Guide to Buying A Backpack

When traveling around the world, your backpack is your best friend. It will go everywhere with you, and it will act as your home away from home.

The first thing you’ll need to take into consideration when buying a backpack is the length of your trip, where you are going, and your own personal style of travel.

Things to Consider When Buying a Backpack

Purpose

Will you be doing a lot of walking and moving from place to place, or will you remain stabilized for long periods of time?

Are you confident you can carry (on your back) all of your belongings? How much stuff will you need to bring with you? There are specific traveling backpacks available, but often hiking backpacks are used.

Before you decide to buy a backpack it can be helpful to physically go into a store and try some on to see how they fit and feel. Your backpack will be on you quite a bit, so it’s important that it rides well!

Cost

Keep in mind that there can be a direct correlation between price and quality. The last thing you want to happen is have your backpack tear open down the side, and all your stuff spill out while on a bus, or walking down the street.

Some backpacks cost as little as $50, while others can easily cost a few hundred. A mid-range backpack that costs $100 – $200 will suit most travelers’ needs.

Size

When buying a backpack, you’ll want to analyze the physical size of it – when it’s empty, and full. Is it a hard frame, or is it collapsable? When it’s fully expanded will the dimensions fit the size regulations of airlines?

The trick to buying a backpack is making sure it’s big enough to carry your things, but not too big and bulky that it becomes a burden.

Weight

Not only does the weight of the stuff you pack in your bag add up, but you’ll want to consider the weight of the empty backpack as well.

Some bags are made of thick canvas, while others are constructed of high-tech, low weight types of fabric like Tyvec.

Choose a backpack that isn’t too heavy, but still feels strong.

Benefits of Packing Light

As a very light packer myself, I’ll briefly go over my reasoning as to why I carry just a small, school-sized backpack instead of a large, bulging rucksack.

  • Small Size: When you carry less, you have more options. A small sized backpack doesn’t tie you down or hold you back from doing things on the go.
  • Convenience: I love to walk, explore, and fully check things out when I travel. For me, it’s priceless to be able to easily walk across a city with all my belongings and not feel like I need to first find a place to stay so I can drop off my stuff.
  • Standing Out: The bigger the backpack, the more you’ll standout as a tourist. This isn’t always a bad thing (we are all tourists when we travel), but there are benefits of blending into your local surroundings.
  • Safety: Due to its small scale size, I can carry all my belongings with me wherever I go, and my things are therefore less of a target. With a giant bag, someone can easily notice you have lots of stuff on you, while there are plenty of people that walk around with smaller backpacks all the time.

Types of Travel Backpacks

There are a number of different kinds of packs to consider when buying a backpack for travel.

  • Hiking Backpack: One of the most popular kinds of travel backpack is actually made as a hiking backpack. These kinds of packs are made for carrying weight long distances, and are often loaded from the top.
  • Specific Travel Backpack: These packs are normally not made to walk extremely long distances, but to rather carry heavier amounts of weight than hiking backpacks. Travel specific backpacks are very sturdy, and sometimes include a zipper opening around the belly of the pack so it can conveniently open like a suitcase.
  • Wheeled Backpack: If carrying a bag on your back all day is not for you, you might want to consider a wheeled backpack. They include a rugged set of wheels as well as backpack straps.
  • Day Pack: It’s called a day pack because it’s normally only large enough to carry enough supplies for a single day trip. However, if you travel with the ease of super lightness, you may want to consider fitting everything you need into a convenient day pack.

Note: Many backpackers carry both a large main backpack, along with a smaller day pack.

Reputable Backpack Brands

  • Gregory: Comfortable packs that are sturdy, and often cater towards mountain hiking
  • Osprey: Stylish lightweight outdoor packs
  • The North Face: Mountain hiking backpacks and great day trip packs
  • REI Brand: Specialize in hiking and traveling specific gear and a wide range of backpacks
  • Eagle Creek: Specific travel backpacks and accessories

Comparison of 4 Travel Backpacks

Gregory Baltaro 75 Pack

Gregory Baltaro 75 Pack

Gregory Baltaro 75 Pack

Gregory has been a long time favorite backpack brand of mine. The Baltaro 75 is geared towards adventure traveling and hiking with fantastic suspension and comfortable strapping. The side zipper makes this pack convenient to grab things that are at the bottom of your bag without digging everything out.

  • Capacity: 4,757 cubic inches, 75 liters
  • Price: $289.00
Osprey Aether 70

Osprey Aether 70

Osprey Aether 70

For the stylish sports travel adventurer it doesn’t get much more classy than the Osprey Aether 70. The pack is built for hiking and for that reason it is loaded with features that will aid it long walks over distance. The lightweight pack is comfortable and Osprey is known for their airflow ventilation on the back and hip straps.

  • Capacity: 4,200 cubic inches, 70 liters
  • Price: $259.00
Eagle Creek Switchback Max Wheeled Convertibile Luggage 22 In

Eagle Creek Switchback Max Wheeled Convertibile Luggage 22 In

Eagle Creek Switchback Max Wheeled Convertibile Luggage 22 In

The biggest bonus about the Eagle Creek Switchback Max backpack is that it includes large durable wheels on the bottom for rolling efficiency, along with straps to carry it like a backpack. The wheels and added support do make the pack itself a little heavier in weight, but it’s a great option to remain mobile even with a heavy bag.

  • Capacity: 3,960 cubic inches, 65 liters
  • Price: $325
REI Lookout 40

REI Lookout 40

REI Lookout 40

The REI Lookout 40 is the backpack that I’m currently using. It’s just slightly larger than a day pack, but I can hand carry it anywhere I want. The backpack fits my computer and the small amount of supplies that I carry with me. At 40 liters, I think this is a perfect sized backpack to travel with!

  • Capacity: 2,440 cubic inches, 40 liters
  • Price: $89.50
When you buy a travel backpack, make sure to take some time to check out a few features and get a bag that you will be comfortable with – after all, you’ll be going everywhere with it!

About the Author:

is the author of 155 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.