BootsnAll Travel Network

Backpacks don’t care how fabulously long your legs are

Not that I’m the type that obsesses about things (ha ha), but you’d think getting a backpack for my trip shouldn’t be THAT difficult, right? Let me take you on a tour of Snarky’s World of Anxiety.

First problem: I’m short (5’2”)
Second problem: I’m short-waisted short.

If upper-body matched my legs, I’d probably be a leggy 5’7” or more (and maybe blonde and bubbly, too!). On the other hand, if my legs matched my torso, I think Mini-Me and I would hit it off rather well. So, I basically go from legs to neck, with a few well-placed diversions in between.

    Segue: For my fellow short-waisted gals, I never understand when I see a model who has about 5 feet between her waist and whatever barely-there top she’s wearing. Don’t we all have the same internal organs? Are my organs just crammed inside of me like a subway car at rush hour, whereas in long-waisted people they just flow casually, saying “ciao” to each other as they hang out in the mesentery?

OK, so, tough to find a backpack that fits people with no backs.

After 2 hours at REI trying on every pack they have, I decide on the Gregory Jade 50. The “50” refers to the alleged liter size of how much stuff it can hold. I say “alleged” because it’s all bull-hockey, as Colonel Potter used to say. They just make it up. How much stuff it holds totally varies no matter what the label says.

I took the pack for a test hike of about 6 miles with probably 20+ lbs in the bag, and it was really comfy, so that was great! But…

The negatives:

1) The “Gregory Jade 50” is only a 50L if you get the medium or larger size. With the small size, for us no-backs, it is only “45L” per the label. 45 alleged liters for 2 months in Africa is a little tight… There are some well-traveled folks who can do it, but I don’t think I’m one of them.

2) Its a top-loader. Now, I was hoping to be “above” the “top-loader vs. panel-loader” fray which at one point I thought was like the cattle rancher vs. sheep farmer feud of the old west. Now, I’ve decided it’s more like the San Francisco vs. LA debate. Those from San Francisco (panel-loaders) are PASSIONATE about how awful LA is (top-loaders) whereas people from LA don’t really think one way or the other much about San Francisco except it’s a cool place to visit and get stoned every once in a while (not that I know, but that’s what people tell me). So, I was going to be above all that, and pick the pack that fit me best, and loading style be damned.

But then… I did a test pack of the Gregory (which I have now completely bonded with), and I was kinda annoyed. It really WAS hard to get at the stuff in the bottom! But, we bonded! We hiked together! We were COMFY together! We had meaning, man!

But, like the IKEA commercial about the broken lamp, I need to stay objective. So, BACK to REI where I looked at panel-loaders, in the luggage section (apparently like their San Fran compatriots, they had to be upstairs and higher than the ground-level Angelino top-loaders — ok, maybe enough with the analogy) and spent another god-knows-how-long-not-doing-my-schoolwork-as-I-should-be trying on panel-loaders and comparing it to the top-loaders. I decided on the the REI Grand Tour backpack (allegedly 70+L including the daypack) over the more expensive Eagle Creek bags, as it fit well enough to merit a test run even though it definitely wasn’t as good a fit as the Gregory and was heavier (and the sternum strap sucks with regard to those well-placed diversions mentioned above). ANOTHER $185 down and I took her home for a test pack (thank GOD for REI’s return policy!).

During the test pack I put in all the clothes I expect to take and some ‘fillers’ on stuff I don’t have yet. It was “full-ish” but it was really easy to get to everything, and it was pretty comfortable. Then I started cramming more and more stuff into it just to see how much it would hold. It held a goodly amount more, actually, but because it’s a very “horizontal” pack, that means when it gets heavy, it pulls you over backwards. Remember, the whole “I’m really short” thing, so not a lot of leverage to counter-balance. So, comfortable enough when full, but not exactly cushy the way the Gregory is.

So, next steps, I’ll take the REI out for a test hike, but at the moment, I’m torn. The Greogry is more comfortable, but the REI is more convenient. Also, the REI lets you ‘hide away’ the backpack straps and it has a removable daypack I can bring on the plane or day-trips, whereas I’d have to buy a daypack and cover for the Greogory…

There, welcome to my world of anxiety. Aren’t you glad you entered? Now I really should do some school work…

APRIL 11 Addendum:

WOO HOO!!!! REI put the SAME GRAND TOUR BACKPACK (last year’s model) on it’s outlet store for $79 !!! The models are a little different, so I’ll wait until I have them both to compare, but WOO freaking HOO! Again, thank GOD for REI’s return policy.

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-17 responses to “Backpacks don’t care how fabulously long your legs are”

  1. static says:

    You must have had some pretty wise advisers, because you certainly know your packs!

  2. Virginia says:

    Funny blog indeed! I’m reading in a random guesthouse among the thousands of random guesthouses in Saigon. A tip from a seasoned traveler, though- it might be painful, but rough and dirty up that lovely rucksack a bit before you leave home. The best statement your luggage can make on the road is “nothing valuable inside!!” You wouldn’t want your bag stolen just for the bag! This is an essential third-world fashion trend. I myself carry a 45 liter toploader with side pockets called a “regetta survivor”, British for el generico, which I bought dirt cheap in London a bazillian years ago. It’s finally almost perfect. Happy trails!

  3. Wei says:


    Found your blog through the bootsnall forum.
    I’m also going through the same troubles as you did in finding a pack. I went in today to MEC (Canadian co-op, probably the more socialist version of REI) and was just astounded by the choice. I’ll have to go back some other time this week and hopefully find my mate; of course, I’m talking about the backpack that I will bond with.

    I can sympathize with you on traveling to Africa and getting those same looks and questions. I’m also going to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania this summer in early July. Although I don’t have 2 months, I’m sure it will be an incredible experience.

    Best of luck on your trip!

    P.S. Egypt is absolutely amazing, I was there for 2 weeks over Christmas break 2003.

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