After 7 years of travel, my old pack was ready to retire. It had a good life, and I hope whoever buys it from the thrift store will enjoy it just as much as I have.
Now I have the challenge of finding a new pack. There are so many different brands and styles out there. Other travelers give their recommendations, which are really helpful, but when it comes down to it, you are the one who will be carting the pack around. You have to make sure the pack is right for your needs before making that final commitment.
Packs have come a long way over the years. Some of my biggest complaints of my former packs have been about organization and convenience.
My last pack had an external frame with one big open area and a couple of side pockets. I couldn’t organize it very well.
When I went to Europe, I borrowed my roommates pack thinking it would be better than pulling my luggage around. I was so wrong!
The first problem was the sheer size of the pack. My roommate is 6’5 and 180lbs. I felt like my 5’5 frame was going to snap in half every time I put it on.
Then there was the other problem of convenience. The main compartment had access from the top and bottom but not the middle. Every time I needed to grab something that was packed in the middle, I would have to pull out almost everything to get to it. No bueno!
This time I knew more of what I was looking for.
Since I had some time in Kansas, I decided to ordered 3 different packs from REI and have them shipped to my parent’s house. That allowed me to pack my stuff in each of them and test them out properly.
Here’s what I found…..
Please Note: This post is not sponsored by REI. I wanted to write about my experience finding a new backpack and hopefully help you find the right backpack for your travels. There are affiliate links in this post where I would get a small commission at no cost to you if you should choose to click on the link and make a purchase.
Quantum 55+10 (No longer available now)
This pack came with the perfect price from REIOutlet.com. Originally almost $200 it had been marked down to $142. That’s pretty good!
The downside is it just wasn’t big enough. I wish I could get everything I needed into a 55L pack, but I’m not that kind of minimalist traveler……yet.
I didn’t spend much time working with this one, but I can tell you it had great features for organizing and keeping your belongings separated.
It also had a pretty flower attached to the side which I thought was a nice touch. I’m not super girlie, but I like a little bit of sparkle.
This bad boy is the older sibling to the 55+10.
They both have the same design layout with a top and bottom compartment, some side pockets, and then a large storage area.
This particular backpack reminded me a lot of my roommate’s pack I borrowed years before except there was one huge difference. The large middle compartment had access from the top and bottom, but it also had a zipper that opened right down the middle. Now there would be no loading and unloading just to get to the items in the middle!
The Quantum 70 also comes with and extra 10L daypack. I really like this feature, and the daypack is expandable for even more space. Brilliant!
Once I got everything packed into the Quantum 70, I decided to take it for a spin. Let me tell ya……It was like carrying nothing! The adjustable straps and padded waistband made for a perfect fit. The pack weighed out at 38lbs full and it felt like 5lbs. Seriously!
My main complaint about the Quantum 70 is the appearance. I want my pack to have a little character, and I wasn’t feeling the black and charcoal color scheme.
I also didn’t like the rain guard. It’s a good feature to have, but the pack was unusable with it on. Sometimes you find yourself walking in the rain to get to you next destination, so you need a cover that can be put over the pack while it’s on your back.
Grand Tour 80
This pack is a bit bulkier than the 2 Quantum editions, but it really stood out to me when I was shopping.
First of all it’s pretty. I love the turquois color scheme! Like I said, I like things to be a little girlie.
Like the Quantums, the Grand Tour came with an extra 10L daypack, but this one doesn’t have the extendable feature unfortunately.
This pack was more like my old onwe with a large main compartment but way better. Mesh pockets line both side panels and the front flap for easy organization. There is also a good sized top zip pocket and a large side zip pocket which are perfect for my emergency kits and toiletries.
The Grand Tour is from the REI label, so I’m sure they’ve taken all the feedback from every other pack and put it together for their own designs.
Between the Quantum 70 and the Grand Tour, I do have to say the Quantum takes the cake when it comes to comfort. Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Tour is very comfortable too, but the Quantum was just a little bit better.
The rain guard for this one is really nice. It has a separating center zipper that can easily close around the pack keeping the shoulder and waist straps free. Once you have it zipped up, just pull the elastic cord to fit the edges of the cover tightly around your pack and you’ll be on your way.
My all time favorite feature of the Grand Tour is so simple yet so amazing to me…….its a whistle. The chest strap buckle has a whistle built into it, so it’s easily accessible if you find yourself in need of some help.
It was a hard decision, but in the end I chose the Grand Tour 80. It jumped out at me immediately when I saw it. I love the look and all the difference compartments for organizing.
The Quantum 70 didn’t get sent back either though. While I was trying each pack out, my boyfriend was eyeing the Quantum. He didn’t have a pack to wear and really wanted one, so he took the Quantum 70 and couldn’t be happier. It suits him well I must say.
Before you buy your next pack, make sure to think about what you want it to do for you. You and your pack will be together for a long time, so you might as well love it straight out the gate.