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#190437 - 04/30/15 06:57 PM Two cheap backpacks on REI clearance
jblizard Offline

Registered: 03/29/15
Posts: 5
Hi all,

I'm planning an extended trip in Europe, combining european style "backpacking" and mountain through hiking, and I'm looking for a backpack. I haven't done an extended trip before, but I've done plenty of day hikes, and I cycled across the US last summer, so I know I can handle living out of a bag (or 4 bags, as was the case with bike panniers).

I need to keep things as cheap as possible, and I noticed 2 appealing (price-wise, at least) packs on the REI outlet. They are the Jansport Katahdin 60 (http://www.rei.com/product/888899/jansport-katahdin-60l-pack-2014-closeout#tab-description) and the Alps Mountaineering Exploit 3900 (http://www.rei.com/product/884064/alps-mountaineering-exploit-3900-pack-2014-closeout).

I've never bought a pack before, so I was hoping to get some advice. Unfortunately, the closest REI to me is 2 and a half hrs, and I don't know of any other outdoors stores in the area. I know people tend to say that when buying a pack, it's best to wait until you have all your stuff and then bring it all to the store, try on a bunch of packs, and then try them on loaded before buying, but I don't really have that option as I'm in school now, and flying to Europe just a couple days after graduating college.

So with this in mind, any advice on these two packs or on other cheap packs that would hold up well to 2 months of continuous use would be greatly appreciated. The Jansport seemed to be decently reviewed, but I can't find anything at all about the Alps bag (bad sign?). I'll be doing 4-5 weeks walking from Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France along the GR5 and then trying to live off the grid in the UK/Ireland for a couple weeks before flying home. The gear I have so far is a Kelty Salida 2 that I used on my bike trip last summer, and an ENO hammock (I would only take one of these--leaning towards the tent since I'll be above treeline some in the alps), a Kelty Cosmic Down 40, a cheap light stove and one of the egg-carton looking thermarest pads. I know it's not the best gear in the world, but it's what I'm working with smile

Thanks everyone!

#190438 - 04/30/15 07:23 PM Re: Two cheap backpacks on REI clearance [Re: jblizard]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2892
Loc: Portland, OR
The bad news is that the most important thing about ANY pack is how it fits you and until you have put your full load into a pack and carried it around for a bit, there is no sure way to know how well a pack will fit your particular body. If someone pipes up and says they own the pack and love it, this will tell you very little about how you'll like it. If your pack doesn't fit and you end up wearing it as a daily millstone, you will regret it. frown

This method of loading up your pack in order to find out how it feels on you is also a perfect opportunity to see if you can fit what you need to bring inside it. Remember that you will probably be carrying at least some food and water, so you should simulate this part of your load, too.

The good news is that REI has a very good policy on returns, so you could try both packs with very little risk other than paying for return shipping. If that seems too costly, then you should plan on going to a store that carries a wide array of packs, so you can do your evaluation on a great many of them at once.

Finally, all else being equal, a lighter pack is generally the way to go. Those 5.5. or 6 lb packs may be comfortable, but you'll lug that extra weight every step you take and waste energy you could use for better purposes.

Good luck.

#190469 - 05/04/15 10:43 PM Re: Two cheap backpacks on REI clearance [Re: aimless]
jblizard Offline

Registered: 03/29/15
Posts: 5
Thanks for responding, aimless. I think I will make the trek down to REI next week. I just came into some unexpected cash, and I think I'm going to spring for a nicer pack and nicer boots, both of which seem like the kind of thing I should definitely try before buying.

I have read about the common pitfall of buying too big a pack and filling it, but is around 60L usually a good size for an extended journey? I'll bring what gear I have so far in order to test the size, but I will probably get a little more and don't want to get a pack that's too small.

#190470 - 05/05/15 03:33 AM Re: Two cheap backpacks on REI clearance [Re: jblizard]
TomD Offline

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
60 is probably the limit for what you want. Any bigger and you have too much stuff. Don't forget, you aren't going to be away from civilization. You can always pick up stuff you need and send it home if you no longer need it, like gear for a special hike. Traveling and hiking are two different things. If you expect to be traveling by car or train, I'd look for a pack that has few straps or outside pockets to catch on things like latches.

Edited by TomD (05/05/15 03:39 AM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

#190649 - 05/24/15 05:04 AM Re: Two cheap backpacks on REI clearance [Re: jblizard]
Honas Offline

Registered: 05/24/15
Posts: 26
If you are still in the market REI has their house brand Stoke pack on sale right now for $63


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