I recently had a friend ask me for suggestions for a backpack for her move to Southeast Asia coming up. I spent a year living in Bangkok, Thailand myself and have spent ample time backpacking around the world and have learned what goes into picking the best travel backpack out there.
There are a couple things to consider when choosing a bag for you.
- Your size
- The backpack’s size
- What you’ll be using it for
Even if you don’t plan on hiking up a mountain (or volcano) with your backpack, you never know where your adventures might take you and how long you’ll have to endure the weight and size of that bag on your back. Put in the time and research now to avoid pain and suffering later.
Size & Fit
This pertains to both the size of the bag and of you. It may seem logical to go out there and buy the largest capacity backpack on the market so you can fit as much stuff as possible but if you purchase a 75L bag and you’re only 5 feet tall and weigh 120 pounds soaking wet, I highly doubt that will end up being a good investment.
I typically recommend 40/45L to 60L MAX for women. (Sorry men, this post about choosing the best travel backpacks will be mostly catered to them until I find a SO to write that side of the story.)
You really don’t need anything more than that. Honest. I backpacked around Mexico & Central America AND even attended a conference prior to Mexico all out of my 40L bag. And let’s just say I am not good at packing light. I’m more better (ha, grammar) at strategically packing a lot of crap into a small confined place.
Packing cubes are a life-saver and if you don’t buy them by the time I am done with this post I’ll be ashamed of you.
I’m willing to bet there is a store near you that does free backpack fittings. Go there. Find what will fit your body well both size and shape wise.
I can’t stress this enough, it’s going to look silly and extraneous but get the bag with the awesome hip straps. They take the weight off your shoulders and make it way more tolerable to carry your bag longer distances. And like I said before, you never know when you and your travel backpack are going to be hiking up a volcano for 7 hours.
Make sure the straps all fit well on your shoulders and there isn’t any rubbing in weird places. All of that will be made a whole lot worse when you get dumped on a back country road by a rogue shuttle bus and have to trek a mile to the nearest hostel, bag in tow.
Style & Bells and Whistles
Everyone will have different plans for their trips and luckily there’s pretty much a travel backpack to fit every occasion.
Some bags are tailor made for camping enthusiasts with pockets and straps to clip, slip and store tents, mats, and extra camping gear. Other bags are more in tune for hiking with extra extra padding and places for water.
Find a bag that will fulfill your needs.
Don’t second guess a bag that has outer straps, you’d be surprised how many things you end up clipping to the outside of your bag, I’m looking at you sneakers you could smell a mile away.
There are also different styles of bags to consider. I know, this is getting exhausting. There are top loading bags, front loading bags and even bags that are convertible and have wheels!
The main differences in travel backpacks that are top loading versus front loading are simple. A top loading bag requires you to take everything out to get to the stuff on the bottom but has a sleeker, slimmer, longer and genuinely more back ergodynamic (is that a thing?). Front loading bags work essentially like a typical suitcase in that the front zips open so you can essentially get to everything at once, but they are often a little more bulky and tend to stick out rather than up.
Test out some different styles and find a fit and type of bag that works for you!
Now for the good stuff, here’s a list of some of what I consider to be the best travel backpacks out there!
If you have other favorites not listed, please leave them in the comments! We will be updating this post regularly, so it’ll be nice to get suggestions!
My trusty stead. I am a front loader type of girl. This thing is 4 years old now and barely looks a month old. I am a huge fan of Osprey and the quality of their products. As an added bonus they actually insure all of their bags for life and will happily repair or replace any bag that gets damaged! That is an awesome thing to have in a backpack.
If Osprey were to go extinct, my next favorite backpack brand is North Face. This is a top loader bag with a few bells and whistles but nothing over the top. It comes in a few different sizes so if you’re an overpacker or underpacker there’s a size backpack for you.
This little guy easily fits as a carry on backpack and that’s really the best perk about bringing only a backpack on your travels, no checked baggage fees!
A convertible travel backpack has really peaked my interests in the past couple years. Unfortunately, my original Osprey just won’t die, so I can’t justify it quite yet. Give me a few more months. The idea of being able to have the great benefits of a backpack but sometimes have it on wheels is REALLY appealing.
This bag intrigues me. I’d love to hear from people who use it. I have friends that swear by this bag and it doesn’t entirely make sense to me.
This one isn’t necessarily a backpack but is certainly an option for those alternative luggage seekers.
Didn’t think Eddie Bauer still had it in them did ya? This thing is sexy! Looks really durable and Eddie Bauer has a great warranty on its products!
Hope you found this walkthrough helpful! Would love feedback or recommendations in the comments! Let us know if you’d like to see more of these guides!