As we continue our prep (well, at this point more like pre-prep) for our African trip, I have once again let myself get sucked down the rabbit hole that is my endless quest for the perfect laptop backpack. This is related to my other endless quest for the perfect suitcase (and I’m feeling pretty good about the suitcase thing since committing to Eagle Creek’s 22″ bags). Some people collect pillows, some people collect shoes. For me, it’s all about the perfect laptop backpack. I guess it’s my inner librarian but I have an organizational streak in me that really like to see a place for everything and everything in its place when it comes to my carry-on stuff/electronics. Along the way I have tried out Eagle Creek backpacks, Swiss Gear bags, Osprey bags, Rick Steves bags and right now a Thule backpack that was living in a closet from a previous go around as my bag of choice. All had their strengths and weaknesses. Swiss Gear bags are nice but really were just too big for me (when a bag is too big you run the risk of putting too much stuff in it and carrying around too much weight). Eagle Creek backpacks were okay but I just never liked the interior layouts. I tried a Patagonia backpack and it had the same drawbacks as Osprey. My biggest criteria are: easy access to the laptop (duh!), a place for an iPad, room for accessories, and places for things like my little portable charger and any paperwork I need to keep handy. Oh, and enough space for a jacket or sweater. And something in a not totally offensive color. That doesn’t kill my back after a few hours of walking around. So you know, I’m not asking much. 🙂
I took a Rick Steves bag to Central Europe this past September because it converted from a backpack into a shoulder bag – a nice feature when you are going to museums and places that don’t let you wear a backpack. But in actuality I used this feature almost never. It spent the majority of the trip as a backpack as it was much more comfortable carried that way than as a shoulder bag, especially when the laptop was on board. And as a backpack I give it at best a grade C for comfort (proof once again that when something tries to be too many things it generally doesn’t excel at any of them) as it had no back padding and the shoulder straps didn’t have much padding either . Once back home I reverted to the Osprey bag I’ve been using for about a year but after taking it to Las Vegas for CES and looking at the backpacks in the Thule booth, I came home and pulled my Thule bag out of the closet and loaded it up. It feels a lot sturdier than the Osprey fabric-wise and is water resistant, which the Osprey most definitely was NOT. Its strap setup is quite nice – not female-specific but I think that’s kind of over-rated (at least it is for me). The weather resistance and sturdy fabric will, I bet, be pretty important in Africa. I can’t for the life of me remember why I bailed on the Thule backpack in the first place – it’s the one I was using before I got the Osprey. I suspect (knowing me) I saw a picture of the Osprey on a website and fell in (fleeting) love.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to look at different African tours. I think we’ve narrowed things down to Kenya (versus Tanzania) and Jan or Feb have become our first choice months. While the migration sounds like an amazing sight, we have been reading that it also is the most crowded time of year, with tourist trucks and vans backed up – basically any LA freeway at rush hour, in Africa. Jan and Feb are a bit wetter than some months so may be a bit buggier but on the other hand, there are a lot of babies getting born. Really, from what we’ve read, there is no bad month – so we’re opting to dodge crowds and risk some rain.
We have also discovered two new tour companies that are now our front runner choices: Gamewatchers Safaris and Spurwing Travel. Both companies have tours in Kenya and as far as costs are in the middle of the African safari price range road – $3500-$4500 per person for an 8-10 day trip. We were thinking it would be really neat to stay at Giraffe Manor either at the start or the end of the safari, but the per night cost ($1600+) is giving us second thoughts. Put in perspective, one night there could pay for our entire roundtrip flight! So we’ll see. We watched Out of Africa a few weeks ago and if we had any doubts about wanting to go on this trip, they evaporated after watching that movie. I figure we can devote another month to research before we need to get serious and start booking stuff.