A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

I need a pack!

Today, I’m looking for a pack. I’ve done lots of reading, read reviews, listened to podcasts and tried packs on at my local Kathmandu and Mountain Designs but they don’t seem to have the sizes I’m after, so still no joy yet.

I already have an old 65L Macpac Cascade that’s a tough top loader with an excellent harness that I use for wilderness hiking, but it’s too big for backpacking travel since I won’t be carrying any bedding, shelter or cooking gear.

I’ve decided I need something around the 50-55L mark. If I was traveling alone or as a couple I think I’d go down to the 45-50L mark and travel light but I’m going to carry extra because trips with kids can go pear-shaped without the extras which either relate to comfort or safety. Size does matter when backpacking because we will need to be able to throw our packs into the back of a taxi, shove them under tables, on our laps in a mini van, lockers in a hostel and the age old inevitable problem of “you fill what you have” comes into play too.

I bought Nani a Macpac travel pack off Ebay for $30 (a steal) which is on its way from Sydney (I hope). For the boys, I’ve decided on the Osprey Ace 48 which is probably too large for travel, but hopefully I’ll be able to tighten them up and compress a little to make them a bit smaller. The reason I’m looking at that one for them, is it’s a hiking pack, made for youth and we’ll be able to use it for overnight, or two night hiking trips in the future – and it should last them quite a number of years.

But like Bono from U2, for me I still haven’t found what I’m looking for – although I am narrowing it down.

I’ve decided I need a front loading travel pack because I don’t want to have to empty my backpack at a bus terminal to get something at the bottom. It needs lockable zips, a couple of haul handles, a built in rain cover if possible, a good fitting harness system and a detachable day pack. I know some people hate these, but I’ll need to carry one anyway, and it might as well attach to the outside, than take up space on the inside. I also need for the straps to be concealed so they don’t snag on conveyor belts in transit. Obviously price point is a big consideration too, which sort of rules out One Planet who make brilliant packs, and anything new from Macpac or Berghaus etc.

I’ve not tried these two on my back fully loaded yet, but they look like they fit the bill although one is more expensive than the other (but the great thing is, I have time on my side to wait for specials – and winters coming when these things just don’t sell well so hopefully retailers discount big in the next few months). Both Osprey and Deuter are excellent brands.

The Osprey Farpoint 55 looks the most likely at this stage. At $189 with a detachable 10L daypack on top of the 55L main pack, it’s a good price (the free shipping doesn’t hurt either). Two sizes of harness are offered in 420 denier fabric, it comes in at 1.78kg, so not too heavy. It’s rated for 15kg so that about fits the bill (it’s all I’ve booked for our luggage limit). Not much in the way of reviews because I think it’s fairly new.

The other contender at this stage is Deuter Quantum 55+10. The nice thing is, it has integrated hydration and possibly a better internal frame . The downside is, it weighs nearly twice as much (3kg) and costs $273. A good review on was done on this one.


3 responses to “I need a pack!

  1. Nicholas April 14, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Hey John,

    Have you considered Black Wolf? They are an Australian brand and I have found their products to be very well made.
    I’m currently in South Korea and I’ll be heading to Malaysia for 2 weeks in August. So far I have put my Black Wolf packs through hell with all the hiking that I’m doing here and I am very happy with the way they are standing up to all the “torture”.

    • John April 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      Hey Nicholas, thanks for the heads up on black wolf. I’ll definitely check them out!

      • John April 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

        Just a follow up on this one. I went to Anaconda in Hobart yesterday and tried on some Black Wolf packs. I tried the Cuba, and the Cedar Breaks. I tried them on with a reasonable amount of weight and found that with the back adjustment at it’s maximum to fit my torso length, I still couldn’t transfer the load to my hips adequately. They were great packs though. The material 1000D Kodra and it had a built in rain cover (these retail separately for $20 or more) and also had built in locks, waterproof zip (on the Cuba) and gel padded harnesses. Unfortunately, try as I may, I couldn’t get them to fit.

        I then tried on the Deuter which is a great brand (recognised globally) and the 55+10 Traveller fit extremely well. The fabric isn’t as tough as the Blackwolf and it doesn’t have a rain cover, but it did fit and there’s no point having a brilliant pack that doesn’t fit. I’ll just end up hating it.

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