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Meet Ali Garland and Her REI Lookout 40

Ali backpack

This post is part of a series in which ladies on the road offer a review of their backpack. Today’s post is from Ali, a former fellow Atlanta girl, who travels with her husband Andy.

Ali is an American expat living in Germany. She has traveled to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday and loves encouraging others to travel.

What’s your backpack brand and model? How much does this backpack typically cost?

My backpack is the REI Lookout 40, and the current model costs $99.50. I bought the men’s version because I liked the way it fit me better than the women’s version.

How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?

I’ve had the backpack for about a year and a half. I’ve used it for short trips and for my round the world trip (along with a small daypack) when I traveled to 13 countries in 5 months. This bag has been with me through Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and more.

What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack? How did you come to choose this one?

One of the most important things to me is that the bag is not top loading. I find top loading bags harder to get into, but panel loading bags, like the one I bought, make it easier to dig for something at the bottom of the bag without having to unpack the whole thing. I also love pockets, and this one has plenty of those. I chose this bag because of the great pockets and because it’s not a top loading bag.

Ali REI backpack

What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?

It has a rain cover, which is great for keeping your stuff dry in the rain, and the waist band works really well for support. It also has several places where you can hang stuff, like shoes, from the outside of the bag. One piece of the buckle came off in transit, but REI replaced it for me for free when I took it into the store. I haven’t really found many negatives about the bag.

Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.

As I mentioned before, I bought the men’s version because it fit me better. It has padding in the back and on the straps so it’s comfortable, and the straps are all adjustable. I’d definitely say it’s a comfortable bag.

If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?

This is actually another reason why I purchased this bag. It fits the measurements for carry-on for most airlines, and I try my hardest to always travel carry-on only. The only times I was prevented from taking it as carry-on were when I exceeded the weight limit.

Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?

I think the size is perfect. I can fit the essentials in it, and it served me well on my round the world trip. On a short trip it will easily hold all my clothes, and on a longer trip I know I will have to do laundry no matter what, so I pack about the same amount of clothing. I can fit my laptop in it if necessary, which is great.

Overall, would you recommend your backpack?

Definitely. It’s held up pretty well even after taking a beating for 5 months around the world, I love the convenient pockets, and I can take it as carry-on as long as I’m careful about how much weight I put in it.

You can follow her at Travel-Made-Simple.com and AliAdventures.com, and on Twitter @AliAdventures7.

>>Check out the best women’s travel backpacks here.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


    • Brooke says

      Good sized bag there, and a good perspective going for the men’s version. Thanks for sharing! These types of posts don’t get many comments, but I get lots of emails saying they love this series, so thanks for contributing!

  1. Nim says

    Good review! I have the same bag (in men’s L) but I have found it to be a bit too bulky for day use. I was hoping to find that perfect pack that would work for short overnight hikes, world trips, or as a “daily driver”. Sadly, this feels too bulky (puffy straps, internal frame structure) for daily use. For hikes, I could only get my tiny tent and sleeping bag inside before it was full up. Boo! It was nice, however, to have straps at the bottom to use for my ground pad.

    I’m glad to hear you’ve had a good experience with it on RTW trips; that is the ultimate plan for my bag. Now I’m torn about finding a different bag for my non-travel life. 🙂

  2. Isabelle says

    I love it! I’m a minimal pack-a-holic too. Always betting I can pack smaller and smaller. Watch someday I’ll go to Thailand with just a wallet… LOL!

  3. taylor says

    Have you taken this backpack on a Ryanair flight? If so, did it fit within their requirements? I’ve looked up the deminisions but i know the airline is notorious for charging high fees if the bag is even slightly over their criteria.

  4. Spike says

    Hmm, I’m a bit confused. I was on the “Best 40L Backpacks” post and clicked on the picture of the bag I have, the REI 40L Lookout, to see if the reviewer loved theirs as much as I love mine, and was surprised to find a description of basically a totally different bag than I have. I have the Lookout in women’s and perhaps it’s a bit different? Mine is definitely top-loading, and by the description you’ve given, different in other ways as well. I purchased mine in 2013 on sale, so perhaps they changed some things in that model…(regardless, it’s an amazing bag and I would recommend it to anyone!)

  5. Ellen Anthony says

    My Lookout 40 looks just like the lead-in photo for this review, but not the one Ali’s wearing! Very strange. However, I like mine a lot. I have done a number of alterations, though. I shortened the waist straps, and made the left one non-adjustable. I cut off the waist belt pockets, and salvaged the material. I used that material to make a deeper water bottle pocket. I cut off the bedroll straps. I cut the shoulder straps and installed a clip so I can unclip them and stuff them in the water bladder pocket which I otherwise never use. I added a flat pocket tight up against my back on the inside for all the flat things like paper and envelopes.I took off the extra tabs on the zippers, … I think that’s it.

    I walked and airplaned and trained and subwayed in Catalunya for 2 weeks in September. The pack never let me down. It weighed 13 lbs for the first part of my trip but I shopped the second week, and it gained 15 lbs!!

    What I wish:
    that the zippers all stopped at the same place so I could padlock all of them together.
    that the main zippers went 3/4 of the way around so it could open like a suitcase.
    Also, it falls over. If I really shove things down into the bottom it’s not so bad, but the angle of the “floor” should go the other way so I can lean it against something and get to the pockets.
    mmm, I think that’s it!


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