If you thought buying a bra or swimsuit or shoes was bad

Try buying a backpack.  Not like a small “I’m going to school backpack”, I am talking a proper hiking/backpacking/tramping pack.  A pack that is going to live on your back for days on end.

Now I’ve had the same 78l pack for 5+ years.  I bought it on ebay before I moved here to NZ (as I anticipated doing a bit of backpacking around) and it has served me pretty well.  However, as is the way in tramping, you have your “starter gear” and then you realize you need to upgrade and you gradually replace everything (I have 3 sleeping bags, 2 pairs of boots, 2 packs, 2 rain jackets etc. since this is all essential startup gear).Image

Yeah I look pretty cool above but you can see how ill-fitting my pack is (the straps don’t fit at all – they are actually cutting in on the edge and not lying flat on my shoulders)!  Which is why after a couple of years my pack now looks like this:

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Wait, are those giant pieces of FOAM under my straps, you ask?  Yes.  Yes they are.  I always thought I had “bony shoulders” (which, as an aside, I do), but actually my pack fits me like crap through the shoulders.

I have wanted a new pack for a while (see above on upgrading gear), but the old one is still going strong.  I’ve replaced a couple of the buckles but nothing major is actually wrong with it…  apart from the fact that yesterday I realized it does not fit at all.

What spurned all this new pack talk, you ask?  Well, my bf, D decided that the pack he bought (back in March of this year, mind you) was way too huge (it’s like 80l).  I have a small 35l daypack which he LOVES so he wanted to downsize and get something more along the size of 50l with a similar harness to my small pack.  Well, as is the case, the company that made my little pack doesn’t make a bigger version.  We spent an hour on Sunday and an hour on Monday visiting all of the camping stores in Dunedin, and he eventually went with this 45l+ bad boy (which was on sale, mind you):

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This resulted in a lot of online pack research which involved visits here, here and here.  Which inspired me to try my own pack on and truly evaluate the fit – the results were shocking.  How I could possibly have ever gotten into tramping with such a crap fitting pack is beyond me (I must really love it to endure such a torturous ill fitting pack!)!

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So back to all of the camping stores in Dunedin we went.  I tried on literally every single pack from the 40-60l range (I’m after something about 45-55l).  The very last pack I tried on was the most comfortable and it was this one:

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However, this one is 60 + 10l – so 70l.  A little on the large side and no exterior pockets.  But the harness was the best I tried on all day and actually fit properly (as usual, reminded yet again of my freakish proportions!  Thank you swimming, for freak shoulders that curve forward).

So after a lot of poking around online, this is the pack that I want most (the 45 + 15l).  In the US, it costs about $127-170.  Not too bad.  But of course, does anywhere in NZ sell said pack?  It appears not.  I’ve emailed several stores AND the distributor for Dueter so we shall see what they say *fingers crossed!*.  AND it’s won a nifty award – so clearly I’m not the only one who thinks it’s awesome.

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I might have to settle for this one (Deuter 50+10l).  Perfectly acceptable except slightly bigger and no exterior pocket (and also not as pretty in my humble opinion):

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So we shall see.  I need a pack rather urgently as we have a lot of tramps penciled in and my old pack simply has to go!

So what did I learn about picking a pack?

  1. TRY THEM ALL ON!  Find the pack that fits and is the most comfortable.  The harness is the most important part.  Pack features are superfluous if it is uncomfortable to wear.
  2. Learn how to fit the pack properly.
  3. Try the pack on with weights in it.
  4. Mac Pac packs are super durable but way heavier than other brands (I used to think MacPac gear was superior in all ways, however I am not so sure about packs now).
  5. TRY THEM ALL ON AGAIN!

Clearly D and I are both fans of Dueter at the moment (kudos to German pack engineering!).  But seriously, like bras, swimsuits and shoes, you have to find the pack/brand of packs that fit you.  At least you don’t have to take your clothes off to try on a pack.  ; D  Good luck and happy tramping!

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