Gear Review: Osprey Porter 30L Backpack

A few weeks ago my Osprey Packs Porter 30 Travel Backpack arrived in the mail. I had been searching for the best backpack to take on my light-travelling adventures. I wanted something that I could take as carry-on on the cheap European flights, comfortable enough to wear all day and spacious and durable enough to carry 3 months worth of gear. Packing light is an exercise in compromises. But with the Osprey Porter 30L, few have to be made.

A lot of backpackers take packs in the 50L + size range. The problem is, packs of that size are intended for multi-day hiking expeditions, alpine ascents and general off-the-trail-need-a-tent-and-food type adventures. They are bulky, heavy and, frankly, excessive for most itineraries. Many of the features that make them suitable for hiking the backwoods make them cumbersome for city-based travel — for example, roll tops that make packing and unpacking a chore, and large straps that get caught and torn in the luggage carousel. Of course, a wheeled suitcase has its own impracticalities. Osprey’s Porter range (they sell a 30L, reviewed here, 46-Liter, and 65-Litre) addresses these issues.

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The lesson of vanitas

“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:2, KJV

Over the course of our lives we must all confront death. Knowledge of our mortality can paralyse or invigorate. It can distract and destroy, or it can remind us to use what little time we have to focus on the important things, whatever they may be. It is little surprise that our fascination with death is found so readily in artwork, religion, cultural practice and, indeed, all human endeavour. Here I will briefly consider a specific genre of artwork, the vanitas painting, and how we might draw lessons from that theme.

“A vanitas painting contains a collection of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures.”
– Encyclopaedia Britannica

Vanitas paintings are interesting as they combine a moral, Christian message with rich painting of the very worldly things that the Christian mentality holds as futile. How, then, should we interpret the message of vanitas? First, we should consider the earlier definition of vanity (vanitas in Latin): futility. This is distinct from the modern meaning of the word. The Christian vanitas paintings juxtapose beautiful, worldly things with symbols of death and change to remind us that temporal things are not lasting and therefore futile when compared to the eternity of heaven.  Continue reading The lesson of vanitas

Why we should be curious

“The experiences of mankind are infinitely more complex and interesting than we could ever imagine when we gaze out from our own static narrow vantage point and it is hence a basic courtesy we should pay to the planet and its many lands to remain at all times open, curious and modest before their manifold mysteries.”
-Alain de Botton

Alain’s words evoke the spirit of errantry. It is a commandment equally applicable when reading a newspaper at home or backpacking in some far-flung place. They are words to live by in an age of meaningless distractions.