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Packing ultralight - update

Hi, I posted this a month ago and thought I should circle back and share some updates. At the time, I was trying to decide between bringing my normal 2-wheel suitcase for a 1-month trip to Europe or to try bringing my 1-pound G4Free backpack that I mostly use for tent camping.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/packing/considering-an-ultralight-pack-this-year-experienced-feedback-please

I still want to switch and just bring a backpack this time, but the G4Free design was bugging me. I don’t particularly like the top-load design of the backpack and doing it for a month would probably become very annoying. Also, the load packed became slightly barrel shaped which didn’t leave much room except at the top.

I’ve been researching lots of options, watching comparison videos and looking at them in the stores. How many different ways can an engineer analyze them with a spreadsheet - LOL! I kept coming back to the Cotopaxi. I love the features of the Allpa 35L with the clamshell opening - everything accessible & ready with mesh pockets. I like the top front generous pocket, the side protected slot for my iPad and papers, and I love the color selection!

My Pacific color (blue front/black sides) arrived in the mail today! I packed it with my packing list, which took about 10 minutes, and it’s at 12 pounds. The Allpa backpack organization makes it easy enough that some of the items I usually place into my day pack made more sense to store in the Allpa. So, I might just bring my Baggalini purse and skip the day pack. The purse would be around two pounds.

I’m excited to think about how I might continue to improve the organization & also reduce the weight a bit more since I didn’t utilize the top front mesh & zipper pockets, yet, or the two small interior ones.

(And my RS Croatia & Slovenia book is looking very lean! I’ve removed a third of the pages while reading all of it.). Very excited for this trip!

Happy traveling!

Posted by
295 posts

I just packed an Allpa 28 for myself and another one for my husband for our 8 day trip to Costa Rica later this month. I also like the built-in organization. No need for packing cubes! I was surprised by how much I could fit inside. We got the Del Dia colors--super fun! Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
4574 posts

Thanks for the update. Glad you changed from the G4Free. Please report back after your trip how the Allpa worked for you.

Posted by
6829 posts

Jean, how exciting! I’ve seen that bag in my online feeds and have been lusting after it a little bit. And of course your review makes it sound even better! I can’t wait to hear about how it works in real travel time. 🎒

Posted by
7397 posts

Mardee, we were in Hawaii recently, and I was asking each person who had a Cotopaxi at the airport or out hiking with smaller backpacks what their opinion was of them. All of them were an enthusiastic positive response.

Posted by
6829 posts

Jean, that's a fantastic idea! I never would have thought of doing that - and straight from the horse's mouth so to speak. Good to know!

Posted by
7397 posts

Slbdaisy, have a great time in Costa Rica! The fun del dia colors would take me forever to decide which one to pick! ; )

Posted by
295 posts

Jean, Thanks! Yes, I had a very hard time choosing our colors! I found that, like purchasing airfare, you can't go back and look again after you purchase. They add new colors after you (and others) purchase, so they are constantly changing. Just don't look again, or you'll find a different one you like better! LOL I have a couple of other bags from Cotopaxi, and I definitely like them. Some of them I like even better than my Tom Bihn bags.

Posted by
802 posts

Those are expensive packs. Pretty much the same thing as RS original travel bag.

Posted by
3240 posts

I am impressed! I am also a fan of Cotopaxi. I have the small waist pack, 1.5 l, for my camera and it is perfect. I am impressed with your weight. My backpack is 12 lbs with just my day hiking necessities. I am walking the Camino in Spain for 10 days and spending 5 more in Madrid. I feel like I am packing more than usual…I blame my poles for needing an extra bag, which Is creating havoc with any past system of mine. Maybe I should make a post on here for some tough love from the RS set…

Posted by
6829 posts

Those are expensive packs. Pretty much the same thing as RS original travel bag.

treemoss, I owned the RS original travel bag, and believe me, the Cotopaxi bag is NOTHING like that, lol!

Posted by
7397 posts

Agreeing with Mardee, treemoss2. My husband owned the original RS backpack, but he didn’t like using it. He donated it after two trips to Europe for something with more structure.

I had one of the early RS 2-wheel bags that I liked and used for several years. Eventually the handle wanted to stick in the “up position” which wasn’t convenient at airports - ugh! By that time, the airlines were wanting slightly smaller carry-ons, so I switched to my dependable Eddie Bauer 2-wheel which has been on many fun trips.

Posted by
7397 posts

Wray, not my type of trip, but what a great experience for you! Hopefully our warm weather comes quickly as you’re preparing for your trip! : )

We enjoyed Madrid and stayed near the palace with a beautiful view for three nights, and we stayed near the Retiro Park for our last night. (Delta has switched our flight, leaving from Malaga.). It’s a great city to enjoy the activity at night in the main plazas.

Posted by
1259 posts

Jean, thanks for update. When I was backpacking ultralight, the trade offs were grams and durability with grams always winning. We just learned to take really good care of our stuff.,

Posted by
802 posts

Please tell me the difference between the RS original and his Cotopaxi? I have been using the RS original for 20 years.

Posted by
7397 posts

Treemoss2, here’s just one of many videos on YouTube reviewing the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJEXJ5euK8o

My husband bought his RS bag in 2003, too! That was our first RS tour - the GAS tour. We also prefaced that tour with a week in The Netherlands for our 25th anniversary, visiting my host family. It was so nice to see them again!

Since you’re happy with your well-used RS bag, keep on traveling! : )

Posted by
6829 posts

Jean, I really enjoyed that video - she is Ms. Personality Plus! Very fun!

treemoss, here's my take on the differences. The RS original bag was a dark green (I think they only had the one color, right?) and it opened up into a large rectangle. There was also a pocket on the outside (I'm having to trust to memory here as I got rid of mine around 2002 and I think I bought it in '95) and I think some internal straps. But that was pretty much it - it was a big floppy box-shaped piece of canvas luggage. It was lightweight and held a lot, but because it had no waist strap, it was hard to deal with. I think the last straw for me was when I was in Rome in 2001. I had it on my back but it was sliding back and forth as I ran for the train - so cumbersome! I gave it to my niece the next year. I think it would work better with packing cubes but those were sort of non-existent back then.

OTOH, the Cotapaxi Allpa 35L is sort of rectangular-shaped but with rounded edges. It has many many pockets and compartments inside. There are zippered internal and external mesh compartments, some pockets underneath other pockets, a side pocket, straps that tuck away, removable waist belt, and compartments for laptops/tablets. It comes is multiple colors; some quite bright and colorful (which I love), and has 4 different ways to carry it. AND they use YKK zippers, which is a big plus. I sew and make bags and I always use these zippers because they are the best - they come from Japan and are virtually indestructible.

I think I'm talking myself into buying it. 😳

Posted by
9772 posts

Jean i love that you did those “man on the street” (or rather, “woman in the airport” and “man on the hiking trail) interviews !! Nothing better than unvarnished opinions.

I just checked out the bag, it looks super cool. However I know myself that i don’t have the discipline to pack so light. I’m already thinking about all the extra junk i will take when i go to the Loire next weekend. (To be fair, I have to go straight to work on the Monday, so I have to take that into account too. Well, I guess if I am smart, I will take my Monday work clothes in to the office one day earlier next week so I don’t have to carry them to the Loire and back with me !!!)

Anyway, I’m eager to hear how things go for you with your new pack ! When is your trip (I’m sure you said in the original post but I have forgotten !)?

Posted by
802 posts

I did look at the Cotapaxi after the suggestions here on how good it was compared to my RS bag. Yes, it has many features and various pockets, which seem to be real nice to have. Many many zippers too.
Overall I think I will stick with my RS bag. If the Cotopaxi was more price friendly I might try it.
I do wish that RS had a smaller version of his original because sometimes I am not packing enough to fill out the bag and so it is a bit droopy. However, if I simply take an extra pair of my size 14 shoes then it has structure.
Cotopaxi looks good, but I am not a fan of bright colors for my bag.

Posted by
2764 posts

Just a warning, if you go to the Cotopaxi website and sign up for their text messages prepare to be bombarded.

Honestly, their constant attack has pretty much turned me off to the entire organization, so I’ve gone from likely buying to not to likely not to buy.

Posted by
7397 posts

Carol, interesting timing for your comment! I just received another advertisement text from them this morning and decided to block the text number. I had signed up for texting originally to obtain the 15% off the backpack. Yes, too many texts! ; )

Posted by
6829 posts

Jean has convinced me, so I ordered the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L (in the Del Dia colors), and like Jean, used the 15% discount to save $30.

I plan on taking it on my upcoming Scotland trip, along with a Baggallini Austin tote (I think). I've been spinning my head around for weeks trying to figure out my personal item and finally raided my closet and the tote is in the lead. I leave 2 weeks from Wednesday and will do a trial pack of everything as soon as the bag gets here in a few days, so we'll see how it works with the Allpa.

Carol, I get what you're saying but sadly, I think that's become the norm anymore. I've bought things from LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, REI, Patagonia, Calpak and other reputable stores and they all bombard my email inbox and text incessantly. As long as their customer service is good and I'm happy with the products, I don't care about the marketing because I turn it off as soon as the order is confirmed. 😊

Posted by
676 posts

Jean, I'm interested in what's on your packing list that your total only comes to 12#. The bag itself is 3.5. Do you pack heavier stuff in your other bag?

Posted by
7397 posts

Thanks for the link, Mardee!

Elaine, I’m an analytical person - retired engineer, so I have weighed each item that potentially goes into my final packing list - easy to do with a kitchen scale & a bowl zeroed out. There can be a huge difference in weight with just an example from my list: “3 tops, 2 dresses, a toiletry kit (before it’s filled)”

I selected 8 possible shirts that I like and wash easily. Then I weighed each one, and the range was 3.7 - 7.2 oz. I chose three that are in the lower range.

I wanted two cute dresses that are great for daytime but especially for evenings. Of my 7 dresses, this was the range 8.2 - 12.4 I picked an 8.2 and a 9oz one.

Toiletry bags: 1.6 - 11.2. I love my 11.2 one, but for this trip, I chose one that is 3.1 I liked the dimensions of the 3.1 oz one better than the 1.6, plus it keeps its shape better sitting on the counter.

Hope that helps explain how the total weight is low! A few ounces per choice don’t seem like much in the moment until all of those decisions are totaled up.

Posted by
7397 posts

Elaine, here’s my other light day bag. It’s an LLBean stowaway bag. I place my purse inside it for planes, trains, riding metros, etc.

The coffee & nuts are eaten during the first three days. When I did my trial pack with the Cotopaxi for this upcoming trip, I actually moved the itinerary papers and iPad into the nice slots in the Cotopaxi. My second item - the LL Bean bag weighs a pound empty, and usually is quite empty. I like to just carry it across the right front side of my chest with one strap over my right shoulder.

This bag has the flexibility to hold a few souvenirs during the trip. I usually just buy one special item in a new country; this trip has two new countries for me! : )

What is in my day pack:
5 Coffee Nescafe sticks (to survive time zone changes & avoid migraines)
3 Individual Bags of nuts
2 Protein bars
Itinerary, reservation tickets
iPad
Apple shuffle, earphones, charger
Purse is inside my day pack when taking transportation; otherwise, I only carry a purse during the day.

(contents of purse listed here:)
PHONE
Reading glasses
Mints
Some TP
2 pens & paper
Purple Coin purse
Purell individual packs

Posted by
7397 posts

Leaving soon! The final weight: Cotopaxi - 13.2 lbs

I stayed true to my packing list, except that I brought one extra dress. My husband & I are celebrating our 45th anniversary. I packed & unpacked that extra dress several times and finally decided it’s coming, too.

I’m also taking the Sherpani Camden as my personal item (purse inside), and it’s less than 5 lbs with items in it. I cut the backpack straps off of the Sherpani and am carrying it with the crossbody strap. If I want to carry it with the tote handles, the crossbody strap bulk nicely fits into the slot where the backpack straps could be hidden.

Originally I was going to just bring my LLBean stowaway as my personal item, but using one of the backpack straps slung over one shoulder wouldn’t stay on when I was also wearing the Cotopaxi.

Posted by
3301 posts

Have a great trip Jean and please report back on how your packing worked out for you. Also, would love to hear about London as I go in the fall.

Posted by
330 posts

Love to see a photo…glamour shot with all your gear! Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
6829 posts

Jean, I can't wait to hear all about it! Happy and safe travels to you!