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Buying Tips :: Backpacks

Buying Tips :: Backpacks

by , December 2, 2013


As part of the new Carryology overhaul, we’re bolstering the reference aspects of the site. One way we’ll do this is by releasing a series of ‘Buying Tips’ to help cover the basics of what to look for when the buying bug bites.

Once posted, these Buying Tips will then live in our Carry101 section. If you haven’t scoped that yet, you really should. It’s our vault of carry foundation knowledge.

And now the bit about Backpacks:

A backpack beats a messenger if you are carrying heavier loads, partaking in dynamic activities, or carrying loads for longer periods. They lose to messengers for access on the go, or when you need to look good in a suit.

No backpack can do everything (although some come close). If you want to get active in it, make sure you can stabilise your load with compression straps and a sternum strap. If you want to haul weight in it, make sure it has a semi-rigid back panel with a great waist belt so you can transfer the load to your hips. If you just want to lug some clothes and food around, pick something that speaks to you emotionally because the function is less important for light loads and basic supplies.

3 things to look for:

Start with your most demanding needs:

Decide what matters the most. Does it have to look sharp at the office? Or protect your technology on a rainy ride to work? No one bag does it all, so choose your one or two most demanding needs and start with backpacks targeting those.

Get a format that fits:

A bag shape should generally resemble the contents you carry with it, so briefcases are square like folders, while trekking packs are rounded like clothes. Format also affects access, where top access packs can be placed beside you at work or study and accessed without emptying. Whereas front accessed packs are often best laid out on a bed and packed for travel.

A mix of internal and external pocketing:

External pockets best suit items you need on the run; things like sunglasses, tunes, food and books. This not only helps with convenience, it also limits what prying eyes can see when you are retrieving items. For internal pockets, you really want to be at your destination, or have plenty of time and space, because you’ll need to open the bag up. Internal pockets are best high up on the bag, where they avoid crush zones down the bottom of their section.

3 things to avoid:

Poor fabric and construction:

Fabrics that look dusty or crinkly will usually age badly, as it’s typically a sign of poor quality. Loose threads are a sign of poor construction, and often foretell of straps coming loose and seams unstitched. And zips that catch in use typically foretell of other shortcuts taken.

Excessive straps and sections:

You don’t need 38 compression straps and all-over MOLLE webbing; unless you’re climbing K2 or in the armed forces you won’t use them. Likewise, you don’t need 5 separate sections because no single section will then be large enough for a helmet or grocery bag. Just enough straps, and just enough sections. Oh, and if section walls can move in and out a little, that helps.

Ugly backpacks:

A cheap or ugly backpack can destroy your style faster than bad shoes and mullets. Big graphics, conference embroideries, and oversized zip pulls and handles are common mistakes. Just like monk patches, just because you can’t see it when on, doesn’t mean everyone else isn’t staring.



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