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Choosing the Right Travel Backpack

Picking the right backpack is almost as important as choosing your travel destination. Too big, and you’ll have too much extra weight. Too small, and you’ll never fit anything in, especially not those creative and must-have souvenirs. We’ll give you all the good qualities a backpack should have to enjoy volunteering in South Africa.

What to Look for in a Good Pack

The best backpacks have the following characteristics that make them durable, protective, and long lasting:

  • Water resistant material – While your pack does not need to be 100% waterproof, South Africa’s ever changing weather makes a semi-waterproof material come in handy. Look for material that is thick but lightweight ensuring you’ll never open your bag to find wet clothes.
  • Lockable Zippers – Make sure each compartment has two zippers so you can lock them together. While you should not really be worried about people stealing your stuff, it is always handy to ensure you don’t lose items on the way.
  • Multiple Compartments – Multiple compartments is a must for a good bag. This way, you can break up your belongings into smaller sections so it’s easier to find the stuff you need. It saves time for not having to dig around your bag to find that elusive shoe at the bottom of your pack.
  • Internal Frame – The majority of backpacks today are internal-frame packs, meaning the support rods and frame are built into the backpack already. The internal frame is lighter, looks better and the rods won’t get caught on anything. Your bag will also be slimmer making moving around and getting into taxis easier.
  • Padded Hip Belt and Shoulder Straps – Most of the backpack weight will be pushing down on your hips and shoulders so you’ll want a padded belt and straps to make supporting the weight more comfortable. The belt and straps will help provide support and distribute the weight load more evenly on your back, causing less strain. They should also be adjustable so you can tighten it for extra support.
  • Contoured/Padded Back – A lumbar-shaped pack is more comfortable as it helps distributes weight more evenly and allows for a more natural arch ensuring no back pain. Moreover, this type of pack creates a small space between your back and the bag allowing air to move through and help keep you cool. Lugging your bag around can build up a sweat!

Does size matter?

There is no perfect backpack size. What matters is that your backpack should be proportional to your body. If your backpack is too big, the weight won’t be balanced properly and will cause back pain or maybe even make you topple over. When you are at the store, ask them to stuff your backpack with the equivalent of 30 pounds (15 kilograms) so you can see how the backpack feels before making the purchasing decision.

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