So you're looking for a Travel Backpack...
Finding the right backpack is imperative to any wannabe backpacker. You want the pack to be lightweight, yet hold a lot for a long journey. Must be sturdy to hold up against the elements or the occasional trip in a flight cargo hold. You want it to be unique but, you don't want to draw too much attention to yourself as a tourist or traveler. Whatever pack you decide on it has to be a decision based on functionality, comfort, and your personal style preference.
Looking for a Travel Backpack can be an overwhelming task. Travel backpacks come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and different functionalities. It hard to determine which pack is the best for you, especially if you are unsure of what you need.
The three main areas to consider...
- Capacity: The size pack you'll need is tied to the length of your trip and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.
- Features: These will determine how the pack works for you. What features do you need to make sure the pack is as functional as possible for you?
- Comfort and Fit: You need to consider the length of your torso as well as the padding and structure the pack has to support your shoulders and spine.
First of all, like many solo travelers, I believe it is best to pack light. Packing light allows you more freedom while traveling with your pack because you don’t have to lug a lot around and because you can avoid checking luggage. Remember though, packing light requires a certain level of self-discipline and careful planning. As long as you plan ahead and prepare yourself for traveling with a light load you should be fine.
So, what’s the perfect size travel backpack that can fit all you need but is also carry-on approved?
While you can certainly travel with even less, a 35L-46L travel backpack just might be a perfect size.
Why 35L-46L is the perfect size for a travel backpack?
- A backpack that is between 35L-46L is the perfect middle ground, the cliché; not too big, not too small.
- The measurements fall within the carry-on restrictions of most airlines.
- It will hold plenty of stuff without allowing too much space for unnecessary things.
- It’s small enough to manage and provide you with a good range of motion.
Top or Front Loader: How the pack opens is typically an area of personal preference. Top loading packs seem to be the norm. Front loading packs are picking up in popularity but are typically overshadowing by many travelers' desires' to have a ‘classic pack.’ I’m definitely one of those travelers who goes for the classic pack but definitely appreciate the ease of access that comes with a front loader. For this reason, I have been attracted to the Osprey Kyte 46L or Stratos 36L which are top loaders but have a side zipper that can access the main compartment.
Water Resistance: A backpack doesn’t need to be totally waterproof, but the need is obvious if you are ever out in the rain. It one of those things you don’t think you need until you do. Some bags don’t have them, but you can always purchase a separate rain cover separately. Many packs from brands like Osprey and Deuter come with rain covers though.
Compartments, Compartments, Compartments: The ideal bag should have multiple compartments. Having compartments allows everything to have its own space. You can easily separate things from each other. You wouldn’t want some muddy shoes next to fresh clothes in your pack.
Sleeping Bag Compartment: This is typically a zippered compartment near the bottom of the pack It's a useful feature even if you don’t have or need a sleeping bag. You can always use this separate storage area for other larger items.
Lock it up: Make sure each compartment has two zippers which you can overlap and lock together. Travel backpacks seldom come good locks. However, any lock can be enough to deter a theft. Many thefts are crimes of convenience and are the result of people leaving things lying around or not locked up. For this reason, a relatively small can work just fine. If you need to buy your own lock, check out these TSA approved ones.
Compression Straps: Compression straps are useful if you need to tighten up your pack to prevent things from rattling around while you're out. They allow you to make your pack more compact whether it’s over-packed or has extra space.
Warranty: A decent warranty is always, and obviously, an attractive extra. Brands like Osprey and Deuter have a lifetime warranty. A long warranty can be a sign of quality and long-lasting gear, and it’s nice to have a back-up. Having a warranty is definitely worth spending a little extra on a backpack.
Comfort and Fit...
Padded Hip & Shoulder Straps: The hip belt must be comfortable, padded, and adjustable because this is where a majority (roughly 80%) of the backpack’s weight should rest. This will help distribute the weight properly between your back and hips. Firm padding in the shoulder straps will also allow for you to carry the weight comfortably.
Lumbar Back Support: Avoid packs with flat backs. Look for a backpack with lumbar support. This will support your lower back, improving posture by keeping your spine in a neutral arch and distribute weight more evenly.
Ventilation: If you’ve ever worn a backpack, you know about ‘sweaty back syndrome.’ Backpacks that ride against your pack are notorious for causing this. Many quality packs these days feature a suspended mesh back panel to combat the this. With this design, the pack rides a few inches away from your back, which instead rests against the breathable mesh.
Weight: You don’t want a pack that is too heavy but also don’t want one that is too light either. While I recommend traveling light, be wary of packs that may be ‘too light.’ Some weight to a pack is a good thing. It can mean that the pack is made with sturdy material or has the proper framework and padding for your back and shoulders. Be careful not to skimp on important features just because you think the lighter the better.
You’re going to be wearing this on your back and spending a lot of time with it, so you want to make sure you get the right one.
Choosing the right pack can be overwhelming. Hopefully this guide helps you select the right pack for you.
Some extra helpful tips....
- Take your time. Research packs, try some on, test it out, maybe even buy one and then return it if you figure out it's not right for you.
- Go for a color that appeals to you but don't make it too flashy. Flashy colors seem to scream tourist and can increase your chances of getting targeted for scams, theft, etc.
- Ask your friends for help choosing, maybe you know someone who can recommend a pack for you.
- Go to a store like REI to get fitted before buying, if you are planning on buying online.
My Recommended Travel Backpacks for Women...
Osprey Kyte 46L
Why this pack?
Osprey seems to have classic yet, versatile pack designs. Kyte series packs are light, but highly functional – this pack can easily switch roles from overnight camping/hiking to urban backpacking. The pack also features side zipper access to the main compartment making it super easy to reach everything in your pack, no matter how deep it's buried in your pack. This pack is at the top of my list because it still hold a lot, is extremely functional, and is carry-on approved.