So You Want To Buy A Backpacking Pack: Things We Learned

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We did it! We finally purchased our first backpacking packs together! A.F and I were super excited to make this purchase, because A) we have always wanted to backpack around the world, B) we have always wanted to do it with the one we love, and C) we now get to start our backpacking adventures with one another…crazy!

In pursuit for the perfect pack, we went to a few stores, spoke with different people, and read an endless number of blog reviews, all to make sure we were going to make the right decision. So what did we learn? More importantly, what did we end up choosing? Keep reading.

What We Learned

Size DOES Matter

After speaking with employees from sporting good stores, we learned that the size of your bag very much depends on the length of time you intend to travel. At the moment, we are not looking to go backpacking for an entire year, but rather looking to explore places up to a maximum of 3 weeks at a time. We were told that an appropriate size for us if we were looking into travelling in spurts for 3-4 weeks, it was suggested that a pack between the 50-60 L range would be enough space for us.

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Quality vs. Cheap Price Tag

After some of my own blog reading about different pack types and brands, I asked store workers their own thoughts on different types of packs and what they believed to be the best quality in their eyes and experience. We were told, word for word, that if you want something bulletproof, go with a NorthFace. If you want something bombproof, go for an Osprey. The difference between the two? Osprey provides an excellent quality pack which offers a lifetime guarantee. If a zipper breaks? No problem!They’ll fix it and send it back, even years down the road. NorthFace also is a good make and quality, but does not offer the same lifetime guarantee. However, NorthFace does still provide customers with a reasonable warranty.

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What Did We End Up Choosing?

NorthFace Terra 65

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The Perks

  • At 65L, this pack provides just enough space, not too small, yet not too big
  • Comfortable, lightweight, and still offers plenty of storage for an extended trip we may still want to take later on
  • It fits the bill nicely – a reasonable price!
  • Spacious main compartment, has plenty of room, and has a second chamber with its own external zipper
  • There is also a zipper that extends down the front of the pack and another compartment built into the lid of the pack for additional smaller storage
  • There are two water bottle holders on either side of the pack
  • I’ve heard from others that one of the biggest nuances of a backpacking pack is in order to access something at the bottom, you need to unpack the entire bag in order to get at it. In the case of this pack, not an issue. There is a zipper that allows for easy access to contents without the hassle of removing all the items from your pack. I’ve heard this feature can be a life saver, especially when you are packed to the brim!
  • Opti-fit system on the back of the pack, which allows the pack suspension to be modified to fit the size of your torso
  • Thick padding along the hip belt, which can also be adjusted
  • Overall, with the back and hip adjustments that can be made, this makes for an excellent job in placing the load appropriately for when you go to carry it all
  • There is ventilation built into the pack, but I’ve read reviews where this system is the same as other competing manufacturs…your shirt apparently still gets soaked with sweat. I’m hoping this isn’t the same disgusting circumstance we will run into, however even if we do, we are backpacking

Why Did We Purchase It?

  • The Price was Right = $199.99 +tax

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  • We Loved the Look – I am a lover of NorthFace products, thanks to my freezing cold winter out west last year. A.F also loved the overall look of this pack. And of course, because we are that cheesy kind of couple, we wanted to match as we backpacked the world together
  • Bulletproof Worked for Us – We did not need the latest and greatest, for two reasons: 1) We were not going to be backpacking 12 months of the year, right now only 2-3 weeks, therefore our packs are not going to be thrown around and abused heavily versus what other world backpacker’s may put their packs through, 2) We looked at the number of years we have before backpacking may no longer be an option for us (I HATE thinking like this, but it’s reality guys). Right now I am 25. Realistically, I do not see myself backpacking all throughout my 30s, therefore I have 5 solid years to make this pack count…and to make this pack last. Why pay close to $400 when I can get my money’s worth with a $200 pack that will last me the time frame I’m looking for?

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Additional Splurges

  • Wire Cage – all our special/important belongings go in one pack, cage goes on, bike lock it to furniture, and we can leave our hostel with a piece of mind (if this is a ridiculous idea that will not work, please let us know! We have not legit-backpacked before, so right now this is the best idea we have going for us. If you have experience of this not working, please tell me before we make a great mistake)

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  • Packing Cubes – because I’m a neat freak
  • Dirty Laundry Bag – because he’s a neat freak

Well there you have it, my review of the bag BEFORE going out into the backpacking world and using it! My opinions could and probably will change after my first trip, and it will most likely change as I continue to use it. I hope to make another post sharing a reflection on my first time use of this pack and if I still feel the same about it afterwards.

Do you own a NorthFace pack?
What are your thoughts on different types of backpacking packs/what do you own?
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