The Quest for a Camino Backpack

Two weeks ago I started researching backpacks that would be good for walking the Camino. I was going to wait until the end of the year to buy a backpack, or put one on my Christmas wish list, for I have been a very good girl this year.  However, now that I have a date set for my first Camino in May 2016, I am anxious to do practice hikes to test the gear that I’ll take.

I love a good deal, so I checked out the REI Outlet website first and ordered four backpacks to be delivered to the Berkeley store. I figured I can try these packs out on-site and also get measured and fitted by the expert staff.  The day I went to REI for pickup was also the day they had their members only used gear sale outside in the parking lot. What perfect timing! When I arrived around 8:40 am, there was already a long line, so I waited half-an-hour with other deal seekers.

photo 1(1)    REI Berkeley Used Gear Sale

REI Berkeley Used Gear Sale on August 8, 2015

When it was finally my turn to enter the sale, I was hoping that one of those pricey Osprey or Gregory brand backpacks I’ve been curious about would magically appear in the piles of backpacks I rummaged through.  While I did see a few of these brands along with many more types of backpacks, I didn’t have a clue what size I really needed.  I asked an REI attendant about sizes and he did a quick measurement from my hip to my shoulder.  He said my torso was 15″ so that would be between an Extra Small or Small  in women’s backpacks sizes.  What?!? I was stunned. I am 5’5″ and XS has never been on a label in my wardrobe! He said when it comes to backpacks, it’s not about height, it’s about the length of the torso. He too was surprised when he learned that he should use a men’s Medium size backpack even though he is 6’3″. I thanked him and started my search for a S or XS backback on the tables.  Slightly dismayed, and tired of looking through the piles,  I moved inside the store, empty handed.  At least I had a good caffeine buzz, thanks to Allegro Coffee Roasters and Whole Foods for their tent with free coffee and pastry for the early risers at the garage sale.

I picked up my order of backpacks at REI Customer Service, and headed over to the camping department.  I found a guy nicknamed “Zoo” who took a more accurate measurement with a nifty Osprey tool. He noted that my torso is actually 16.5″ which is still considered XS or S.  Zoo helped me try out these four backpacks I ordered from the outlet: Continue reading