Letter to the Editor of the Schenectady Gazette-

12/3/00, Lois Bailey

Dear Gazette:

I write to commend the Sunday Gazette for its recent article making parents and students aware of back problems caused by carrying heavy textbooks in backpacks.   Until e-books replace heavy textbooks, parents and students need to be aware of the kind of information you are publishing.

Last year in preparation for a 2-week honeymoon in Europe, my husband and I researched all sorts of backpacks.  We brought several models and sizes home, loaded them up and tested them out.  We also researched on the Internet and found advice from seasoned backpackers.  Although we weren't backpacking, we were traveling through airports and on trains, buses and feet.

What we learned is to carry the heaviest part of the load on the top of the bag.   That means kids should put the smelly gym clothes on the bottom of the pack, pile the books on top, and cinch up the sides of the bag so the load does not shift.

So what is the connection between my honeymoon and book bags?  What I settled on for my luggage is a backpack made right in Schenectady by Tough Traveler!  Designed as a schoolbag or day hiker's pack, it conveniently has 2 compartments so my smelly items - no, I mean my lightweight items - are packed in the bottom portion and my heavier items like slacks, toiletries, hair dryer and orthopedic hiking boots, fit easily in the top.   The bag has a lightweight internal frame and 4 cinch straps, and weighs a mere 2 pounds 8 ounces unloaded.

My husband settled on an [leading brand] bag, which converts to a shoulder bag and has a fancy zip-off daypack.  He used the same packing techniques, but had to pack more carefully because his bag is a single compartment.  He was never comfortable for very long and was always too warm wearing his bag because it fit snuggly against his back.

I have since used my bag numerous times traveling across the country through airports and on overnight business trips to NYC by way of Amtrak and NYC subways.  In fact it's packed right now and ready for Monday's trip to Nashville.  (The popular wheeled bag is not for me because I need to use handrails on staircases, escalators and moving sidewalks.  Plus my idea of convenience is NOT wheeling down Fifth Avenue or through a train platform in the pouring rain.)  I've actually purchased another one of the Tough Traveler bags in a smaller size to use for one-day business trips.

As for my husband's honeymoon bag, it sits in the back of the closet.  He says that next trip he'll listen to the wisdom of his bride!

Lois Bailey, Cobleskill NY