The last time I went abroad for several months, I brought a suitcase with wheels — which turned into a big pain. Dragging the suitcase over cobblestone streets in Rome, (can you imagine how loud and annoying that was?), through deep swaths of snow in New York City… while it saved my back, it was very annoying.
For my most recent trip through Europe, my partner and I bought the REI Vagabond 40 packs instead. The one photographed here is the one I used throughout the trip (thus the scuffs and dirt marks!) I managed to use just one backpack for the entire three month trip abroad.
The backpack comes with a hip belt that can be tucked behind the lower back padding when you don’t need it — but generally my backpack was fairly heavy which meant I used them throughout the trip.
Handily, the hip belt comes with a large pouch, which was great for storing snacks and energy bars for emergencies.
The zippers also can be locked, and I added basic travel locks to the main pouch. It doesn’t add much security other than inconvenience, but that sometimes can be just enough.
The backpack also comes with a rain cover and a pouch at the bottom of the backpack to store it. I didn’t use the raincover the entire trip — it was never raining (or raining hard enough) to necessitate its use. Next time, I would probably leave the rain cover at home since it was rather bulky.
The top pouch also comes with a zippered pouch, which is clear on the other side. It seems like an odd addition (as you can see above, looks like it’s for holding pens/pencils?) but we used it as a pouch for our toiletries since the main area is clear. Not much room, but good enough.
The interior is fairly spacious. I never used the pocket in the back, but made heavy use of the straps, which were crucial for packing my clothes down enough to make it easy to close the backpack.
I started the trip packing my clothes in travel cubes, but eventually got rid of them (too bulky) in favor of mini-rolls of clothes. My partner did one giant roll which worked well as well. Simply add the main bulk of clothes, tighten the interior straps, then tuck in small items (undies, socks, etc.) in the extra space.
The backpack also came with a zippered pouch behind the main “door” of the backpack — while spacious, it was actually better if not packed with large items since it would majorly hinder zipping up the backpack. Flat/small items only.
- Perfect size for traveling long term, as long as you’re a light packer. Forces you to take less, so it’s less heavy and doesn’t hurt the back.
- Fits in an overhead plane compartment.
- The opening is perfect — plenty large enough to see everything at once.
- I love the classy black color option. There is also an orange option that is a bit more “backpacker-y”.
- There are some really odd strap additions. Straps for ice-axes? While I understand making the backpack multipurpose, those extra doodads just add weight for an application that is really, really unlikely to happen.
- I wish there were more pockets. Basically, there is only the top pocket, a side pocket (the other side holds a water bottle), and the bottom pocket which is mostly taken up by a rain cover.
Overall, highly, highly recommend this backpack for any kind of long term travel abroad (or short-term!) It was the perfect size and very comfortable. Fit well in all sorts of train and plane compartments as well.
Have you used the REI Vagabond Tour 40? What did you think?