We have been trying to decide between these three bags. Two of them have traveled with us before and one is a newbie. All are fit for carry-on which is our first criteria for any bag. Here are our pro and cons:

How to pick a backpack for RTW in 90 days

Hesquiat and Bow got the small red MEC backpack about 8 years ago for backpacking when they were little. It has worked fine for them and they traveled with it to both Vietnam and Peru as well as on many vacation and camping adventures. It is 25 litres of one of their regular lines of packs at that time. It served us well. While Bow was interested in taking it because it was small, it was unclear whether she could fit bigger clothes in it.

Pros – smallest bag, 4 small specific pockets, backpack, pockets inside, carry-on

Cons – smallest bag, fewer pockets than others, hanging straps, no wheels, heavier and smaller than the Steves bag, does not expand, too small for big teenagers

H&B Hue, Vietnam - when a 25 litre pack fit ok

Both Cate and I have used the blue Rick Steves Convertible Carry-On to travel to Vietnam and Peru and for various other smaller vacation and work trips. It is a great expandable bag but has some drawbacks.

Pros – multi-pockets, available to carry-on, light, shoulder straps which zip away, good outside pockets, expandable, waist strap

Cons – no wheels, no small pockets to stow small items like toiletries or underwear, it is a bit short so strains on the shoulders despite the waist strap

And finally the slate MEC Fast Track Roller Backpack which AM has already bought with birthday money. Cate also decided to get one based on early reviews. The teens were undecided.

Pros – comes with small pack sack which attached, lots of inside pockets, wheels, good outside pockets, square internal shoe bag, has back pack straps to use as needed.

Cons – must bring the day pack to make it worthwhile, heavy, not really a backpack, hard to wheel on cobblestone and dirt.

Final Decision: So  as noted above both AM and Cate were early adopters of the Roller and stuck with their original choice. Bow has decided to go with the Steves pack as she has used it for camp and particularly likes that it does not have wheels, it has more space and is expandable and she is not worried about carrying it. Hesquiat has decided to pick an MEC Roller due to the attached packsack and that it can wheel. He seemed undaunted by the weight of a full pack and the wheels. Everyone seems pleased with their decision and ready to start filling it with stuff!!

Speaking of stuff, a thanks goes to Rick Steves packing lists on his website – both the general one and the woman’s list. We have used them regularly and just add our own little touches. These are good base lists.

Anne-Marie

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