Travel Tips: Travel bags

I recently bought a Northface backpack, one that you’ve probably seen and noticed because it’s bright mint green. If you don’t remember, this is the one:

This trusty backpack has done me well on the one trip I’ve taken it on. I’m getting ready to pack it for my next Europe adventure and Asia adventure. It’s surprisingly enough can fit quite a bit of clothing. In that picture, it was the home to a pair of Chelsea style rain boots (Hunters), 10 days worth of clothing and toiletries with some minor room to spare.

I’ve noticed that over the years, my packing skills have become better and better while my bags have become smaller and smaller. The first time I went to Asia, I went with a suitcase that came out to just under 50lbs on the scale. In fact, it took two of us to lift it off of the carousel when I landed in Taipei. Luckily it was full of gifts for my family so it was fairly empty after the first week. The next time I traveled abroad, I used a 30 gallon REI hiking backpack. In fact this bag has gone with me to Europe twice, to Asia, to Guatemala and with another friend to Europe. It’s my trusty longer trip bag. There’s something really nice about knowing that everything I need is on my back and I don’t have to worry about the cobble stone roads. Granted, I can’t say other people appreciate these bags when you’re on a crowded chicken bus in Guate, but that’s a story for another time.

After Guatemala, I realized that I don’t need to carry as much anymore. The big backpack was great for bringing things back but realistically, I don’t need all the stuff.  That’s why I’ve decided to go down the path of packing the least amount of items as possible. My Northface does well for my longer trips (or at least I hope it does, we’ll see how the next two adventures go).  But for shorter trips, I feel like the Northface becomes too much.

I used to use a duffel bag/weekender bag I purchased from H&M but even that seemed excessively bulky for my travel needs.  Plus it’s the over the shoulder type of strap which is great for smaller trips but when you’re carrying heavier things, I feel too lopsided to feel comfortable. Along with that, sometimes, I feel like it’s harder to really pack well with those types of bags because they have less structure or they have too much structure. My H&M bag has no structure so packing shoes and clothes just ends up being a mess. And when I use my compression bags, they don’t work well since they’re trying to keep structure in a non-structured world. If things are too structured, I feel like you lose some optimum space that you could be shoving some t-shirts or socks. Backpacks have the perfect combination of structure with the back support and the flexibility with the front portion.

That being said, I recently purchased a Herschel Supply Co. backpack:

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And I justified it for my weekend trips. It’s not as secure or spacious as my Northface, but it works well for what I need on those short two day trips. I must say that I’ve resorted back to my childhood days because I’m remembering what it feels like to wear a backpack. Granted, when I wear my Herschel, I feel the need to skip. I used this backpack on my day trip to Vancouver, Canada and it was perfect. It was lightweight enough that with everything I packed in it, it didn’t feel too heavy and the weight was fairly evenly distributed. The pockets were easily accessible, and there are smaller ones on the inside for phones or smaller trinkets. Plus, if I want to use it for my laptop, the laptop compartment is fuzzy which just makes me so happy.

I used to love only using shoulder bags, but as I get older, I realize the practicality of the backpack. The even weight distribution is really key when you’re traveling.  I may still use my duffles and totes if I feel so inclined, but right now, I’m loving my backpacks over anything else.

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