Packing and the Theory of Relativity
Have you ever taken advice from experts and once applied to yourself or your situation, the advice didn't apply to you at all? This happened to me during the last few weeks prior to leaving.
Once I packed I realize that only about half of my stuff was in the bag and the other half was still sitting on the bed. "Ooops"...I thought, "this is not going to work at all." I unpacked everything and refolded or rolled it again and it didn't work. I changed the organization of each inner cube and none of it mattered. I bought a day pack but it was too small for what I needed. I bought a bigger day pack and it was an absolutely great backpack (the Osprey Escapist 25 is my favorite backpack ever) and I totally knew that I wanted to bring this bag. So, I tried packing everything into 2 backpacks but I knew I didn't want to manage both bags all of the time.
Would 1 bag fit in the other with all of the stuff too? No, of course not. I unpacked it again and repacked it. No good. I tried switching between bags and still, it wasn't enough.
I literally spent 2 days packing and unpacking. I kicked some cats, dogs, and even punched a few babies in the face during those couple of days! I finally gave up because I knew that there was something I was missing in order to figure out this physics puzzle. Maybe it is a degree in Quantum Physics? ...or possibly Advanced Geometry?
Here is what I learned from this experience and hopefully it will help you:
Cut Everything in Half
That's right. Cut everything in half. I had to completely unpack everything and make some tough decisions about what was really important and what was not. I cut everything in half. Guess what? It still didn't fit. Not even close to fitting. So, I cut again. Once I thought I couldn't cut anymore I tried to repack it all into the backpack I had already purchased on expert advice. There was no way this was going to all fit into this tiny backpack.
The expert advice I received said I should be able to fit everything into a 40L backpack. so I researched which backpacks were awesome and which sucked. I found that I really liked the Osprey Farpoint 40. Now, this would have worked brilliantly if it wasn't for one minor complication...
As most of you already know, I am a photographer and I am traveling to some of my dream destinations in the world. What do you think I found were the most important things to bring were? Yep, you guessed it! My camera gear was the most important gear for me to take with me. That also includes all of the support gear needed to do photography on the road. I had to fit in my laptop, chargers, extra batteries, travel adapters, memory cards, portable hard drives, a backup camera, lens filters, and so on and so on.
What does this mean for you? Well, an Osprey Farpoint 40 will most likely work great as long as you don't have some reason to take double the equipment with you! The theory of packing relativity. Advice from "experts" is relative to your situation. There is no one great backpack out there that will fit everyone or work for everyone IN EVERY SITUATION.
As much as I loved the Osprey Escapist 25, I purchased another backpack. This time I purchased a backpack that was specifically designed for cameras and travel. The WNDRD PRVKE21 is a great bag, but there was no way it was going to fit inside the Osprey Farpoint 40 with everything since the last day pack wouldn't either.
What Type of Backpack Do You Need?
The type of travel you are doing will help to decide what type of backpack you need. Are you just a traveler or are you really backpacking (like in the mountains camping style)? The backpacks are made different and completely different designs because the needs are not the same.
Do you need to check your bag or do you want to carry it on a plane? Do you need to worry about someone getting into your backpack? Security features are great for travel backpacks but not really necessary for a wilderness backpack unless you have a sneaky raccoon. Do you want an internal frame or an external frame?
These are all questions you will need to answer before purchasing a backpack. Make sure to ask all the questions and research the bag thoroughly. Check reviews from people who used the bag in the same style of travel you are going to partake to make sure it fits your standards.
Figure out how much stuff you need to take before you purchase a backpack!!! Once you have cut everything in half and then in half again, then go find a backpack that will fit. I had to purchase a 65L backpack/ duffle bag. I fit everything inside and had some extra room. It works for me but is still not the optimal setup for me.
Now that I have been out on the road for a little while, some of the things I thought for sure I was going to need are just extra weight. a few items are far too expensive to just leave in a hostel. Until I get sick of carrying them and ship them home I will continue to bring them along.
Don't get caught in a trap of one size fits all, figure out what style backpack fits your needs, and do your research. Most importantly, don't take things you don't need and you will be fine!
(No real animals or babies were injured during my episode of rage during packing or while writing this article.)