This post is part of a series in which ladies on the road offer a review of their backpack. Today’s post comes from Natalie, a San Franciscan on a 16-month trek around the world.
Natalie is traveling slow and low as she eats her way around the world with Pasture Braised, a food and travel blog she co-authors with her fiancé, Cliff.
What’s your backpack brand and model? How much does this backpack typically cost?
I’m packing the REI Vagabond Tour 40L. It costs $149 at REI.
>> Check out the REI Vagabond Tour at REI. Please note this is an affiliate link, and if you make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?
I’ve been carrying my Vagabond a couple of months: on a flight from San Francisco to Central America, on busses and 4WD vehicles from North West Costa Rica through Panama, and on a 43 foot sailboat from the San Blas Islands to Cartagena, Colombia.
What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack? How did you come to choose this one?
Size. The best packing advice I’ve heard is to “pack half as much stuff and twice as much money”. For years I traveled with an REI Venus 65, thinking that big adventures called for equally big packs. For our RTW, we both wanted to be as light and nimble as possible. I’d also been bothered by the way the Venus brain compartment bumped my brain—I wanted a bag that didn’t come as far up my head.
I’ll admit that looks mattered to me, too. This bag is my main accessory for 16 months, and I want to look the least ridiculous and overly “backpackery” as possible. My fiancé packs the Osprey Porter 46L and is obsessed. He strongly suggested I go the same route, but I just couldn’t get down with its bulky duffle design. I love that the Vagabond could double as an overachieving freshman’s book bag.
What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?
I love the Vagabond’s aforementioned size, portability, and no nonsense look. Even the name makes me want to throw it on and hit the road.
The Vagabond’s top features include:
- A single top-loading main compartment with two compression straps to maximize storage space (you can fit a surprising amount in 40L)
- A zippered mesh pocket that runs inside the length of the front-loading pocket that houses my personal “kitchen sink”
- A compact brain that never slips out of position and includes an attached waterproof document carrier
- A horizontal haul handle that makes grabbing the pack out from under a bus or off a baggage kiosk a synch; the pack is also light enough to carry by this handle for a short walk
- Two side pockets for last minute add-ons that don’t disrupt the bag’s lines when left empty
Future upgrades could include:
- A third compression strap, but that’s really splitting hairs
Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.
The Vagabond fits like a glove. Its size is great for my height (5’6″). The shoulder straps are well padded and don’t trouble my shoulders (even in a tank top and sweltering Central American heat). Even packed to capacity, it’s light enough that I don’t often think to use the waist or chest straps.
If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?
I could, but so far we haven’t taken any flights that charge checked bag fees.
Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?
Just right. Although I tend to pack as much as I have space for, so I’d love to see how my packing would conform to a 35 or even 30L bag.
Overall, would you recommend your backpack?
Definitely. Choosing a backpack is really personal, but the Vagabond works like a charm for me.
>> Read more about how to pick a backpack.
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About the Author: Natalie pens the travel food blog PastureBraised.com. She loves all things ocean based, Instagram, and often the two combined. Pasture Braised is currently documenting food culture and travel stories in Central and South America, Europe, North Africa, India and South East Asia. Follow Natalie at: Pasturebraised.com, Facebook, and Instagram.