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By: Student Traveler (justin) 2012.09.23
Travel gear review of Booq Boa Nerve L
Review by Eric Tiettmeyer
I was very pleased with the Booq Boa Nerve L shoulder bag that I used while putting up posters throughout California colleges. It's a larger bag, designed to carry a 17 inch laptop computer. I put about 20 lbs of paper in it and had no problem. It has lots of pockets that is usually hard to find in a shoulder bag.
It's obvious this bag was designed to be tough, but it's also functional. It has a removable, protective laptop sleeve, an adjustable nylon shoulder strap with removable shoulder pad and stabilizing strap. The large front pocket includes a built-in organizer. If you need a good shoulder bag to take your laptop on the road with you, this one will work just fine! $149. Find it at Booq's web site.
Travel Gear Review on Choosing a Travel Backpack
The staff at Student Traveler tries out every travel backpack we review here. We wish we could try them out on the streets of London on the mountains of Nepal. Instead, we fill them up with 50 lbs of our magazine and walk 2-3 miles around campuses in a given day. Some backpacks handle the weight pretty well and we're okay with not having to drop off magazines around campus. For some backpacks we couldn't wait to drop off magazines for the first drop! So we put these travel backpacks to the test, and our reviews are honest about our experience. If you have your own comments about travel backpacks, or have some you'd like us to review, please email email@example.com
By Eric Tiettmeyer
Jansport Klamath 75
If you are a light packer, taking a shorter trip, or want a good backpack that forces you to leave the hairdryer at home, the Jansport Klamath 75 is your bag. You will definitely appreciate carrying a lighter load on that 2 mile walk from the train station to your hostel while your friends lug their Hummer-sized packs. The bag has four, convenient holders on the front to tie on shoes and even a daypack. There are two pockets accessible by zipper, and a compartment down the middle of the bag accessible by a vertical zipper.
The top opens by drawstring, with a flap that snaps into place to close the top. Inside the backpack is a waterproof pocket that runs the length and width of the bag that is very good for wet/dirty clothes. Finally, there is a bottom compartment accessible by zipper for easy access to those things at the bottom. 4 lb 10 ounces, 4,600 cubic inches of room, Suggested retail $200, www.jansport.com
Kelty Redcloud 6650
The impressive feature I found on the Kelty Redcloud 6650 was the sturdy, steel frame called "Cloudlock Suspension". When carrying heavy loads, this durability really comes in handy to save the back since the steel component transfers most of the weight to your hips. Couple that with a well-padded buckle strap, and you will be in travel nirvana getting around town. Kelty uses a lightweight, aluminum I-beam that makes it one of the sturdiest backpacks out there. I also like the straps on the side and snap down and keep the bag very snug. Nobody wants to wear a backpack where all your items shift around inside. These straps prevent that.
There are four side pockets -- two larger pockets that zipper and two with elastic openings designed for water bottles. A front compartment has one large interior pocket and one large handle --perfect for carrying as luggage -- and two smaller ones to tie some tennis shoes onto.
This Kelty bag opens from a drawstring at the top, with a flap you can pull over and snap in place. This works very well for those rainy days of walking and added security. There is a lower compartment accessible by drawstring for dirty clothes, or leave it open for added space for clothes. www.Kelty.com.
Mountainsmith Circuit 3.0 Recycled
The Mountainsmith Circuit 3.0 Recycled offers a ton of space that should fit just about anything for an extended trip. What I really like about the bag are the numerous, large zip-up compartments.
If you plan to carry a lot of little things with you that you want to get to quickly, there is no better bag. There is one compartment on each side able to hold at least the equivalent of liter of bottled water each with additional "holster pockets" on each side below that able to hold a liter sized item each. In the front is a convenient, large compartment with two velcro-organizer pockets and a waterproof, zippered pocket inside. And there is a vertical zipper outside the compartment that holds other small items. Access to the main part of the bag is a draw-string at the top secured by a flap that snaps the top shut -- very nice for rainy days and added security. The main compartment has a draw string tie at the bottom that can be opened for more room at the bottom of the bag. Or you can throw some dirty clothes or shoes at the bottom of the bag accessible by a zipper.
The hip straps give a bit more leeway than other backpacks. If you have a larger frame, you won't be gasping air every time you buckle up in front! And the makers of this bag use PET recycled fabric that is woven from threads produced from 100% recycled plastic bottles to make it eco-friendly purchase also. http://www.mountainsmith.com/
Eagle Creek Thrive 90L
Eagle Creek has a variety of quality backpacks, but we picked the Thrive 90L for two main reasons.
First, and most important, is the daypack that comes with the bag. It's almost like buying a backpack and getting one for free! Once you get on the road, you will see many backpackers strapped with a bag to their back, and another in front.
If you are a light packer, the daypack easily snaps onto the backpack, which leaves a mesh pocket that can easily carry items you may want to get to easily.
If you plan to fill both bags from the get go, the daypack can snap onto the backpack and transfers weight evenly. So while you may have a 20lb bag on your chest it doesn't feel like a 20 lb beer belly.
The Eagle Creek Thrive 90L also offers a Full front panel load. This makes it much easier to get to items easier, especially when you are searching for that last clean pair of underwear in a pitch black dorm room. And if you have a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff, a zipper at the bottom can open up to even more space, or left as a separate compartment for dirty clothes and an extra pair of shoes. Finally, there are two exterior pockets convenient for bottled water and quick snacks.
One last great feature of this pack is the "Pack-It" flap at the bottom that folds out, zips up, and converts the backpack into luggage. This is convenient when going on any transportation to prevent your straps getting caught up and destroyed by baggage handlers and machines.
A Short Lecture About How to Choose a Travel Backpack!
Choosing a backpack for your travels is like choosing where to live. This is the place you will live out of the next weeks, months, or years. The difference is every morning you are forced to clean up after yourself and pack clothes (dirty and clean), keepsakes, journals, cameras, accessories, and bathroom stuff into a space the size of a duffel bag. So choose a bag wisely. After two weeks in Europe, you don't want to toss "that zippered piece of junk" into the Rhine River and have to find another one.
Here are some helpful hints before you run off to REI and grab the cheapest bag they have.
1. Consider your own needs and interests. You don't need the biggest, bulkiest bag with 10 zipper compartments on your trip. Or maybe you do? The key is to envision what you intend to pack (a helpful hint is to take that initial packing list and cut it in half somehow. You will thank us later). Going in the winter? Sweaters and socks need room, so a bigger bag is better. Planning to take a few hikes in the Alps? Consider a bag with more exterior handles to hold all the little things for camping.
2. Know the size of your torso (a quick Google search will show you how) before you go to buy the bag. In general, less than 18 inches is a small torso, 18 to 20 inches is a medium torso, and over 20 inches is a large torso. Tell the salesperson you know your torso size. If he or she doesn't know what to do next, go somewhere else. Finding a bag that fits your body frame will make your next trip a breeze, instead of fighting a hurricane.
3. Do not take a backpack with roller wheels on it to Europe. Trust us. The cobble stone streets make it a pain to pull around any given city. Most subways have lots of stairs and dodgy escalators for a bag that size. All the pack will do is add weight with the wheels you probably won't want. So suck it up that you will need to carry a pack on your back each day (it's not that bad, really). We review a few bags we like below that will fit just about every torso frame and adventure in the world.
4. Zippers versus drawstrings. Yes, how you close everything before you trek is pretty important. My wife did a ton of research on backpacks, we went to the local Adventure 16 store, spent an hour and found what we thought was the perfect pack for her (the maker is not below for obvious reasons) for an adventure tour. We arrived to Peru to start a two week trek thru the country -- and on the second day her drawstring on the top of the bag broke -- and the bag became more complicated (and useless) as we did Mickey Mouse techniques to open and close it throughout the trip. I am not a fan of drawstrings after this experience, and bags have changed since then with more compartments to access your stuff should accidents happen. Just know that a zippers can break and draw strings get busted.
The (Usual) Worst Case Scenario
You land in London
's Heathrow airport to begin your big European Vacation
. You exit the plane smoothly and glide towards the baggage claim. The red light flashes as bags began to spin round and round. You dance across the smoothly waxed floors to grab your approaching backpack
. "Wow, it is heavier than I remember," you think to yourself. You're making your way through the customs when suddenly an uniformed Englishman approaches you and asks you to kindly step aside. A routine check, he says. He asks what you're carrying and you answer "Some clothes and shoes and a towel, the usual." He then asks to see inside the bag.
When you packed your bag at home you had time to organize, plan and squeeze things into place. The customs agent begins digging. Flinging stuff onto his aluminum operating table, looking through your underwear, toiletries, multiple T-shirts, shorts, pants, jacket, sweater, and guidebook. "Wow, you got a lot of stuff," he says. "Planning to stay for a while?" You look at him gravely and respond, "I will be here two months, sir." The custom agent laughs sarcastically. You began to wonder why he is laughing. He then says, "Cheers, have a nice stay " and walks away leaving you with a mess.
You struggle to finally get everything back into your bag, and fling it on your shoulder. "Damn this bag is heavy". Then buy a ticket and grab a train into the city. It's no problem until you reach Kings Cross where the five o'clock rush hour has taken full effect. Your bag seems to be in the way of everyone. An old lady trips over your beast on the way out of the train. Everybody looks at you. A courier gets the pedal of his bike caught on your strap and struggles to make it out of the train as the door closes on his back wheel. Everybody looks at you, and your hulking bulk of a pack.
Off the train, it's hostel-searching time. The top pouch of your pack stuffed with crap extends a foot over your head. A pair of hiking boots hangs off the back. You still have your daypack strapped in front, pregnancy style. And across your forehead is written: tourist, target, victim.
You wander the streets awhile and eventually throw your pack down in some nine-bed dormitory. Unpacking, you start to think about your CD player and your CDs and your expensive watch and all of the things you do not want stolen. Where can you put them? Where can you protect your stuff?
Lighten Up and Lose the Anchor
My friends, let me give you some advice. Lighten up and loose the anchor. You do not want to spend two months of potential freedom locked to your material world. When you go to pack, take only what you need. Need is the operative word, might need doesn't cut it. More importantly, do not take anything you really would be sad about losing. If you forget something important chances are they sell it everywhere and probably cheaper anyway. There are only a few really essential items, and here's info on the survival packing basics from a veteran traveler who's a firm believer in less is more.
Consider a pair of board shorts to walk around and swim in. Ladies, it's freewheeling Europe, so most of the time you do not need a top and board shorts will do. Take a pair of pants, something loose and light making them both comfortable and easy to dry after washing. Jeans are a definite faux pas (they're heavy, take forever to dry, and hot. And the rumors of selling old Levis in Russia for a profit are over.) Take a short sleeve and long sleeve T-shirt and one pullover hooded sweater for any cold weather you might encounter. (Assuming you're not heading to the Nordic countries in winter, this is fine for most of the European summer.) Two pairs of socks, sandals and tennis shoes. Guys - underwear can be lost for the summer (I travel really light.) Just wipe well and maybe use some water. And everyone should take a very small pack towel that's easy to dry and compressible.
Besides clothes, you may consider a flashlight, a Walkman for long train rides, and a journal for writing. A small camera is also nice to have, something cheap but effective. Bring a small pocketknife and a spoon. A sleeping bag is a comfortable option for sleeping although many prefer to go with a sheet that can be easily folded and packed away. Although if you find that $15 a night at a hostel is too much to pay then take the sleeping bag because it will become your home.
Two last important details are toiletries and a small first aid kit with Neosporin, cream for rashes and maybe some good pills for potential stomach trouble. The standard toothbrush and paste, and travel size shampoo and shaving cream if needed. If you carry tubes anything that could possibly leak be sure to put it in a Ziploc for protection.
Finally go down to your local army surplus store and grab a $30 backpack. They work fine and are small enough to carry on the plane. And a backpack is like a car. If you have a Ferrari everyone's looking, but if you have an old Pinto, well, nobody really cares. Also grab a little pack to use as a daypack when walking around the cities.
Really, the most important thing is that the way you pack should reflect the way you travel. For me, light is right. I camp out a lot and love my sleeping bag. If photography is important to you, maybe carrying a full SLR is your extra burden. You've got to think about what's important for your trip, and then still cut out half the stuff.
Travel on, friends and remember, stay light on your feet because you never know when you'll need to run.
Remember this: your backpack is your
home while traveling abroad. It may seem funny now, but one week into a two-month excursion, you hope you don't have an urge to toss that zippered piece of junk you bought into the Rhine River.
Probably the most important step in choosing a backpack is considering your own needs and interests. Sure, the "zipporific 5.0" model may have enough room for your hairdryer and collection of Stevenson novels to take, but is that necessary? The given rule is to take half of what you want abroad. Don't believe me? Halfway into your trip as you climb another flight of stairs to that hostel room "with a view" you will thank me.
Secondly, consider the type of frame for your backpack. The majority of backpackers use internal frames (Eagle Creek, Jansport, Gregory) because they are easier to maneuver, cheaper, and just seem to look better than backpacks with external metal frames. But because external frames are designed to keep your pack from your back, it is good alternative on long hiking tours to avoid a sweaty back.
When choosing a pack, a good salesperson will show those backpacks that transfer most of the weight of the bag from your shoulders to your hips by a belt. Most models have this and some even come with buckles at the chest area. In addition, be sure to see the backpack at its maximum capacity. Imagine having to stuff everything for the length of your trip in that space. Finally, look for technical aspects like storage placement, easy-to-get-to compartments, and extra hooks and such that can be used for carrying extras. Some companies like Eagle Creek and Jansport have backpack with a smaller backpack that can be detached for day tours.
Major backpack retailers in California are Sport Chalet, REI, and Adventure 16.