Quality Backpacks for Traveling Abroad or Hiking
A travel bag is going be your trusted companion while you travel, so pick one that doesn’t suck. How do we determine what the best travel backpacks are? We poll all the travelers in the hostels we stay at and collect data about the backpacks they use, and we use our own experience. The main factors for a travel backpack people consider are comfort, room, durability, and ease of access. When it comes to selecting a bag for traveling there are a few things you should take into consideration.
- Do you want to carry on your luggage or check it?
- Can you easily access items in your pack?
- How comfortable is it?
- Is it durable and backed with a warranty?
Why Travel Backpacks?
The length of your travel is less important because any bag can be packed for any length of time, if you pack smart. Hiking backpacks may seem like a good choice but the majority of them use a rucksack design while travel backpacks fully unzip to easily access everything you need. Hiking backpacks are also covered in straps that can’t be easily tucked away and tend to get ripped off in transit. When it comes down to it, travel backpacks from companies like Osprey, REI, and Kelty are the best for international travel. Why is this?
- Travel backpacks fully open allowing you access to everything you need.
- Travel packs evenly distribute the weight on your back due to the way their straps are designed. There is generally thick padded back straps and a padded hip belt that makes traveling much less painful and fatiguing.
- Most packs have a strap hideaway system easily allowing you to put the straps away and turn it into a regular suitcase.
- Strong stitching and reinforced zippers allow them to hold up under stress.
You may notice that a lot of backpackers are sporting Osprey backpacks, that’s because they are simply the best bang for your buck. They also have a great warranty policy and free replacement parts. If you leave your straps out when you check your luggage and some handler rips them off, Osprey has you covered!
Benefits of a Carry On Travel Backpack
If you prefer low maintenance travel, carry on backpacks are the way to go. Not having to check bags when traveling saves a lot of time and hassle. Smaller bags also force you to pack only what is absolutely needed. The downside is they don’t leave much room for souvenirs or camera equipment. It’s not hard to travel for a year straight using a 50L or smaller bag, in fact it teaches you to be minimalist and low profile. If you are packing winter gear, camera gear, or want to bring extra outfits, go with something 55L or higher.
Large Backpack vs. Small Backpack
Large bags may seem like a good investment, but they can be cumbersome, difficult to store, and fatigue you quickly. Backpacking is all about traveling light and the bigger the bag the more it effects your overall adventure. The only time you will need bags that are 75L+ are if you have children, carrying serious video or camera equipment, or are going to New York fashion week Small bags will serve you better as they tend to be more minimalist and allow you to stay flexible in your travels.
Top Rated Travel Packs
This is the smallest (and cheapest) of the Osprey lines and it is fricken awesome for the price. It has basic shoulder straps and a hip belt, only weighs 2.5 pounds, and the straps can be folded away to turn into a piece of carry on luggage. It comes in 30L, 46L, and 65L. One complaint about this bag, and smaller bags in general, is it’s hard to travel for long periods of time due to its size. The truth is this pack has gone from Argentina in Winter to Colombia in Summer, over the span of three months, and it never felt like it was too small. It was actually quite liberating to have such a low maintenance pack that allowed you to carry it onto planes, trains, and buses. We may have a bias towards this bag because it was our first, but we still own it and use it regularly.
One of the top selling backpacks out there, and under $150, this backpack is stylish, comfortable, and full of awesome features. The suspension system is top notch with a lot of padding in the shoulder straps and it comes with a comfortable hip belt. It also has a vented back which is nice when trekking around humid climates and avoiding swamp back. It comes in 44L and 50L. It weighs 3lbs.
Backpacks with Detachable Daypack
This European heavyweight is the choice for many of our overseas travel friends. After making its way to the US years ago, it has steadily become one of the more popular bags out there and directly competes with many of Osprey’s bags. It’s a hybrid between a travel backpack and a hiking backpack. The suspension straps and padded hip belt are comfortable and the torso adjusts which is great for the vertically challenged. It also comes with 15L detachable day pack which is neat. It weight in at 4lbs and comes in 50L. It’s a bit more expensive than the Porter and Kelty but it’s a great value.
Probably the most popular pack on the market, this thing is perfect if you want to pack extra gear such as camera equipment. Like the Deuter, it is a hiking and traveling backpack hybrid that focuses more on the travel part. It has a true suspension system similar to a hiking pack, zip away shoulder straps, carry on handles, an extra-padded hip belt, and only weighs around 3 pounds. It comes in carry on version (40L), 55L, and a 70L. The 55L and 70L also have a detachable day pack.
Top Rated Wheeled Traveler’s Backpacks
Sometimes carrying a backpack around is hard, especially if you have some physical limitations. Osprey makes the only non-crappy rollable bags we’ve found, but you are going to pay a lot more for that versatility. If you do need a roller bag, invest in something that has durable wheels and handles.
Similar to to the porter only with wheels, this little pack is great for rolling past all the suckers at baggage claim. Once you need to go off trail with it, you simply push in the handle and pull out the zipped away straps and turn it into a regular travel backpack. The straps and padding are more luxurious than its non-wheeled brothers and sister and it can be used as a carry on at 50L or under. The price tag of this bag is more than double that of non-wheeled version, but you can’t really put a price on comfort. It weighs around 8 pounds and comes in 45L, 60L, and 80L.
A fitting name for a behemoth of a bag, this thing is a monster! This bag starts at 80L and goes up to 130L. I’ll be straight up with, you don’t need need this pack unless you are carrying some serious camera equipment, have kids with you, or are planning to comfortably live out in the forest. If you do feel you need this size of pack, this thing is great. It has durable wheels, a strong handle, and, if you’re small enough you can probably sleep in it.
Travel Backpack Review Summary
A quality travel backpack will be the center piece of your traveling experience and can make or break your trip. If you decide to go with something cheap you risk ruining your trip. The same goes for “fashion travel bags;” these look awesome in photos and on Instagram, but they don’t stand up to he conditions placed on them by travel. We are all about stylish travel, but not at the expense of function.
Osprey is the go to bag out there currently, and we cycle through three of their products depending on where we are going. They have a fantastic warranty program and are the most functional bags out there, hands down. They make the best travel backpacks out there.