January 4, 2009

Where to Buy a Backpack or Luggage in Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Tatiana's large, faithful backpack is clearly on the last weeks of its life. I've mended torn holes and ripped stitching in the thing several times over, the clips and belts are tearing, and the design is just not accommodating to full-time travel—it's time for a new pack.

When I think of places to buy quality backpacks for travel, I think of three countries: The UK, Australia, and Israel. But in Istanbul? Questionable.

Backpacks for Travel, Not Trail

There are generally two big schools of backpacks out there: Trail and travel. (excluding the school variety, of course)

The majority of kids running around the globe these days are carrying backpacks that are designed a mountain. These are backpacks generally have elaborate harnesses and load from the top (and sometimes the bottom if they're that massive). They've got a drawstring to close the hole on top and flap of fabric that covers the cinched hole.

This is not the type of backpack you want to purchase. They're insecure, difficult to access, and unnecessarily expensive. A 12-month round-the-world trip backpacker will probably have their pack on their backs for only a handful of minutes per month, and nothing more.

What's important are the two items generally lacking in those trail packs: security and accessibility. (Finding a balance is a bit tricky, as both are generally at opposite ends of the design spectrum from each other.)

Backpack manufactures seem to have finally started to get the hint, and now it's increasingly possible to find a new breed of "travel packs" available for purchase. These are known as 'panel-loading' or 'side-loading' backpacks. They're like a backpack blended with a suitcase—zippering open from side-to-side to reveal the storage compartment.

This is the type of backpack Tatiana needs, so that she doesn't have to do the 'big dig' (or spend heaps of time prioritizing her packed layers) to access items.

Suggested backpack search zone north of the Grand Bazaar

I put a call out to the Istanbul group on the CouchSurfing message forum and received several decent responses and suggestions. One even included a helpful little map, outlining where he believed backpacks could be found.

Located just down the way from the Grand Bazaar, it turned out that this location actually did indeed contain a very large cluster of shops selling suitcases, backpacks and raw backpack materials/accessories (most anything that you can think of, from clips to straps, zippers/pulls, harnesses, and pockets).

The place is a little hard to find, and very easy to miss. The shops are actually contained inside a two-story structure, wrapped around a large open-air courtyard.

This is a photo of the entrance to the bevy of backpack and suitcase shops (make note of the store next to it with the "79" (an address?):

This is the Google Maps location to the entrance of the store cluster. It's just a few steps north of the Grand Bazaar, on the west side of that street.

Unfortunately, out of all the stores there selling hundreds of types of suitcases and (trail) backpacks, none of them had any of the panel-loading variety in the larger capacity we needed.

Along one of the parallel streets I found this pack (pictured below), which was about as close as I could come to finding what we needed—though have a feeling that Tatiana can't get away with a 70 liter backpack (when she's carrying both her clothes and Aidric's stuff). I personally wouldn't pay more than US$50 for this pack of questionable quality.

But if you're in Istanbul and really in need, it's located here:

BORAN IMPORT & EXPORT WHOLESALE BAGS and SADDLERY PRODUCTS
Tacirhane ve Havanci sok. Kazova han. No: 24/25 Mercan - ISTANBUL/TURKEY
Telephone : +90 212 511 80 31

Update, January 14

We called off the hunt for a new backpack and will resume it elsewhere (likely in Israel this April). In the meantime, we picked up this great little rolling duffel (with a collapsible handle, from the same cluster of stores) so that Tatiana could easily carry back a bunch of excess on her trip over to the Americas. It only cost her about $6 after a little pleasant bargaining.

Comments:

The United States

Jen

March 4th, 2009

Have you tried ebags.com? We've had good luck with them and if Tatiana will have an address for a few months, it may work. If anything, they have tons of styles and reviews, so it is a good place to do research.

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

March 5th, 2009

Thanks Jen — so nice to see that 'travel packs' have gotten so much traction in the past few years. Looks like a nice resource.

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