How I Chose My Backpack for My RTW Trip

In early January of 2014 I decided that when my current job finished, I’d be talking a trip around the world of at least one year. I wouldn’t jump into any work or career opportunities, but instead, for at least one year, just travel the world. And while there’s still time enough to work out the details, it’s been exciting to figure out pieces of my trip little by little, day by day.

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of planning is, “What to pack.” Now there are no shortage of articles and blog posts from established travelers on how to pack for a trip, especially an, “Around the World” trip. Just a few of them are here, here, here, and then there’s here, okay and here too.

One aspect of travel that I’ve become a complete, full blown, 100% certifiable fan of, is packing light. It’s something that I’ve taken on as a challenge to myself over the years, with the goal of how much I can cut out. Just like I get excited when I find $10 or $20 I can remove from my monthly budget, I enjoy the same from making my travel more efficient.

During my first trip to Costa Rica my goal was to fit everything into one bag. Yes the bag was still a massive 85 Liter camping backpack, but that was still the goal. And I did it, and it felt great. No more multiple wheeled luggage carts, no more multiple containers or bags to lug around… Now that I look back at that I laugh. “85 Liters? What was I thinking? That’s WAY too much stuff.”

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My 85 Liters was broken up between a 70L main pack and about a 15L day pack. So for my RTW trip, I decided to set an even loftier goal:

– To fit everything I’d be taking with me into one backpack of between 25 and 35 Liters. –

I thought maybe even 35 was a perhaps a bit too large. The Liters can sometimes be misleading. Depending on how the pack is made, 30L could fit more than 32 L. Make absolutely sure you always try on a backpack first. Never buy online unless you’ve tried it on first.

My pie in the sky dream goal was to get it down to about 30 L. Plenty small enough to fit in all airplane carry-ons, and small enough that it would never get so heavy as to inflict pain and stress on me while being carried around the world. There’s also a saying among travel writers to the effect of, “The more bag you have, the more things you’ll think to stuff it with.”

And it’s true. I wrote down everything I put in my 85L pack to my first trip to Costa Rica two years then packed it again It was filled to the brim, and I really didn’t need most of it.

I did a ton of searching, investigating and trying on of different packs in stores. I almost settled on a few different Osprey backpacks, but with one I didn’t like the fit and with another I wasn’t crazy about the “top-loading” only setup.

I finally settled on the North Face Angstrom 28 Liter pack. It had great features, fit exceptionally well, and had plenty of compartments to keep track of items. Side neoprene pockets, a rain cover and waist straps and I was all set. I was even able to get a discount at EMS because I showed them a sale being offered at Cabela’s and EMS offers a price match guarantee.

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And the comparison…

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I lined up my old backpack/daypack combo next to my new backpack. You might not be able to see the full comparison by the picture. But wow that’s a big difference. I’ve now got my baseline to start from. 28 Liters to fit everything for a one year trip into.