Affordable Everyday Backpacks Ready for Back to School

090211_rg_AffordableBackpacks_01.jpgIf you’re a student laden with textbooks, a laptop, DAP, and whatever else you haul around from class to class, a good backpack is standard equipment. But this doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money, as there are a variety of well made and featured backpacks that won’t break the bank. Here are some of our favorites that we’ve found and used…

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I’m leaning towards getting an Arc’Teryx Acrux 40 or 50 in the next few weeks. I would have gone for the Naos 45 or 55, but they are just too expensive. The Acrux is streamlined for lightweight backpacking.

I’m planning on making the Acrux my daily pack. It’s completely weatherproof. The only things that are missing are pockets. In Taiwan, the Naos 45 is 200$ more than the Acrux 40. They are priced similarly to the US. The Naos is not worth that extra money in my opinion. All it has more is a wee bit more storage and nifty kangaroo pockets in the front. The Acrux has a zipline instead, handy for a tripod or a jacket. The main reason why the pockets are mostly absent is because the pack is a whole lot easier to waterproof if it’s made in one compartment. Stitching on more pockets and compartments makes the pack harder to waterproof. I’ve actually examined these packs closely. You could fill them up with air, and they wouldn’t let any air out. It’s a bit annoying, but it’s something that’s not a big problem.

I can see how this might be a major problem on hikes to peaks. This means that to access something in the pack, you’d have to unpack most of the pack in order to find the item. This can be annoying. However since dampness and moisture are completely kept at bay, it’s a sacrifice that’s not too hard to live with.

My main problem with the GoLite Jam is that the pocket in front isn’t expandable to the outside. If you put something big in it, it just eats up the storage space from inside. Doesn’t make any sense really, but maybe it’s because I was stuffing a DSLR camera in there. With the Acrux, the problem is solved. I’ve examined the pack closely. The lid is removable and can easily house a DSLR camera. Having the camera on top is actually a lot safer than having it inside the pack. The camera is also easily accessible and can be taken out in a cinch. That was a big beef that I had with the Atmos packs. It took forever to take out my camera, since it was at the bottom of my pack, wrapped up in some clothing and foam moldings. I’ve long stopped using dedicated camera bags. They are too visible, too easy to steal and sometimes just uncomfortable or unwieldy. Expedition packs are perfect for this use.

That’s another thing. The Acrux and the Naos are actually molded and glued together in parts. Just like the Alpha LT and SV jackets, these packs are really technologically advanced in their construction and materials. The Acrux is the lighter of the two, having been streamlined for alpine use.

I went to one of the outdoor shops near Taipei Main Station exit 7 on Zhongshan Rd. I played with the packs for about 20 minutes. Naturally, I was attracted by the Arc’Teryx packs. If possible, I’d get all of my gear from the BC company. However, most of their gear is pretty expensive, which is why I have only a few choice pieces from them, mainly an Alpha LT jacket and a beanie. I first started examining the Khamsin and Bora packs. However, they aren’t very sturdy if you compare them to the Acrux or the Naos packs.

I think I’ll go for the Acrux 40 since it can be compressed easily to a manageable size for everyday use. In fact, the pack is about the size of my Osprey Atmos 25. Since the Osprey loses a lot of volume by incorporating an Airspeed back, a place to store a hydration bladder that keeps the pack away from your back, so that it’s less hot, it’s surprising how close in size their are. I found that both the Atmos 25 and 35 are unusable for school, since width wise, they are curved, making packing books almost impossible.

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