More often than not, I travel alone—but accompanying me is no one, not nothing. My backpack, Baby Blue, is my most treasured travel companion; it tags along compliantly, carrying my bare necessities and everything with which I’d need to defend myself and, when I’m surrounded by unfamiliar faces or unraveling beneath unacquainted skies, my backpack is the only constant. It’s sat on the humps of camels traversing the Sahara, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and the Rio de La Plata by cargo. It’s flown co-pilot in puddle jumpers across the Caribbean, trekked through Asian jungles trodden by macaque monkeys and trudged through European blizzards. It’s cushioned me in night buses across the Americas and spooned me by nightfall in airports across five continents.
I don’t check it or lock it up—I carry it with me and I sleep with it, always. In all of its scuffs and grime, my backpack is reminiscent of our journeys. It’s a reminder that I can go it alone because it’s been impervious to adventure, with me. So I advise women to make the investment in a backpack that offers them the same solace. Here are a few that I couldn’t do life without (including my aforementioned “baby blue”).
For long weekends, I choose an unassuming Herschel original. The cotton canvas of my Herschel daypack is effortlessly washable after a few days on the road. It’s so deceptively expansive, I’ve crossed country borders with only this more than a few times, and had ample room for my shoes and my camera equipment inside, tech in the front zip and my wallet and passport secured safely in the snap-closure interior pocket. It also frequents Upper East Side Manhattan coffee shops with me, the public library and my boxing studio—it’s beautifully multifaceted.
For day treks, I choose a camelbak under two pounds. Mine, the High Sierra Classic 2 Series Propel 70W Hydration Pack, is female-specific, so it fits comfortably while biking or hiking, and the BPA-free, insulated and antimicrobial two-liter hydration system keeps me active. There’s room for a change of clothes for spontaneous volcanic crater lake dips, a front pocket for easy access and a mesh flap for the helmet needed off-roading in rum fields.
For day travel, I choose a slack Ecote drawstring hobo bag—this one is from Urban Outfitters. The depths-of-purse-to-pouch transition is an easy dump, and it’s lightweight for cavorting around concerts, picnicking in parks and cycling around cities.
For aquatic adventures of any kind, I choose a waterproof dry bag like this roll-top dry sack from Seal Line. Welded for an impermeable casing, it’s 50 percent stronger than anything with sewn or taped seams. Its rectangular shape also packs 20 percent more efficiently than a typical rounded dry sack, which makes it a generous space-saver and easily packable, itself, into another backpack—like one of Seal Line’s other water-resistant backpacks and duffels, which are all optimal for trekking in wet climates. When it’s wet, it can be buckled around a loop or strap to hang separately.
For one-way tickets to anywhere, I choose a technical pack big enough to fit the relics I pick up throughout my weeks or months on the road, but small enough to carry on nonetheless. Mine, the Sierra Designs Jubilee 65, weighs under four pounds, boasts inside pockets, BPA-free side pockets for water, trekking pole loops, a front slip, a zippered pouch in the waist strap for my valuables and a top compartment (that I’ve unintentionally torn off since I bought it in 2011) that sits above the storm collar for the toiletries I need to be accessible when I’m bathing in airport bathrooms. Although, the front zippered opening makes the bottom of the backpack reachable, too. It’s important that a tech-pack sits comfortably on your back, so its framing is critical. This one has a number of padded compression straps, a pre-curved waistbelt and stabilizers. And, of course, Baby Blue is equipped with a bottle opener.