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Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking
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Rishi Sugla

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 19:31:28 MST Print View

Hello all- I'll be spending 6 months to a year traveling around the world and need to buy a pack that is durable to last the normal wear and tear of traveling but also light enough to suffice for backpacking trips.

I'm not at the stage where I can do UL yet, but am working towards it. I've already checked out the great threads by Kristin and Danny and the gear they used traveling for two years, but its been a few years since then and I wanted to see if anyone had any recommendations for a pack that would suit my needs.

Any recommendations would be appreciated. It seems that the Osprey Exos 58 is discontinued, and the recent GoLite Jam packs have decreased in quality. Thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I just wanted to clarify that I'm looking for a pack right around 50L. I think with that size I can get away with using it as a carry-on if need be.

Edited by rksugla on 12/13/2013 19:49:49 MST.

(JRinGeorgia) - F
check the height of the stay on 12/13/2013 20:45:48 MST Print View

Make sure that if the pack has a stay that it is 22" or less, which is the carry-on limit for most airlines.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pack for travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 20:49:18 MST Print View

Six Moon Designs made a dual purpose pack.

I use my MLD Burn as a carryon. My wife uses her REI Flash for the same purpose. Seems like a ULA pack could also work.

Rishi Sugla

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Pack for travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 20:55:09 MST Print View

Is the MLD Burn the only pack you bring on when traveling or do you check in luggage as well? It seems a bit small for 2-3 month trips but then again I'm only beginning to shift my gear into UL territory so its hard for me to gauge.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 21:05:08 MST Print View

It depends on if you mean tourist backpacking or backpacking backpacking. If the former this:

is a great carry-on size with an actual frame and full-sized hipbelt that can support a lot of weight. This one has by far the best frame and hip belt in the cary-on class. I definitely did my research. I have one that I love. It is super tough if you are going to be tossing it (or other people tossing it) into baggage compartments of buses, or tied to a camel, or crammed into overhead storage. This is the one you probably want for touring. If you want to do wilderness backpacking with a lot of gear, while at the same time having the material to be that kind of "travel tough" then you pretty much have to go old school. The MEI one is fantastically comfortable for walking around cities, but maybe not what you would want for walking all day for a week in the wilderness. The shoulder and hip straps get folder away for when you are traveling, then zip out for walking around.

If you intend to fit into the cary-on limit, and want a travel bag first and foremost you can't do better than this one for the frame and belt and price range. It can also be padlocked closed for security.

If you are talking about doing real backpacking with full equipment while at the same time touring, I think you are out of the carry-on size limit right there, so you are talking about a different situation - NOT carry-on only.

Edited by millonas on 12/13/2013 21:19:57 MST.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 21:30:08 MST Print View

I would check out Kristin and Danny's gear list if that interests you. A number of other hikers carry some sort of computer tablet or smartphone to blog using regular UL backpacks (even a sil Gossamer Gear G4). If more traveling needs to be done maybe something in dyneema?

In terms of city clothing or combined city/backcountry clothing, just use the hotel laundry (rule of thumb flying during work trips that could get extended …. or your luggage gets too large). Some UL pack makers made a panel loading pack but they've kind of fallen out of favor.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/13/2013 23:20:42 MST Print View

IMHO, a truly light weight backpacking pack will probably not stand up to what airline baggage handlers do to it. Ever watch them in action? I have--including several pieces of luggage descending rapidly from somewhere high up on the plane to crash onto the pavement!

If you're really sure the pack is small enough to meet all the varied airline size requirements, then that's different.

I have an REI travel pack dating from 1992 that has stays and a hip belt, but also has a pocket in which to tuck the hip belt and shoulder straps. That not only keeps those items from catching in the conveyor belt but also lets me have what looks like a regular suitcase in case I want to visit a fancier hotel (sometimes i've needed a break from hosteling or camping). It's quite comfortable to carry but does weigh about 4 1/2 lbs. It has been through a lot and still looks almost new.

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
Boreas on 12/13/2013 23:32:08 MST Print View

Have you looked at Boreas?
They have some packs that are really nice for both outdoor adventures and more casual travel use. They have all the features and webbing but very smartly integrated so straps don't get caught so easily etc.
I would look at the Buttermilks 40 or 55 L, or especially the Sapa Trek (55L and very easy to live out off with their zippers), or if smaller the Muirwoods 30L.

Edited by jakuchu on 12/14/2013 04:42:08 MST.

Rishi Sugla

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 08:50:05 MST Print View

Mark- I'm beginning to agree with your last comment. I'd be doing "real" backpacking with full equipment while touring. Seeing that I'll be traveling solo at least part of the trip, my pack will probably be impossible to check in.

Mary- I agree, which is why I'm looking for a light pack, but not necessarily UL. Its probably wishful thinking that I can bring enough gear to travel for extended periods of time and gear for backpacking trips in a carry on.

Ito- Thanks for the tip! Have you ever had a chance to handle one of those? I'm curious as to how sturdy they are.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pack for both Travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 11:13:50 MST Print View

To the question about how I use the MLD Burn.

My use cases are point to point trekking, long day hikes, or occasional shortish backpacking trips that are loops where I return to the starting point.

I use the Burn as a carry on. Everything that is not legal for carry on, i pack into in a small lightweight duffle or use an Osprey 22 inch rolling Ozone bag which is checked. All the various combo and dual purpose solutions were a bit heavy in my opinion.

I usually have a way to stow the rolling bag when out on a trail with the Burn. if I had to do a point to point walk without the ability to store the extra luggage, the REI duffle I use is very lightweight and could be rolled up and stashed in the pack.

And Yes for a 2 to 3 night trip, I can fit everything in the Burn since I use a Tarp and a 30 degree down bag. For longer trips or if I need to pack more insulation, I take the MLD prophet.

The tricky part is the checking of my hiking poles. When I pack them into a mailing tube, some of the airlines now have me sign a waiver in case the package is lost.

The next tricky part is locating the right fuel for your stove upon landing. I did notice last May in the UK that you can now buy the Bleuet bayonet style "camping gas" canisters in the UK stores.

Edited by btolley on 12/14/2013 11:36:42 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Pack for both Travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 11:28:57 MST Print View

You might consider a frameless pack that could be stashed in a regular carry on, or used as a carry on while checking another bag with your gear that is a problem for carry on. The checked bag could just be a basic duffle bag, or a convertible backpack/suitcase.

The Gossamer Gear g4 is on sale right now.

If you are only day hiking there are all kinds of good frameless packs that would make a goog carry on and/or stash in a larger bag. That is my usual strategy.

Remember, you can take a larger pack as a carry on. Just don't fill it completely.

robert mckay
(rahstin) - F

Locale: The Great Land
Flatbed on 12/14/2013 11:34:55 MST Print View

Check out the Granite Gear Vapor Flatbed. Its made for canoe barrels, but ive used it with drybags with great success. 1100 miles on the PCT. Countless backpacking trips up here in AK. Peak bagging. Backcountry snowboarding. But it really shines as a travel pack. 50L stuffed is a bit large for carry on, but you get one carry on and one personal item. I have a 50L and 20L drybag. I stuff the 20L full then compress the 50L with the harness so it fits as a carry on. Best part is, because it is modular when i get past security i strap the 20L to the top and dont have to carry it around in my hands.

Steven Diogenes
(stevenn) - F
traveling on 12/14/2013 11:57:27 MST Print View

Just to get an idea of the toughness of some UL packs, I've traveled with my SMD Swift on and off for over a year of hard use encountering all manner of abuse.. sharp thorns in heavy brush to airplanes to living in the streets of a city to rooftops to sharp steel on freight trains to decrepit abandoned houses to climbing fences to anything else you can imagine, and the Swift took it all admirably. I have tears here and there but nothing major and even under my neglect they haven't even torn wider (thanks rip-stop). The Swift uses 210d Dyneema Diamond on the body, bottom is 420d, and the roll top is 70d. Holidays are here and it's time to stitch it up.

With that said, if you still don't want to go with an UL pack, a smart decision would be the Osprey, considering they have an unlimited no questions asked warranty. It looks like the 48L is only 3 ounces more weight than the step down. (2/8 vs 2/5)

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 11:59:42 MST Print View

"Mark- I'm beginning to agree with your last comment. I'd be doing "real" backpacking with full equipment while touring. Seeing that I'll be traveling solo at least part of the trip, my pack will probably be impossible to check in. "

Ah, ok then. It all depends on if you think you can get ALL your gear, both backpacking and traveling (perhaps you consider them the same) into < 46 l. Probably much less if you bring a (boxy) pack that has not been optimized for carry on. Even if you allow for squish, a "regular" pack is going to be less efficient. So leaving aside toughness for the moment you should be thinking ~ 40l volume total for everything for the trip not worn. Very doable, but depends on the level of flexibility you require for different types of activity.

If you feel you can do this then find a real bulletproof pack you can accept as a real backpacking pack. If not then there is the "classic" duffel method. Get a decently tough duffel that can be rolled up then you can store more or less whatever gear you would normally take on a backpacking trip, including the pack itself which can now be whatever, provided you pack everything in a way that protects it from the stress it is going to receive. Then when you get to your destination you can repack into you packpack, and roll upf the duffel and put it inside.

So I think the first thing to decide is between full-carry on and duffel method. The former is doable, but very much pushing it if you are bringing full, non-UL gear along. If the latter this simplifies things a lot. The main restriction then is if you can comfortably switch to "pack mode" with everything inside the pack. That is easy compared to trying how to get it all onto a carry on and having it be tough enough. There is also nothing preventing you from using a bulletproof pack AS the duffel, but you will provably get away with lighter total weight using the packable duffel method. You can also lock a duffel which is an added layer of security very useful for international travel.

From your description in the OP it seems like you are probably just over the edge into duffel territory.

@steven Yep, ripstop nylon is pretty strong. I would trust my golite jam under a lot of stress. However, I would humbly suggest that the "proper" test in this case is more like this - will both your pack, and everything in it, survive having a 200 pound box dropped on top of it?

Edited by millonas on 12/14/2013 12:15:29 MST.

Rishi Sugla

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Flatbed on 12/14/2013 14:29:51 MST Print View

Robert- That's a pretty nifty setup you have. How you ever been in a situation where you needed to check in a bag for bringing objects not allowed as carry on? What do you do for situations like that?

Bruce- That's what worries me the most, finding fuel. Although in Kristin and Danny's global travel thread they suggested that the always managed to find fuel with their MSR Superfly.

Mark & Dale- I like the sound of the duffel idea as it would be easier to be able to check in some stuff without having to stress about finding replacements any time I was landing somewhere new. I was hoping to avoid having to check in luggage but with my current gear and budget I don't think its realistic. I know you recommended the Gossamer Gear G4 Dale, but what do you recommend Mark? How is the Golite Jam working for you?

robert mckay
(rahstin) - F

Locale: The Great Land
Re:checking on 12/14/2013 16:31:17 MST Print View

Checking the bag is where it shines. I take the 50L drybag out of the harness and check it. Then i put the 20L in the harness and can walk around airports hands free. I use OR Durable drybags. When i check them, i use the d clip on the roll top closure and carabiner it to the daisychain so it cant come undone getting tossed in airplanes.

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
Re: Re: Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 21:55:54 MST Print View

About the Boreas:
I have a Muirwoods myself that I use both casually and when I go for a short 1 hour trek/trailrun next to my house. I would say I have been using it daily for a bit over 9 months and it looks like new. Zippers too. What I like is that it's so easy to live out of. When you're commuting on the train or whatever. Pockets are well thought out and very nice attention to detail.

The material is pretty standard nylon like you find on a lot of packs. The Buttermilks as well as the Sapa trek have a frame and are 210D nylon ripstop for the main body and 420D for the bottom. now has them on sale for $99 (retail $185). Not bad at all.
I want one but they don't ship outside the U.S.

Anyway if you get on backcountry busses etc. what I did when I was trekking/hitch hiking three months through China in the mid '90s I tried to always get my pack on top of the bus instead of bottom (lot's of floods when I was there and the baggage storage would always get wet). And take some garbage bags to put your pack in so you can keep it dry.

Edited by jakuchu on 12/14/2013 22:54:45 MST.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Flatbed on 12/14/2013 21:56:17 MST Print View

"I know you recommended the Gossamer Gear G4 Dale, but what do you recommend Mark? How is the Golite Jam working for you?"

Well, the beauty of using a duffel bag is that you can use whatever bag you like since it doesn't have to take the abuse. Personally I would get one of the lightweight packs with a simple frame if you have more than 15 lbs base weight, Like the ULA catalyst, the GG Gorilla, EH Kalais, Osprey Exos etc. etc. The all go pretty much flat when unpacked, which is how you should probably do it when checking it.

I still think the Jam is the best pack at that cost - always the first one I recommend to people who want to experiment going light for the first time. This even though I mostly use other things now for trips more than a few days. A Jam 50 will even carry a bear can with ease. If you are happy with it with your gear and for the length of trips you can hardly go wrong. They are very strong, and supper cheap. If you pack your pad the right way you can get some semblance of a "frame" for reasonable weights.

Anyway, if you are going to be traveling the world for 6 months I'm guessing money might be spent in many other worthy areas. Where are you going, by the way?

Edited by millonas on 12/14/2013 21:59:32 MST.

Tyson Marshall
(sheepNgeese) - MLife

Locale: Ventura County (formerly PNW)
Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 22:09:29 MST Print View

Having traveled a lot, this is an easy decision for me....

Super durable, removable stays, pretty water resistant/water proof and minimal external pieces to get snagged up on stuff...


Rishi Sugla

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice- pack for both travel and backpacking on 12/14/2013 22:32:27 MST Print View

Robert- Super interesting set up. I've never heard of someone doing that before, but definitely something I want to look more into. Where do you stash your water when backpacking? I generally like to stash it somewhere I can reach and grab it easily if possible. Do you just keep it in the 20L drybag?

Ito- Thanks for the good advice on where to stash my bags on buses. Japan is actually one of the places I intend on traveling too. I have a friend living in Nagasaki for a year or two and want to make sure I take advantage of the opportunity to visit him. I'm very excited.

Mark- I might end up just going with the Golite Jam just because it seems to be pretty versatile for my needs. I'm between that, Robert's suggestion above, or the borreas buttermilk. My itinerary isn't entirely set in stone yet. I have a lot of frequent flyer miles saved up (about 200K) so cost of flights isn't something I need to worry about. I have a friend living in Japan, so that will definitely be a stop. I'm interested in going to China, Thailand, and Cambodia as well. I have family in Malayasia and India and they've offered to show me around and take me to some cool places, including the Himalayas. I have some money saved up, but still would rather limit myself to places that the US dollar is pretty strong. I'm very excited! I'll be going solo for a lot of it but its always easy to meet some nice people in hostels abroad.

Tyson- Which pack of theirs do you use? Think they could handle extended trips abroad, like 3-6 months?

EDIT: I appreciate all the suggestions so far, its definitely challenging to find a set up durable enough to handle months of traveling but also be light enough for backpacking trips.

Edited by rksugla on 12/14/2013 22:36:46 MST.