As we’ve mentioned previously, choosing the best backpack that is right for you is so important and should not be understated. As ultimately it’s going to be your home for the next week, month or even year. Over the years we’ve been on plenty of trips with different backpacks. And we can clearly remember which ones were great comfortable choices, and the ones which were a complete pain in the ***! Which we are sure some of our readers can relate too. As in reality your backpack is going to make or break how much you enjoy your travels, so choose wisely.
Below you will find our personal guide to choosing the best backpack. Whether you are trekking up mountains, weekend trips or visiting multiple destinations, this guide will help you make the best decision and avoid you from making simple and painful mistakes in the future.
Backpack > Suitcase
So why should you travel with a backpack instead of a suitcase? Suitcases are great for short weekend trips away or just for a family holiday. But once you start to travel for an extended period of time, your suitcase will get worn and torn, battered and bruised from baggage handlers at airports, dirty muddy roads, staircases. And overall they just become another liability when on the road.
Backpacks are awesome! Let’s just reinstate that, backpacks are AWESOME! They are so versatile, easy to carry, you can take them on as hand luggage on planes which saves money and time (most cases). They’re easy to carry up hills, stairs and other obstacles you’ll face along the way, and most importantly many come with rain coats which keeps all of your belonging dry. In addition rain coats can be used when checking in your backpack at airports as this stops them from getting torn and broken.
Good durable backpacks last for years. As much as you throw them around they always seem to survive unmarked or unripped. Whereas with suitcases, a good one maybe last 2/3 years if that. In addition, they are a lot more adaptable in shape and size. If you don’t fill your backpack you can compress the top lid down to have a smaller snug fit. Whereas with suitcases your belongings will just get thrown around and possibly damaged inside.
Note: However, if for some reason you do need wheels, there are multiple backpacks that have wheels and a long handle attached which would be a perfect option.
Main things to look for when choosing
When you first start researching backpacks, it can be overwhelming to say the least. Take note: Just because a friend/family has a great backpack that suits their needs and fit, don’t assume that same backpack will work for you too. Everyone is different, and different backpacks will suit different people.
Below are the main characteristics we look for when choosing the best travel backpack:
You may have personal preferences on brands for example Osprey, Deuter or REI, and thats completely up to you. However, do be aware different brands have different strengths and weaknesses that you need to take into account when choosing the one best for you. You should pick a backpack that is best suited for your needs. Not one that looks the nicest, has the best colour etc. For example, do you want a large travel backpack for hiking in Nepal? A backpack that you can take as carry-on? A backpack for multiple seasons? or just a day pack? If you’re not sure keep reading!
This is one of the most important aspects of choosing your travel backpack. Purchasing the wrong size can lead to back pain, unstableness and just pure annoyance. It is so important that you pick a backpack that you can carry comfortably. In other terms it needs to be proportional to your body, otherwise you could topple over! You don’t won’t a backpack that is the size of Mt. Everest rising from you back but you also don’t want a backpack that is overflowing with your belongings. Because you’ve chosen a backpack that is clearly too small for your duration of travel.
We personally prefer backpacks that range from 40 Litres to 65 Litres, between these sizes are perfect for the common trip crossing numerous countries. But whether you are travelling for a month or a few years. ultimately you shouldn’t need anymore clothes! Obviously, if you are doing some serious hiking in cold conditions we would advice a backpack between 65 Litres and 80 Litres. But do take note of the weight, as the heavier your backpack the more you have to carry around with you.
Another note to remember, the bigger the backpack the less likely you’ll be able to take it on as hand luggage on a plane. This can really add up in cost when you are travelling to many different countries by air transport. The only inconvenience is that you cannot take aerosols in carry-on, as liquids need to be less than 100ml.
Personally, we believe this is another important factor when determining which travel backpack you buy. For example, from previous experience we would never buy a top loader (access compartment at the top of your bag) again. Just because it is a major hassle trying to reach your items at the very bottom of your backpack. Every time we needed to get dressed, we had to empty half of our bags to find clean clothes. Every time we unpacked clothes, they were strewn around our hostel room or hotel. Never again.
As a result, we always look for front or side loaders. Any with solely top loaders we disregard straight away. Front loading backpacks work like suitcases, a panel, or the whole front of the backpack opens up just like a suitcase would. As a result you can access any part of your backpack making it easy to pack, unpack and organise. In addition, many front loading backpacks like suitcases have compression straps to keep all your items extra secure when on the road.
When on the road you never know what weather you will come across. And mostly likely you’ll be in tropical climates where heavy short downpours are likely. As a result, make sure you buy a backpack that comes with a rain cover or at least has water resistant material. Because trust us when we say you don’t want your backpack becoming wet with all your clothes in. Not to mention it’ll start to smell real bad! Look for a material that is thick but lightweight. Tip: you should be able to pour a glass of water on your backpack without your clothes getting wet.
Another thing to look out for is compartments. A good bag will have multiple compartments for various needs, including a section for your laptop, another for your passport and money etc. This is great thing to have, as it breaks up your belongings into sections that you need to reach easily. For example money and cards. It also saves time from having to dig around in your backpack for a certain item, whilst keeping them secure. Tip: Make sure one compartment is lockable for valuables like your passport and insurance.
If you want extra security when on the move, in hostels or where ever you may be, consider finding a backpack with two zippers so they can lock together. When you’re travelling, having a massive backpack on, can be a target for petty thieves. Having a lock can restrain things like this from happening. It’s a small but effective necessity that you should consider. When purchasing a lock, make sure they are TSA-friendly locks. These locks have a special release valve that allows the TSA to open the lock without breaking it so they can check your bag.
These are the hidden gems to making your life more comfortable when on the road. Good straps and belts will make for a comfortable fit. If the straps are too big/small it doesn’t matter what size your backpack is, it will still be uncomfortable. When choosing a backpack this is what I look for:
- Padded Hip Belt – this is essential, as the weight you’ll be carrying around will be pushing down on your hips. Therefore spreading the weight appropriately is so important for staying away from pain and discomfort. A padded hip belt allows for more comfort and support when on the move. It should also be adjustable so you can tighten/loosen it when you need too.
- Padded Shoulder Straps – If like Emma you easily get shoulder pain when to much weight is pressed onto your shoulders, having padding is a life saver. Make sure the padding is very thick and made up of a single piece of material. Because then it will be less likely to split and thin out over time.
- Chest Strap – This strap isn’t just for women, men also benefit from having this extra feature. As it distributes the weight more evenly, padding is not necessary as it doesn’t sit on you.
- Handle – This can be a nice addition to have, whether it’s on the side of your backpack or at the top. It can be easy for picking your backpack up instead of putting strain on the other straps.
Padded/Contoured Back Frame
If you are prone to back pain, this is a must. A lumbar-shaped pack makes carrying your backpack much more comfortable, as it helps distributes the weight more evenly. It also allows for a more natural arch, which helps prevent back pain. Moreover, a back frame can create a small space between your back and the bag, allowing air to move through and help keep you slightly cool.
How much should you spend?
The most expensive backpacks are not always the best, make sure you do not make this mistake when buying one. They depend on the brand, size and material, obviously an 80 Litre hiking backpack for all seasons is going to cost more than a day pack. But most backpacks range between $120USD – $250USD depending on the factors we mentioned above. Make sure you look out for sales and offers as you can get some great deals on the top brands that are out there, including Osprey, Deuter and North Face.
Our Personal Favourite Backpacks
This is all down to personal choice, and we are sure some people reading this will disagree with our choices, but that is what picking a backpack is all about, it has to be personal to you, and only you. However, below are our top 3 personal favourites and we’ll explain why there are below.
The Osprey Farpoint backpacks come in a range of four sizes: 40 Litre, 55 Litres (40 Litre + 15 Litre daypack), 70 Litre and 80 Litre. Also in three different colours: Volcanic Grey (pictured), Caribbean Blue and Jasper Red.
This is our favourite backpack currently, as it pretty much has everything we mentioned above, apart from a rain cover, but you can buy one separately. We love the added feature of the day pack included, which is so handy when you just want to use the day pack. It is also just the right size for carry on baggage too! Head to My Personal Packing List for more detailed information.
At just $180USD (£110) via Amazon this really is a bargain for what you get! Click here to buy the Osprey Farpoint backpack!
2. Deuter Quantum 55 + 10 SL
Although this backpack is designed specifically for women, men do not disregard this backpack. We know quite a few slim figured men who have chosen this backpack and it fits them perfectly (Yannick being one).
Like the Osprey Farpoint, the Deuter Quantum comes with it’s own day pack too. It’s made with a Polyamide-fabric that is extremely abrasion and tear resistant, perfect for travellers wanting a long lasting durable backpack. As it is designed specifically for women it has a figured padded hip belt, padded shoulder straps and sternum strap to allow for maximum comfort and balance.
Unlike the Osprey Farpoint is does come with an added rain cover that is stored in it’s own compartment at the bottom panel. Giving it easy access when you need to protect it from rain or baggage handlers at the airport.
At $190 via their official website, this is another great backpack you should seriously consider purchasing.
3. REI Vagabond Tour 40 Litre
This is a great choice for those on a budget, or those who don’t need/want much to pack when travelling. Don’t be put off by the price, as they make great quality backpacks. It’s a front loading backpack. In addition the shoulder and hip straps can be hidden away to stop the straps from getting caught when in transit.
The shoulder straps are decent, but don’t expect too much padding. The hip belt is pretty minimal, so there’s not too much support. But seen as it’s a fairly small backpack anyway you don’t need as much support as the bigger backpacks provide.
At just $120 this is a great buy, head to their official website for more information.
Did you find this information helpful? or you think we have missed any essential bits out? Comment Below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and have tried out ourselves.
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