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Why I Downsized My Beloved Backpack

caroline downsizing to osprey 36

In 2011, I did a guest post raving about my Kelty Arch 65 liter backpack, which I brought with me on my year-long working holiday in Australia. I had bought it on sale at REI and loved the color, a bright shade of lavender. It had soft hip pads and plenty of pocket room.

But I didn’t know then that it wasn’t “the one.”

I wasn’t yet the packing-savvy guru I am today, so I filled it to the brim with anything I might need: three books, five dresses and all sorts of other nonsense I never ended up using. Somehow I forgot that there are actual stores Down Under and I didn’t need to bring a year’s supply of toothpaste.

caroline in a Kelty backpack
Caroline all packed up in her Kelty Arch 65.

Problems became apparent over time:

  • When I was traveling up the coast, the backpack became difficult to maneuver, particularly as I was hopping on and off buses constantly.
  • It got ripped on the front panel before I even landed in Australia and I was worried the damage would get worse as I stuffed more items into it.
  • It took up a lot of space in tiny dorm room lockers, so I typically just put it under my bed.

I Downsized to an Osprey Sirrus 36

I have since downsized to an Osprey Sirrus 36, which I received for Christmas 2012. It was a tough decision for me as I didn’t want to feel like I had abandoned my first backpack, but most of my trips these days are much shorter, around a month maximum. Even after borrowing a backpack from a friend for a trip to Europe, I chose a size still too big for me.

I think under 40 liters is the ideal size for travelers who are constantly on the move like I am.

Why I Love My Osprey Sirrus 36

  • The Osprey Sirrus is about half the size of my old Kelty bag, and it folds flat.
  • There is plenty of pocket space.
  • It is top and front loading.
  • It comes with a rain cover to use in bad weather and to keep it clean.
  • It’s compatible with water systems like Camelbaks.
  • I can bring it as my carry on bag on most airlines.
  • It keeps me from overpacking.
  • Not to mention that my back isn’t constantly aching from that extra 30 liters of weight.

The pack has now gone with me to San Francisco, New Orleans, Portugal, Austria, Germany and Canada.

Caroline's Osprey Sirrus 36

George told us all about why she travels with a 45 liter backpack and I couldn’t agree more. When choosing your first backpack, think about how often you will have to unpack and repack all those items. It’s okay to admit that your first backpack is no longer a good fit for you, despite having sentimental value of those times you used it as a pillow on the train station floor, or all the patches you acquired during your trip.

If you’re thinking about downsizing your backpack, just do it. Your back will thank you.

Learn more about the Osprey Sirrus 36 on Amazon or at REI.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this site running – thank you!

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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Speakeasy Hidden Pocket Scarves


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Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes


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Tom Bihn 3D Organizer Cube


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Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack


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Reader Interactions


  1. Meridith says

    I’m traveling with a 60 L bag and even after I packed it full of my things before leaving i realized it was too big. It’s decent for proper outdoor backpacking in the states, but for my next global journey I’d love a 40ish L bag! I do loads of camping and traveling in the states too so no fear about owning a second bag. I’m also keen on getting a rain cover and attaching day bag for the front. Great article!

  2. Tracey - Life Changing Year says

    Ahhh…so true! My first 75lt backpack is about to be retired in favour of a close-to-40-litre bag! I haven’t chosen one yet but I expect to be horrified at how small it is and secretly pleased that I won’t have to carry a house on my back next time! Thanks for the info.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Tracey! I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually fit into a 40L bag when packed up! When you do get your new bag and are all settled, we love to have a story on this site about why you downsized your pack. Drop me a line 🙂

  3. OCDemon says

    I actually feel like an idiot going from my super braggy days of 20 liters including winter and summer gear and upgrading to a 30 and then a 45. But my excuse is that the 45 is the only one that has what I want, and I’m not carrying much more anyway. Generally people ask where my “real” bag is, and I feel super proud.

  4. Jaina says

    After doing the New Zealand working holiday with my Gregory Deva 60, it’s time to downsize for the working holiday in Australia. I also have the Osprey Sirrus 36, but am worried that it might be a bit too small for a year in OZ. I’m thinking of getting the Osprey Farpoint 40 or the REI Vagabond 40, which has a great review on this site. But I agree with you all that 40 L is just about right.

  5. Toki Tover says

    From back in 2001 when I was deployed to UAE while in the AF, I used a tried and true Jansport 33 backpack… I found it to carry all that I needed for a couple days and it was light on my back with all the straps tight and snug! otherwise it killed my shoulders… I even used it as a pillow 🙂

  6. Tracey says

    Hi Caroline. I’m thinking about getting a decent hiking pack with good support for an upcoming RTW trip. Do you pack your laptop in the Osprey Sirrus? Does it sit against your back? Trying to avoid lugging a messenger bag around as well. 🙂

    • Caroline says

      Hi Tracey,
      I usually pack my laptop in a messenger bag or similar carry on. The backpack has an arch, so it doesn’t sit flat against your back. There’s a slot where you could reasonably fit your laptop if you needed to, but I usually want more access to mine.
      Good luck!

  7. johanna says

    Hi Caroline,

    Have you had any problems with this pack as a carry-on lately? I recall seeing that this year, many airlines are decreasing the dimensions of what they consider carry-on.

    I think United Airlines is now 22 x 14 x 9.
    Osprey Sirrus XS/S is 26 x 13 x 12, and S/M is 28 x 14 x 12.

    I’d love to get this pack, but really really want hope it’s carry-on compliant!


    • Caroline says

      Hey Johanna,
      I have had problems on flights that aren’t long haul because it’s not flat, but curved for your back. It was no problem on flights to Australia and Asia, but it didn’t fit on my flight from Paris to Istanbul. I’ve also got an even smaller bag, the Timbuk2 Aviator I’ve reviewed on the site, that is exactly carry on compliant. I’ve recently brought it to Puerto Rico and New York.
      Thanks for reading!

  8. Mel says


    I am struggling between the Osprey Kyte 36L backpack and the Deuter ACT 35+10L SL

    I am shorth (1,56 meters) and thin (47kilos) and I am conscious I should get a small and light one but I need it to backpack around the world during 1 year.

    I would like to know if any of you have a prefference between those two.

    PS: I can’t actually try them out in the store because I am from Costa Rica and have to order online.

    I appreciate your feedback


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