Backpacking? But do you really need a backpack?

MEC Ibex 80 Backpack
MEC Ibex 80 Backpack

I am in no doubt that in most cases you don’t need backpack then you are “backpacking”. What is definition of backpacking according wikipedia – “use of public transport as a means of travel, preference of youth hostels to traditional hotels, length of the trip vs. conventional vacations, use of a backpack, an interest in meeting the locals as well as seeing the sights.” Of course there are other descriptions of this term and all of them will include “use of a backpack”, but for me backpacking first of all associates with budget travel. Do I need to have backpack to travel on budget?

It is already more then 3 years when I left my home and travel from place to place. I didn’t know for how long I will be on the road, but because I was planning to stay in hostels and other budget places, so first thought in mind was – I will backpacking so I need big backpack for my trip. So I bought MEC Ibex 80 Backpack. It is nice backpack and there are full range of similar backpacks with internal frame. But couple months after beginning of my trip I started to think how many times I needed to use that backpack as BACKpack…The answer was – none.
Usually it was short walks to public transport or hostel, or leaving it somewhere at luggage storage. So I realized I didn’t need backpack. One big disadvantage of backpacks – top unloading/loading. I tried to put most often used items on the top, but almost everyday I needed something from the bottom. Although this backpack has access at the bottom, so wasn’t so bad, but at least one repack per day was usual routine. I can live with that, but so called hybrid bags would make life much easier. There are simple bags which can be used as backpacks or one shoulder bags or backpack with wheels. These bags are heavier then usual backpacks, but backpacks has many different straps on outside so you will need such thing as airport tote for you bag protection during loading into plane or on the bus. This will add some additional weight to your total, but it still probably will be lighter then hybrid back (especial one with wheels) and with all weight restrictions on budget airlines it can be issue.

So next time you will be looking for backpack think about such thing:

  • Will you go trekking on your trip.
  • If just day trips, may be all you need is daypack?
  • If it will be multi-day trekking, may be you can rent suitable backpack in the place you start your trekking?
  • If you decide go ahead with hybrid bag, check weight and how it feels on you back. Of course it won’t be very comfortable, but good enough for short distances.
  • Do you need bag with wheels?

Would be interesting to hear your thought about backpacking gear – what kind and why you are using it.