You can imagine,as a travel writer who does a lot of walking,skating,skiing,mountain-biking,camping etc.,the right equipment in terms of luggage,clothing and footwear becomes an important element in my toolkit.I am one of those people who’s constantly frozen for 6 months of the year,so staying warm in this northern country of ours is another challenge.Not surprisingly long johns are an essential part of my wardrobe.
So to get a better overview of some of the equipment out there I went to a workshop this past Thursday on how to buy the proper travel gear.The presentation was held at the G.A.P Store in Toronto’s bustling Annex neighbourhood,and although we were hit by a bout of freezing rain,the subway whisked me in from Toronto’s East End in just 20 minutes and dropped me off conveniently almost right in front of G.A.P’s retail location.
G.A.P Adventures is Canada’s largest adventure travel company and offers small group adventures in hundreds of locations all over the world.The G.A.P Store provides computer terminals where you can research various trips and destinations with the help of on-site travel experts.Video displays show clips from the record-breaking “Great Adventure People” TV series,and allow you to explore the world of adventure travel in a friendly,casual environment.In addition,G.A.P presents a variety of useful seminars at the store to provide practical information to travellers.
Karina Benavides and Geoff Atkinson,the presenters of this seminar,are two young retail experts from the Mountain Equipment Coop,and were here to educate us about the different types of equipment available.Today,MEC is Canada’s largest supplier of quality outdoor equipment.With more than two million members in 192 countries,MEC is a vibrant retail co-operative. MEC has stores across Canada,as well as a comprehensive web store and phone/mail order service.They are a favourite destination for Toronto’s outdoor enthusiasts and provide expert personalized advice for whatever outdoor adventure you might be planning.
Karina started us off talking about the different types of packs available.The first type of equipment for carrying gear she demonstrated was “expedition-style packs”. These types of packs are used for extended journeys,mountaineering expeditions,or winter weekend trips with extra gear and their capacity is between 40 to 100 litres.
One of the most important features of expedition-style packs,Karina explained,is their suspension system and the importance of fit.These types of packs are ergonomically designed to distribute the weight properly.In order to achieve this purpose, they have a built in suspension system and a hip belt which helps keep the weight off the rear end.The belt is supposed to sit right on the pelvic bone for best support and shoulder straps should not be too tight.The weight distribution should be 60% to 40% between shoulders and hips.
The key thing with this type of equipment is to make sure that it fits properly,depending on the wearer’s spinal shape. The design is usually cylindrical,with optional entrance points which Karina referred to as “escape hatches” where you can pull out an item without having to open up the whole backpack.
Then Karina moved on to the next type of equipment: travel packs.They hold roughly the same amount of volume as expedition packs,but are designed more for road tripping and typically these bags are not as durable because of their load-bearing zippers.Travel packs have less straps than expedition-style packs and look more like conventional luggage.They even have side handles and removable shoulder straps and an extra fabric panel that protects the straps during airport baggage handling.
The design is far less ergonomic since this type of gear is intended more for traveling in airports and train stations rather than backcountry expeditions.This type of equipment is also not as structurally strong as expedition gear,but it is designed with more protection for rough baggage handling during transport.The fitting process is the same in that MEC’s retail experts will customize the fit for the purchaser,depending on their individual requirements.
I really was taken in by the next type of equipment that Karina demonstrated: a travel pack on wheels.It is essentially a big backpack with built-in wheels and an extendable handle that also has a detachable day pack.This particular piece of luggage is designed in such a way that it will comply with airline carry-on size requirements so you don’t even have to check it in.Karina mentioned that it is not particurly comfortable to carry,but it is the perfect compact luggage on wheels and will even handle cobble-stone roads.She mentioned a story that she went on a trip with a few friends of hers,and her friends picked up their large duffle-bags at the airport’s baggage caroussel,slung them over their shoulders and literally had to shlepp them through the airport, while Karina was able to just wheel her luggage around without any strain on her back.