How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

When you select a backpack you should keep in mind that best travel backpack can help make your journey comfortable. So choose according to the kind of usage you want from it. Consider the activity you will use it for, weight and volume of the stuff you want to carry. Although best for backcountry travel but nowadays if you want to skip the lines at the airport while waiting for your luggage, a backpack can be your best friend.

Best Travel Backpack

Types of Backpack

Soft Backpacks:

These are traditional backpacks and in my opinion the best travel backpacks if you travel a lot.

A soft backpack can be put on shoulders and you are good to go. Make sure you buy one with the waist belt as that helps to lessen the burden on your shoulders and may avoid back pain if you are carrying it for a long time.

They come in both front loading and top loading models. So take your pick according to your convenience.

When to buy Soft backpack:

  • You are going backpacking in the countryside and you are physically fit to carry your bag on your shoulders.
  • The terrain you are traveling in may not be feasible to carry wheeled luggage.
  • You do not want to check in luggage at the airport.
  • You travel light and do not want to bring breakables home.
  • You do not mind carrying a separate day bag for your handy items.

When not to buy Soft backpack:

  • If your travel includes long hours of carrying your luggage. So buy wheeled backpack unless you want to go soul searching like ‘wild’. Better to opt for rolling backpacks if you are not going in the countryside and you have to keep your luggage by your side for a long time.
  • If you want to check in your luggage, they are not a good option for you. You might need quite a few locks to manage the safety of the zips. Plus the way the baggage is handled, you may just pray for the safety of your belongings.

Internal frame Backpacks:

For those long journeys when you are travelling alone or with fellow travellers and you want to be able to carry your own baggage for long distance. Internal frame backpacks come with an internal support structure that helps balance the weight on your hips and takes support from shoulder straps. Thus making it easy to carry them for a long journey.

When to buy Internal frame backpack:

  • For long journeys when you have to carry your own baggage.
  • You weigh comfort more than money, as these bags can be expensive as compared to normal backpacks.

When not to buy Internal frame backpack:

  • Uncomfortable to carry in airplane as they might not fit every overhead bin as the internal structure makes it hard to squish them.
  • You have a small frame (physically), as most of these bags are on the longer side.

Rolling Backpacks:

Rolling backpacks have great features of both the worlds. They give you the flexibility of travelling with wheeled baggage and carrying your baggage on shoulder straps when required.

When to buy Rolling backpack:

  • If you are ready for the tradeoffs of comfort with having to carry the added weight of wheels and retractable handle.
  • You carry your baggage for small amount of time and roll in most of the time.

When not to buy Rolling backpack:

  • If you pack to eat up every inch of space available in your bag, as the wheels and handle may take up a lot of internal space in rolling backpacks.
  • You will be mostly carrying your baggage.

Congratulations! The difficult part is over. Now you know what kind of bag you want for your travelling needs. Now consider the features you would want in your backpack. Do not overwhelm yourself with features, just look for basic ones that you will need. Weigh comfort more than usability in backpacks.

Features of Backpack to consider

Size of the backpack:

Usually, you should not for a size larger than 14” X 21” X 9” and in case you have rolling backpack than considering the wheels go no bigger than 14” X 20” X 9”. But in present time when regulations keep changing in budget airlines, you should always check with your airlines before you make a decision.

Other than airlines, make sure if you have a small stature than you do not buy a long bag. Always try on the bag before you finalise it.

Weight of Backpack:

Although you may put less items in the bag if you want to travel light but if the weight of bag itself is less than obviously that is an added advantage for a thing which you have to carry on your back.

Construction of Backpack:

  • Backpacks are meant for rough handling. So buy the ones which can handle the abuse you are going to put them through.
  • Seams should be very neatly and closely stitched. Try to look at the seams by pulling the joints, it should be difficult for you to see the stitches. Go for durable fabrics.
  • If you are buying a backpack for outdoor travelling than obviously you would want it to be made of weather resistant fabric.
  • One thing that most of us ignore is the sturdiness of zippers. In front open backpacks, the zippers have a lot of pressure so make sure they are of good quality.
  • Shoulder straps should have foam so they do not dig into your shoulders.

Features of Backpack:

You may want to check the various features in the travel baggage. For example, for some it may be an added advantage to have more zippers but for someone like me it is a disadvantage as to find a single thing I have to go through all the compartments. Moreover if you want to check in your bag you may have to buy more locks for the zips. So check the features like zippers, expandability, usable space, etc. before you click buy.

Make a list of your best travel backpacks on the base of their type and size, now it is time to compare them on the basis of their features. Few pointers to keep in mind while comparing:

Pockets: Built in pockets or zips help in keeping frequently used items handy.

Compartments: Compartments help in organizing stuff in a travel backpack.

Expandability or compressibility: You may want to increase or decrease the size of your backpack. So check for the ease with which you can use these features.

Daypack: Few backpacks also allow you to zip off a removable day pack, so if you do not want to carry a separate day pack you may want to consider this feature.

Quality and cost:

Though some people might consider these different but cost and quality go together. Mostly, unless you are just paying for a brand, cheap bags mean low quality and reasonable cost can get you a bag with good quality material. When you are backpacking this is the last thing on your mind to go hunt for a new bag in the middle of your travel.

Regulations of the airlines for carry on backpack:

If you want to escape the waiting time for luggage on the airports and the cost associated with you then you may carry your backpack with you. For this check the airline you frequent with for the dimensions of the bag they allow as carry-on baggage.

Tips for Buying Backpacks

Finally, few tips to consider while buying backpacks:

  • Do not buy over costly backpacks. If you are paying over $ 300 for a backpack than unless you are looking for some specific feature, chances are that you are just paying for an overpriced brand.
  • Always check for size with your airlines.
  • Never buy cheap backpacks as they offer low quality. The backpack may fall apart more quickly than you have anticipated it to.
  • For organising in a backpack always consider investing in some good packing cubes. They help to compress your clothes, organize them and you may easily find your stuff without throwing out everything.



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