We chose the Osprey Porter 30 L (and the Osprey Daylite pack) for our RTW trip.
You can’t go backpacking around the world without a backpack, so the big questions are: Which one do we go with? What size? Do we each go with one bag or two? After tons of research we decided to try out some Osprey packs since they get such great reviews and are used by so may backpackers. We wanted to get packs which are carry-on approved and ideally the smallest possible without busting at the seams.
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Osprey Farpoint & Osprey Porter
We ended up purchasing an Osprey Farpoint 40 and a Porter 30 to check them out, as well as two Osprey Daylite daypacks. We weren’t sure if one of us was going to want one backpack, versus the other, and figured we could exchange one of the packs if we both wanted the same one.
Backpack Structure – First Impressions
At first glance, we immediately saw that the Porter had more structure to the main packing area, and the walls of the main compartment were higher than the Farpoint. The Porter was very linear and rectangular, like a suitcase. On the other hand, the Farpoint was less structured and less linear, almost doming/mounding on top.
We much preferred the laptop placement in the Porter (right next to your back) versus the Farpoint (in the top flap that flips open). With the laptop in the Farpoint top flap, we felt that the laptop actually limited the amount that the bag could expand due to the dome/mound shape mentioned earlier. It also made us nervous to crank down on the compression straps and put too much pressure on the laptop.
Shoulder & Hip Straps
The other main distinction we noticed was the difference in strap size and support framing. Although the compartment was much floppier, the framing structure in the Farpoint was more substantial that in the Porter. In addition, the Farpoint had much thicker shoulder and hip straps…they are really quite nice. Frankly, we thought the Farpoint 40 was going to be the clear winner once we saw the difference in strap thickness and padding.
Packing a 30L versus 40L
Our first thought when we got the packs was “there is no way we are fitting all of this stuff in either of these bags”. But, lo and behold, we pretty much did it! The only thing we kept out was the camera gimbal (see Travel Gear- Camera Equipment). We basically laid out all of the clothes, camera/audio gear, and other random stuff we plan to bring with us on our bed and put half of it in one bag and the other half in the other. Afterwards, we swapped all the items in one bag to the other to see how the same items fit in the other pack. This worked really well and was quite effective in showing the pros and cons of each bag as far as packing ease, wasted space, etc.
It was pretty mind blowing actually. Although the Porter is technically smaller, things just seemed to fit into it more easily then the Farpoint. We kept packing and repacking because it seemed so counter-intuitive! There was a little more room left over in the Farpoint, but not as much as you would think, and it was kind of awkward space at that. Ultimately though, with either pack, we found we were going to have to use the daypacks for some stuff.
Because of the laptop pocket on the Farpoint, we ended up putting the laptop inside the pack, underneath our other stuff. This worked better, but would make it more difficult to access the laptop at airports, when traveling, etc.
The Walk Around Town
After the packing trials, we were still unsure so we decided to take a walk around town with each backpack loaded up with our stuff and see how they each felt. We ended up walking around 1 mile and swapped packs at the halfway point. Neither of us gave an opinion on either pack until we returned home. Funny thing was on our way back a neighbor saw us, asked what we were doing and suggested we use his scale to see how heavy each pack was. Both came in weighing 22 pounds. Not bad!
Drum Roll, Please!!
Even though the Farpoint had more supportive straps, for some reason we both agreed that the Porter just felt more comfortable. We thought with the thicker straps and higher level support framing the Farpoint would be way better, but actually the straps on the Farpoint rubbed my neck causing irritation rather quickly.
This, combined with the ease of packing and being able to fit just as much stuff in it somehow, we ended up choosing the Porter. We also decided we would each bring a daypack so our bags aren’t completely jammed, we would have somewhere to put the gimbal, and it would give us the option of only having a smaller pack when out seeing the sights.
The Whole Package
There were a couple of other factors that played a roll in us choosing the Porter over the Farpoint. One was that although both packs are carry-on approved, really the Porter is the one that is also approved on budget airlines (size-wise anyways, maybe not weight if we keep adding stuff).
When looking at daypacks, one consideration we had was to get a very lightweight one that would take up very little room and could be stuffed inside our main packs when not being used. This sounds great in theory, but then you start thinking about what you will be carrying in the daypack, such as camera, tripods, audio equipment, and we realized a flimsy pouch was not going to work. One great thing about the Osprey Daylite pack is that it is padded and has more structure to it, but that means a bulkier daypack. However, the Osprey Daylite pack is made to clip right onto the Porter, which allows us to keep the daypack out of the main backpack yet still easily carry it. Problem solved!
Having the combined 43 liters of space (Porter 30 liters, Daylite 13 liters), we should have ample room to add little things here and there to the main stuff we are bring on our round the world trip.
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