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Do you have a particular technique for travelling with 2 bags:

  • 1 backpack containing most of my stuff
  • a lighter backpack for visiting, hiking, camera...

The main problem is walking around with the 2 bags. I've done mostly "1 front, 1 back" but it becomes uncomfortable very quickly, and very hot too.

Edit: I travel with a DSLR camera, so that's the main reason for the lighter backpack. I want to keep it accessible, and keep it with me when visiting a place (with the big backpack left at the hostel) so that's why I don't put it in the main/big backpack.

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Is this objective? It seems to just be asking us each for our personal backpack preference. ... and the answers seem to confirm this. I've decided to be a "Stack Exchange Cop" and voted to close: As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance. –  hippietrail Jun 6 '12 at 13:10
    
@hippietrail Yes it is objective, I want to know the best solution for a traveler with a DSLR (i.e. that need to have a second backpack). –  Matthieu Napoli Jun 6 '12 at 14:00
    
In fact Stack Exchange specifically warns that questions using the word "best" tend to be objective. What's best for each person tends to differ. Subjective would be "cheapest", "lightest", "strongest", etc. –  hippietrail Jun 6 '12 at 17:20
    
@hippietrail ok let's do that again. In my question I talked about "too hot" and "uncomfortable" (I also said that I travelled with a DSLR so I needed a second lighter bag). I admit these goals were implied (not explicitly stated), but answers are on spot. I accepted the "most confortable" and "not hot" solution for travelling with 2 bags. –  Matthieu Napoli Jun 7 '12 at 12:21
    
I reworded the question title to match what you're saying in the comments but it still seems as subjective to me as your comment below "I accept this answer as it's the best one for me (mostly for the camera), but other answers may be better for other situations". It's up to the mods and SE staff I suppose. –  hippietrail Jun 7 '12 at 12:30
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7 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I travel with two bags. My main bag is the MEI Voyager, and naturally contains all my main gear. Clothes, toiletries, laptop, extra batteries, etc.

MEI Voyager

My second bag is a Think Tank Speed Demon 2.0, and it holds my camera, lenses, etc, and when I'm traveling, a water bottle, perhaps spare change, maps, etc. Anything I might want quickly.

Think Tank Speed Demon 2.0

The Think Tank bag is marketed specifically as a camera bag, and I use it for that, even when I'm not traveling. It's ideal for travel photography, because it wraps around my waist, so my camera (and extra lenses, external flash, or whatever other accessories) are always easily accessible--even when I'm wearing my travel pack on my back! Ken Rockwell first turned me on to the Speed Demon 2.0 pack with his review. (While I disagree with a large portion of what Ken Rockwell says, his reviews on usability are often valuable, IMHO).

I spent a month backpacking around Mexico with this setup, including several long days carrying both bags with me all day long. (Of course, when possible, I'd leave as much stuff as I could in a hotel room, but that's not always possible.)

For my next backpacking trip, I intend to add a third back-mounted daypack, that I will stuff inside my travel pack. I'll keep my laptop, swim suit, and other smaller items in there, when it's possible to leave the bulk of my belongings in a hotel room, but my waist pack isn't big enough.

If you don't carry many camera lenses, a similar waist/fanny pack would probably work well for you, and it doesn't reduce mobility or cause you to overheat as a front-worn backpack would. If you do use many camera lenses, I still suggest this setup, but perhaps with a larger fanny pack than the one I use.

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And it holds well on the waist? It's comfortable enough? If it is, that's a great solution indeed. The camera is the main problem when I'm travelling, that's the reason I can't fit the daypack in the big backpack. –  Matthieu Napoli May 31 '12 at 20:26
    
@Matthieu: Yes, it's very adjustable, and the straps hold their length once I set them, so it's never gotten too loose or fallen off. It's also easy to rotate around my waist. When using the travel pack, I wear the fanny pack in front. Otherwise, I often wear it in the back. When squating to take photos, often to the side. –  Flimzy May 31 '12 at 20:28
    
@Matthieu: After reading Ken Rockwell's review I gave up my more traditional camera backpack about a year ago (before I'd gone on my month-long trip with the travel pack), in favor of the waist camera pack, and will never go back. Even when I'm not traveling. –  Flimzy May 31 '12 at 20:30
    
Great! If Ken Rockwell says so too, then I'm buying it ;) –  Matthieu Napoli Jun 1 '12 at 7:39
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I accept this answer as it's the best one for me (mostly for the camera), but other answers may be better for other situations –  Matthieu Napoli Jun 6 '12 at 11:54
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I do this!

Two trips - 4 months in South America, 4 months in Europe/Asia. The Europe part in particular was very hot.

I also stick with the one front, one back technique. It's hot, but there's just no other comfortable way, unless you have this type of backpack:

enter image description here

where you can attach your daypack to the larger pack. This makes you very top heavy, however.

Another neat trick that some newer medium packs I've seen (just bought a Deuter one, but unfortunately can't find an online pic that shows the right angle) - they have another 'frame' between the pack and your back, with a couple of centimeters 'breathing' room. This frame is meshed, letting your back breathe. My initial worry looking at it was that the pack seemed quite far from your back, but once on your body, you just don't notice that, and it's very comfortable having the breathing. There were a couple of other manufacturers doing the same thing, so I suspect it will become a trend.

I also try to only carry two packs between locations. All my medicines and electronics and passport go in the small daypack on the front of me. This means I can keep an eye on my valuables - if someone wants to slash my backpack and get my dirty clothes - well, that's not as serious as my netbook or SLR. Or medicine.

Another option is to get a large backpack with wheels - this means you can take the load off your back and wheel it along, leaving your back to carry the smaller, lighter pack. Personally I hate the idea of these - I like having my hands free, but I have met others who rave about theirs. Each to their own.

One final option is to get a smaller back that you can pack INTO the bigger bag for the parts of your journey when you have both. But the daypack I had was a camera pack, and didn't fold down particularly well...

Finally, remember that you're backpacking - yes you have a lot of gear, but it's mostly only between places, not all the time. Most days you've just got the one small bag, and are out enjoying yourself :)

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I also have a Deuter pack with the extra breathing room. It's awesome. +1 for a pretty comprehensive list of options. –  Laura May 31 '12 at 19:48
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I would definitely advise against a backpack with wheels as I haven't yet come across one that was ergonomically designed. Besides, if you're backpacking, carry your backpack as a real man. :D

Also, I have a front loading backpack with a detachable daypack (Vango Freedom 60+20 (lousy backpack except the front loading part)) and would like to say that in the beginning I was carrying daypack attached to the main backpack but then I noticed that all my important stuff from daypack is not easily accessible and you also risk having your stuff damaged because you usually lean against the walls or other structures when you want to take a rest but you can't do that with a daypack in the back (actually in front of the main backpack).

EDIT: One more tiny tip - I see most of the backpackers carrying backpacks like - first they put a daypack to the front and then (over it) main backpack to the back. Try getting a daypack with carabiners so that you can attach it to the main pack instead. That way you get at least some breathing room in front so you don't get sweaty as much. If you don't understand what I mean, I'll try and get a photo for you.

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did you forget to breathe in that second paragraph? ;) –  Mark Mayo May 31 '12 at 6:24
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Was thinking the same thing when I saw it but since I thought I had limited time for wi-fi access, I didn't bother reformulating all that into several, more comprehensible sentences. :D –  John Doe May 31 '12 at 6:32
    
Edited answer with another idea... –  John Doe Jun 1 '12 at 5:33
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The only way that worked reasonably well for me on longer trips is:

  1. Make sure your bigger backpack is big enough for all your stuff, including the small backpack.
  2. Take a light and preferably foldable small backpack
  3. For transit - just put your small backpack inside the big one.
  4. For longer treks, etc.: take all the stuff from your smaller back pack and put it directly in the bigger one, e.g. in different pockets, and pack the empty small backpack inside the big one. This way you effectively have only one backpack.

For shorter trips consider going superlight. Take just one mid-sized pack (e.g. 40+ liters) for everything, and just leave unnecessary items in the hotel when you don't need them. Of course a 40l pack is not as convenient as 20l pack for day trips, but traveling with all your stuff becomes super easy.

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+1 this is exactly what I do. –  Peter Hahndorf May 31 '12 at 11:16
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But this way your stuff from the daypack is pretty inaccessible, isn't it? –  John Doe Jun 1 '12 at 5:34
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@rlesko, if you need the stuff from your daypack then you should do (4) above, i.e. distribute it reasonably in the big backpack. –  Grzenio Jun 5 '12 at 21:16
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The simple answer: Don't travel with two backpacks.

I could never understand why people do that to themselves. My standard road bag is about the size of the little daypack you were thinking about sticking on your front. That size pack has gotten me around the world three times, for up to a year at a time, in every climate from the islands to Siberia.

It holds everything you need. Or, more to the point, if it doesn't hold all your stuff you're trying to bring too much stuff.

One full change of clothes (as in, if you have two pairs of pants and a pair of shorts that counts as two changes of clothes and you have too much stuff), camera, toiletries, a book or two and an iPad. That'll leave your daypack about half full so that it can fill up with the assorted random stuff that you accumulate over the course of a long trip.

Stay light and you'll stay happy. Laugh at the people you see carrying 65 pounds of extraneous stuff through the streets of Cairo in the 100 degree heat, and have a great trip!

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Where do you keep your DSLR camera? –  Flimzy Jun 1 '12 at 18:59
    
At the store. Note that the question we're responding doesn't mention a DSLR. Cameras that backpackers travel with are the size of a deck of cards (or part of their phone) and don't eat into your bag space at all. –  Jason Kester Jun 1 '12 at 21:22
    
It is true the question doesn't mention a DSLR, but the OP's comments suggest he is traveling with a camera that is larger than a deck of cards. I also backpack with a DSLR, so I think categorically stating "Cameras backpackers travel with are the size of a deck of cards" is not accurate. I like your answer, I just think it's too dogmatically rigid. –  Flimzy Jun 1 '12 at 21:24
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Your answer is indeed good only if it wasn't for that damn camera (yes DSLR, and that's sometimes/often a pain but I can't do without it ;). I should have stated that I travel with a DSLR in the question. –  Matthieu Napoli Jun 6 '12 at 11:51
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I think it's unreasonable to exclude (semi-)professional photographers, who are required (whether by contract, or by a personal dedication to the highest quality photographs possible) to carry a DSLR, from the backpacking experience. –  Flimzy Jun 6 '12 at 13:56
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Osprey and Deuter make backpacks that have a detachable daypack. I have the 55L Osprey Farpoint, and it should fit all of your needs. I've taken it on flights as carry-on, and no one's ever stopped me. Detach the smaller daypack before you put it in the overhead cabin, so it fits better. If they make you check in your bag, you can put your camera and other valuables in the daypack for carry-on. For more security, you can use two TSA locks on the zippers when you're walking to the hostel or the train station.

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I travel with a Vaude Brenta 34L lightweight backpack and an Exped Cloudburst Drypack (which fits inside the rucksack when travelling by bus etc)

I used a Crumpler banana hammock to protect my D800 from the worst knocks, and either kept it in the daypack (if I was mooching round a city), in the lid of my rucksack (if I was travelling long distances, between hostels etc) or clipped to the front of my rucksack if I was hiking in the countryside and needed quick access.

Quite often, I'd just carry it in my hand, with the neck strap wrapped round my palm.

I used black linen tape on the DSLR to mask off any shiny, glossy features, and then covered the whole thing with scraps of duct/masking tape.

I never had any trouble, even in favelas in Salvador, Bahia. If you're aware/sensible/alert then you won't, either.

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