with my laptop, microphone and plane or train reading material in it. The goal, however, is one that Linda has already achieved: the one bag.
Linda’s currently carrying a 35lt Backfavour from the small New Zealand manufacturer Aarn. This is one of the most amazing backpacks I’ve even seen or worn, but I don’t want to get the same pack as Linda. This couple thing can only go so far!
Picky as I am, here are five backpacks I haven’t bought.
1. Mountain HardWear Enterprise
The Mountain Hardwear Enterprise Backpack was one of the first real contenders in my search for the ultimate travel backpack. At the moment it’s still the most likely contender, but it’s really quite expensive and I could do with an extra five litres.
The bag has excellent external pockets, including a lined one for electronics or sunglasses. It also has expansive side pockets, which appeal to me. The laptop holder, inside the bag, is suspended, meaning the computer won’t hit the bottom of the bag and get crushed and would also be quite easily accessible from the main backpack opening. I loved the duffel bag-style grip handle, but thought the harness was a bit on the light side.
2. North Face Angstrom
The The North Face Angstrom Backpack was recommended to me at the same shop as the Arcteryx pack below. I thought it looked really, really ugly. It was OK, but certainly didn’t excite me. A badly stitched area on one zip meant I didn’t really look at it further.
3. Arcteryx Blade
I loved the Arcteryx Blade 30 Backpackat first glance. It had all the pockets and technical bits and pieces I wanted. It had a suitcase opening, which I’m considering after years of top-loading hiking backpacks. The external laptop pocket was excellent (and would have additional room for paperwork and notes).
I didn’t buy this one because when fully packed (and yes, I took everything I own down to the outdoors store) it looked like I had a suitcase suspended on my back. The weight distribution was all wrong and the harness didn’t really help that much, being a little short for my back.
4. Deuter Futura
From there I turned to the Deuter Futura 32 Backpack.I’ve been a long-term fan of the build quality of Mountain Hardwear, Deuter and Berghaus, so I was really positive about this one. It would be a great hiking backpack: lightweight, tear-resistant, lots of connection points and excellent harness support.
Unfortunately, it would be a terrible backpack for a digital nomad: not many internal pockets, absolutely no laptop access. Notes, sketches and receipts would end up like they are in my current pack: scrunched and destroyed.
5. Kathmandu Litehaul Pack
The Kathmandu Litehaul Pack really had me excited when I first saw it. I used to use Kathmandu gear a lot, but they seem to have become more fashion-conscious than hardy recently. The price doesn’t quite reflect the build quality.
This bag, however, was innovative and seemed well-constructed. The amazing thing was that the duffel-bag style shoulder strap unclips and becomes a waist harness, meaning the bag is an excellent convertible travel backpack.
I didn’t buy this one because I was unsure how long the plastic clips that control this would last. I bet it would be less than three months with our lifestyle. It also didn’t quite seem to sit right on my back when we loaded it with a few tents for weight. Also, I am really hanging out for an external laptop pocket now; as my only bag it needs to be good for quick laptop access while we’re out and about.
The perfect bag …
My perfect travel backpack will:
- be around 35 litres
- be good for carry-on travel on most airlines
- have an external laptop access point
- have a proper harness system
- have a few external pockets, including space for a waterbottle
- have lockable zips
- be sturdy enough to handle hiking, suave enough to suit a hotel lobby
- not look stupid
- not cost the earth
Can you help me?