Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My review of the Deuter Futura Pro 38

Alpine Shop in Columbia, Mo
(picture credit:http://www.everythingmidmo.com/marketplace/businesses/alpine-shop-iii/photos/620/)

Recently I went out and took a “tourist day” in Columbia, where I live. During this, I happened to stop by the local Alpine Shop to browse. I had previously picked up a Coleman Elate 65 liter pack from walmart. I wanted to save money by getting a cheap backpack but also wanted to test it out as a comparison. After some time working with it, I deemed it too large, heavy, and bulky. It would take nearly 65 liters of things to even make it feasible to carry. Moreover, it was a saggy mess when empty or even loaded with the amount of things I'm planning on taking. 
Left: Deuter Futura Pro 38, Right: Coleman Elate 65
With the revelation about the Coleman pack fresh in my thoughts when I happened to walk in to the Alpine Shop and realized that I had the money needed for a decent pack. I talked to the workers helping out customers as I have in the past, but this time with full intention to walk out with the pack I felt would fit the bill. After trying on the Osprey Atmos 50 liter pack again (it's one that I've repeatedly returned to but still balk at the $200+ price tag), I looked at the Deuter packs in stock. Searching for comparable features while having others I specifically wanted, I eventually chose the Deuter Futura Pro 38 liter backpack.
My Futura Pro 38

With Rain Cover

The following dimensions are from Deuter's site (www.deuteroutdoor.com)
  • Weight: 3lbs 10oz (1640g)
  • Volume: 2320 cubic inches (38Liters)
  • Dimensions [HxWxD]: 28”x14”x10” (70x35x26 cm)
My bag is the Midnight/Ocean color scheme as it was the only one in stock. The other color options are Lava/Orange, Emerald/Titan, and Moss/Silver. After seeing the other color options, I realized I would have chosen the blue or light green bag as they wouldn't be a blazing marker on me while I travel. The features I was looking for in a pack included: a rain cover, well padded belt, sternum strap that wasn't the flimsy clip attached to a piping on the strap, and a bottom pocket that gives access to the main pouch. I also wanted heavy duty gear that could live up to the general activities I'm going to put it through. Additionally the bag needed to be small enough to be easily carried, hold roughly 35 liters or so, and fit as carry-on luggage.
The Futura Pro fulfilled all of the things I was looking for in a backpack thus far for my travels:
  • The pockets on the side are large enough to hold large bottles for extra water as well as the fully enclosed pockets behind the pouches.
  • The main pocket has the standard sack style top opening, but it also has the (not always standard in backpacks) divider in the bottom and exterior access.
  • The belt is the “Variflex” style that Deuter uses, it pivots with your body to allow the pack to stay centered while your hips can move naturally. While it has no pockets like comparable brands, I don't mind that aspect missing.
  • The top of the bag has pouch that is accessible while wearing the pack and I think gives a better option than a belt pocket for small items. Though, it's attached solidly to the bag, so it can't be used as a detachable carry bag option. I kept my hat in there when I didn't need it, which kept it in easy reach.
  • The shoulder straps themselves are well padded with a heavier pad. On the shoulder straps is a pretty sturdy sternum strap that adjusts easily without feeling flimsy. It keeps in place really well and keeps the main straps from sliding around. 
  • The back has Deuter's “Aircomfort” back panel that keeps the main pack about 1-2 inches from your back. This makes the back non-adjustable, which for anyone not in the suggested range of 5'2” and 5'10” might make it fit awkwardly. I lucked out and it happens to fit my frame perfectly. In mild testing around town on a hot day with 25lbs of weight in it, my back stayed cool and mostly dry, I ended up sweating a little more than usual without it being too bad. Every time the wind would catch between the pack and my back though, Amazing. Like a tiny wind tunnel that cooled my back pretty well. You can even hang a water pouch in this space if you wanted, there's also a pouch in the main pocket for it if you have the space or want it inside the bag.
  • It has a small zipper on the actual “front” of the bag, This seems good for holding small notebooks or specifically a map. I like that there aren't a dozen or so extra pockets on the front, it makes for a cleaner look with only one small zipper and I don't worry about someone trying to get into it while I'm walking. Especially since anything I put in there wouldn't be of major value anyway. The pocket itself it decently large and could probably fit a standard notebook and a map or three if you can get them all through the narrow zipper.

    Aircomfort panel and straps
The total space of the Futura Pro is actually 42 liters, but is divided up as main storage and spare storage. The bag has expandable pockets on the sides that can give up to an extra 5 liters. In regards to that, I think of this pack as 38 liters with extra room if you need it. All told, I can fit 2 medium sized dry-sacks inside it with a little room to spare. That includes my clothes, flip-flops, bed-roll (compact blanket and full-size sleep sheet), netbook, toiletries, med kit, and other small items. In addition to this pack , I have a Kiva key chain bag that can carry up to 8 more cubic liters of gear (a review of which is coming in the next update) packed in a top pocket. Just in case I need to split a couple items up to make everything “carry-on” since in most cases I'm allowed 2 bags.
The dry-sacks next to the pack (filled with pillows for emphasis)

Overall I'm completely happy with my choice of bag, it isn't too heavy, doesn't feel as cumbersome with weight in it as most other bags I looked into. It fit into my price range and was bought locally, another of my desires. After searching for approximately 3 months for a decent pack, I put quite a bit of thought into my choice. If I had spent more than $200+ on a pack, I feel I wouldn't be nearly as satisfied with it. Since I was able to experience the coleman pack (Coleman Max Elate 65L) and see what getting a cheap pack lands you, I'm much more at peace with spending around $150 on a backpack.

What kind of pack do you use? Given what you know about it now, would you have chosen differently? Feel free to comment below!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Change of Scenery

I'm struggling up a steep hill, having hiked a couple miles already, a glance ahead reveals the loose gravel road beginning to level off. I shift the weight of the backpack holding the food I just picked up at the small store back down the road, adjusting the straps to keep it from sagging. “Only another mile, slowpoke” my friend calls from ahead. “Yeah,” I think to myself, “only another mile.” My shirt soaked in sweat, my asthma acting up, feet protesting every step, but there's a difference, I'm having a great time.
That piece is out of my old journal that was written after my trip to Canada. I wasn't in the middle of nowhere, though it seemed that way sometimes because I wasn't familiar with the area. Looking back at my writings from 2006 and thinking back with fresh perspective, I've seen how much I've grown and changed in five years. I was fascinated by travel back then, though also afraid. Not afraid of the travels or the experience, but of what other people would think of the lifestyle I was desiring even then. Back then I cared so much about what people thought of my choices. I wanted people to approve of whatever I ended up choosing as a career. I was lost and confused and misguided. It took a long time to grow into the person I am today. I'm still growing, I'll never be finished “growing up” mind you. Life is all about the adventure.
A modern explorer. That's what I want to be. No, That's what I AM. I've always looked at Columbus (even though he failed at finding a route to Asia and found Cuba instead, he took it in stride), Marco Polo, all of those other explorers that I can't remember the names of, I've always looked at them with a sense of awe. “Thats what I want to do” I'd always say, but I always thought there wasn't an option for me to do anything of the sort. Now I know that there is in fact exploration out there. Sure, I won't be looking for new civilizations or vast unseen lands, but exploring the already established ones that are out there to see sounds like an adventure. That's what I want to do, that's what I am going to do. I will find a way to do what I want and be open to the various doors that life opens.
This dream is as multifaceted as a finely worked diamond. Each facet different while all together making something amazing. I'm discovering my talents as well as the things at which I am not as skilled. I can do chemistry decently, but not as well as most others. I can do other sciences as well, but not to the degree that many reach. I am learning that I have a penchant for writing and it happens to be something I've wanted to do for a very long time. Along with my dream of traveling the world, I am pursuing my dream to be a writer. I'm willing to do what writing comes my way, I'm not looking to be a hard news writer, but if that's a project available to me, it might be what I do for a period of time. If all I manage to write are tales of my exploits, so be it. I'm not under any delusion that this will be a walk in the park. I fully believe and hope that it will be the challenge I feel it will be.
           With enough perseverance, hard work, and a good attitude, I fully believe that you can accomplish anything. I will be traveling by this time next year. In fact, I know that's what I'll be doing. I'm going to travel and write about my travels. I want to find more inspiration for writing. Things that I can put into a new perspective, have a source for more accurate brainstorms about the fiction novel I've wanted to write. I'm not afraid of danger, new things, or changes. Proof of this would be last year during the blizzard. A friend and I walked about 5 miles (2 and a half each way.) Why? We wanted chili for dinner and the campus store was closed so we walked through the blizzard to the grocery store. We caught a bit of flak for that when we returned. The RA's were not happy about it, but found the situation funny afterwards.
I'm not apprehensive about taking this kind of giant leap into the unknown, it excites me to be honest. This will be a huge step into new territory. Most people in my generation don't do things like this, I find that quite sad. The “wanderlust of youth” isn't entirely gone, but mostly involves small trips within our own country, within the confines of their home state or to neighboring states. I'm not knocking the USA or its sights to behold, I just think that if you're gonna go, go big or go home. I plan on seeing the sights back here at some point in my travels, I just want to get out there and experience the world first hand. I've spent 23 years in the USA, I'd say I'm due for a change of scenery.