Executive summary: I?m torn between two backpacks. Being torn between two lovers might actually be easier.
Question for readers: What bag do you use, and why did you choose it?

Thanks to Lifehacker, I found an excellent post by David Danzeiser about how he traveled the world for a year with only a 20-pound backpack and its contents. (You should visit Dave’s website, by the way. He has an updated gear list available for subscribers, and from my limited correspondence with him I’d say he’s a decent fellow.)

Now, I’m a fan of researching and acquiring relevant gear (including gadgets and gizmos). I inherited this from my athlete father, who is particularly attracted to sports that he has to gear up for. This includes SCUBA diving and fly fishing.

No surprise that Dave’s odyssey got me itchy for getting out on the road again myself, which is unfortunately not a real possibility right now. It also got me to thinking about bags—specifically about my own set up—which is not a difficult thing to do. I’m pretty much always lusting after bags online while thinking about how to improve my system. And, let me tell you, there are a lot of bags out there to choose from.

This is both good and bad. Good, because no single bag will meet every carrier’s needs, so there should be choices. Bad, because holy crap there is a mind-numbing, almost paralyzing number of options. How can you be sure you’ve picked the right bag when one of the twenty others on the very next page or the twenty-third one after that might be the holy grail for your next jaunt? (HINT: I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect bag. You just use what works and make alterations, upgrades, downgrades, and what-have-you as circumstances dictate. But don’t be ridiculous about it. You don’t want to know how many backpacks, rucksacks, and attaches I had lying around before my latest purge.)

Here’s where I’m going with this: I’m on the fence about whether a move to a new bag is right for me at this time. Yeah, that sounded way more pretentious than I intended. Put it this way: My backpack is bothering me, enough to be an problem.

I had been using a Trager Cross Country for a little over ten years when I decided to switch to a Dakine Eve backpack in 2011. I’m not sure why I made the switch; that rationalization is lost to me now. Maybe it was because I was preparing for my International Reporting Project fellowship, which would take me cross-country and overseas, and I felt I deserved a new bag for my coming adventure. Or maybe I’m just a gear nerd and really wanted to go bag shopping online.

Both bags have traveled with me internationally. Both have been on planes, trains, ferries, buses, taxies, etc. No rickshaw action that I recall. After 3.5 years, the webbing of one of the Eve’s water bottle pockets has a significant hole and the inner lining shows definite wear. I have had to repair one of the pockets on the Trager—I stupidly left a sandwich in that pocket, and then left the bag in the car with my wolf-dog. She really wanted that sandwich. I don’t think I can fault a bag for not standing up sufficiently to a hungry, part-wolf husky. Sewing up the rip with dental floss did the trick.

I’ve noticed that the Dakine Eve, while lighter and offering greater volume (1700 cu in/28L), is too long for me. I’m barely scraping 5’4″, and the Eve is 19 inches long. The bottom of the backpack starts to curl under when I have the straps appropriately fitted to my body. Plus, this particular Eve is in a muted rainbow fabric that my boyfriend picked out for me; it does deter theft by making the bag easily identifiable, but I’m not really a rainbows-and-ponies kind of gal.

In comparison, the Trager is 15.5 inches long, 1600 cu in/26L, and bright orange with a reflective strip—making it, and me, more visible in the rain. The Trager is a little on the heavy side—maybe 3 pounds?—compared to what’s available now. It’s not perfect. For instance, I’m using the external velcro pouch as a water bottle pocket; it’s a tight but secure fit, though I wish this pocket was on the other side of the bag. There’s no “fleece” lining in any of the pockets to protect electronics or sunglasses. There is no sternum strap, but that’s easily remedied. It’s a good product and has held up well. Part of me is wondering what head injury I had that made me try something else to begin with. (It looks like Trager-USA has gone out of business since I bought my bag back in 2000.)

Neither bag has a waist/hip belt. I’m also making increased use of smaller pouches (like gear bags and mesh pencil cases) to improve organization.

So that’s my story. This is day one of switching back to the Trager. Depending on how the next few days or weeks go, I may try a new bag altogether. Or I may find something else to obsess over.

Dave has shared with me via email how he arrived at his decision to carry the Tom Bihn Smart Alec on his adventures. What about you? How do you transport your laptop, tablet, books, camera, notebooks, pomodoro timer, orange-haired troll doll, fingerless gloves, and IAmElemental action figures?

torn between two backpacks

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