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Backpack Packing and Buying Tips

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Guest writer Ian Pasek, devoted backpacker and webmaster at Backpack-Europe.com, brings his vast personal expertise to bear in the following article about buying a backpack. Ian, who has traveled extensively through Europe with a backpack, knows of what he speaks when it comes to buying a backpack.

Backpack Purchase Tips

By Ian Pasek

The American philosophy to life is that bigger is better but when it comes to buying a backpack, throw that belief out the door. At the store, you are going to want to buy that big backpack because you will start to think: what if all the clothes I want to bring won’t fit? Or, what if I need some space for all the things I am going to buy? Get those two thoughts out of your head because they will kill your back when you are traveling!

Backpack Packing Tips

Most people overpack when going on a trip because they think that they will wear all the clothes they are bringing. When you first pack, take about one third of your clothes and put them back in your drawer (no one in Europe is going to remember that you wore that shirt two days ago in a different city). While traveling, you will be too tired to go out every night, so also put back the all the fancy clothes that you intended on bringing. If you do plan on going out every once in a while, you should pack one nice shirt and one pair of nice pants or a skirt, and that’s it. Don’t forget to bring nice shoes, as well, because unlike the United States, bouncers won’t let you into many clubs or bars if you're just wearing sneakers.

As far as having enough room to bring souvenirs home from Europe or wherever you are traveling, try not to buy a lot of things because they will hold you down. The souvenirs will put a lot more weight on your back than you really need and, more than likely, will break when you are throwing your backpack around. My advice is to have enough space for one or two things that you really like, but don't go overboard.

Backpack Types - Hip Belts and Straps Advice

Backpacks are split into two categories; those with an external frame or an internal frame. I would suggest choosing is the internal frame because it provides easier movement than the clunky external frame backpacks. If you are going to be camping, then purchase an external frame so you can strap your tent and sleeping bag to the backpack.

Whichever type of backpack you choose, make sure that it has a hip belt. What most people don’t know is that your hips can carry more weight than your shoulders, thus taking a lot of weight off your back. Another must for any backpack is that it has to have tightening straps. The straps are used to take off stress from parts of your back and redirect it elsewhere.

Backpack Buying Tips: Comfort, Size

One thing that I cannot stress enough is to go to the store and try on backpacks. You need to be able to see how it feels and to look at the seaming on it. Go to a camping gear store (I recommend REI), try on the backpacks and get some more advice from the helpers at the store. If the prices are too high for you at the store, remember the brand and type of backpack that you looked at and check the prices on the internet. (Editor's note: do remember that a local shop may take care of you down the road and make up for the extra bucks - your decision.)

Things to Remember

  • Don’t buy a big backpack: anywhere from 5000 to 6000 cubic inches is large enough.
  • Don’t over pack and don't buy too many souvenirs.
  • Make sure that the backpack that you choose has hip belts and tightening straps, and go to a camping gear store to take a look at the backpacks and get more information on them.

    Good luck on finding a backpack and happy travels in Europe or wherever you may be going!

    Thanks, Ian!

    Guest writers can submit articles to studenttravel@aboutguide.com. Articles may be edited for grammar and length.

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