Our First Travel Backpack Test Run

Our First Travel Backpack Test Run

When deciding to travel long-term as a digital nomads, finding the best carry-on bag is only the beginning. The next step (after purchasing your gear and packing) is conditioning yourself to carrying your travel backpack.

The more weight you pack, the harder it’ll be to carry long distances, so we decided to find out how we’d handle it with a test run…

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Our First Travel Backpack Test Run

It’s a bright and early Saturday morning and our neighbors are sleeping soundly after a long week of work. We, on the other hand, are up at 6 am preparing for a travel backpack test run. The idea is to simulate a hike with our fully loaded packs and see how each of us does.

Basic Assumptions and Facts

Our Pack: Osprey Manta Ag 36, 2.87 pounds (Video Review, Blog Post)

Test Run Carrying Weight

We’ve loaded each of our carry-on travel backpacks with 22 pounds.

Our goal is to stay under 20 pounds, but we want to test ourselves at the max, so we’re going slightly above goal for the test run. This will give us a good reading of how we’ll do under real world conditions.

Test Run Distance

Our planned hiking route is a total of three miles.

We’re the type to walk when and wherever possible and reasonable. While we’re assuming that most of our walking with our packs on will be under three miles, we’ve decided to test the higher end. Plus, we’ll be carrying these while traveling, so who knows how long we'll be standing in lines and crowds.

We’re not going over three miles on our first test run because we’re keeping in mind that walking with our packs will mainly be for commuting. Our plan is that when we do day hikes and excursions, we’ll secure the pack at the place we’re staying and carry a smaller day pack.

Our Physical Condition

Both of us walk two to four miles regularly. Sergio strength trains arms, legs and core muscle groups regularly. Shannon works out sporadically, focusing more on high intensity interval training. Having had three hand and wrist surgeries and still having ongoing, chronic wrist pain, her upper body strength is probably less than that of a typical woman’s.

Additional Information

We eat healthy, are of healthy weights, and can bust out a mad hike at a moment’s notice (think 10-15 miles). So, we both think we got this covered. If people can go backpacking in nature with 60-80 litter bags, carrying food, a tent, and sleeping bags, then we should be able to do 20-ish pounds no problem!

The Logistics of Doing a Test Run

Since it’s over a month before leaving, we don’t have everything we’ll be caring with us. So, instead of packing our bags just like we’ll be in a month or two, we find items around the house that’ll equal about 22-pounds and fit into our bags.

This is surprisingly a challenging task. We’re a very minimalistic couple to begin with and we have very few belongings in comparison to the average household. On top of that, we've already gone through and done a sweep of the house and donated several duffel bags of stuff.

To reach our packing weight goal we end up with several small buckwheat pillows, a couple 1.5 L mouthwash bottles, a gallon of water, and a few miscellaneous items. Since we’d talked to the very helpful people at REI about backpacking, we’d had a few tips on how to pack our bags, so we tried to pack them accordingly.

The idea is to distribute the weight so you don’t carry the bulk of the bag on your shoulders.

If you get a bag that fits well and you get the hipbelt cinched tightly around your waist/hips, the weight will rest there instead of all on your shoulders. Done well, this dramatically increases the total weight you can carry.

Doing a Test Run with Our Carry-On Travel Backpacks

Strapping on the bags for the first time to do an actual outing with them was exciting! Since it’s our first time putting them on fully weighted, it’s a bit slow to get them on and adjusted. But once it was done, we excitedly headed out the door…

Our Test Run Play-By-Play


Walking out the door

Both of us are excited.

A couple of blocks into it

Both of us are surprisingly pleased at how easy and light our bags seems. We both comment on how we thought that was going to be a bit more difficult.

0.5 mile

We’re both holding strong. We have smiles on our faces and are involved in lively conversation.

1 mile

Sergio is doing well.

Shannon’s smile is fading.

2 miles

Conversation is dwindling, but Sergio is staying strong, focusing on his posture.

Shannon is cinching her hipbelt tighter, focusing on getting the weight of the travel backpack to rest on her hips.

Almost 3 miles and a few blocks short of the front door

Sergio is stoic and handling the weight well.

Shannon can’t move her neck without sharp radiating pain, and her shoulders feel like she’s carrying about 80-pounds.

After the walk

Sergio is a little stiff and a bit tired, but overall is doing well.

Shannon on the other hand immediately does traction for her neck and is contemplating every way in which she can cut weight.

Final Thoughts

Test Run Lessons Learned


We learned a lot by doing this test run. We found out where we stand and what we need to improve on.

Upper body strength is very, very important. The strength training Sergio has been doing is extremely beneficial and carried him through the three mile test run.

We both know that when push comes to shove, anyone will build the needed muscle and become accustom to the weight of the bag over time. However, we’d rather it be as easy as possible from day one. So, Shannon certainly has some work to do to prepare for her pack.


Shannon joins Sergio in all of his workouts and stretching routines. This includes stretching and strength training about 2-3 times a week and a weekly jog. Additionally, Shannon sets a daily alarm reminding her to do 40 chair dips. 

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