If you know me personally, you’ll know that, without a doubt, I’m the shittiest preparer for any trip. Ever. There hasn’t been one trip I’ve taken where I haven’t forgotten my hairbrush, or something else integral. Like my CAMERA.
And on the other side of things, I am a notorious over-packer. I am not a light packer. I do not apologize for this personality trait in the slightest, and I’m not sure when being an over-packer became such a taboo thing. I LIKE having some variety in my wardrobe. I LIKE dressing up for big nights out. I LIKE not wearing the same shirt three times a week. I love comfy pajama pants, and all my tacky gym outfits, and my little black dress paired with my big gaudy necklaces. I have flip-flops and heels and sneakers. A few pashminas. A bikini, or five. DEAL WITH IT.
But it became clear to me that hauling a suitcase around on my journeys just wasn’t a practical thing to do. Particularly in Iceland. That’s silly. But I made some mistakes when shopping for my backpack, so maybe you can learn through me.
Don’t think about the long-term
I was stoked about the first backpack I finally invested in. I wanted something that folded out, like a suitcase, because the thought of digging deep into a regular ‘ol hiking backpack was exhausting. So I got the Osprey Farpoint 55L pack, and used it for most of my trip around Alberta last summer.
While I was shopping, I asked the dude at Outfitters if it was a suitable pack for long-term hikes. I had planned on doing the Long Range Traverse at the end of the summer. He answered with a truthful “no”, but I bought the damned thing anyway. The pack’s width expanded when filled, rather than filling out length-wise, making for a rather uncomfortable weight distribution. Flash forward to 2014, and I’ve only used the pack twice since then – both for short-term trips.
Don’t properly research sizes
I didn’t realize that 55 liters wouldn’t sustain my over-packing ways. A few trips here and there, sure. But not if I were going to do something long-term, like my Balkans trip. So I went for the motherload: a MEC Ibex 80-liters pack. I actually love the hell out of this pack, and it was the cheapest one I found. BUT I didn’t really need 80 liters, and I over-packed the hell out of it when I first left for NYC. I actually couldn’t lift the thing. I don’t know why I didn’t think this through.
I cut half the weight when I went to NYC, and mailed my shit back home. And then I cut half of it again in Brela, because I was too sick to lift the thing. And then I promptly went shopping.
A regular ‘ol backpacking trip is probably worth a 55-liter. I’ve learned to pack more conservatively, but not entirely. My hair products take up a lot of space.
Don’t try it on first
I admit that I ordered my MEC Ibex 80 online, but I was pretty confident in its abilities. At least five people recommended the pack to me, and I was broke as hell. This one cost under $200.
But I lucked out. Whenever possible, put some weight into that thing and try it out.
Don’t get a backpack with side pockets
THIS SAVED MY LIFE. OH MY GOD.
Verdict? if you’re starting out, the MEC Ibex 80 is a seriously sweet pack. Maybe just leave a little room for souvenirs. Or a few dozen new dresses. Whatever.