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When I fully committed to this backpacking lifestyle, decided to shift my multiple roller bags and began extensive research into the right backpack I had just one requirement, it had to be front loading. Despite having been rocking up in hostels with my wheelie luggage I was still better off than the people who had to pull out every single thing they had with them in order to reach their last pair of clean undies at the very, very bottom of their top loading backpack. I would not fall into the trap.
So, in 2013, before moving to Vietnam I ordered a bunch of backpacks from Zappos (best way to comparison shop, free returns on everything!). From that I learned about the two sizes that exist when you talk about a backpack of this style. One of those numbers is the torso size, S/M/L. This refers to the size of the panel that sits against your back. The second size is the capacity of that bag. So that could be anywhere from 15L to 80L (maybe even bigger?!)
So, after much debate, and a glass of wine I went to Outdoor Gear Exchange where they filled up the backpacks I was interested in with weights distributed evenly throughout the bag so as to best simulate carrying them full.
I ended up with a 45L small Gregory Sage in not the most beautiful green color. I would’ve chosen a different hue but this one was on closeout so I got it for $120 rather than the normal $180. But more importantly it opened from the front. That means that when the backpack is lying flat on the ground the side facing up zips open making for quick and easy access to your stuff.
Additionally it has a chest and hip strap. The hip strap with two little pockets. It also has a top opening with a flap that covers it, that with two extra pockets. And an exterior pocket and a rain cover.
Here we are four years later and this puppy is still packing my life around the world. I’ve moved to both Vietnam and Australia with only this bag. I’ve traveled around SEAsia, Europe and Australia with only this bag. It’s been on planes, in cargo and as a carry on. It’s been thrown from boat to boat getting through Thai islands. It’s been on motorbikes and tuk tuks and trains. It is dirty as hell but I have not had a single issue with it.
Four years and every zipper works perfectly, not a clip has been smashed. There are no signs of holes or any forming. I can’t say it’s had the easiest life but it’s held up very, very well.
Sadly, this particular model has been discontinued but I would strongly suggest a newer version of any of the models!