“He who would travel happily must travel light.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
For a while now I’ve been wanting to write about travel bags and the importance/necessity of a good bag that can hold what you need without weighing you down… I’m a firm believer in packing light — the less you have to carry the better off you will be in the long run.
Of course, there are occasions where you simply can’t help but pack quite a bit… We found this out when we traveled to the U.K. and France as a family of 5 adults and 2 children (a 3 yro and a 1 yro). Not only did we have our own personal bags, we also had diaper bags and strollers… We must have been quite the sight as we made our way through London and Paris using the Tube and Metro. I will say, as a single woman, I found both the male Londoners and Parisians quite impressive — without asking, they would ALWAYS pick up the bottom of the boys strollers and assist us with carrying them up and down the steps to get to the trains… It was amazing really. Cheers to you beautiful men! Ha! Needless to say, our bodies were exhausted after the first 4 days of our two week trip.
I’m also a firm believer in carrying only backpacks when you travel. Several different reasons for it:
1. Backpacks free up your hands… Regardless of whether you’re a male or female, having your hands full as you travel can be a real negative. Having a rolling suitcase will slow you down, make you more susceptible to thieves, and also make you stand out like a sore thumb. Rolling suitcases are heavy and exhausting in areas where there are no elevators or smooth sidewalks. Leave them at home.
2. Backpacks force you to leave behind the truly unnecessary items. You’re only going to be gone for a few days to a few weeks… You don’t need 14 pairs of shoes, a Hollywood movie set worth of makeup, or your teddy bear named “Mr. Teddy.” Leave the excess behind… Save your back. You want the best most relaxing trip you can have and it starts with your bag.
3. Backpacks allow you to run when you need to! I can remember a time when I was traveling with a group of men and we had to run along Russian train tracks while we searched for our train car — we only had a couple of minutes to find it and board before the train left and I remember watching some of the men try to run with their rolling suitcases… Terribly difficult… We boarded the train on time but not without some serious sweat.
I’ve found a couple of bags that I would highly recommend… If I’m going out for a day of sight-seeing or need a small travel bag to carry my passport, money, camera, and other necessities, I always take my “Patagonia MiniMass 12L.” It’s a mini courier bag that easily holds my DSLR camera, small books, and sometimes even my rain jacket. It washes well — I’ve put it to the test in several different countries and it always looks like new after a run through the washing machine — and it has handled the wear and tear of airplane floors, taxi cabs, rough concrete, etc. It comfortably sits on your shoulder and has an outside pocket for a water bottle. There are several pockets inside and out that make for easy access to passports and money without being obvious to those around you. I like to carry my DSLR nearly everywhere I go overseas or some place new and this bag allows me to easily access my camera. The price for this little beauty is $79 and can be found at Patagonia stores, REI, and most baggage/outdoor adventure stores online. A good buy.
If I’m traveling for a week or less, I always go with the “Patagonia MLC (“Maximum Legal Carry-On”) Bag.” Like the name says, it’s the maximum legal carry-on size and surprisingly holds quite a lot. It comes with backpack straps and also a shoulder strap so you can carry it a couple different ways. I find it extremely comfortable to be worn as a backpack as there’s a good deal of padding on the back side of it so it rests against your back nicely. If I could find something similar to it that was even larger, I would purchase it as I would love the same bag just bigger for longer trips. I find that local Patagonia stores don’t always carry it on their shelves but you can order it from their website, from REI (good chance it’s in stock too!), and several other baggage/outdoor adventure stores online. It runs for about $159, but like I said, the comfort of it will make you glad you spent the money. I love this bag — period.
On my most recent trip, I decided to try a new Patagonia duffel bag called the “Black Hole Duffel 90L.” What I liked about this bag is that it is super deep, holds a ton, and it has backpack straps!! It’s water-resistant and super durable. I was very impressed with the bag as a whole and would definitely use it again, however I found that if you didn’t balance it right, it was a bit awkward and could be a little heavy — probably because I packed unnecessary items which is again, a big no no. :) But you learn from your first trip out with a new bag and I would definitely still recommend this one. It runs for $139 and if you’re looking for a good way to use your REI Dividend, this might be the purchase for you. You can find it at Patagonia (most likely online only), REI, and several other baggage/outdoor adventure stores online.
You might be thinking, “Boy, does she recommend anything that isn’t Patagonia?!” I do! :) Before my 2nd trip to Russia in 2006, I invested in a REI Extended Trip Pack (not sure of the exact name of my pack as I purchased it in 2006 but it’s very similar to the REI Mars 80 Pack). It actually comes with a mini-backpack that easily attaches to the main pack itself. It is super comfortable, carries a great deal and can be purchased in a model that’s built for a woman (men’s are available as well). This pack is also super durable and a joy to carry. It even has a special compartment in the bottom where you can put shoes to kind of seal off from the rest of your clothing or items you might want to keep away from your shoes. It can be found at your local REI store or REI’s online store. It runs for around $199 but again, definitely worth it and with REI’s coupons and dividend, you can get it discounted and who doesn’t like saving money?
When you purchase a backpack, make sure it fits you… They come in all sorts and sizes – male and female editions… Get what fits your body the most comfortably and really think through the items you’re thinking about taking… Leave the unnecessary and take what you will really use. Your body will thank you.