This post is part of a series in which ladies on the road offer a review of their backpacks. Today’s review comes from Kathryn Murphy.
I’m Kathryn, an archaeology student, and travel addict, from Canada. I spend my winters planning my adventures (and going to school), and my summers exploring Europe and participating in archaeological digs. I’ve travelled around Canada, Ireland, Scotland, France and England with family, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Ireland with friends, and this summer I completed my first solo adventure through Scotland and England. I’m currently in the midst of planning and organizing a family adventure through Italy for summer 2014.
What’s your backpack brand and model? How much does this backpack typically cost?
I travel with an Osprey Women’s Ariel 55L, in a medium. I purchased my bag from a local camping, hiking and travel shop for $260 CAD. It is available from Amazon for $200-270 USD. It is also available in 65L or 75L models, if you need a bit more space.
>> Check out prices for the Osprey Ariel 55 on Amazon.
How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?
I purchased this bag in 2010, and since then I’ve taken it on 3 adventures. The first was 3.5 weeks in Scotland and England in May 2011; the second was 6.5 weeks around England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland in May and June 2012, and, most recently, 3 weeks in Scotland and England in August 2013.
I am actually on my second Ariel 55L bag. While flying from Edinburgh to Belfast during my 2012 adventure, my bag got caught somewhere on the miles of conveyor belts in the airport; I picked it up on the luggage carousel to find 3 small holes melted into the fabric on the bottom. Luckily, Osprey has a fantastic All Mighty Lifetime Warranty. Once I was home, my bag was shipped to Osprey, where they decided they couldn’t fix the holes. Osprey sent me a voucher to cover the cost of a replacement bag, no questions asked.
What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack? How did you come to choose this one?
When it came to choosing a backpack, I needed one that was going to be comfortable to carry, easy to pack, and was big enough to carry my clothes for the vacation parts of my trips, as well as the gear I need for the archaeological digs (rubber boots, hiking boots, rain gear, trowel, extra clothes for digging). Luckily for me, the staff member who helped me try on bags was a fellow archaeology student, so they knew what kind of gear I would be taking with me.
I only looked at women’s bags, since I wanted to make sure the bag would fit my shape. I also have some shoulder problems, so I wanted to make sure that the bag would sit properly on my hips, so they would carry most of the weight. I’ve carried the bag with anywhere from 25 to 45 pounds in it, and I have had no problems.
What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?
I love that the bag has several access points (top, bottom, and side), so it is easy to both pack my gear at home, and to unpack, or access items, on the road. The biggest downside is probably the number of straps on the bag. They can get caught in airport conveyor belts, but I eliminate the problem when I travel by rolling up the straps so they aren’t loose, and by placing my backpack in the huge plastic bags provided at the airport. I’ve found that European airports do not usually provide these bags, so I stick an extra in one of the side pockets on my backpack for the flight home.
Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.
I find this bag fits very well. Before I left the store, a staff member helped me adjust the torso length, and made sure I knew how to adjust the straps, so the bag fit me properly. With these adjustments, the Osprey Ariel 55L is very comfortable, and I am able to carry it for extended periods without any problems.
There is also an option to have the hip belt heated and custom molded to your shape. I haven’t done this yet, since it wouldn’t last very long if the straps get squished while travelling. If I do decide I want the custom molding, I have the option to return to the store where I purchased the bag, and have it done.
If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?
I travel with another small backpack for carry-on, and to use as a daypack while I’m touring around, so I always check my backpack. The bag is also too big to be used as carry-on.
Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?
The size has been just prefect for me. I have no problem fitting all of my archaeology gear, and the rest of my clothes for my travels. I also use two of Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Compression Sacs while I’m travelling, which help save a lot of space.
Overall, would you recommend your backpack?
I would definitely recommend this backpack to fellow travelers!
>> Check out more reviews of the Osprey Ariel 55.
Thanks to Kathryn for telling us about her backpack. Follow along with her adventures on her Tumblr, wedigthedirt.tumblr.com.