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Where to start?

Hi, I'm backpacking across Europe in a few weeks and I'm looking for a pack. Where do I start? There's so many pack out there with all kinds of different features. I know I want an internal frame pack with as many pockets as possible.

Funny but when internal frame packs were originally designed they were for climbers and extreme expedition use, and now everybody wants one. Anyway a climbers pack has no pockets except for a top pocket - pockets catch on the rock, so internal frame pack with "lots of pockets" is great, but its an interesting twist... (;->)
I like my Kelty spectra packs - I think your pack may be a more important investment than your sleeping bag. Personally I believe in LARGE packs...
Jim (:->)


What made you pick the Kelty over the others? Do pepople usually pick a brand and stick with it? I usually try to research everything first and then narrow down my options, perhaps there's an easier way to do it. I've read some reviews online, including pack buying tips

I bought my expedition grade pack from Kelty in 1988 for $500. Last year Kelty replaced it with a new spectra pack - a cloud 6500. It is very big and very light - 33oz the way I have it set up - its modular. The new pack was free, I don't know what I would have bought if I had to shop all over again, but I am sure it would be very light spectra.
Jim S

Backpacking as in tents and trails or backpacking as in trains and hostels? It makes a big difference in what you're carrying and subsequently what sort of pack works best.

I'm going to be travelling by train mostly and staying at hostels. I need to get a tent too for some of the remote places I'll be visiting.

I would like to have a hydration pouch for a bladder I've got. Are there any design compromises when you get a hydration pouch? Or is it a win win situation?

I'll disagree with Jim here and suggest that you don't go too big. Big packs just encourage you too pack more than you really need, and that gets to be a drag. Especially in busy cities, you don't want to be stumbling around under a monster pack. Something in the 3,500-4,000 range should be plenty unless you're planning on bringing five changes of clothes. (don't.)

I'd aim for something modular and resonably lightweight. A detachable lid that can be used as a daypack will come in handy for those day trips when you're able to leave the main pack at the hostel. Since you're looking for multiple pockets, the Kelty Coyote might be a good choice. It's not terribly lightweight, but it has lots of pockets and a detachable lid.

Or you could start with a more stripped-down pack and add pockets as needed: OR and a few of the pack manufacturers make add-on compartments that can be easily strapped onto most packs. That can be a mixed blessing in civilization, as non-permenant pockets can also be stolen pretty easily.

If the tent isn't going to be your primary source of shelter, you definitely won't want to be lugging anything too heavy around. Consider a bivy sack instead. If a traditional bivy isn't your style, there are a couple (such as the OR Advanced Bivy or the Bibler Tripod) that have a hoop to hold the material off your face. More of a really small tent than a bivy in some regards.

A lot of packs have an internal sleeve designed to hold your bladder. Sometimes the sleeve makes it easier to get the bladder in and out of a full pack, but it's not really an essential design feature.

I am planning a similar trip to Peru (with more camping than hostels, however) and I am looking at the Arc'Teryx Bora 80 - which has a pouch for a bladder, as well as a nifty Kangaroo pocket. Expensive yes, but beautifully designed.


I've narrowed down my choices. I'm going with a 5500cu. in. pack with lockable zippers, a hydration pouch for a bladder, detachable daypack, waterproof bottom and a zippered sleeping bag compartment. I've looked at packs like the Bora95, the Gregory Whitney and Shasta, the Vortex 4500, Bergans of Norway Trollhetta 4195 and the Osprey Luna 90, Aether 90 and Ariel 90.

Re: Choices

Those are some good choices. Which way are you leaning? If possible, find a shop with somebody who knows how to properly fit/adjust the packs they sell, and try some of them out.

I had a Bora 80 and only used it on one trip before deciding to get rid of it-too heavy and because the waistbelt was so bulky and stiff, it really didn't fit me right. I've got a slender build and it just didn't fit my shape. Well-made, yes, but for your kind of trip, I think there are better choices, especially if you are using the train. Unless you are doing a lot of actual packpacking, you might even consider a travel pack-a cross between a pack and a carry-on with a handle and wheels. It won't be the greatest backpack, but more suited for tossing into luggage compartments. I had a primitive version of one years ago that had a removeable waistband that stored in the pack and straps that could be hidden in a zippered compartment so that nothing could catch on airline luggage conveyor belts, etc. I think Eagle and a few others make hi-tech versions of them now. There are some pretty lightweight one person tents around if you want more than a bivy sack. You might check on huts to stay in and forget about the tent altogether. In that case, a bivy sack would be a good choice in case you get caught out-get one that is waterproof-not all of them are.
BTW, I've seen Jim's pack-it is very lightweight and big, but the latest version retails for $750.

September 29, 2020
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