Since I am not exactly an adventure traveler (let’s face it, the most physically strenuous thing I do on most trips is walk around and eat too much pizza), I don’t have a lot of specialty travel gear. However, there is one particular piece of travel gear that I can’t live without: my backpack.
My Gregory Deva 60 Backpack, to be exact.
So I figured it was about time that I shared my review of this essential piece of travel gear here on the blog.
Why Buy a Backpack?
Despite multiple international trips throughout college, I never purchased an internal-frame backpack. Looking back on some of my packing mishaps on study abroad trips in particular, I can see that a backpack would have been a great investment. However, I was apparently a slow learner when it came to figuring out that rolling suitcases just aren’t ideal for many traveling situations…. and those are the situations I tend to find myself in most commonly.
If your budget and travel style result in a need to visit multiple countries in a short amount of time, stay in hostels or airbnbs and navigate a lot of narrow alleys, cobblestones and stairs, then you and I have a lot in common!
Also, you should definitely look into getting a backpack.
My First Backpack
I bought my first backpack in preparation for a trip to Costa Rica in November of 2013. After considering our hostel stays and the passenger vans and buses we’d primarily be using to get around, I decided that this was definitely not a trip for the rolling luggage. Luckily, November is a bit off season for backpacks at our local REI store, so I was able to find a backpack on sale that fit me very well.
My REI Flash 52 backpack and I had a lot of fun together (see it in the featured image above, or a similar but slightly smaller style here). My favorite things about that particular pack were the size and the weight: it is the lightest pack that I’ve ever tried on, and it was a great size for most of our adventures. However, after visiting 8 countries together in 4 years there were a few things that I realized I didn’t love about the pack. Even with those items in mind, there was only one other pack on the market that could ever make me consider giving up my Flash…
And this spring, I finally caved.
My Gregory Deva 60 Backpack
The primary thing that bothered me about the REI Flash 52 backpack was the fact that it was top load only. Depending on your style of travel and where you’ll be using the backpack most often, this factor may not matter to you at all. Since I stay in hostel dorm rooms quite a bit, having to dump the entire contents of my Flash out on the hostel dorm room floor at 3 am because I forgot to get my contact solution out earlier in the day was getting a bit old.
So last year, I started doing quite a bit of backpack research online. Pro tip: NEVER purchase an internal frame backpack that you haven’t tried on. Even if it looks like the perfect fit, and even if it has all the features you’re looking for, the fit of these backpacks varies widely from brand to brand.
Before I was ready to go into the store to try on packs, I noticed that one backpack kept popping up in my internet research. It fit all my criteria and more:
the Gregory Deva 60.
Eventually, the time came to try on this perfect backpack…
…and I had high expectations, to say the least.
Luckily, the Gregory Deva 60 met them all.
The Gregory Deva 60 is a slightly larger pack than my Flash, but the shape keeps it from being quite as top heavy (my Flash had a tendency to be very skinny and tall on my back when it was packed full, whereas the Deva spreads out the load better horizontally). Based on my experience using the 52 liter flash for 4 years, I knew that I didn’t want to go up in size significantly. For the type of travel I do (usually short term trips scheduled around work), I just don’t have any need for a pack larger than 60 liters. However, if you are looking for a larger pack, the Deva also comes in 70 liter and 80 liter versions.
In addition to giving you the option between top load, front load and a bottom access zipper, the Gregory Deva 60 comes with a removable daypack (so you can carry your daily necessities away from the campsite without having to carry your full pack… or if you are me, you can carry your toiletries and change of clothes to the hostel bathroom without dropping anything). The Gregory Deva 60 also comes with a fitted rain cover that stores in its own easily-accessible pocket. Aside from all these features, the backpack just fits like a dream. The first time I put it on in the store at REI I remember thinking, “THIS IS HOW A BACKPACK SHOULD FIT!”
Since I’m providing an honest review of the most important piece of travel gear in my life, I have to address one potential negative I’ve noticed with the Gregory Deva 60 backpack… because fair is fair. In a nutshell, the weight distribution system, added features, durable materials, comfy back and cloud-like padding on the shoulder straps does not come light. When compared to my Flash (which as I mentioned above is the lightest pack I’ve ever tried on), the Deva is heavy empty. Compared to packs in its class (packs with similar features), it doesn’t seem to be significantly heavier… but it was something I had to get used to when switching from the Flash, so I wanted to mention it.
Tips for Funding Your Backpack
As with most travel-related expenses, it pays to get creative. I’ll be the first to tell you that the Gregory Deva 60 Backpack is not cheap. From the very first day I fell in love with the backpack, the price tag made me cringe. I spent a lot of time dreaming and scheming about this pack, and just as much time dreaming and scheming about how to pay for it.
In the end, I decided that the investment was worth it. As the Gregory Deva 60 is everything I’ve ever wanted in a backpack, I don’t intend to purchase another backpack…. ever.
This backpack relationship is a long term commitment.
In order to save as much as possible on my purchase of the Gregory Deva 60, I waited for REI to have a 20% off sale. These occur throughout the year, and if you’re thinking about a big gear purchase like a backpack, then waiting for this sale (or seeing if your local gear provider has something similar) may be worth it. I also used a coupon I had received for an extra $20 off $100 spent during the sale. Since I had to order my Deva online (because my local REI didn’t carry the color I wanted in store), I also got free shipping on the order. In addition to all of this, REI gives you a member dividend on big purchases at the end of the year (this is effectively a rebate check). The REI site says that this backpack should come with a $29 dividend that I should receive when those pay out in March 2018 (cross your fingers!) Last but not least, I found a friend who was new to the world of backpacks and needed a light pack without bells and whistles to fit her budget… so I sold her my Flash, and put the money towards my new Deva!
I’m happy the Flash found a new home, so my Gregory Deva 60 and I can live happily ever after.
New to the world of backpacks, or already have a favorite? Feel free to share any thoughts or questions in the comments!