Travel Betty

Encouraging Fearless Independent Travel For Women

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Is There Such A Thing As The Perfect Travel Backpack?

June 3rd, 2007 · 7 Comments

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Love them or hate them, the perfect backpack is essential for a serious Travel Betty. Your matching Louis Vuitton luggage may look exquisite in the showroom, but try checking it through a few third world airports and you’ll see that what comes out the other end is less than haute couture. Not only that, but the more bags you bring, the more you’ve got to keep your eye on. It’s pretty easy for a quick-thinking thief to disengage you of a roller bag when you’ve got three other pieces to mind.

Since college I’ve been on the lookout for the right pack. My first was purchased by my extremely generous, yet clueless parents. Equally clueless, I merely snipped off the price tag, loaded ‘er up and hiked around Italy hunched forward with my chest at a 45-degree angle to my legs. I had no idea the pack could be adjusted to put the weight on my hips as opposed to my spine. In addition, the bag lacked certain comforts like water bottle holders and a plentitude of pockets. And even though I eventually unearthed its strap adjustment secrets, it still wasn’t the most comfortable thing to carry around.

In 2004 with a big Southeast Asia trip on the horizon, I finally decided to upgrade to a better pack. One that daddy hadn’t purchased. One that fit my frame. And one that was easy to prep for airport check-ins. I hate fiddling with straps, holding up the line while trying desperately to tuck everything inside so as to avoid massive external pack injuries caused by the various baggage conveyance equipment. So with my modest list of backpack criteria in hand, I proudly walked into REI and instantly became overwhelmed. Are women-specific backpacks necessary or is it a cutesy marketing ploy? Do I need a detachable daypack? A hidden duffel bag? Wicking technology? What about a rain fly? And why are there so many golflangaggling straps on these things?

After an hour of pretending I knew what I was doing, I walked out with the Eagle Creek Explorer LT prepared to be impressed. But I didn’t end up impressed for two reasons. One, they didn’t have the Explorer LT Women’s Fit in the color I liked so I had purchased the non-women specific version. After 4 weeks in SE Asia, I had my answer about whether the women’s fit was a marketing ploy. It wasn’t. The bag was spacious enough for all my gear, but it hit my hips awkwardly and put pressure on my lower back. Damn my vanity!

The second reason the bag left me wanting was the most important: for check-in, the straps had to be unfastened and refastened in a very time-consuming way, no clips. It had been designed so that a hidden duffle could be used to cover the pack, thereby eliminating the need to deal with the straps at all. Genius. But problems arose when I actually needed to use that hidden duffle as a duffle instead of a backpack cover. Since I like to buy a lot of souvenirs, this simply didn’t work for me.

Unhappy with my purchase, but too stubborn and sulky to do anything about it, Travel Boyfriend stepped in and bought me a new pack so I could save face. Now I don’t remember what kind that one actually was because it turned out to be a hiker’s backpack instead of a traveler’s backpack (and YES, that makes a big difference). It was a top-loader, meaning you had to shove everything in from a small hole in the top instead of unzipping your pack in a U-shape so that you could see everything at once. No dice. Before I knew it, I was planning another trip to REI. But first I did a few hours worth of Internet research to make sure I went in knowing exactly what I wanted. And what I found I wanted was the Eagle Creek Maiden Voyage 70L. Finally, my perfect pack!

This bag is designed for the ladies. It’s super spacious. It’s lightweight. And it has a highly adaptable adjustment system for a comfortable fit. For added security, it has a day pack that zips to the main bag instead of just clipping to it. There’s extra compartments for water bottles on the day pack and an extra compartment for camel-poop-coated shoes on the main pack. The part I love best (no surprise) is that the back straps are contained behind their own zippered flap. It takes about .031 seconds to cover those puppies up for check-in.

This pack’s own Maiden Voyage proved that it’s worth the investment researching your travel gear thoroughly. I could have kept on roaming around with a subpar travel partner, but there’s no reason to settle even if you travel infrequently, or are on a strict budget. Just remember, designer suitcases are a luxury. Comfort is a right.

Travel Betty Banter

Have you found your own perfect pack? Let’s compare notes. Share your find with the rest of the group in the comments section.

Tags: Travel Gear

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  • 7 responses so far ↓

    • 1 ClearlyEnlight // Jun 5, 2007 at 9:04 pm

      Well I the pack I found is designed to carry on the planes. The day pack unzips from the main pack and the main pack opens like a suit case which is better for me then a top loader internal frame.
      check out
      Just copy and paste if need be.
      They have four different sizes and I bought the second to the smallest.

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    • 2 Travel Betty // Jun 6, 2007 at 10:02 am

      A backpack that can be used as a carry-on is my dream! Sadly, I tend to overpack. I’m not even a big shoe person, but they’re usually my downfall.

      This one looks great, clearlyenlight! Thanks for the tip. I love the suitcase-like zipper. I bet it makes packing so easy. Let us know how it’s working out for you once you start your trip.

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    • 3 in search of the perfect travel backpack at inner city in a southern sea // Jan 18, 2008 at 12:20 am

      [...] use that word?) seem ripe for me to share my discoveries so far. Brave New Traveler, Lorelle and Travel Betty all inspired me to make this [...]

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    • 4 jeela // Jan 18, 2008 at 2:18 pm

      thx for the inspiration, Travel Betty! I feel I’m closer than ever to finding my perfect pack.

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    • 5 Sabine // Jul 24, 2008 at 11:09 am

      I chose my backpack from the following criteria: Front zippers for easy navigation of all my stuff, expandable in size in order to allow me to carry both summer and winter clothes and/or souvenirs, side pockets for stuff I need frequently, especially fitted for women’s backs, superb back support with weight resting on hips and streamlined design for convenience.
      I already knew the Swedish brand Häglöfs made superior quality backpacks and my choice fell on the Häglöfs Sec Q 65 which has never led me down. It’s gorgeous, I easily carry 15 k’s on my back without feeling burdened (and i have a very small body frame) and it even has a bottom zipper with optional compartment for dirty clothes or your sleeping back for example. Click to view the backpack

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    • 6 Travel Betty // Jul 26, 2008 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks for the backpack insight, Sabine. It sounds great and anything with an umlaut in the name gets my vote!

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    • 7 RomeLoft // Oct 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

      Number one rule for me, I’ve learned the hard way: your backpack should be proportional to body size! If you won’t do so, you’ll regret not having done it right every minute!

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