Tag Archives: writing

Columbia Packable Backpack Review (After 1 Year of Use)

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I’ve had the Columbia Lightweight Packable 21 L Backpack for about a year now after purchasing it last January. In case you’re short on time, I highly recommend it.

I was looking for a decently sized, lightweight packable day bag to bring with me to Europe, and something I could pair with my Peak Design Travel Backpack. I was also hoping to use it for university, as I was studying abroad at the University of Liverpool at the time.

Ideally, I was looking for something inexpensive, with a couple of pockets and a laptop sleeve, maybe a spot for my water bottle, comfortable straps, and the ability to shrink it down to a smaller size so I could stuff it in my carry-on bag when it wasn’t being used .

Luckily for me, the Columbia Packable Backpack had almost everything I was looking for. Before I go into detail and give you my thoughts, here’s the specs taken from Columbia’s website:

  • Cost: C$37 (US$28)
  • Capacity: 21 L
  • Weight: 167 g / 5.9 oz
  • Backpack Dimensions:
    • 46 x 32 x 11.9 cm / 18.1″ x 12.6″ x 4.7″

Here are some pictures of the Columbia Packable Backpack, and some items for scale:


A front view of the backpack:

The inside of the backpack:

The inside of the backpack, with a passport holder, a 24 fl oz water bottle, and toiletry bag for scale:

The interior volume of the bag with the same water bottle for scale:

The size of the backpack when folded, with a wallet for scale:

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Finally, here’s the Columbia packable backpack fully loaded with 4 days worth of clothes inside a Peak Design bompression bag, the same toiletry kit from the picture above, all of my documentation and chargers, and a water bottle clipped to the side. There’s still some room left over for small souveniers:

The backpack is made of a water resistant Nylon Ripstop material, and has held up very well considering the amount of use I’ve put it through. I took it with me to class everyday for 5 months in all sorts of weather, on a bunch of day trips all across the UK, and it was my personal item on my Ryanair flights to Denmark, Ireland, and Belgium, as well as my day bag while exploring the Isle of Man. There are no signs of wear and tear, no discolouration, and the zippers all still work smoothly.

The laptop sleeve inside the backpack held my 15-inch laptop comfortably, and the inside pocket was a great place to safely store my passport and other important documents while I was travelling. The exterior pocket also has plenty of room to store whatever else you may have on hand. The straps are basic, but I found they applied an equal pressure to my shoulders which meant they were a lot more comfortable than you might expect.

My only complaint about the bag is that it doesn’t have a pocket for a water bottle. I got around this by either clipping one to the top handle, or simply stuffing it down inside the bag.

If you’re looking for a reliable packable backpack for an inexpensive price, in my opinion the Columbia Lightweight Packable 21 L Backpack is definitely worth a buy. It makes for a great day bag, as well as the perfect sized personal item for use on ultra-low cost budget airlines like Ryanair.

If you have any questions about the Columbia packable backpack, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments down below!

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Peck Lake Trail Review – Algonquin Provincial Park

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According to AllTrails, Peck Lake Trail is an easy 1.8 km, 30 minute loop that navigates the perimeter of Peck Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. When I hiked Peck Lake Trail back in June of 2021, I was able to complete the trail in just over 35 minutes with a distance covered of 2.05 km. My fitness tracker noted a total ascent of 0.26 km and a total descent of 0.31 km.

While there are certainly more adventurous hikes to be found in Algonquin, Peck Lake Trail was a nice change of pace, similar in feel to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail. Because of this, I was able to fit in 2 more hikes on this day. First completing the Hardwood Lookout Trail, and then it’s neighbour the Red Spruce Side Trail.

As you’ll see in the pictures below, Peck Lake Trail offered plenty of scenery to look at including forested sections, boardwalks, lakeside paths, boggy areas, and rock outcrops. The trail was easy to follow and well maintained, with plenty of places to stop and take pictures and take in the beauty of the nature. All in all, it was a very enjoyable hike.

The entrance to Peck Lake Trail as seen through my bug stained windshield
Peck Lake Trail parking lot
Peck Lake trailhead
Closeup of the trailhead signpost
The meeting point of the loop, the trail starts right, going counter-clockwise around the lake
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An Impulse Road Trip to the Province of Québec (Isle-aux-Allumettes)

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Back in August of 2020, I woke up one morning and decided I was up for an adventure.

I had just spent the night in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, where I had been working for the past couple months for a summer job. My shift on this particular day started at 1:15 p.m., so I had some time to kill on my hands. I thought about hiking one of the park’s many hiking trails, but the trails I still had left to do were either too short, or too long. Seeing as I didn’t really feel like waiting around for half a day before work, or showing up hours late, I decided to steer my gaze elsewhere.

See, except for Whitney, Ontario, which lies just outside Algonquin’s borders, I had never really ventured past the Park’s East Gate. And so, I set my initial sights on Barry’s Bay, and hit the road just after 7:30 a.m. When I got there, I filled up on gas, and grabbed a coffee. With still so much time left before work, I checked Google Maps to see where else I could go.

This is when I noticed my relative proximity to the Province of Québec. From Barry’s Bay, it was only a 1-hour, 93 km drive. I checked the clock and calculated that I would have just enough time to get there, turn around, make the 2-hour return drive, and get back to Algonquin just before work started. I only had a small window of time to get moving, and so without hesitating, I got in my car and headed towards the border.

Now, if you’ve ever been to this portion of Ontario, you’ll know the struggle that is the radio. My only two choices were CBC talk radio, or the local country station. I chose the country station as the lesser of two evils. I could have listened to my own playlists, but I was in one of those weird phases where you skip every song that comes on.

Thankfully, the radio wasn’t that important as the scenery was just absolutely stunning. The topography ranged from lakes, rocks, and forests, to large rolling hills, to open fields of farmland, and then back to forests again. The best way to describe it would be if the length of southern Ontario from Windsor to Sudbury was compressed into a 1-hour drive.

Naturally, due to the time crunch, I didn’t stop to take many pictures on the way there. It was only when I got to the Ontario-Québec border that I decided I should make an attempt to document the trip, and that is where the following photo’s pick up.

Crossing the bridge from Pembroke, Ontario to L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Québec.
Bienvenue au Québec! Entering Canada’s French Speaking Province.
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When I got across the bridge, and onto the Isle-aux-Allumettes, my only real plan was to find somewhere to pull off the road and see the Ottawa River. I ended up turning down a series of random roads that I figured led towards the water. After about 10 minutes of searching, I found a boat launch, parked my car, and got out to take a look.

I took a bunch of pictures, and sent them to my family group chat and a few friends with the message: “Bienvenue au Québec”. I kept waiting for them to be surprised that I had somehow magically appeared in another province on the same day that I was supposed to be working, but those messages never came. When I asked about why nobody responded to me a few days later, I was told that nobody actually clued in to the fact that I was actually in Québec. They figured that I had just sent them some random pictures from the internet, or that I was just trying practice my French. I had to show them my phone’s camera roll before anyone finally believed me!

L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
My first impression of the Ottawa River was it’s sheer size. It felt more like a lake than a river!
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
There was a long pier that jetted out into the middle of the river, as well as a small lighthouse close to the water.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Turning to look back towards the shore, there was a small barn, and some riverfront homes peering out from the trees.
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L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Looking across the river, you could see the skyline of Pembroke, Ontario.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Along with the lighthouse, there was a boat launch at the end of the pier.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
(You might have seen this picture on Photo Friday)

By the time I got to the end of the Pier, it was time to turn around and head back to Algonquin Provincial Park for work. I drove 2 and a half hours straight back, bobbing my head along to the sounds of my new found forced-love of country music. It was close, but I managed to arrive about 10 minutes before the start of my shift.

In hindsight, this impulse trip was quite possibly the dumbest thing I could have chosen to do that day. I could have easily been late for work, and my legs were absolutely dead from all the driving; not exactly helpful when you’re job requires you to be on your feet for 8-hours straight.

However, at the same time it was the best thing I could have done because when I think back to 2020, this trip to Québec was one of the more memorable parts of the summer. In a year when there wasn’t much travelling going on, this was a welcomed change of pace and a brief return to some sense of normalcy.

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