When I was a boy, I lit out for Europe with a $14.95 external-frame backpack from JC Penney. The whole thing was a stunning hunter orange–even the aluminum tubing. Europeans were dumbfounded; they were all wearing trim rucksacks.I hitchhiked through France and Spain, and it rained the entire time.
My pack soaked up every drop. It became so heavy that I had to pare it down. Gave away my extra jeans to a junkie in Marseilles. Traded my T-shirts with a woman of ill-repute in Almería. Somewhere south of Casablanca, I gave away the rest of my spare clothes, my stove, and utensils. In Fez, the pack fell off a donkey, and the aluminum frame broke. I skinned the sack from its skeleton, stitched the shoulder straps onto the top of the bag and the belt onto the bottom, and the transformation was complete.
My ugly American pack, through the abuse and acumen of travel, had become a rucksack–flabbier than those of the Euros, but still a stunning orange
About the Best Backpack
For many of us, our favorite backpacks help us cling to the memories of our travels and adventures, whether to foreign countries, national parks or daily treks to campus or work.
My all-time best backpack companion was a simple canvas Camp Trails pack that held itself together with two metal internal stays. I bought it for my first trip overseas to Europe. By today’s technology, it would be considered a glorified grocery sack.
My traveling partner and I decided to buy a smaller pack to lighten the load and create less havoc on crowded buses, trains, and hostels. That pack endured dirty railway stations, messy cargo bays, and the grime of dozens of European cities from Norway to Greece
A decade later and the friend borrowed the same Camp to travel to the Middle East. A customs agent remarked that the pack should be retired, but that only confirmed how many characters the pack had.
Since then I’ve used dozens of backpacks in my travels and work. Having lived in East Africa and Southeast Asia, my personal gear got tested on the matatus, mountains and Serengeti plains of Kenya, the deserts of Sudan and the rainforests, rivers, and islands of Malaysia.
Most of us love our packs but treat them like crap. We expect them to perform after countless hours of outdoor hauling, dragging, stuffing, heaving, sliding and sitting in the mud and rain.
The Best Backpack is just my way of providing some additional information on how to choose the right pack for the right purpose or person. The backpack reviews reflect my own experiences with using various frame packs and daypacks, as well as, tips from wildlife researchers and other friends who use gear in the field.
All of the backpack reviews try to filter out the most pertinent details from real users that pinpoint the problems, not just the fancy features.
Online buying has its downside, but there are usually exceptional bargains on all types of backpacks from outdoor outfitter sales and Amazon.com. If you don’t have a local outfitter store or can’t find a good fitting pack, the right model, size, color, or fashion statement, then the choices online are a better option.
Sign up for the free Backpack Alerts to get a personal email to know when the best backpack sales start and end for discounts and super savings.
That’s enough nostalgia for me. I hope that the backpack information on this website helps you to decide on your next pack that will carry the memories of your own journeys.
P.S. That Camp Trails pack is in semi-retirement in the closet … it’s still good for at least one more road trip.