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A travel backpack is an integral component of your trip. So much of the quality of your experience will depend on your backpack’s capacity to contain your travel essentials, its ability to provide ample comfort and support for your back, and its readiness to withstand the inevitable wear and tear that occurs over months of travel. A backpack that doesn’t meet these requirements can turn your trip from a relaxing gateway to a tedious and painful chore. For this reason, the process of finding the best travel backpack should not be taken lightly. It is imperative that you take the time to understand all the aspects and particularities of this essential piece of equipment in order to avoid getting something that isn’t a good fit for you.
In this guide, we took the time to break down everything that you need to know about travel backpacks and outlined the main factors that you should keep an eye on when you are looking to buy one. Additionally, we reviewed some of the top options in the market today and highlighted the pros and cons of each one.
What makes a travel backpack such an essential piece of equipment for travelers?
If you are new to traveling, you are probably wondering what makes travel backpacks such a popular option among travelers. After all, suitcases might seem like the more logical choice due to their spacious interior and the fact that they can be wheeled to and from airports gates with relative ease. However, it is important to keep in mind that this option is not suited for everybody and that some travel locations might require a backpack. At the end of the day, they both have advantages and drawbacks depending on how you plan to use them. The only situation where travel luggage become a necessity is when you are traveling with small children or toddlers or simply for longer time.
Generally speaking, travel backpacks are the ideal option for anyone traveling solo or with a group of friends. They inherently offer more flexibility than suitcases and can be carried easily thanks to their compact and lightweight design. Backpacks allow you to move freely without worrying about stairs, crowded places, and public transportation. As long as you find a pack that fits you, carrying your travel essentials will be the least of your worries. Furthermore, backpacks are more secure since they are attached to you at all times and can save you a substantial amount of money that would otherwise go to baggage charges.
Another reason why a travel backpack should be your next investment is the fact that it is suited for all destinations. Unlike suitcases, carrying a backpack does not require being in a location that has good roads, wide sidewalks, and overall modern infrastructure. If you are planning an extended road trip across Europe or South America, you will inevitably find yourself in a place that lacks basic accommodations. This is where the mobility and flexibility of travel backpacks will come into play.
Best practices for picking the best backpack for travel
As it is the case with any product, you need to have a comprehensive idea of all the characteristics, advantages, and features of travel backpacks if you want to get the best value for your money. You will also need to avoid some common mistakes that people often make when they are looking to buy a product that they are not familiar with. Some of these mistakes include giving too much credence to the opinions and experiences of others and focusing too much on the aesthetics of the product rather than its intrinsic quality. Before opting for a particular backpack, make sure that you have taken the following factors into consideration.
The type of backpack
The first thing that you need to identify is your actual needs. Do you want your travel backpack to serve as carry-on luggage when flying? Are you going on a business trip and need a spacious and secure compartment for your laptop or tablet? Are you planning a long road trip across Europe or do you simply want to embark on a one day hike in the mountains? There are backpacks that are specifically tailored for each of these situations. Getting the best option for a given context ensures that all of your needs are met.
The size of the backpack
It goes without saying; this is probably the biggest aspect that you have to consider when picking a travel backpack. To determine the right size for you, you need to factor in a number of important variables. For example, a road trip across Europe will necessitate a sizable amount of belongings and travel essentials, so getting the best travel backpack for Europe that can handle the heavy load is essential. On the other hand, you will need to make sure that pack isn’t too large and bulky. Failing to get the proper size could severely hamper your trip and cause it to end early.
The level of comfort
Comfort is a key aspect when carrying a heavy backpack that contains all your travel essentials. Backpacks that are not capable of providing an adequate level of comfort are not only liable to ruin your trip; they can severely compromise your posture and cause permanent damage to your back. When it comes to identifying the backpacks that offer maximum comfort, the essential aspects that you should focus on are the size of the backpack, the quality and padding of the straps, and the design of the back panel as well as the material that it is made from.
The materials that the backpack is made of
The quality of the materials will determine the durability and lifespan of the backpack as well as its ability to handle a heavy load of luggage. It is advisable to go with a material that is water resistant and has some quick-drying properties due to the outdoor nature of backpacking trips; however, this quality is not necessarily needed in a number of travel destinations. The most important thing that you should make sure of is that the fabric is heavy duty and thick and that the quality of the stitching is immaculate.
Quality and Types of straps
The straps are a very important aspect of backpacks and are often a deciding factor in whether or not a backpack is a good fit for you. They have to be well designed, sturdy and feature enough padding to be as comfortable and supportive as possible. Travel backpack should have a wide range of straps that contour your body. The types that you should look for are a padded hip strap, a padded shoulder strap, a strap that goes across your chest, and a carry strap that allows you to carry the backpack like a bag.
Organizational compartments add practicality and convenience to your trip. They are often used to store a number of frequently-used travel essentials such as water bottles and important documents. These compartments are generally placed in a way that facilitates retrieving them. While there is no consensus on the number of compartments that a travel backpack should have, 4 or 5 would be an ideal amount. Not having enough pockets might force you to put some of these items in the main interior compartment, which in turn will make quick access impossible. Having too many compartments is not ideal either as it would make retrieving the item you need a much slower process.
Frames are a fairly minor factor that is often neglected by backpackers. However, if you don’t pay attention to this detail you run the risk of ending up with a disappointing product. When it comes to the types of frames that are available to you, there are three main options; a backpack with no frames, a backpack with an internal frame, and a backpack with an external frame. For short day trips, the first option is more than enough for your needs. For long travels, internal frames are your best pick due to their lightweight seamless design. External frames are generally thought of as an unnecessary feature that adds to the weight of the backpack.
Opening design of the backpack
The way your backpack opens might not seem like an important characteristic at first glance, but in reality, it is an important factor that you should be aware of before settling on an option. The two most common types that you will find on the market are the top design that allows you to get your items from the top of the zipper, and the U-zip design that contours the entire backpack and lets you access the content of the main compartment the same way a suitcase does. The latter design is more practical since it gives you quick and easy access to all your belongings and doesn’t restrict you to retrieving your items one by one through a narrow top opening.
Travel backpacks for women
Women have always had difficulty finding a travel backpack that fits. Fortunately, the past few years have witnessed an increase in the number of backpacks that are specifically designed for a woman’s body. Other than that, all the aspects that we discussed above apply to women’s backpacks, with a stronger emphasis on size.
Travel backpack reviews with Pros and Cons
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
- Multi-purpose backpack, the Redwing is designed for any adventure, from...
- Ample organization and a convenient U-shaped zipper make this pack easy to...
- LightBeam single aluminum stay and Dynamic AirFlow back panel keep your...
- Hydration compatible ; Dynamic AirFlow back panel
There is a reason why this backpack has consistently been one of the top selling models over the past couple of years. Besides its sleek and stylish design, it is capable of providing the comfort and convenience that every traveler needs without breaking the bank. The Kelty Redwing is the ideal option for a wide array of adventures ranging from long backpacking trips across multiple countries to hiking a trail in the mountains.
The backpack is made from high-quality polyester fabric and boasts the same level of durability that we have come to expect from Kelty. It features a LightBeam single aluminum stay and a well-padded dynamic AirFlow black panel that is specifically designed to provide support for your back and help maintain it in a healthy posture when you are carrying the backpack. It is relatively light and doesn’t sag on your back even when it is fully loaded.
Another major selling point of the Kelty Redwing is the set of organization features that it comes equipped with. This includes the zipper side pockets, zipper stash pockets, the front pocket, and the side pockets for storing water bottles.
- Comes with a number of convenient organization features
- The backpack is hydration compatible
- The back panel provides great support and comfort
- It is highly sturdy and durable
- It boasts a stylish design
- Too bulky for someone with a small frame
- The exposed aluminum stay is not ideally placed
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
- Large panel zip access to main compartment
- Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
- Stowaway backpanel, harness and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for...
- Laptop and tablet sleeve secure in lockable compartment
Despite being relatively small, this backpack has all the necessary features that would allow you to embark on a backpacking trip across Europe or South America. It is competitively priced and is remarkably comfortable and stylish. The standard version has a capacity of 40 liters, but if you need a bigger backpack, you also have the option of getting the 55 liter and 70 iter versions. The compact design of this backpack makes the Osprey Farpoint the best travel backpack carry on bag for air travel.
The Osprey is made from top grade nylon and features some of the highest quality stitching on the market. Users have reported that the backpack showed no sign of wear and tear even after months of use and frequent exposure to the elements of the outdoors. More importantly, it boasts a number of qualities that ensure a very high level of comfort and support for your back. The suspension is simply outstanding and is highly effective when it comes to preventing the bag from sagging and ensuring that it is a good fit.
Some other features that are worth noting include the front compression straps that help keep your gear stable when you are wearing the backpack, a stowaway back panel that creates a slimmer profile for the bag, and a set of practical pockets to keep you more organized.
- The quality of the nylon
- The stowaway back panel
- Ideal for air travel
- Can handle up to 40 pounds despite the compact design
- The padded handles make hoisting the pack easy and comfortable
- Not enough compartments
- The shoulder strap isn’t properly padded
Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack
- Large panel loading main compartment provides accessibility to inside...
- Dual stretch mesh side pockets provides additional storage options
- The multi-function interior sleeve can be used for either a reservoir,...
- Front panel shove-it pocket is great for stashing a light rain shell and...
This is another backpack from respected manufacturer Osprey. It is primarily designed to serve as a carry-on bag and is large enough to hold a substantial amount of your essentials despite its lightweight and compact design. It is made from good quality fabric and looks sturdy upon close inspection. Moreover, it is one of the most affordable options in this guide and is our main choice when it comes to travel day backpacks.
The Osprey Daylite Daypack is equipped with an assortment of well-placed pockets that let you keep frequently used gear within close proximity of your hands. The pack features two straps; one for hoisting the bag on your shoulder and another that goes across your chest. The straps are designed to provide maximum comfort without clamping too tightly on your body.
This backpack has another convenient feature that is seldom found in this price range; it can attach to a wide range of compatible packs. The list includes Anther/Ariel AG, Volt/Viva, Ace 75L, Shuttle, Sojourn, Far point 80L, and the Porter series. This option can be extremely valuable when you are looking to increase the capacity of the Daylite Daypack.
- It can attach to other Osprey packs
- The Osprey can be compressed to fit in larger bags
- The pockets allow for easy access to frequently-used items
- The side pockets aren’t large enough to hold water bottles
- The back panel doesn’t vent very well
SwissGear Travel Gear 1900 Scansmart TSA Laptop Backpack
- SUPERIOR QUALITY: Made with durable, weather-resistant 1200D ballistic...
- TRAVEL WITH EASE: ScanSmart lay-flat technology protects up to a 17"...
- ORGANIZED & SPACIOUS: Easy access laptop and iPad compartment separate with...
- COMFORTABLE: Contoured shoulder straps with mesh fabric and adjustable side...
This backpack is destined for travelers who need to take their laptop with them. It boasts a fairly spacious main compartment and comes equipped with a set of pockets that are large enough to hold a pair of dress shoes and water bottles. The laptop-only compartment can fit a wide range of portable computers up to 17 inches. On top of having a lay-flat design that is ideal for going through airport security, the style of the pack itself is quite sleek and compatible with most business attire so it can also be the best business travel backpack.
Like it is the case with any product from SwissGear, the 1900 Scansmart is made from durable and high-quality materials. The 1200D polyester that was used in this particular backpack is widely perceived as a highly reliable fabric that can resist the wear and tear that accumulates over the years.
Comfort wise, this backpack delivers in all areas. The design is ergonomically countered to provide adequate support for your back. The shoulder straps are made from mesh soft fabric and are effective when it comes to reducing the weight and pressure of the backpack during long commutes.
- The padded laptop compartment protects your devices from damage
- The ergonomic design that guarantees a high level of comfort
- Made from highly durable 1200D polyester fabric
- The TSA-friendly lay-flat design makes it the best for air travel
- The pockets are surprisingly wide
- The strap doesn’t feel secure enough
- The bottom of the backpack is rather slippery
AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack
- Carry-on travel backpack with internal, zippered laptop sleeve;...
- Main compartment with zippered mesh space, optional midway shelf, and...
- Front pocket and front-top pocket for easy access to documents and travel...
- Padded shoulder straps disconnect easily and store away in zippered back...
This competitively priced backpack from AmazonBasics has a lot going for it. It is highly versatile and can be used in various contexts. Thanks to its durable polyester construction, the travel backpack is sturdy enough to accommodate a heavy load without sagging or losing its shape. The AmazonBasics Travel Backpack satisfies carry-on requirements and comes equipped with a multitude of features and characteristics that offer comfort, convenience, and user-friendliness.
For many travelers, the biggest selling point of this backpack is without a double the multiple organizational compartments that it comes with. The main compartment is spacious and can hold a respectable amount of items. It is secured with double zippers and four external compression straps that help you squeeze a maximum number of travel essentials into an even more compact shape. Furthermore, the backpack features a set of well-placed pockets that allow easy-access of frequently-used items and important documents.
If you happen to be traveling for business purposes, you will be glad to know that this backpack has one of the top laptop sleeves on the market. It boasts an adjustable sling system and is designed to accommodate laptops of all shapes and sizes.
- The padding of the shoulder straps allows for comfortable carrying
- The comprehensive organizational compartments
- The adjustable sling system of the laptop sleeve
- It offers a tremendous value for the price
- The main compartment is spacious
- Objects tend to slip out of the outer compartment
- The laptop sleeve takes up too much space
Besides helping you compartmentalize your items and making them easily accessible, high-quality travel backpack will provide the necessary comfort that will make your travel less tedious and more enjoyable. As previously stated, finding the best possible backpack for your trip is an extremely important process that shouldn’t be rushed through. Take your time to go over all the features of each option and make sure to pick the backpack that suits your needs and meets your budget requirements.