Pack it up, pack it in (so we can begin)

As we get closer, the actual threat of packing a year’s worth of stuff looms large. Which means… we need bags.

There’s so many factors to consider. Here’s some handy mind-vomit bullet points:

  • First off, can we fit all the stuff we need!?
  • Will that stuff be accessible? I remember my Duke of Edinburgh Gold trip where all my underwear was at the very bottom of a ‘fill from the top’ rucksack annnnnnnd let’s just say I didn’t have as much washing to do as I should have…
  • Is it going to be comfortable long-term?
  • Will my stuff stay dry if we get caught in tropical rains?
  • And ok yes, does it look good? At least a bit?

Far more hours of research went into this than I care to account for. There’s seemingly a huge amount of options, but after a while once you start drilling down you notice the same old names popping up again. Osprey consistently had the best reviews across all the sites and blogs we read.

The best solution would ideally be to try everything on. In the modern digital world, that can be tricky – very few places will stock absolutely every bag you’re considering and you’re left wondering ‘what if?’.

We tried to anyway. A visit to Go Outdoors: a British warehouse style outdoors shop, was mildly productive. They only hold a selection of backpacking bags, of which only some matched our criteria. But it helped to focus our minds on what we needed.

We decided on Osprey, and were left making a choice between the Xenith/Xena and Farpoint/Fairview. The Xen series look the part and are seemingly the better pack for real ‘trekking’, but the Far series are more accessible and versatile as suitcases as well as packs.

The Xen series of backpack is a “pack from the top” kind of bag with a detachable day bag and is specifically for women. For women, the largest size it comes in is 85L with a 70L version also available. For men, you can go up to 105L. You can open it from the bottom too to retrieve a sleeping liner or boots but ultimately, you’re always going to be going in from the top. The feature Lauren found most attractive about this bag is the pocket on the hip belt for easy access to her iPhone and snacks! The price point is around £220 – £240 depending on the size you go for.

The Farpoint/Fairview series also has specific male and female fits. It was really helpful to find it in-store and Lauren found she was surprised at how comfortable and easily adjustable the shoulder straps were! The bag has a detachable backpack which you can use as carry-on luggage and as a daypack when exploring new cities. The max size it comes in is 70L (55L for the main backpack and 15L for the daypack) for women and 80L (you’ll need to buy a separate Osprey Daylite backpack to attach for the largest version) for men which really, if we can’t fit what we need in that amount of space, we probably shouldn’t be bringing it. It also comes in 40L and 55L. It’s better value than the Xen, retailing for around £140 depending on what store you purchase it from.

It probably comes down to whether you’re doing more travelling or trekking, but in the end we figured the convenient packing mechanism and detachable daypacks of the Far series was more valuable to us than the extra size of the Xen series. BONUS: They come in fun, stand out colours! Won’t lose these at baggage collection…

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