This is my first post and I'm preparing for my first backpacking trip. I'll be in central America for three weeks visiting Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. I plan on staying in only hostels and bungalos.
What size pack should I bring? The guys at REI said 60L minimum. Online I read the lighter the better and was considering the the North Face Terra 40 Backpack.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
It sounds like you aren't camping-just traveling with a backpack. Big difference in what you will be taking. Without camping gear, you don't need as big a pack.
40 l. may still be a bit small even if you aren't taking camping gear, but the best way to tell is to gather up all your gear, go to REI or other store with a good selection and see what pack holds it all. Save some room for souvenirs. If all you are taking is clothes, then 40 l. might work, but will generally be too small if you do any camping later.
Lighter doesn't necessarily mean smaller. A liter = 61 c.i. so a 60l pack is about 3660 c.i. and 40l = 2440 c.i. more or less. There are many packs in this size range and they will vary widely in weight depending on the maker, features and price.
Granite Gear makes some nice, light packs. More money than the North Face packs and REI may not have the whole line, but worth looking at. REI has its own house brand of light packs.
Take a look at the packs offered through the site sponsors (click on the Portal link at the top of the page). This should give you a good idea as to what is available.
I would stay away from the UL packs-some of them are very light, but I question whether or not they will stand up going through an airline's baggage handling system. By UL I mean the packs that weigh a pound or so and are basically a rucksack made of very light material.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Once again, the term "backpacking" is a source of confusion. In the US it means hiking in the wilderness on a trail (or, for the intrepid, cross-country) with all your camping gear on your back. The rest of the world calls this "trekking" and uses the term "backpacking" to mean budget travel using a backpack instead of a suitcase. While this forum is devoted to the first kind of backpacking, nearly all of us have done both kinds.
Based on my own experience, I have two suggestions for you as a traveler: First, consider what you want to put in the pack. Second, consider if you really want to carry all that weight around with you! It is generally advised to get the rest of your gear first and then get a backpack to fit. However, that may tempt you to take far too much. One thing I always did before a long trip was to pack everything I thought I needed and then go for a 2-3 hour walk with the pack on sidewalks and up and down lots of stairs, wearing the same footwear that I planned to wear for the trip. It was amazing how many items became non-essential by the time I got home! I found that one change of clothes (except socks and underwear, of which I took three changes) was plenty if my clothes were all quick-drying. Spot-cleaning of outer clothing and nightly rinsing of socks and underwear in the hostel sink kept me going for 2-3 weeks between stops at a laundry. I don't know just how big my pack was, but it was a convertible pack (with backstays and a padded hipbelt) that met (and still does) the carry-on requirements of US airlines.
The best source I've seen to answer the conundrum of space vs. weight for travelers is this sticky post on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree. It has a link to an excellent web page on the various sizes of backpacks (the travel kind) and what you can put into them. I hope it will answer your question!
Have a great trip!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Most airlines will not allow you to check a pack with all the straps hanging loose. Consider a duffel that you can put the pack inside. The problem is, what to do with it when you get there. Maybe there is some locker storage at the airport, maybe not. If it's just a canvas bag, you can stow it inside the pack while you're travelling.
http://www.amazon.com/Mountainsmith-Ghost-Backpack-2800cu-in/dp/B00076Y2V0 I used one of these last summer for three weeks in Guat and Honduras. My 19 year old daughter and I went. She had a small North Face pack, it was an old one of mine, about the same size. Her pack worked better but mine was ok. We both carried on, no baggage handlers for me. I have found that you need no more for three weeks than you do for one. Getting things washed is cheep and gives a good reason to hang around town. We left wash and went to Tikal over night. That would be a must do for me. Stay in a hammock over night at Tikal and see the sunrise in the morning. Remember less is enough. The old adage about travel still works. Take all the stuff you want to take and put it on the bed. Put the money you are going to take there as well.
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