Many years ago, on a day trip to Catalina Island, I snapped a photo of two backpackers that were out on the pier, looking out onto the ocean. In that brief moment, a desire to travel with just a backpack all over Europe manifested itself in me, and I've not been able to shake it off since. Countless hours of pinning ideas and tips on backpacking Europe later, I still haven't fulfilled this dream. One of the most obvious factors standing in the way right now is my physical
ability inability to carry such a backpack that would hold everything I'd need for a trip that could span several weeks to maybe a little over a month.
Since I knew I only needed to survive a few days in San Francisco, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to 1) test my ability to survive with only things that would fit into a backpack, and 2) be able to carry said backpack for long periods of time. Yes, I know it's not the same thing as carrying a large pack meant for backpacking/camping, but hey...baby steps here. :)
I managed to fit everything into my Peak Design Everyday backpack in the 20 liter size. I was quite impressed with myself, and honestly was shocked by what I was able to fit into this bag! Here it is, empty.
Here is what I was able to fit into the backpack.
Camera gear (I was able to fit all this gear in the two bottom compartments of the backpack. Those of you familiar with the Everyday backpack know the original configurations of the dividers, and I did not change the configuration upon receiving the backpack.
- Canon 5d mark III
- Canon 28mm f1.8
- Canon 50mm f1.2
- Canon 16-35mm f2.8
- Set of ND filters (which I never used by the way - should've left these behind!)
- Manfrotto pixi tripod
- Canon G7x
- CF and SD card holder (which I placed in the zipped side panel of the backpack)
- miscellaneous items such as backup batteries were stored in the backpack's side compartments
In the top compartment I was able to fit the striped make-up and toiletry bag and beanie. The key to fitting all my clothes into the backpack was definitely using my medium sized Eagle Creek packing cube. I love using packing cubes!
I was able to fit the following in my packing cube:
- two long sleeve shirts
- two pairs of black leggings (these are the key to packing light!)
- two tank tops
- one dressy blouse
- three pairs of underwear
- two pairs of socks
I wore jeans, a tank top, a sweater, and comfortable walking shoes to the airport.
In addition to these items, I also slipped a reusable shopping bag and packable Tumi tote into the laptop compartment of the backpack. I love packable totes, and this one by Tumi has really saved me when I end up purchasing more than I have room for in my luggage. I only brought this one along in the event I really wanted to buy something. Luckily, I didn't end up using it at all!
To keep my wallet and essential items easily accessible, I brought a small handbag with me that I could carry crossbody. I ended up bringing my Proenza Schoulder PS1 in the tiny size. It was the perfect bag to allow me to comfortably carry my backpack, and easily get to my wallet when I needed to without having to take my backpack off and rummage to find things. I also carried my essential make-up items in a small make-up pouch inside my purse. When doing this, I find it useful to only pack essential items that I know I'll use, and I will pack trial or single use items if possible.
So how did all this fare? Well, I survived. It kinda sucked to carry all this around on the first day I arrived. I basically hauled it all over the city, and within a few hours, I felt like I needed a break. The backpack itself was not the problem. The issue was more that my feet needed a rest. Perhaps next time I'll try this with actual sneakers or shoes designed for walking. I liked that the Everyday backpack had an external carry option that allowed me to attach my jacket when I wasn't using it. In lieu of an umbrella, I ended up using my long Columbia jacket all weekend, and it was perfect.
Here is the backpack fully packed, with my jacket attached externally.
Would I do this again? Absolutely! I loved being able to get off the plane, and just GO. That was probably the best part of doing this. Doing this really made me think of what I actually needed, as opposed to just what I wanted with me. I realized that I normally tend to over pack and bring things I never end up using anyway. If you can relate to this, I highly recommend giving this a try, even if you start small with a weekend trip like I did. Hopefully with each subsequent attempt at one backpack travel, I will be able to hone in on what is really essential, and by the time that backpacking all over Europe trip rolls around, I should be ready! *crossing fingers* :)