The Backpack Trials

1 Feb

The thought of backpacking across Europe probably seems a bit romantic. We’ll be going in the dead of winter, since that’s summer here and that’s when Cal will have a chunk of time off, whether he’s still studying or a teacher at that point. And besides, who wouldn’t want to see Neuschwanstein frosted over with snow? We obviously won’t be bringing tents and sleeping bags and setting up on a snowbank whenever we want to stop for the night. And what do the people of the internet say about that?

“Don’t bother with a backpack, it’s really more of a hassle. If you’re not going to live rough, it’s not worth it.”

Um… have these people ever tried dragging a rolling suitcase behind them over cobblestone? It should be an Olympic sport, for goodness’ sake! I mean, rolling suitcases have a habit of hitting my heels in the best of conditions–I think the handle’s a bit too short for my long legs–but rolling it over cobblestone, or simply in a city where there are hundreds of people walking around you as you attempt to turn it back on its wheels after if was kicked over onto its side, again, was stress that I didn’t need while attempting to find hostels and places of interest.

Not to mention, everything we need for a month plus any souvenirs we want to bring back with us is simply NOT going to fit in a couple of the standard carry-on suitcases. Not when you’re talking bulky winter clothes. Which means you’d have to go next size up, and I shudder to think how that would hold up being dragged across Europe.

Moral of the story is, we’re taking backpacks.

So the question turned into: which backpacks? As I started looking, I discovered quite quickly that there are a wide range of backpacks. Different sizes, some that open at the sides or bottom as well as the top, some with places for ice picks and skis and sleeping bags and water bottles, some with unclippable daypacks. Looking at them online is pretty much a nightmare. At the same time, I wanted to know what was out there before we started looking in stores so I had at least some idea of what to tell salespeople we wanted.

First, size. Per recommendations, I’m thinking 50L for me, and around 60-65L for Cal. We figured we’d pack lightly, hopefully with room to spare in both (for those souvenirs!). Next, I really would like one that has side-openings into the main compartment for ease of getting at things, but it’s not hugely necessary. And I think my only other requirement is that I get one designed specifically for women.

We’ve been passing a store called Mountain Designs on the bus for ages, but never have time stop in. So, when we were in Wellington and saw a Mountain Designs right next to a Kathmandu which was next to another outdoorsy place I can’t remember the name of, we thought we hit the jackpot.

We tried on tons of different backpacks, and I was swiftly coming to the conclusion that everything was the same and I didn’t need to be in a store at all to buy a backpack, it would be just as easy to buy it online. And then.

The Osprey Aura 50L, size large. SO COMFORTABLE. Couldn’t believe how comfortable it was. I was like, this is going to be the backpack for me. (AND it comes in purple!).

Cal tried on the Osprey Aether 65L, and had similar feelings. I can’t remember about that one, but the Aura didn’t have side access from what I can remember, and I’m pretty much ready to completely overlook that since it was roughly the most comfortable thing ever. We’re obviously going to keep looking since we have months and months left and backpacks are expensive (to someone who’s jobless and someone who’s about to become jobless, anyway). Those are our front runners, though.

Have you ever gone backpacking and have any recommendations? We’d love to hear them!

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