Backpacking Backpacks

"An unique interview about Osprey, Eagle Creek,

Lowe Alpine backpacks and backpacks for women"

The big question is: "Which backpacking backpacks are the best?"

Writing reviews and getting useful information on backpack brands I've never tried before, can be difficult.

So why not ask an expert?

I introduce you Raymond who works at the travel store called Nomaden (in English as you can imagine: "The Nomad"). Nomaden sells all sorts of travel gear (travel guide books, maps and equipment), included backpacks.

They sell different backpacks, like wheeled backpacks and special backpacks for women.

Raymond is the store manager of Nomaden and has more than 15 years of experiences in travel business.

After the interview, I was convinced that he was a passionate guy who knew his work well. I was immediately drawn to what he told, and I've decided to buy an Osprey pack for my next trip! ;-) (I'm even not that easy to convince)

Let's hear what he has to say! 

PS! The store Nomaden sells the backpack brands; Osprey, Eagle Creek and Lowe Alpine.

So this article/interview is focused on these.

Raymond was interviewed in 2009.

1) First of all Raymond, I want you to tell us
about your travel experiences!

Well, what can I say?

I traveled a little in Northern Africa, a lot in Southeast Asia, Australia, half a year in South America, North America for long periods, and I've done the usual Europe-cruising.

I've still haven't got to the Pacific Ocean or Central America, so I have a couple of spots left! I've gone to the A-list places in the world where most people travel, but I still haven't got to the point of visiting the off-the-beaten-track places where few people go. But my wish in the future is to visit those places. I encourage travelers to visit off-the-beaten-track spots!

2) So, tell us about your work at Nomaden.
I know that you're the store manager

Nomaden started early in the 90's as a very small store. I started working here in 1995.

Back then, we were just the two of us working; me and my boss. It took about 4-5 years before we expanded it. And now it's 150 square meters and we have 20 employees.

We get all sorts of inquiries when it comes to travel, and all kinds of people come by our store. Sometimes our customers are from the police enforcement or people working for the foreign affairs picking up some maps, the military, aid organizations, professional travelers, backpackers and tourists.

My job is to keep the store running, I have the responsibility for the staff, I can join the process of picking out inventory for the store and things like that. I've worked here for almost 15 years, with studies and traveling in between. And I've acquired great knowledge and experiences in travel! 

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3) What do you think is important to think about 
before you purchase a backpack?

The variety and assortment in backpacking backpacks has become considerably better the last couple of years. You can find a backpack to suit whatever trip you're planning on.

Volume is the first thing many of our customers think about.

The classic, tropical backpacker trip where you go traveling for 3-6 months I recommend 60 liters.

But if you for example go to South America, you probably need to bring a wind-breaker, mountain boots and things like that. So you probably need a bigger backpack.

In my earlier days, I used to have a small backpack and I was so thrilled about it. But I didn't have any room. So now I would rather have a 80 liters backpack and have the discipline to pack 60 liters. Then you have 20 liters extra in your backpack. It's just a matter of balance.

Some people think that they need so much when they go backpacking. But when you're on the beaches in Thailand, you think:

"Hey, I only needed my toothbrush!"

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4) Which backpack brand 
do you sell the most in the store?

Osprey Atmos 50 liters, photo courtesy of Nomaden/Osprey

Osprey backpacking backpacks are definitely the solid winner the past years.

Osprey has competitive prices, high quality, great design and long durability. Every detail is thought through - there's nothing on an Osprey backpack where you think:

"What is this?!"

When it comes to travel backpacks, Osprey used many years before they released their first model. The first backpacks were released about 
5-6 years ago. The new models have of course new details, but they actually have a purpose!

And when it comes to the back system, Osprey backpacks are the leading brand.

When you buy a backpack, it's the back system you pay for. Maybe a couple of hundred dollars is spent on the material, but rest of the money you pay is because of the back system!

This is logical. I mean, when you go backpacking you carry your backpack a lot. It's actually an advantage to be able to walk long distances without the backpack hurting. Osprey has made an effort and gone all out on proper back systems. That's why we recommend Osprey to our customers.

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5) What's so special about 
Osprey's back systems?

Backpacks are like shoes.

It's rare that a backpack suits for everybody. Human backs are unique, especially female backs. And Osprey provides travel backpacks for women.

This means that the backpacks are shaped for female backs:

Osprey Waypoint 60 liters, photo courtesy of Nomaden/Osprey
  • There's more support in the sway part of the back
  • Better angled shoulder straps

To avoid their breasts getting squeezed, the shoulder strops sit tighter and are more angled.

  • It's narrower along the neck

Because women in general have a narrower back, on the contrary to men who have a more square back.

On the other hand, finding a backpack for women who have a sway back in the middle is hard.

There are few backpacks that are made for that kind of backs.

Usually the lower back have the sturdiest padding, and this usually leads to an air-pocket in the middle. It's often the weakest part, which in that case needs the best support.

Eagle Creek has now come up with a back system for women who have a sway back in the middle.

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6) Earlier you mentioned that you can manage on 
a 60 liters backpack for 3-6 months, but what 
do you recommend for shorter trips?

Eagle Creek Thrive 65 liters, photo courtesy of Nomaden/Osprey

Yes, you can manage 60 liters on tropical backpacking trips!

But you'll be fine with 40 liters if you have the time and money to send your stuff home via postal services.

For example, if you're just traveling through Thailand, Singapore and wherever, you can probably do 40-45 liters.

But if you go trekking, or going to like, India, Nepal, the Himalayas - 60 liters should do it.

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7) Lowe Alpine backpacks are
popular and well-known.
What do you think is the reason to this?

Lowe Alpine is a popular and a leading brand when it comes to climbing packs. But when it comes to travel backpacks, it's not my favorite. We weren't certain on some of Lowe Alpine's details and the purpose of these.

I've owned and used a Lowe Alpine pack, and since then they have produced simple back systems. But this year (2009), they've gone back to a proper one, and started all over with the design.

It has good quality, but the design varies.

And the packs' weight can be experienced as heavy and packs as you know, shouldn't be heavy…

But travel packs in general weigh more than mountain packs because they use sturdier material - they have to be able to handle flight transport, and the packs have more unnecessary details. You can get mountain packs at under 1 kilo, while travel backpacks usually weigh between 2,5 and 4 kilos.

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8) What kind of details on
Lowe Alpine were you unsure of?

Most backpacks are produced with and without a day pack. Lowe Alpine has a middle-solution where you can choose a day pack.

The thing is that these packs have an outer pocket where you can put your handpicked day pack. There are a lot of extra material on it and we were unsure about the functions of these. So weight on these packs are heavier. I think that they should have stripped the pack for these details, to give them a lower weight.

And we don't know if the customers would want to pick their own day pack because choosing one, may add some extra expenses, on top of buying the actual backpack. Lowe Alpine backpacks are about 30% more expensive than other brands - and our staff doesn't exactly know why.

To me, it's not important to sell the most expensive packs in the store. But, we want to sell our customers the packs that we like the most! Our store has a good income, and we own the office halls. So we mustn't sell to survive.

If we don't have a backpack that suits a customer - I give it to them straight:

"I'm sorry, we don't have the backpack for you. You should try another place."

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9) Do you have a personal favorite 
in backpacking backpacks?

Osprey Aura, photo courtesy of Nomaden/Osprey

I bet 99% on Osprey backpacks! They just released the model Waypoint about a month ago, with an improved design.

This is how it's improved...

The weight is lighter and the back system is even simpler to adjust. The older models used to have a 10 liters daypack, which was too small. But the improved models have now 15 liters.

On the other hand, Eagle Creek and Lowe Alpine are tough competitors this year (2009) because of their improved models….

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Another type of backpacking backpacks:
Mountain pack 

Another thing…:

You should know what kind of trip you want.

If you know that you're going to do a lot of nature escapes, you can consider a mountain pack.

The disadvantage with mountain packs is the difficulty with securing the pockets. But THAT you can solve with a flight-bag made of nylon. Then you won't have to send it as special baggage!

So if you're really itching to go mountain hiking, the best anatomic mountain packs are better than travel packs.

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backpacking backpacks

Travelers who aren't going to walk a lot, I can suggest the Eagle Creek and Osprey wheeled packs with a back system.

For lazy people who just want to spend their time on the beaches, they can just drag the pack along the ground instead of carrying it on their backs in 30 degrees. And if you need to take the stairs or cross grit roads, you can just throw it on your back because it has a back system!

The disadvantage though is the weight. Because of the hard plastic materials and wheels, the wheeled packs weigh more.

When it comes to Osprey, I have to say that if you look at the internet and google reviews of backpacks - Osprey is the one with a big smiling face!

The head designer of Osprey lives in Vietnam; wall to wall with the factory. No packs are produced in Europe. Most of them are actually produced in the East. Like, Lowe Alpine call themselves a British company, but the packs are being produced in the East. And as far as I know, they ship the packs to Ireland so they can sew a logo on it.

When it comes to price of backpacking backpacks...

Popular brands are sold just because of their names - that's a fact.

But the Osprey producers aren't greedy - they've had the same price the last 5-6 years I've been in the store!

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