Let me start with this. It appears that my upcoming Fiji trip is no longer happening. Unfortunately, this South Pacific nation has been hit with some severe flooding over the past week due to a series of storms, including a cyclone, that passed over the area. As a result, the country is not in any condition to host a group of travel bloggers as they deal with much more pressing matters.
Actually, the press trip hasn’t been canceled. It’s just been re-scheduled but because of some other commitments I have back in Europe, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to participate with the new dates.
So to begin with, I want to send my positive thoughts to Fiji and to wish its people a quick recovery from these floods. Hopefully this situation will be over with as soon as possible and normal life on the islands will resume. I’ll certainly be keeping Fiji at the top of my list of potential destinations and hope to make it there at some point in the near future.
Of course, upon hearing the news that the Fiji trip would not be going ahead as scheduled, and despite the reason being perfectly understandable, I still felt quite bummed out as I had traveled all the way to the US specifically for this trip. However, there is one thing that always cheers a traveler up and after a few minutes of moping around my friend’s apartment, I immediately decided to partake in this therapeutic activity myself. It was time to buy some travel gear!
More specifically, I decided to buy a new backpack, which, admittedly, is something I would have had to do anyway given the decaying condition of my current backpack. But once the Fiji trip was called off, this mission suddenly took on a sense of urgency, transforming itself from something I needed to get done eventually into a vital session of healing.
My trusty Kelty Redwing 2900, that backpack that has traveled with me all over this planet for the past twelve years, finally reached the end of its career. But twelve years is a long time for a backpack to be in use, especially when you consider that my backpack is my life and it is constantly by my side, whether I’m backpacking in Asia, working on board cruise ships, living in Mexico, traveling around the Middle East or whatever I happen to be doing.
In fact, this backpack served me so well that it absolutely deserves to spend the rest of its days relaxing on a beautiful beach in Hawaii. It’s actually going to spend the rest of its days sitting on the top shelf of a closet, but at least it’s warm in there and you can hear the water passing through the pipes.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
My search for a new backpack started off with a trip to Paragon Sports, a well-known sporting goods/outdoor shop in Union Square here in New York City. I spent about an hour inside, unzipping, re-zipping, inspecting, stuffing, un-stuffing and trying on as many different backpacks as possible. I’m a bit picky though, and so by the time I left the store, my list of possible winners consisted of only two backpacks.
After Paragon Sports, I returned to my friend’s apartment, sat down at my laptop and conducted some more research. I studied the benefits of traditional backpacks versus duffel fusion packs versus backpacks with wheels. I contemplated long and hard about sizes, styles and yes, even colors. And my eyes read over hundreds of user reviews for every backpack I came across.
It was a painful experience indeed but sure enough, about three and a half hours into this research, I eventually had that moment of genius that I had been waiting for my entire life.
MY SHINING MOMENT
I suddenly realized that if my Kelty Redwing 2900 had treated me so well, and the newer version of the same backpack received such extremely high ratings on every website I checked, and this newer version also made my short list when I was in Paragon Sports, then I should naturally purchase this new version, the Kelty Redwing 50.
Feeling ever so proud at having reached such a brilliant conclusion, I then did what came naturally. For some reason, this involved turning off my laptop and walking down the street to Bagel World, where I devoured a super-soft pumpernickel bagel piled high with chicken salad, tomatoes and extra pickles, and in the process, seemed to completely forget about backpacks altogether.
When I returned to the apartment after my meal, I did some work, played around with my friend’s bongo drums, juggled for a bit, cut my toenails and then, well, took a nap. Only after I woke up from this delightful rest a couple of hours later did I sit back down in front of my computer and continue my backpack shopping, feeling the need to check the internet one more time before making a decision.
(My guess is that I was actually feeling very sad about having to say goodbye to my old backpack and I had trouble pulling the trigger on a new one as a result.)
THE END OF AN ERA
Finally, at 5:52pm, and with a hint of a tear in my eye, I logged onto Amazon.com and made my purchase, having indeed chosen the….
So, why did I choose to stick with the Kelty Redwing series?
- Durability – These packs can easily handle the rigors of constant world travel as proven by my Redwing 2900 which remained strong for over 4400 days of travel, through 76 countries, on 100+ flights and despite being slashed open with a knife at the hands of Austrian customs officials.
- Organization – Still by far the best zipper/compartment system I’ve seen. As one of the only backpacks on the market that offers panel-loading, once you unzip the main compartment, you have access to everything as if it were a proper suitcase. I don’t like top-loading backpacks where you have to stuff everything inside and then remove all of your possessions just to find a pair of socks at the bottom.
- Size – The capacity of my old backpack was 2900 cubic inches / 47 liters and while Kelty doesn’t make that size anymore, I went with the 3100 cubic inches / 50 liter version this time around. This is still small enough to take as a carry-on when flying, yet has more than enough space to carry everything that a long-term traveler could possibly need.
- Simplicity – If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s a backpack with dozens of very random compartments, dozens of straps with purposes that are impossible to figure out and hundreds of inexplicable zippers all over the place. The Kelty Redwing series ignores that trend completely, offering backpacks that are straightforward and simple and thus, in my opinion, the most intelligently designed of them all.
- Price – At $84 on Amazon.comit’s an absolute bargain.
And for those very reasons, I am excited to fly back to Europe in a couple of weeks with my new Kelty Redwing 50 by my side, or better yet, on my back.
Before I end, I must also say that moments after I purchased my new backpack, I sat down next to my old Kelty Redwing 2900, massaged its shoulder straps and whispered a few words of gratitude. I then tried my best to express to it the importance of our friendship before I lifted the backpack ever so gently and placed it inside of that closet. It was a tough moment, but I shall have only wonderful memories of the time we spent together during this most remarkable era of my nomadic travels.
Any thoughts on backpacks? Do you have a particular favorite? Or if you’re in the market for a new backpack, any questions?