Oh my backpack, my dear beloved backpack! I could write a novel on my backpack alone but I’ll try to keep it relatively short here.
Why should you get a good nice proper backpack?
It’s going to host everything you care about for the length of your trip. It’s going to be on your back. It has to be resistant and well-adjusted.
DO go inside a pro shop with good sellers to try on a few models.
DO wisely consider the size of it (not that I have really done that ).
DO learn how to properly carry it, how to adjust every single little strap and lash. Once you know how to do this, you’ll figure that your backpack is really easy to carry after all!
Real-life example: it broke my heart to give up the 200 Euro when I bought my backpack until I thought of it like this: this is my first house! I’m going to live out of it for the next X months – with that approach, it doesn’t sound this terrible any more. I actually already had a backpack of about the same size of the one I left with. The one I had was a cheaper one though, and I had an intuition it might not be enough.
Here is what I did: not long before I left, once I had gathered all the gear I wanted to take leave with, I went to the sport-shop and bought the expensive version making sure that I could get the money back if it didn’t fit.
At home I packed everything I wanted to take into the cheap backpack and tried it on.
Then I packed everything I wanted to take into the expensive backpack and tried it on and…
the difference was UNBELIEVABLE! I was taken-aback. Seriously, it felt like half of the weight of the other one and I had put exactly the same stuff inside. So, there was no much to think about: I bought that first house of mine. It didn’t take look until I started calling it the magic backpack because it is really easy to carry and it feels like magic every time I put it on. Those German engineers do know what they are doing, turns out.
Do not get me wrong, though: I am NOT saying that cheap is bad and expensive is always good. But it will save you a lot of hassle if you can find the backpack that fits your body, if you can afford it. Mine is a Deuter, a German brand. While I was looking for a good backpack, I also tried on an American brand, Offsprey. They make backpacks that are even more expensive than the German ones and they are supposedly very good but when I tried one on it just didn’t feel right for me. I guess I have more of a German built . But maybe you’re on a really really tight budget. Maybe you won’t be able to spend 200 Euro on a magic backpack. Do not worry, there is still something you can do to make the most of a cheap backpack or one that was given to you: strap it up properly.
I’m not kidding about the strapping being important.
DO learn from someone who has an idea (at good shops they do – you do not have to buy the backpacks from them, if you find it cheaper online, go for it… after having tried it in a shop*). I’ve seen soooooo many backpackers with good (and bad) backpacks that were unadjusted. I really felt sorry for them. They were obviously carrying all the weight on their shoulders – you should be carrying the weight on your hips, basically. I was always wondering how the heck they could travel like that. And I must admit that even tough I don’t mean to interfere with people’s life most of the time, I did on occasion give a few unsolicited pieces of strapping advice. I am proud to say that they have always been well received and led to improvement .
I am really not kidding about the backpack with relevant strapping being important.
In my opinion, your physical state will impair your judgement. Quick example: if you’re tired of carried those 10 to 15+ kilo on your shoulders only, you might settle for the first slightly out-of-your-budget and slightly crappy hostel you find, when there was a fantastic one a few hundreds meters down the street that fitted right in your budget and had a great atmosphere and crowd.
(however, this is just to prove a point: a good backpack is important. But even more important than that is to see things positively and to be happy with whatever you choose. So if you do end up in that slightly crappy hostel, it’s not the end of the world. You might even meet wonderful people there).
Oh, and do I need to mention that it is your body we’re talking about after all? Do you need more convincing than that? Backpacks means body, your back, dude, with its backbone and all – it is of foremost importance, whether you’re travelling or not! Just like your feet are to be sacred to you on the Road, and that’s why you also want to have good shoes. Trust me, you do not want to end up with a sore back or too much physical pain in an unknown environment. Even less than at home in fact.
*I say go for it… but maybe you want to really think about it first. Does it feel fair to you to do this (if you don’t give a damn, again, go for it )? If it’s only a few Euros/Dollars/Pounds/Unicorn currency more than online and you can afford it, maybe you could reward the shop for having good staff and an actual presence in the physical world, and buy it from them?