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Looking For A Versatile Pack

This December I'm taking a month long trip to Germany and the surrounding countries with my older brother. I'm looking for versatile pack that can be used as carry-on for the flights and still provide enough room to be my one and only bag on my trip. I prefer to have all my stuff in one central spot. And if so possible perhaps it can be a good backpacking pack for when its not travelling.

I take a pretty minimalist selection when travelling those lengths and my backpacking gear is no different. I'm thinking maybe somewhere between 2500cu in - 3500cu in. 

Couple packs on my radar include:

Deuter ACT 65+10          (great pack, seems a little big for planes though)

North Face Terra 55        (tough, enough space, seems little bulky though)

Osprey Talon 44 Pack     (love the look and size and price)

PS: I counted $108 in my change jar the other night. Making my budget flexible up to $200. 

Thanks guys!

May I suggest that you think of buying one of the time proved (used) packs that range in between in between 2500cu in - 3500cu in. You could go to REI and dump a bunch  "o" money on a "new" pack, or get one for $75-$100 of off Craigslist or Ebay.  Trailspace is renowned for it's quality reviews on such used, older products.  I know for a fact that within 10 minutes I could find a quality pack on Ebay of Craigslist that would meet your needs for far less than a new pack.  Yesterday a Dana Design bomb pack, 2900 cui, went for $75 on Trailspace in the classifieds.  It is one of the finest packs ever made, along with many others.  If possible do not get caught up in the newer is better syndrome.  With the down turn in the economy there are many fine products avaliable and now that summer is comming to a close the deals are getting really, really silly cheap.  Seriously, I'm a collector and I can only say the deals are getting better and better by the minute.  The first thing I would do is put a posting of the pack(s) you want/require on the classifieds on trailspace.  More than Brand names I would put the specs. and say exactly what you are looking for in a quality back pack.  Just a thought, or two. 

If you are stuck on getting a new pack here's one. 


Alps Mountaineering Orizaba 3300

Easily available for approx. $85 less if you can wait.

I have Alps' Cascade 4200, 5200 and Red Tail. They are built to last.

You will want to sacrifice some rigidity for portability IMO.

One of the biggest concerns is the waist strap/kidney belt. For frequent travel, having the capability to run the waist strap "inside out" around the pack and securing it goes a long way with frequent travel. Basically you just run the belt around the outside of the pack in "reverse" and create a compact package, the shoulder straps are cinched down and streamlined as well.

Some packs are better suited than others for airline/bus/boat etc. travel.

Long story short, I would suggest a pack with a flexible harness system that permits streamlined stowage. Believe it or not, some external frame packs can be very streamlined too, but I travel with an ALICE running the broomstick trick, or my closed cell semi-rigid packs with very flexible waist/shoulder straps.

You will also want a pack you can sit on without damaging it, trust me on this one!

I agree with Apeman.

I wish there was some way to take a poll of backpacks that were purchased, were used 1-5 times, and then were put away in a closet until they were finally sold, years later and in like new condition.  I bet much more than 50% find this fate.

Zeno Marx said:

I agree with Apeman.

I wish there was some way to take a poll of backpacks that were purchased, were used 1-5 times, and then were put away in a closet until they were finally sold, years later and in like new condition.  I bet much more than 50% find this fate.

Indeed, at least 50%.  I think the percentage is much higher.  I agree with you whole heartedly.  I Have 14 packs, I just counted.  11 of which were bought in new (used) condition for up to 20-40% of ther MSRP value.  The are all , Machale, Osprey, Dana Design, and Marmot, oh yea one Kelly Flight pack.  All of them are bomber packs for very, very little money.  In this day and age you do not have to spend large amounts of money to get good quality.  Really, it's a myth.

Really great suggestions here. Some of your considerations depend upon your planned activities. If you are skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, or any other winter activities while in Germany, then your considerations are a little different.

I had similar requirements when I was looking for a pack a few years ago. I chose the Golite Pursuit. About a year later, it was chosen as Backpacker Magazine's Best All-Purpose Backpack. In medium (the best size for you based on your torso length - try it before you buy it!) it is 51 liters plus another 10 with the bivy collar. Brand-new ones are 2lb 14oz, but used ones are in the 2lb 11oz range.

The Pursuit would match your listed activities on your profile page very well. It has so many flexible attachment and lashing options despite it's light weight (for an internal frame) and size. It is rated to 35 pounds of gear, I've carried 50 plus with no problem. It has dedicated ski attachments in A-frame or diagonal carrry, has snow board carry-lashings, hypalon crampon/snowshoe attachements, trecking pole carry, dual ice axe carries, welded, highly water-resistent (field verified) zippers, waterproof fabric, great compression features to turn it into a daypack, pockets on the waist belt, a sternum strap whistle, hydration bladder pouch and tube port. I have seen them BNWT's on Ebay for $100 in the past. I've seen them used on Craigslist (although rarely) for less than that.

Best of luck in your shopping and research, and have fun in Deutchland!

Of your choices and in order,

North Face Terra 55        (tough, enough space, seems little bulky though)

Osprey Talon 44 Pack     (love the look and size and price)

worth assessing what you plan to take and whether the Talon has enough space.  the Aether might be a better choice, depending on how you pack.

because you are looking at carrying on planes, look carefully at how each pack you consider shrinks via compression straps.  you can do a lot to fit a pack in the overhead that way.  i routinely took my old 65 liter backpack as a carry-on and put it in overheads for years.  (ironically, my new pack that size, gregory baltoro, which is otherwise a very fine piece of equipment, has a skeletonized plastic frame on the exterior of each hipbelt pad - and i'm moderately nervous that cramming it into an overhead could crack the part).  

I found the Talon 44 bigger than the specs would suggest.  But fairly fragile and a suspension that starts to dig in the shoulders carrying in the low 20's over long days.

I would look at Granite Gears Blaze or AC series.  Close if not right on top of your price point.

I don't know where you live but I regularly find great deals on used backpacks at the Goodwill.  Here is a cool pack called the Camp Trails Traveler. 


It is a fairly large pack and I believe could easly hold a months worth of gear  It has a large front pocket and a lower access to the main compartment on.  Note that the bag is not full and sagging as it is now has a EMS tent in it.  It fills yout to be a 3500-4200 size pack I would guess.





It has a side zippered pockets and you can shove skies or tent or treking poles underneath the zippered side pockets into the ski pockets below the zippered pockets.  You can see the tent poles at the top and bottom of the pack as they slide into a ski pocket below the zippered pocket.  Notice the extra carring strap and leather handle.





This is the rear of the bag with the zip-up pannel that covers the shoulder harneses and the waist belt so that all the straps and buckels, d rings, etc. will not get caugth in anything along the way.  This is especially handy when flying.  The panel is nice in that you don't have to carry yet again another piece of gear and it's not so lite that it will tear.  Whne putting my packs on long flights I usually us a army duffel bag.  You can usually find them for $5-$15 so that you can leave it behind once you get of the plane and not take a big loss if left behind.  it's nice if youi are flying out of the same place and you can leave it somewhere if you have the opportunity to do so.







Here is the pack with the back pannel down.




Here you see the panel being rolled up and to be stored in a pocket in the bottom of the pack.  Just above the rolled up panel is a strip of Velcro that is used to close the pocket so that the panel does not come out.


Again, I don't know where you live and what the situation is at the second hand stores is but I found two of these within a two week peirod at my local Good Will for $12.99 each.  You may start asking your friends if there parents have any older gear lying around.  I get much of my stuff from guy's who have gear caves but that are getting up in years and for various reasons don't backpack anymore.  The best finds are guys who bought quality gear when they were buying stuff.  I have worn this pack with 25+/-lbs. in it and it was very comfy.  I'd bet it could handle 35-40 lbs.  Let us know what you settle on sandf I'd like a trip report if your up to it when you get back.  Have a blast on your journeys.


I have been using a Kelty Redwing 3100 for years for just such purposes.  It is small enough to fit in the overhead and comfortable to carry around town or on the trail.  It is not the ideal pack for backpacking but it can certainly get the job done for short duration trips.  In addition, you can usually pick one up at a really good price.

Go to an outfitter and try on a bunch of packs with weight in them(no less than 15lbs.)

Packs to me are like boots and somewhat individual on how they will fit. Now granted alot of packs look great on paper but those packs may not necessarily fit you right. 

I am a fan of Osprey personally(I have 2 along with a couple from other manufacturers) but what works for me may not work for you.

Just go to a shop, try on a bunch of packs with weight, walk up and down stairs, if they have ramps or anything else that can simulate terrain utilize it. After you find one that ya like try on a few more.  

Remember just because the store saleman tells you its great pack(which it may very well be) you will be the one wearing it for hours on end not him/her. 

Happy hiking.

I checked out your profile, and being in Oregon you should have NO problems finding a great, used pack for pennies on the dollar of a new one. 

I saw you have an 85L pack review - I've seen people actually take these on planes! (not fully stuffed though)... so you can also consider that... $200 for german beer or $200 for a new bag.  That will present some moral dilemmas for a few people here ^_^

I would look for a pack that looks like a travel pack. By that I mean something with few outside pockets that isn't a weird shape. Airlines are getting really fussy about carryons and will charge you a fortune if the bag is too big or too heavy (an extra couple of hundred bucks to Europe and back). 

I take it you are budget traveling, not really backpacking. That means trains, planes and automobiles on occasion. You want few outside straps to catch on things, few zippers to break, a decent waistbelt that tucks in somewhat and a pack that is fairly easy to get into-that means a panel loader.

Get the specs for airline carryone size and work from that.  A used pack is a great idea as long as you can see it first. Craigslist will probably have many of them.

I just grabbed a Jansport Tehipite  from their awesome Cloudripper series.  Mostly to use as a pack for my wife or for short trips  ..... got a terrific price 90 dollars if you pricematch at SS, regular is 160.

Bloody Fantastic Pack !!


I second the Kelty Redwing recommendation...emphatically!  

I have just, as a matter of fact, taken it to Ireland on one trip (ten days), then the U.K, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany on another (twenty one days), travelling (with an adventurous wife and very brave 4-year old) by plane, train, boat, and car, sleeping on various apt floors and in the occasional hotel.  And the bag is at least 5 years old!  Airlines that would otherwise weigh and measure a carry-on (frackin' Ryan Air!) will not cast a second glance at your innocent "little" backpack.  Also -- at least on my 2005/6 model -- you can remove the waist belt and the frame sheet if you need.  Compression straps cinch it down if you need.   Good luck finding one used, but even the new versions bought new and getting raked across the coals by paying full MSRP are around a hundred ($99 for the 44 which is the former 2650, and $109.95 for the 50 which is the former 3100).  eBags, Backcountry Edge, and Campmor have it cheaper (as of today 10/1/2011).

I have also taken it on a 3-4 day backpacking trip around Crater Lake.  I have also used it as a book bag while a graduate student.  It is versatile, it is indestructible, and my experience is that Kelty stands behind it if something were to go wrong.  I cannot recommend this bag enough.

If I didn't go on about it enough here, you can read my review:

October 24, 2020
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