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minnehappylis May 23rd, 2009 08:17 AM

best travel backpack
I am heading to Glacier Park this summer and Germany next winter.
I am interested in purchasing a backpack for these trips. I took a suitcase on the train the last time I was in Europe and vowed never to do that again! =) I will NOT be backpacking or even hiking with this pack, so I am most interested in the ease of getting into the pack and the volume it can hold. I will be walking from the train to my hotel, so comfort is important but not in an "all day wear" kinda way.
What are you savvy travelers using??
Thanks for your ideas!

suze May 23rd, 2009 09:41 AM

well I think of myself as a savvy traveler & I use a small suitcase on wheels :-)
How big (heavy) was the one you used last time that you had problems with it? I really prefer to roll along (but my suitcase is also light enough I can easily carry it on stairs, cobblestones, etc.) rather than have all the weight on my back.

Back to the backpack, for your purposes I don't think you need anything fancy. I would suggest shopping in person (not on the internet) so you can "try them on". Will you packing the same amount for Glacier Park as you will for Europe?

minnehappylis May 23rd, 2009 10:50 AM

Thanks, Suze!
It wasn't so much the weight or size of my case; it fit easily between the train seats; it was the onslaught of people getting on/off the train and the stairs in the stations and platforms that made me wish for a pack.
I am also working on packing lighter as I get older. I am 48 and am into simplifying these days.

suze May 23rd, 2009 11:04 AM

Good luck finding what you need. Myself, I just am not comfortable putting a fullsize backpack on & off for traveling, it's more of a strain I think (I don't mind the style for a day bag). I'd rather wheel my little suitcase along beside me. Plus in an "onslaught of people" those with backpacks always seem to be bumping into everyone else without realizing it!!

toedtoes May 23rd, 2009 01:21 PM

I always have the same concerns as Suze. In addition, if you're wearing a backpack in a crowded area, you're less likely to notice being bumped by a pickpocket because you're getting bumped more often.

I also have a hard time with backpacks and staying balanced when having to bend over, kneel, etc.

I have heard of good things about the Rick Steves' convertible backpack. That would allow you the option of how to carry it. I'm considering it for my niece as she wants to "backpack through Europe" after graduation (not that I think it will happen, but it will give her a versatile piece of luggage to start out with).

thursdaysd May 23rd, 2009 02:58 PM

I have used a convertible backpack since 2001 (the straps zip away for flights), and love it! I'm currently using an Eagle Creek from 2002 - the model has changed since I bought mine. I highly recommend buying at REI if you have one near, as they will let you test-drive their packs with weight in them - although the model I would buy now ( isn't available at my local store!

It's very important that the hip belt takes most of the weight, otherwise it will go on your shoulders. I can't recommend the RS backpack because of that. My first convertible was from RS, and the hip-belt was useless. And if you're thinking convertible with wheels, don't. You'll have all that extra weight to cope with when you need to carry it.

I took my old Travelpro to Washington with me last year, and hated having to tow it around, instead of having my hands free. My financial valuables are in my money belt, and things like my camera and MP3 player are in my daypack, which I carry in front of me, so I really don't worry about pickpockets stealing from my backpack.

thursdaysd May 23rd, 2009 03:00 PM

"those with backpacks always seem to be bumping into everyone else without realizing it!" - actually, I have more problems with those with wheeled cases, who don't realize there are people behind them!

minnehappylis May 23rd, 2009 08:34 PM

Thank you, thursdaysd!!!
I was eyeing the REI ad (there is a store within a mile) and the Rick Steves website, now I know which way to go.
I have been bumped by the occasional backpack, but I am very conscious of my pack when I am wearing one. =)
(You should see the huge duluth packs we Minnesotans carry in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area!)
When we visited my daughter during her year abroad we had a lot of stairs to contend with and wheels don't help with those. I know at Glacier we will have to park a ways from our cabin and I don't want to wheel my bag through the woods, either.
I love my wheelie bag for most travel, but I am motivated to be a backpacking train traveler! Thank you for your help.
Happy trails.

ShelliDawn May 24th, 2009 07:42 AM

<i>actually, I have more problems with those with wheeled cases, who don't realize there are people behind them!</i>

I'm confused. Do you run into the suitcase in front of you? Shouldn't you be watching for the people in front of you instead of expecting them to be looking out for you? Much easier that way since our eyes look forward...

thursdaysd May 24th, 2009 08:53 AM

I expect people with wheeled cases to keep moving in a roughly straight line at the same speed. They often stop and veer without checking behind - imagine if drivers did that. Note - I'm talking about crowded train platforms here.

suze May 24th, 2009 09:07 AM

I definitely agree either go with a wheeled suitcase OR a normal backpack. Not a wheeled backpack. I think the wheeled/backpacks are the worst of both worlds (because you end up having to carry the extra weight of the wheel/frame mechanism when you carry it backpack-style).

I can understand the desire to be a "backpacking train traveler"... no way to know unless you try it, if it will be comfortable for you.

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