Backpacking Basics: Choosing the right travel backpack

The concept of “backpacking” varies greatly across different groups of people, with each person having their own idea of what traveling with a backpack entails. Some travel for nearly a year, living solely out of packs larger than themselves, while others use a backpack simply in addition to other luggage and bags.

Although it sounds like a daunting task to cram all of your items into a single backpack, I can assure you this low-stress, no frills way of travel turned out to be a pleasant surprise for a serial over-packer like myself.

Choosing the right backpack proved to be the hardest, yet most important part of my trip preparation. This step will set you up for success if you choose wisely, so here is my advice:

Consider the quality you desire in a backpack

If durability is important to you, then you may want to think about spending more on a long-lasting pack. I wanted to invest in a bag that would last me many years to come, so I looked for a brand that would stand behind their product. This led me to purchase a backpack by Osprey because they offer a lifetime warranty.

Consider the logistics of your travel and personal travel style

I knew I would be going to a hot destination for a short period of time, so I didn’t need a bag that could accommodate for jackets and boots. I can also be a minimalist when needed, so I didn’t need to pack much beyond the necessities. I wanted to use a backpack to avoid long waits at baggage claim, so I opted for a 40L bag that could be used as a carry-on. A word of caution is that carry-on size vary across different airlines and you could end up paying a fee to check your bag if it does not fit in the plane’s overhead compartments, so carefully research the airline’s policies.

Consider your body type and level of activity while wearing the pack

Since you will be wearing this backpack a majority of the time, having the right fit is crucial. The straps and waist belt, when buckled and secured, can make a world of difference in comfort while carrying the pack. The best way to ensure the backpack fits your body correctly is go to a retailer like REI and have a worker size you. Think about what activities you will be doing with the pack on. Whether you will be walking around a city all day or hiking with your bag, finding the correct size for your body type is crucial.

Consider the looks and features of the backpack

If this is a bag you will travel with for many years to come, choose something you love to carry with you. I went for a teal color because it’s easy to distinguish from other luggage. Additionally, look at the bag’s structure. Mine looks like a normal backpack, but unzips and functions like a regular suitcase. Some backpacks will offer more of a rigid structure for those who travel with electronics and need the added protection, while others are softer and intended for just clothes and shoes.

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