After too much online action, we went in search of the night market, some street food, and possibly some new backpacks.
“But you HAVE a backpack, Liz!” You might exclaim. “You bought it specifically for this trip and it was expensive!” You might add…
And you’re right. I DO have an expensive “backpackers” backpack. I broke down and bought it after Manhattan Portage didn’t respond to my last email this summer with details of a bag I wanted them to design and manufacture. Crazy, right? But they were interested and I was excited!
I know, you might be a little skeptical, but really, the Assistant Sales and Marketing Manager and I were in communication! She got my hopes way up with her response that it might be possible! If nothing else, she volunteered to be my bag sponsor for the trip. But then, my hopes of having a perfectly designed bag for “the modern traveler” (or at least a nice, already designed and made Manhattan Portage bag) were crashed when she didn’t respond to my most recent email- in July- before we left on our trip.
So here I am, in Thailand with an Osprey Farpoint 55 (that cost $176.00) that I do not like (that’s putting it mildly) looking at knockoff backpacks and totes in the Chiang Mai Night Bazzar.
Before we left Seoul, I told Andrew I wanted to take everything I wanted to pack to the store, put it in a backpack, and walk around with it for awhile to see if it would work. He laughed at me. Well, now I totally wish I would have, becuase maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament now! Here’s the thing, on paper, the Osprey Farpoint 55 is great:
- clam-shell opening- much better than a top loading backpack where you have to dig around to find something all the way at the bottom… or dump everything out…
- lockable zippers. (obviously it’s lovely to have a little extra protection when you leave your bag in a hostel or trekking office for a few days)
- detachable day-pack
- backpack straps zip up into a pocket, making the bag appear more like a duffle when carrying through an airport (not to mention the straps won’t get caught on conveyor belts)
- it’s supposed to fit within the current airline carry-on size requirements (eliminating the need to check and pay for a bag was a huge bonus!)
In reality, I think the Osprey Farpoint 55 kinda sucks:
- The clamshell is fantastic for access, but there are only two small straps inside to hold your things in “securely.” In addition, there are only two mesh pockets on the lid (if you will) of the bag. The only way to organize your bag is to get additional bags to put within the main compartment. In my opinion- this totally defeats the purpose of a clamshell opening. If you don’t want your bag semi-exploding everytime you open it (because there is no real support for the sides of the bag to contain your belongings within) you need to get compression bags to contain all of your Round-the-World needs. Everytime I unzip my bag all the way, I feel as though I’m facing an unorganized mountain (despite organizing everything before it was zipped up) and I have to devote extra time to folding and organizing my clothes, and other contents. Another blogger raved about the ease of the clamshell opening to see all of her stuff, but, she had compression bags. So, I don’t get it. I think a backpack with more pockets and organizational tools would be better than spending so much on a bag and then having to spend more on compression bags…
- There aren’t any outside pockets on the main bag for wet shoes while traveling.
- If both the big backpack and daypack are full, it’s impossible to zip the daypack onto the bigger pack. You’re almost forced to walk around town with one backpack on the front of you, and one on the back, which makes you feel like an idiot. Not to mention how uncomfortable it is to maneuver in! I feel like this could be avoided if a little strip of stretchy fabric or at least there was more give with the zipper.
- You have to buy a separate rain cover. Maybe this is just Osprey’s way of making sure you buy more products from them, but it’s incredibly inconvenient- especially during monsoon season in Southeast Asia. So when it rains, instead of unzipping an external pocket and being able to pull it out and quickly put over your pack (the InCase Ari Marcopoulos camera bag is the jam when it comes to this feature), you have to find a dry spot, unzip your pack, exploding everything, while you search for your rain cover. That’s just dumb, Osprey.
- The daypack is designed for someone who has a smaller/thinner computer than my 13” MacBook Air in a padded sleeve. This daypack is for someone who doesn’t carry a DSLR, doesn’t drink water (at least out of a bottle bigger than 8 oz.), and doesn’t buy any souvenirs. Seriously, if you’re the lightest packer on earth, and are only using a point and shoot, maybe you have a fighting chance, otherwise… I can’t fit anything I need (and use on a daily basis) inside at the same time! I’m usually forced to carry my DSLR separately and outside of the daypack.
- The daypack’s outside mesh pockets have no give. My Nalgene bottle doesn’t have a chance fitting inside, so I’m forced to hang it from a carabiner from the zipper. (Not sure how long that’s going to last)
- The daypack has a smaller zippered pouch, that’s great for lip balm, tissues, and the like… But the inside of the daypack isn’t lined, so if full, the pocket flips around and prevents you from seeing what’s inside the pack. Also it buts up against the interior pocket, so you can’t put much in either pocket or you can’t zip the pack closed.
- The daypack doesn’t come with a rain cover. Raincovers average around $30.00 each. That’s two raincovers you need for both the big backpack and the daypack. Your backpack now cost you at least $205.00.
I’m just curious at this point, if the designers of the Farpoint 55 have ever backpacked themselves? Because after using it for two months, I feel like it was designed by someone who hasn’t lived out of a backpack for this long (let alone longer) and has a degree in design and thought, “Oh hey, this will work!” or “This is what backpackers need!” when they designed the backpack- and ESPECIALLY when they designed (the super sucky) daypack.
The worst part about backpack shopping for a Round-the-World trip is that none of them are really designed for someone traveling long term WITH computers and camera gear. Which is what I appealed to Manhattan Portage about. InCase bags aren’t big enough. Manhattan Portage bags (currently) aren’t versatile enough. And Osprey bags… well, you know my sentiments…
Four years ago, I traveled around SE Asia for two and a half months. I carried a shoulder leather duffle style bag and a Jansport backpack. It was perfect. I don’t know why I didn’t go that route this time around. I panicked. This whole “Round-the-World” aspect threw me. I have an entire First Aid kit for travel’s sake! So I thought I needed a “backpacker’s backpack.” Andrew waxed on about shoulder and back support, when in reality I did just fine (more than fine) with my bags last time around. So here we are, two months into our trip, in Thailand with fancy backpacks sizing up the knockoffs in the markets. I’ve already given up on the daypack and I’ve been using a $5.00 Thai concrete bag tote bag instead. The ‘Roxy’ backpack doesn’t have lockable zippers, but if I can get the vendor down to $10 or $15, I just might spring for it, and look for a duffle in India? Regardless, this Osprey Farpoint 55 is bringing me down and has got to go!
Six month update on the bag:
I get a lot of hits on this page, so I thought I’d jump back to it to write a quick update after using the backpack for six months. In brief, I’m still not a fan. I’ve been traveling with the daypack zipped to the big pack and an additional (knockoff) Roxy backpack I bought at a Thai market for the past five months. I lost my rain cover on the big backpack because it wouldn’t stay on securely when the daypack was zipped onto the main pack. I can’t fit much into the daypack while it’s zipped onto the main pack other than a mosquito net. Even with only that in the daypack, it makes the bag overall much more bulky than you would think… Several small holes have appeared in the last few months as well on the big pack. This hasn’t happened to my partner’s bag, and we’re not sure why it has to mine as we both have the same amount and kinds of things in our bags (mostly clothes). Perhaps this is just wear and tear. Indian and now African buses aren’t exactly easy on stowed baggage, but depending on the length of your travel, this may be an issue. The holes are small, and don’t seem to pose a huge problem… yet.
On the more optimistic side, the zippers remain incredible and neither of us have had issue with them at all. They are the most impressive feature of the bag(s). Also, being able to zip up the straps is a really fantastic feature as well. We do this often while we’re in transit, and when walking into a nicer hotel, we don’t give off the dirty backpacker vibe as readily.
Random sidenote: Because we don’t keep anything of real value in our bigger bags, we’ve only been using carabiners to keep the zippers together when we check our bags (just in case). This has been a huge mistake. Between the two of us, we’ve now lost 3-4 carabiners in airports. We’re assuming bag handlers have been ecstatic over them. Obviously the carabiners aren’t the most expensive things in the world, but it’s been an annoyance, and while we didn’t think it necessary to get TSA locks for our bags, now we’re looking to acquire some, just to ensure the zippers don’t sneak apart after checking our bags.