How I Chose My Backpack

When I first published my RTW packing list as part of the Indie Travel Challenge, I got a lot of questions about my backpack. Some people can’t believe I’m planning to travel without a suitcase.

Fact is, up until now I’ve always traveled with a checked suitcase and a separate carry-on, but since converting to the leagues of backpackers worldwide as part of my RTW planning, I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

No more tearing up suitcase wheels on cobblestone streets. Hauling a 50lb case off a conveyor belt is a thing of the past. And there’s no risk of my bag being lost in transit. Plus, I’ve found it’s way easier to stay organized with a small-ish backpack than it is with a big, boxy suitcase. The benefits are manifold.

Choosing a specific backpack even turned out to be easier than I expected.


At 5 feet flat and 115 pounds, I knew from the get go that those massive 65, 75, even 90 liter packs you see towering over so many first-time travelers was not going to be an option. I refuse to reenact the admittedly hilarious scene from Wild in which Cheryl Strayed’s hiking pack is affectionately dubbed “Monster.” If there’s one thing I can do, it’s admit my physical limitations, and 40-50 liters is closer to what I’ll be comfortable carrying day in and day out. Carry-on compliance is just a perk.

I also knew going in that I would want a specially made travel backpack. Your average hiking backpack tends to open from the top only and has lots of external straps for attaching sleeping pads, ice picks, and the like. In recent years, companies have started making travel backpacks which have front-loading panels, fewer external straps to get snagged on stuff, and other features designed more for city-hoppers than for backcountry trekkers.

What really sealed the deal, though, was another size issue. Because I’m so small, I knew I would need a backpack that offered a smaller size for women. A 22″ tall frame like the Tortuga just won’t sit comfortably on my back.

Those requirements and a bunch of rave reviews made it really easy to pick the Osprey Farpoint 40L.


  • Lots of internal pockets for organization
  • Front loading panels make it easy to access stuff without unpacking everything
  • Small size fits me perfectly, which is a tall order for a short person
  • Well padded shoulder straps and belt
  • Straps zip away for easy storage
  • Zippers can easily be tied together to deter thieves
  • Carry-on compliant so I don’t have to check my bag


  • Placement of the compression straps make the external pockets a bit tighter than I’d like
  • No side pockets for easy access on the go – if I need something out of my pack, I have to take it all the way off
  • Small size is technically 38L, not 40, so I have to be even more economical in my use of space

It may not be 100% perfect, but the fit is so comfortable that any minor complaints are pretty easy to get over. So far I’m happy with it and I don’t think I’ll regret the purchase.

Does a 40-liter pack sound a little small to you? I actually can fit a full year’s wardrobe inside!

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