Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Comparing Travel Backpacks

My recent travels took me from JFK to Orly airport, to the streets of Paris for 5 nights at a friend's house, to a train ride bound for Redon in Brittany, to the Nantes-Brest Canal where I walked 10-some miles a day for six days. And I carried all my essentials, including wine bar-perfect dresses, and clothes that were comfortable for walking as well as lounging at the end of the day and my prepared-for-anything first-aid kit, in an ultra comfortable, tiny backpack: the Flight 30 by Six Moon Designs. I recently posted about what I packed in this bag that I would be carrying for the first time and I had high hopes for it. It exceeded all of my expectations.

The bag, designed for ultra runners or super light backpackers, weighs in at a wee 19 ounces. The vest harness is unique, allowing the bag to move with you and comfortably transferring the load away from the lumbar region. I used packing cubes and zip lock bags to organize everything, and  external pockets carried a water bottle, tiny umbrella and other small essentials. (It was top loading but, with everything packed in individual cubes and bags, it was all very organized.) As my friend and I walked this flat paved path for 12+ miles on a few days, I blurted out "This bag is so comfortable, I could easily go another five miles."

Sadly, this was not my friend's experience. She purchased the Tortuga Travel Backpack based on my recommendation. I bought it in 2014 and, though I took it with me to Southeast Asia where I spent a month, I was completely unhappy with it.  It's a heavy bag, weighing in at 3.7 pounds. Sure, the company told me that my torso was too short --- 5'' 2" -- for the bag. But I had no idea it would be so uncomfortable in every sense: after wearing it for just 30 minutes, everything hurt, especially my back. And the padded hip belt that everyone loved just overwhelmed my tiny hips -- I'm a fairly skinny girl -- as did the wide shoulder straps. It just didn't work for me.

And yet, I recommended it to my friend who's 5' 8" tall and much heftier in girth. It's a bag that's good at organizing your gear with external and internal pockets and dividers. Plus it's front loading, which means you can easily find what you need without taking everything out, as you would with a top loading bag. The zippers are of good quality as is the bag itself. And it's the ideal carry-on size. So imagine my surprise when I met my friend in Paris and found out that both airlines she traveled with said the bag had to be checked. (She had not overpacked.) And my further surprise when she complained how uncomfortable the bag was, how it hurt her back, even though she packed light. The Tortuga Travel Backpack's website clearly states that it isn't made for hiking, but traveling from the airport to the hotel is hardly hiking, nor is walking a paved trail. But, alas, my friend did little walking with the Tortuga bag on our trip in Brittany, finding it too uncomfortable. She paid drivers to shuttle her bag ahead to our accommodations each night. And, at the end of our journey she gave the bag away. On the day I declared that I could easily go another 5 miles with my Six Moon Designs bag, my friend decided that as soon as she got home, she was ordering the Flight 30 bag, too. 


Kate said...

Great! This could be just what I've been looking for in a new backpack for my upcoming travels. Thank you!

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Kate, Hope the backpack works out for you. I love it and will be taking it on my next trip in August.