You have probably heard the phrase, “Choose the right tool for the job.” A pack is just that,a tool. I’ve gone through several packs over the years,although for hiking,before settling on the one I have now.None the less I have found that what I have works well for both.I hope through my trial and error research that I can help you choose the right tool for backpacking Europe.


Internal frame design– Most hiking packs today are internal framed as opposed to external.Internal frame packs come in two main varieties.The first has stiffeners,usually running vertical,made into the back of the pack made of aluminum or carbon fiber.The second type,which is what I use,has a sheet of kydex plastic which runs the length of the back of the pack. Internal frame packs are lighter than framed packs but provide more support for heavier loads than a frameless type pack. Internal frame packs are far less bulky also.This is a big plus for keeping your pack under the carry-on luggage size restrictions.

Top loading single compartment design – Top loading packs have several benefits for their simplicity. First and foremost they are more streamlined.You will appreciate this when you are trying to stuff your pack into an overhead bin while avoiding hard-core side eye from a flight attendant. Top loading designs are more secure.Think of the your pack as the battle of Thermopylae and a would be pick pocketer as Xerxes.Your choice in a top loading design is like the 300 Spartans strategically choosing the Hot Gates:Only one way in.

Durable construction Look for heavy-duty buckles,YKK zippers,and fabrics like CORDURA®.

Padded kindney belt- A padded kidney belt will help comfortably distribute the bulk of the weight of your pack away from your shoulders and instead to your hips.This takes advantage of your anatomy to carry the weight of your pack.

Padded shoulder straps and back- You are going to be carrying your pack A LOT! Why wouldn’t you want to do it comfortably?

Empty pack weight- The lighter the better.No more than 3 lbs 8 oz.My pack comes in at 2 lbs 2ozs.When trying to make sure your pack comes in under the carry-on limit shaving pounds here is the obvious place to start.

Does Size Really Matter?

Yes,it does.You want a pack which is proportional to your body size that doesn’t restrict your movement.You will appreciate this when getting on and off those narrow doors on train cars or a crowded sidewalk.You don’t want a pack If you stay under my recommended empty pack weight this shouldn’t be an issue and you should be able to find a pack within the 45L to 65L size. A retailer like REI with knowledgeable staff will help you choose a correct size and fit for maximum comfort.

Don't over compensate.
Don’t over compensate.

How much should you budget?

A quality pack will run anywhere from $100-$300.This varies with brand with store brands like REI costing less.Less doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality though.Buying the previous years model through an online retailer like Campmor or Backcountry will save you a lot. If you are lucky you can buy a return at one of REI’s garage sales.

Other tips

Some packs include a built-in rain cover.Most do not.I highly recommend buying one if your’s doesn’t.I use one made by a small company named Etowah Outfitters.

Buy a GI type duffel bag and a heavy-duty lock.These are durable and cheap.They have plenty of rooms to fit your pack inside should you be forced by the airline to check your bag or if you decide to bring back souvenirs you can choose to check your bag.The GI bag will protect your pack from getting destroyed by baggage handlers and those conveyor belts at the airport.

Choose a pack with stretchy outside pockets.These are great for stuffing things like you shower shoes,a bottle of water,hand sanitizer or anything else you don’t want in the main compartment.Just don’t use them for valuables like electronics.

invest in Sea to Summit Travelling Light Packing Cell (Medium/Berry)
and use Ziploc bags to pack your luggage.This is even more important for top loading packs since you will only have one maincompartment.This will make going through TSA and customs check points easier if you are chosen to be searched.They also help keep yourself organized.

Stay away from wheeled hybrid packs.The only exception should be if you have medical issues that keep you from carrying a pack full time.I despise those type packs.I hate hearing them roll across cobble stone and they are always tripping people up.If I feel this way it’s safe to say locals do too.Be courteous and carry your pack.

All the noise...noise...noise of rolling luggage.
All the noise…noise…noise of rolling luggage.

My pack

After using several other packs I’ve settled on Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Backpack – Cactus RegularIt’s light weight,comfortable and has ample storage space.The smaller pack to the left is my day pack the Osprey Daylite Daypack (Snappy Green)

pack lite.
pack lite.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s