The answer comes down to what you expect from a Hajj backpack. Are you looking for a sturdy, comfortable and versatile backpack to carry your essentials? Or are you looking to have greater control over your immediate needs and the environment in Makkah?
In this blog post, we're going to review the key differences between our two leading Hajj backpacks - the original Journey II and the Journey 2+. But first, a few words about why you may be needing a Hajj backpack in the first place.
The Hajj is unlike the ordinary trips we often make. On its own, the trip is supposed to be relatively simple given today’s convenient transportation modes. But the logistical coordination of 2.5+ million pilgrims in a relatively small geographic area at the peak of the scorching Saudi Arabian summer allows for things to go wrong. That’s why being prepared is so important. One wouldn’t go camping without the right equipment? The Hajj is like that. Even when traveling with a group, no one understands your needs like you do. So it’s important to pack smart and prepare for the common headaches and setbacks that pilgrims often experience (we’ll be writing more on this soon).
For pilgrims, a Hajj backpack serves as a comfortable alternative to other forms of carry-on travel bags. Especially with loads over 6 Kilograms, carrying a backpack divides the weight evenly over two shoulders while freeing up the hands. Not only do backpacks feel lighter, but carrying it on your body reduces the risk of forgetting your bag or losing it (along with everything inside!).
The airport is the first part of the trip where a good backpack quickly becomes handy. We recommend packing only the essentials you'll need in the hypothetical case your checked-in luggage gets lost. How you pack also depends on whether you'll be entering into a state of Ihram on the plane, or at one of the five designated miqaats on the ground. One thing about both the Journey II and the Journey 2+ is that their size is compatible with most airline carry-on requirements and can fit in the overhead compartment with and without the resting mats attached.
Once you arrive in Saudi Arabia and get your luggage, you'll have time at your hotel to repack for Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah. It’s not advisable to carry a large suitcase with you to Mina as you’ll need to take it on and off various busses, drag it to your tent (if it has wheels, the floor will be rough and it might not be easy). You might not need that many things for the few days spent in Mina, so be sure to pack wisely as to not overburden yourself with unnecessary things.
Depending on your Hajj package, and the location of your camp away from the main focal points, you may or may not need to carry your bag outside of Mina. With some groups, you’ll need to keep your backpack behind in the tent. If that’s the case, we strongly advise never to leave your valuables unattended - so pack with that in mind. With other groups, you’ll be advised to take your backpack with you to Arafah, Muzdalifah and the Jamarat. So be sure to study the details of your Hajj groups itinerary to see what will be needed for various parts of the journey. We’ll be writing a lot more about this in the next blog post, so stay tuned for it.
Now, let’s get back to the main question: What is the difference between the Journey II and the Journey 2+? The following breakdown compares the two over some critical parameters:
Comfort, Fit and Carry Configurations
The Journey II is slightly smaller than the Journey 2+, with the original being 17L (expanding to 23L) and the newer model at 18.5L (expanding to 26L). Designed to carry larger loads, the Journey 2+ has a redesigned shoulder strap with additional cushioning for comfort. This redesign prioritizes added comfort in place of the moisture wicking air vents of the Journey II. To support the greater load capacity of the Journey 2+, load-adjusters have been added to the top of the new shoulder straps to provide a closer fit and improved stability. The Journey 2+ also has two D-Rings to attach a load-distributing waist belt. These are sold separately (here), but can come in extremely handy if you plan to carry a heavy load while walking. The waist belt can transfer 80% of your carry load from the back to the hips. Both backpacks also come with a padded shoulder strap and handle, allowing them to be carried by hand or as a duffle over the shoulder.
Usability & Convenience
The Journey 2+ builds upon the usability of the original Journey II with a focus on improving access to your things, both inside and outside of the main compartment. One thing to notice with the Journey 2+ is the protruding front easy access pocket. This allows for improved capacity to carry more energy bars, snacks, a first aid kit, hygiene products and other non-valuables that you may need. It also has two zippers so that you can add a lock for added security and a lot of internal pockets for better organization. The Journey 2+ has a larger water bottle compartment and a redesigned shoe compartment for quicker access. If you plan to carry a laptop, we’ve added a super convenient access zipper at the top of the main compartment to get your laptop in and out for easy security inspection at the airports. This way you won’t need to unroll the top to get your things.
The original Journey II is designed with a greater emphasis on anti-theft measures than the new Journey 2+. It has two anti-theft security pockets where the Journey 2+ only has one. Both are made of the same rugged slash-resistant 1680D ballistic nylon material and both limit access to the main compartment for would-be thieves. The Journey 2+ has a new anti-theft mechanism on all major openings where the zipper pull can be inserted into a small loop to make it difficult for anyone else to open. This is an optional feature designed to add an extra layer of security for your belongings. Remember not to put any valuables (cash, passports, jewelry, phones, etc.) in any of the exterior pockets and never leave your backpack with valuables unattended, especially at your tent in Mina.
Attachments & Compatibility
The last major difference between the two Hajj backpacks is that the Journey 2+ is compatible with our new range of attachments designed to provide additional comfort in Makkah’s harsh desert environment. The Solar Visor attachment is a hands-free, lightweight way to protect yourself from the harsh desert heat, the Hydration System provides a backup supply of cool Zamzam water throughout your trip and the waist belt redistributes the load from your back to your hips. All these attachments are made to be modular so that they can be attached on our Journey 1+ Slingpack.
So which one is better for you?
The answer comes down to what you expect from your Hajj backpack and what you anticipate your needs during Hajj will be. If you’re looking for something simple and sturdy to get you through Hajj, we recommend the Journey II. If you’re concerned about the heat, dehydration, and back pain, then the Journey 2+ and it’s attachments will offer more protection and comfort.
Hajj can be an unpredictable and challenging journey. Good preparation can anticipate the problems you’ll face and prepare you for them. Through better preparation, you’ll be able to stay focused on your spiritual mission and achieve a Hajj mabrur.
One of our favourite ayas of the Quran, verse 2:197, sums it up perfectly when it states as follows:
˹Commitment to˺ pilgrimage is made in appointed months. Whoever commits to ˹performing˺ pilgrimage, let them stay away from intimate relations, foul language, and arguments during pilgrimage. Whatever good you do, Allah ˹fully˺ knows of it. Take ˹necessary˺ provisions ˹for the journey˺—surely the best provision is righteousness. And be mindful of Me, O people of reason!