I have to admit, when we started looking into what gear we would need to go backpacking, I almost threw in the towel.We are lucky enough to live a short drive from the L.L. Bean flagship store, but after our first visit to look at gear I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. Do I need a super light, super compressible sleeping bag that costs hundreds of dollars? What about a $14 titanium spork? It was super light! Which inflatable pillow should I get? Do I even need one?
Luckily I saw an advertisement for a clinic at L.L. Bean on how to pack your backpack. We were the only four people at the clinic so we were able to get all of our questions answered, got some great insider advice on what to bring (and what not to bring), and we picked out most of the major gear that we’d need.
Here is what we outfitted ourselves with for backpacks:
The Geologist: He already had a bag, lucky us (I hope)! A year or so ago, maybe inspired by the movie “Wild”, he chose a pack for his 5 year anniversary gift from the company he works for. Who knows if it really fits well, or will last, at the time we had no clue what to look for. At the very least it will allow is to get through our first summer of hiking and figure out if we like it.
The Chemist: I had a hard time choosing a pack. I was torn between three, the Deuter ACT Lite 60+10, the Youth Osprey Ace 75, and the Gregory Amber 60. You know, it’s hard to chose a bag when you’ve never been backpacking before! I liked the Youth Osprey bag because eventually the kids could use it, and it has great adjustability. The Deuter was heavenly, it felt so light! However it was really tall on my back so if I wear my hair up it would constantly be hitting the top of the bag. Lord knows I’m not going to be leaving my hair down for more then 5 minutes on a hike, let alone for days!
I finally decided on the Gregory Amber 60. Honestly, the price was right ($150 at Backcountry.com), I think it is an older model. It fits well overall, although the Deuter was more comfortable on my hips. Who knows how it will feel out in the wild, I’ll have to report back after our first trip. It’s a nice blue color, had a rainfly, AND it has a removable bag that can be used as a daypack. I have a feeling the daypack will come in very handy. Our plan for our first few trips is to hike places where we don’t have to go too far to get to a camping spot. We’ll shed our packs and then explore the area during the day.
The Oldest Kiddo: He’s going to be toting the Youth Osprey Ace 50. That seemed like a good starting size for him. Like I said before, the youth packs are totally adjustable, so if in a year or two when our younger guy is ready to carry a pack he can take this one and our older kiddo can get the Ace 75, or (I hate to think about it) a grown up sized pack!
The Younger Kiddo: Well we can’t just have him not carry anything. I’d prefer he went without a bag, but he wants to be like everyone else. You can probably guess who will likely be carrying the bag after a 1/2 mile into the hike!! At L.L. Bean he put on the Osprey Ace 50 and wouldn’t take it off (he’s wearing his brother’s in the picture), determined that was the bag he’d be getting. Based on recommendations from the employee running the clinic, who was a avid backpacker, and friends, I’m going to get our little man the CamelBak Scout Hydration Pack. He can carry his clothing and lighter weight items. That will make him feel like he’s a big guy, but if he decides not to carry for the whole hike it won’t add to much weight to the person who is stuck with it.
We plan on heading out on our first backpacking adventure in May, so I will report back then on how everyone’s pack faired, and what we loved and maybe didn’t love about them! For now we still have a lot more to research, tents, water filtration, food, places to hike, cooking supplies and heat sources!