I’m only two trips into backpacking and have had the great fortune (insert sarcastic tone) of using a different pack for each trip. I guess in a sense that has given me a bit more “wisdom” in regards to how much the right pack can make a world of difference…and I know now, it is like night and day!!
Slimms’ research led me to two options…the “best bang for my buck” choices. The Gregory Deva and the Osprey Ariel 65. It was love at first sight with the Ariel. Beautiful pack…and IN RED!! My mind was set…like a first love, no one was gonna make me change my mind whether or not the pack was “right” for me!! That being said, I did go to REI and try on both packs. The Deva felt clunky to me…bulky is a word that fits better. It is packed full of features, lots of pockets for storage…don’t get me wrong…a great pack I’m sure. Just felt awkward to me. I wanted something a bit more streamlined.
Now the Osprey Ariel..the girl in me took over and I didn’t care…I like how it fit but I will say, the padding was lacking and I should have known then that I might have an issue. I never thought it would be the way it turned out to be. The pack is rather minimalistic compared to the Deva, but I didn’t mind. It had a huge front entrance that I loved. The sleeping bag compartment was quite ample compared to what I have seen with a Gregory. Lots of straps for compression. I did like the trekking pole storage location. They are stowed under the left arm for easy access. The side pockets left a lot to be desired. Hard to get my nalgene bottle in and out of. My biggest complaint (it was listed as a con on several REI reviews) was the skimpy padding of the hip belt and shoulder straps. Compared to other packs, it could be said to be non-existent. For me, they didn’t work and cause a tremendous amount of pain during the first overnight.
So with a sad heart, I went to REI to see what could possibly be the issue. First off, wrong size pack. WTH?!?!?! I purchased a medium on the recommendation of one of the guys there. When I went back, another guy measured me and I should have been in a small. I’m not even 17 inches in my torso. I’m 5’9″ though…all legs apparently. Ok..small pack it is. So I try on a small Ariel. Blah! Lack of padding still regardless of fit was forcing me to return my beloved pack and surrender my dream of the color red. The new Osprey Aura had just come out…I was excited to try it on…but no luck…still didn’t fit right. I tried on every other darn pack with the same capacity size. The closest I got to fitting right and feeling comfortable was a Deuter. I wore it around awhile and decided to no go that option as well. Apparently I am a freak of nature and all the packs do not sit properly on me or against my back. Huge gaping issue. 😦
The guy was a trooper and stayed late for me but had to finally leave me…alone…no pack…no idea what to do. I retried on the packs I had done before. I was beyond disheartened. There I was in REI…a scrawny freak with no hope. Finally I guess my sad face lead another guy who had been helping another customer to come and give me a recommendation (he had been around while the other guy was helping). He suggested I try on a youth pack.
A youth pack??? I’m a full grown, taller than average size woman!!! Hmmmm…this just made me feel even more annoyed. The word “freak” kept running through my mind. I know I said it to the guy a few times…perturbed at the whole situation. But I took his advice…I had nothing else left to try. They had one pack…the REI Passage 65. All the other youth packs are smaller in capacity and I did not want to sacrifice that. So..I put it on. HELLO WORLD! You have got to be kidding me.
It fit amazingly well against me. It has extra padding in the back compared to the adult packs…and with 30 pounds in it, did not hurt my contact spots. Since it’s made for 11-17 year old children (le sigh), it is almost fully adjustable…and easily done so. It’s minimalistic, not bulky..pluses for sure. It does not have a front loading option but the side panel entrance is large enough to allow easy access to the pack. Large sleeping bag compartment.The padding on the hip belt is just right and caused me ZERO issues. It also comes with little storage pouches on the belt that the Ariel lacked. Unfortunately there is no real suspension system like the adult packs have. I noticed the difference with that feature, but not enough right now to make me rethink this choice. It is green…blah…but I decided to sacrifice fashion for comfort. I honestly could not be any happier with the pack. Plus, I saved $120 bucks 🙂 Win, win all around.
I continue to learn with each trip, which makes each trip that much more exciting. I am now a happy “backpacker” as far as my pack is concerned. The difference was incredible and my trip, after the first few sickly hours of puking (do not drink and backpack 8 hours later), was better for the change 🙂