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    Thread: Backpack Advice for 2 Weeks in Europe

    1. Member Mikes72sb's Avatar
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      01-24-2012 08:08 AM #1
      Hi all,

      So, I'm planning a trip for this summer. I'll be visiting a friend in Norway for a week, and then both of us will be flying down to Italy and spending a week there, staying in hostels and travelling by train. My friend, who is much more experienced in travelling out of one bag, is suggesting that I get myself one of those large, travel/camping style backpacks. Of course, there are hundreds to choose from.

      If anybody has suggestions for me as to a backpack that should suit my needs, please post up. The only real requirements are that it has to have a place to stow a sleeping bag and I'm working with a budget of $100-$150.

      Also, if anyone has any general tips for travelling light, don't be shy
      ///BrooklynAutoRennen

      2014 VW GLI Autobahn/Nav/DSG - Two clutches. Two pedals. Four doors. No apologies.

    2. Senior Member NoDubJustYet's Avatar
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      01-24-2012 12:04 PM #2
      Do you have an REI nearby? It might be better to look at such a pack in person...

    3. Member Mikes72sb's Avatar
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      01-25-2012 06:33 AM #3
      Quote Originally Posted by NoDubJustYet View Post
      Do you have an REI nearby? It might be better to look at such a pack in person...

      There's an REI in Lower Manhattan that's a little bit of a pain to get to. There is a place called Paragon near Union Square that is supposed to be pretty good, too. I'll be sure to get to one or both of them to try on a few packs. I am planning on this trip in either late May or mid June, so I have a little time.
      ///BrooklynAutoRennen

      2014 VW GLI Autobahn/Nav/DSG - Two clutches. Two pedals. Four doors. No apologies.

    4. Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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      02-03-2012 02:11 AM #4
      I got my backpack at REI, it has served me well in Europe. I couldn't tell you what brand it is off of the top of my head, only that it has expansion zippers which come in pretty handy.
      - Austin

    5. Member stevegolf's Avatar
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      02-05-2012 10:46 AM #5
      I was in Europe for a year and it was great. Get a eurail pass if you can. Its basically a ticket you can use to hop on almost any train going anywhere in Europe. It is nice for spur of the moment plan changes and not having to deal with buying tickets and scheduling stuff.

      Definitely check out napoli if you can. A really nice hostel is here
      http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev..._Campania.html

      Don't buy electronics from random strangers, they will scam you somehow.

      If you are in Italy, some of the greek islands are a short ferry trip away. I stayed on corfu for a couple days and it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. we stayed here http://www.thepinkpalace.com/

      I was younger so the party atmosphere was fun but you can rent ATVs and cruise around the island which was really cool.

    6. Member Mikes72sb's Avatar
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      02-05-2012 06:31 PM #6
      ^^^^^

      Naples is really only good for the day trips to Pompeii or Capri, imho. Sadly, I won't have the time to do that. We're staying on a tight schedule, so we're sticking with Venice, Florence & Rome. We should have time to finish down south with my family. This will be my 3rd trip to Italy, so I'm not really worried about any scamming or whatnot. I'm just not experienced with backpacking, as I've either been with a tour or on my own and staying in hotels, or with family.
      ///BrooklynAutoRennen

      2014 VW GLI Autobahn/Nav/DSG - Two clutches. Two pedals. Four doors. No apologies.

    7. Member ttvick's Avatar
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      03-12-2012 07:47 PM #7
      I bought this pack for backpacking around Europe for a month, and it was absolutely perfect, and very comfortable:
      http://www.sierratradingpost.com/low...frame~p~1469h/

      It's not available from STP anymore, but I did buy it from there.

      As for the rest of the trip, I will copy and paste what I just posted in another thread:

      Try to make it to Italy; I have been all over Europe, and if I had any time constraint that's where I would go. In 2009 I did the following loop before studying abroad in Prague:

      US > Frankfurt
      Berlin (left the majority of our luggage for the semester with my cousin there)
      Stuttgart
      Zurich
      Como
      Milan
      Venice
      Florence
      Rome
      Santa Margherita Ligure (this one is a bit off the beaten path. very close to famous starlet town Portofino, but not *quite* as expensive and less touristy. beauuutiful place though)
      Nice/Monaco
      Barcelona
      Ibiza
      Valencia
      Madrid
      San Sebastian
      Paris
      Amsterdam
      Berlin (picked up the luggage we left there)
      Prague

      I took a little over a month to do this trip with a friend, and it was without a shadow of a doubt the best month of my life. If you can swing the money for a EuRail pass (that's what we did) and you book hostels and hotels in advance (we used hostels.com and hotels.com for everything and felt that we saved a bunch that way, even got a 4* hotel in Valencia for $55/nt) you can do this or a loop similar to it for the same price you'd spend to stay in one place for a while. We spent no more than 4 nights, and mostly 2 nights, at each of those places.

      I did more traveling over there while living in Prague for the semester and in other trips. Feel free to ask me about any of the places we went or anywhere you're thinking about going.

      My blog from the trip is here: http://thomasvick.blogspot.com/2009/08/start.html
      It's not light reading, but it's a pretty complete account of at least part of the trip.

      One snap from Santa Margherita Ligure


      EDIT: I will add this: If you have not purchased a roundtrip ticket yet, get one with time before or after your program to travel if you can. It's much less stressful and you can save a good bit by purchasing a train pass.

      Also, you probably don't need a sleeping bag unless you plan on camping. I took a top sheet that I had sewed up 2/3 the way down the side in case I ever came to a hostel where I was uncomfortable with the condition of the bed. I also brought an Eno River hammock. These 2 things ended up coming in handy when our train was delayed coming into Ventemiglia (Italy/France border town) and we had to stay in the station overnight because we missed our connection (which was also the last train of the night).

      Last edited by ttvick; 03-12-2012 at 08:01 PM.

    8. Member Not Steve's Avatar
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      03-13-2012 07:51 PM #8
      In my experience backpacks are a pain in the arse unless you've actually got to carry everything everywhere. As in, if you're hiking and taking all your gear with you they're great, but I think they're terrible for hostels and trains. There's only one way to use them: as a pack. Sometimes that's not always a good idea...

      I use (and love!) a hybrid. It's a duffel bag on wheels with a backpack harness. Use it as a pack, as a duffel bag, or as wheeled luggage, depending on the circumstances. They're light and don't have annoying internal dividers. The harness and handle are stowed when not in use.

      Check out the "Tatonka Barrel Roller" bags.

    9. Member ttvick's Avatar
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      03-13-2012 08:51 PM #9
      Quote Originally Posted by Not Steve View Post
      In my experience backpacks are a pain in the arse unless you've actually got to carry everything everywhere. As in, if you're hiking and taking all your gear with you they're great, but I think they're terrible for hostels and trains. There's only one way to use them: as a pack. Sometimes that's not always a good idea...

      I use (and love!) a hybrid. It's a duffel bag on wheels with a backpack harness. Use it as a pack, as a duffel bag, or as wheeled luggage, depending on the circumstances. They're light and don't have annoying internal dividers. The harness and handle are stowed when not in use.

      Check out the "Tatonka Barrel Roller" bags.
      No offense, but I think this is a horrible idea. I took a bag like the one you are talking about to Europe once, when we weren't even doing that much traveling while there, and it was beat to hell by the time the trip was over. A pack with a rolling portion will be much heavier, less comfortable, less secure in crowded areas, and less durable. Get a good pack with adjustable back and waist support and get it fitted properly. I PROMISE you that when you are running to catch a train with your pack you will thank me. There is a reason packs are far and above the preferred method for travelling around Europe.

    10. Member Not Steve's Avatar
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      03-13-2012 11:06 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by ttvick View Post
      No offense, but I think this is a horrible idea. I took a bag like the one you are talking about to Europe once, when we weren't even doing that much traveling while there, and it was beat to hell by the time the trip was over. A pack with a rolling portion will be much heavier, less comfortable, less secure in crowded areas, and less durable. Get a good pack with adjustable back and waist support and get it fitted properly. I PROMISE you that when you are running to catch a train with your pack you will thank me. There is a reason packs are far and above the preferred method for travelling around Europe.
      And no offence here either, but the reason packs are popular is because people don't really know what they're doing, or haven't really thought about how they're going to be doing it. They think that a pack is the best way to travel, and if the travel is a hiking trip then it is. But for moving around between transport and accommodation, there are better options than a bag that is only useful as a pack.

      If you look at my suggestion, the Tatonka Barrel Roller, you'll find that it weighs 3.5kg - or roughly 1kg more than the pack you suggested. However, that 1kg brings with it convenience far beyond your pack and many others.

      For example, the Tatonka has a zip that opens the entire bag. This makes packing and unpacking it easier - you don't have to dig through it to get to things. It looks like your pack is only top opening, which makes sense in the environment it was designed for but doesn't work real well in a travel situation. Travel packs also have this feature.

      With wheels comes extra weight. However, the convenience of wheels outweighs the weight disadvantage. From years of painful experience I've found that a pack needs to be slung over a shoulder or worn properly to be moved effectively. Sure, you can kick it along the ground when you're waiting in line to check in to a plane, boat, train, or bus... but not all surfaces are suitable for doing that and it's not always convenient to wear it and after slinging it over the shoulder every few minutes for an hour or so you'll begin to wish there was an easier way. Wheels are invaluable when in transit in airports or train stations - easier and quicker than donning a pack, and the user doesn't look like a backpacker. Always a bonus.

      Furthermore, a pack is a pack. It's designed to be worn on backs. How many people remember that when they're wearing a pack, they're a foot or more deeper than usual? How many people have been hit in the face by some chump wearing a pack who turns and forgets their own size, particularly when walking down boat or train aisles? I have, I've seen it happen to others, and I don't want to be the guy who does it. A bag wheeled in front of or behind the operator eliminates this problem.

      As for comfort... sure, it'll be less comfortable to use as a pack - but it doesn't have to be used as a pack anyway. I'd wager that most people wearing packs only do so because there's no other easy way to move them around. Realistically, how much time are you going to spend walking around for hours carrying everything, anyway? Hiking? All day. Travel? Well, there's the baggage carousel to the taxi or train, the train station to the hostel, and back again. Not much.

      As for security, that's debatable. It's easy to slash a pack open and take something from it when the person wearing it can't even see behind them but it's more difficult to gain access to a wheeled bag - though they are easier to run away with. Travelling intelligently mitigates the risk of both, but can't eliminate either.

      The Tatonka is waterproof and is covered by a 50 year warranty. I doubt it's going to fall apart as quickly as you suggest and I'd be willing to bet that things inside will stay dry when the things inside your pack won't - unless you spend a few minutes messing about with the rain cover.

      But really, it's all about versatility. If you want a pack that must be worn on the back to be comfortable, ergonomic, and easy to manage, must have the harness stowed for planes and un-stowed to be moved anywhere... then fine. Take a hiking pack travelling. But if you want something that can be worn as a pack, carried like a duffel bag, wheeled like a suitcase, or slung over a shoulder, is quick and easy to adapt to different situations (remove from baggage carousel, wheel to customs, wheel to train/taxi, wear to accommodation) then a hybrid is definitely the best option.

      I've come to this opinion after years of travel through Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Mostly backpacking trips, taking trains, planes, boats, and buses. I used a hiking pack at first and hated it, then a travel pack - it was a little better. I then went the duffel-bag-with-shoulder-harness option and it was a better fit but the duffel-bag-with-shoulder-harness-and-wheels is more or less the ultimate. I can't remember ever thinking "Gee, I wish I had a backpack" when travelling but I can't even begin to think of the number of times I've been thankful for the versatility I have: I can wear it as a pack, carry it with one hand next to me or in front of me, wheel it alongside or behind or in front, leave it in the rain and not worry about it, sling it over a shoulder for short movements, or whatever. Travel doesn't really lend itself to a bag that must be used in one fairly inflexible manner.
      Last edited by Not Steve; 03-13-2012 at 11:11 PM.

    11. Member ttvick's Avatar
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      03-14-2012 03:10 PM #11
      Well, I see the validity in your point, but I will agree to disagree. When you are moving around a crowded train station or airport, I would argue that a bag on your back is less disruptive than one on the ground. I also don't personally find it comfortable to wheel a bag around for an extended period of time or on rough surfaces, as the body position while moving a rolling bag is not very comfortable to me. When I was backpacking around Europe, we would most often walk from train stations to where we were spending the night, and the distance would often be as much as a couple of miles. Not major "backpacking" distance, but I feel that the pack is the most comfortable way to move your possessions over that distance when it involves a variety of terrain and elevation changes (curbs, stairs, cobblestones, etc). I realize that your pack has this ability as well, but it is inherently obvious that a purpose-built internal frame backpack will be much more comfortable for extended carrying on the body. For reference, the pack that I linked opens completely from the top and the front. It is very easy to load and unload. The "cinch-straps" also came in handy while trying to take the pack on a puddle-jumper from Barcelona to Ibiza where only small bags were allowed as carry-ons and checked bags were nearly as much as the ticket cost. We squeaked by by rolling up everything we had and tightening the pack's straps monumentally.

      At any rate, the reason I came back in here to post is just to say to the OP that IF you are still interested in a pack at this point, there are some great deals in GoLite's clearance store:
      http://www.golite.com/Clearance.aspx

      Just make sure that whatever you get is sized properly for your body both in pack size and in fitting, as these are very important things if you will be wearing it for any extended period of time.
      Last edited by ttvick; 03-14-2012 at 03:12 PM.

    12. 04-08-2012 10:08 PM #12
      Check out www.rollingbackpackluggage.com
      These are great because if you're too tired to carry it, roll it.

      You might want to roll your clothes (individually) to fit them all in.
      Good luck!

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