Picking the Best Travel Backpack  

After traveling all seven continents I am constantly asked: “Which backpack do you use traveling?”. Why is this such an important question to travelers?

Your Travel Backpack is essentially your home! It must work with you in whatever style of travel you do!

Throughout my years of traveling, I have tested all kinds of backpacks for each individual style of travel and I can tell you that there is a perfect travel backpack for every type of traveler! And this is the ultimate guide to the best travel backpack.

Why Should You Trust My Advice for Travel Backpacks?

There are so many guides out there, but very few of them come from actual experience.

I am not only a seasoned traveler, but I have been living out my backpack for over twelve years. I like to think I know what I’m talking about.

From Hiking in the Himalayas, photographing wildlife in Africa, bumming it in South East Asia and living in the Arctic! I have done it all and my backpack has been the single-handedly most essential tool for me as a traveler, but the most important reason to trust my advice, is despite being a professional traveler, I am still a backpacker first.

I live out of a backpack for most of the year exploring this amazing world and encourage you to trust in experience over popularity! 

Most Important Backpack Features To Consider    

Size and Capacity

When deciding on the perfect backpack for travel you must first take into consideration how big of a backpack you want. This widely depends on what kind of trip you are doing and what kind of traveler you are. For example, if you are traveling somewhere colder you might require more bulky gear or if you prefer buying a lot of souvenirs then you might need some extra room. 

Backpacks usually are advertised with a number beside the name. This is the number of Litres that the bag holds. I find for the average trip 55-60 liters is enough to carry everything I need whilst still being an appropriate size to take on as a carry-on backpack. 

Weight 

When you enter a store on the hunt for the best travel backpack it’s often tempting to go straight for the more attractive looking bag. More than often this bag ends up being incredibly heavy adding a lot of extra weight! Most travelers will be carrying up to 25kg in that bag! So, having a heavy backpack is not the best idea! 

Pro Tip – When picking a travel backpack out always ask for a weight and put in the backpack to see how much it weighs on your back with and without weight. 

Loading Style 

This is a big debate amongst the traveling backpacker world, whether to get a top-loading or front-loading backpack. Top-loading backpacks are usually meant for hiking and adventure while front loading is perfect for carry on. I usually end up just using a top-loading backpack but have really taken a liking to front-loading bags in the past years. My recommendation? Get two bags, one for adventure and one for typical backpacking trips! 

Zippers and Drawstrings 

Wow! I cannot stress enough about ensuring the bag has quality zippers and drawstrings. In the past, I have traveled with so many cheaper bags where halfway through the trip the zipper breaks, this, unfortunately, results in you having to purchase another bag entirely while you are on your trip. 

Always try the zippers out, make sure they move smoothly and don’t catch on anything. Check the quality of metal they are made from and the seams where the zippers are sewed in. For drawstrings, they should also tighten very smoothly, and the holding mechanism should not come loose. 

Travel Style

Most travelers will deny it, but your backpack is an expression of fashion as well. You will see all kinds of backpacks and ultimately how it looks will mean something to you! For example, I have always love Fjallraven Day Backs. They are made from waxed canvas and have that adventure look that I prefer. 

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Ultimately practicality is your number one priority but getting a backpack that fits your style is that added cherry on top and will keep you loving your bag years to come.

Weather Resistance 

Travelers often forget that your travel backpack will be exposed to many different elements. Rain as you sit on an open-air open in the jungles, snow falling as you hike the Everest basecamp trek, extreme sun from the Saharan desert! All these weather factors can damage your bag and precious gear inside making a weather-resistant travel bag important for all those adventures to come! 

Straps and Buckle Quality 

Almost every travel backpack brand includes a plastic buckle feature, this doesn’t mean they are all the same quality, however. Most buckles and straps break during transport on buses, planes, and boats from being handled roughly by transport staff. Although many breaks are inevitable buy buying a travel bag with better quality plastic and tough straps you increase the chances of breaks not occurring!

Pro Tip – When checking in your bag at the airport always buckle up the buckles and tighten the straps, this helps your travel bag not get caught on things and break. Often bags get lost this way too! 

Carry on Capable  

According to Travel and Leisure, the most common carry on dimensions are 21.7 x 15.7 x 9. Does this mean the carry-on travel bag always has to meet the requirements? The answer is no. More commonly what I have experienced is that if the backpack fits comfortably on your back and is not bulging everywhere it will be allowed on board. Buying a bag that is squarer shaped will help ensure that it is allowed of course! 

Pro Tip – Carry on travel bags are rarely checked for weight. Although they advertise weight restriction I have never once had my carry on weighed. To reduce weight in your check-in bag put some of the heavier items in your carry on to help reduce the chances of extra fees! 

Which Type Of Traveler Are You?

What kind of trip you are doing and what kind of traveler you are really helps decide which bag is right for you. The days of simply taking one of your parents’ old beaten up bags are gone and now we have so many convenient options to choose from that help fit your kind of travel.

Here are a few categories of travelers I have been myself! 

Adventure Traveler

This is primarily who I have been in the past years of traveling. This style of travel is challenging and requires a tough/diverse backpack.

Often when I am traveling to places where hiking, extreme transport (Dog Sled) and facing unknown elements I will take a top-loading, technical backpack that is meant for long term expedition trips.

The key here is protecting your gear, while having a bag that fits well on your back for long periods of time without getting fatigued. 

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Carry on Travel

In more recent years with the cost of flight travel increasing, this is the way many are choosing to travel. Having your main backpack as a carry on is faster, there are no chances of losing your bag and you bypass a lot of added extra fees. With all the budget airlines out there choosing a carry-on bag and becoming a Carry on Traveler will leave you feeling smart and savvy!

If I am doing a simpler trip with not so many technical requirements, this is the way I go!  

Long Term Backpacker 

When it comes to a lengthy backpacking trip or gap year trip size is what will matter most. As you travel you will accumulate souvenirs, gifts and random things that become more and more essential the longer you are gone.

The larger and heavier your backpack is the better build quality you will need to make it bearable to carry all that weight on your back. Long term travel will also be hard on your bag, meaning rips and tears are inevitable.

Getting a good brand with high-quality material can stop the tears from getting larger and make it easier to fix! 

Working Traveler 

Ah yes! The work trip is taking over my life a lot these days.

Carrying expensive gear like laptops, cameras and documents must be kept safe. Usually having a more sturdy, small and durable bag is your best option for this.

When I do work trips I often choose a bag that will fit perfectly in the overhead bin of the airplane and will be strong enough to not allow anything inside to be damaged when your cabin mate places his bag on top of it. 

Best Backpacks For Travel 2020

Best Carry on Travel Backpack 

FARPOINT® TREK PACK 55

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 4.23 LBS

Capacity: 55L

Colors: Black

Best For: Carry on Travel

Price: See Here for Latest Prices  

This is my all-time favorite bag for quick to medium length duration trips where I will be catching a lot of budget airline trips.

It’s super comfy on your back but my favorite features I the front-loading zipper that leads to an interior that seems to fit anything I pack! This backpack is also not bad for small hikes as well doubling as an adventure and carry-on travel bag!

The bag also features a stow-able rain tarp to help weatherproof it if you do decide to take it hiking.      

Pros: 

  • Front Loading
  • Comfortable
  • Large Interior
  • Dual Carry on and Hike

Cons: 

  • Few Storage Pockets
  • Can feel awkward if overloaded             

Best Day Pack for Traveling 

RUCKSACK NO. 21 LARGE

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Dimensions: 52 x 29 x 15 cm

Capacity: 30L 

Colors: Multiple

Best For: Day Trips

Price: See Here for Latest Prices     

My favorite daytime bag which can be converted into a stylish weatherproof camera bag as well with inserts that can be found HERE. Fjallraven fits that adventure look using G-1000 waxed canvas material.

This is the bag Swedish adventurers used exploring the Greenlandic Arctic!

I love this bag for its durability, ability to wax it making it more weatherproof and it’s lightweight. Oh, and did I mention its also a super cool looking bag? 

Pros: 

  • Very stylish
  • Durable
  • Can be waxed more for Weatherproofing
  • Light Weight 

Cons: 

  • No Waist Strap
  • Colors are not Always Available
  • Wax comes separate                                 

Best Backpack for Hiking and Adventure 

Osprey EXOS 48

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 2.6 LBS

Capacity: 45 – 51 L 

Load Range: 20 – 40 LBS

Colors: Black, Green

Best For: Hiking and Adventure Trips

Price: See Here for Latest Prices 

This is quite possibly the lightest backpack I have ever owned.

The cushy padding on the straps and featherweight frame make for the most comfortable backpacking experience. It comes in several different sizes so depending on the duration of your adventure you can have it small, medium or large!

The material is also quite strong which isn’t always the case in ultralight backpacks. I have used this bag for regular style backpacking trips as well and it did phenomenally! 

Pros: 

  • Very Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Stores a lot of Gear  

Cons: 

  • Material is light and prone to tears
  • Waist straps feel a bit flimsy    

Best Long Trip Travel Backpack 

Osprey Atmos AG 50     

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 4.3 LBS

Capacity: 47 – 53L 

Load Range: 25 – 40 LBS

Colors: Black, Red, Black

Best For: All Rounder Backpack 

Price: See Here for Latest Prices     

I have used this backpack more than any other bag on the list.

It’s built to last, has a stylish look, gear stores perfect in it and it’s a very comfortable backpack. Anytime I am unsure of what my adventure will entail I go for this bag as it has worked in all traveling categories listed in this post.

The Osprey Atmos AG 50 is easily the best all-rounder travel bag for travelers. 

Pros: 

  • Comfortable
  • Very durable
  • Stylish
  • First Everything for all Occasions 

Cons: 

  • A Bit Heavy
  • Quite Bulky When Fully Loaded                                          

Top Travel Backpack for Solo Female

The North Face Terra 40

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 3 LBS

Capacity: 40 L 

Colors: Purple, White, Green

Best For: Female Travelers 

Price: See Here for Latest Prices      

This is my girlfriend Chelsea’s, favorite backpack.

It’s designed specifically to fit a women’s frame and is durable for all kinds of adventures. Like the Osprey Atmos, it is a great all-rounder bag ideal for many styles of travelers.

It’s very comfortable and honestly looks better than most of my backpacks..   

Pros: 

  • Stylish
  • Comfortable
  • Great All-Rounder 

Cons: 

  • Can Feel Small
  • Straps Come Loose Sometimes    

Best Travel Camera Backpack

Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 5.95 LBS

Capacity: 25 L

Colors: Black

Best For: Photographer Travelers

Price: See Here for Latest Prices  

Camera gear is not cheap and keeping it safe is the number one priority.

This camera bag is extremely durable, designed specifically to keep lenses/cameras safe and is fairly weather sealed.

It’s comfy enough to take around as your day bag and features a laptop insert inside the backpack for long trips. 

Pros:

  • Laptop Insert
  • Durable
  • Keeps Camera Very Safe

Cons:

  • Feels a Bit Square
  • Not the Most Comfortable            

Best Backpack for Extreme Adventures 

Osprey AETHER PRO 70

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 4 LBS

Capacity: 70 L

Load Range: 35 – 60 LBS

Colors: Grey

Best For:

  • Extreme Adventure
  • Mountaineering
  • Long Hiking Trips

Price: See Here for Latest Prices   

Every now and then I get the urge to travel into the unknown. I go for hiking or mountaineering expeditions for weeks into the wilds of the planet.

The Osprey AETHER Pro 70 is my go-to bag as it’s designed specifically to hold technical gear, be comfortable for long periods of time and almost impossible to wreck the backpack.

Even the material it made from is the tear-resistant meaning if it does get a tear, it won’t grow as it has it has a special cross stitching which prevents that throughout the entire bag.   

Best Backpack for Working Traveler

Nomatic TRAVEL BAG

Which Backpack is the Best For Traveling?

Weight: 4 LBS

Capacity: 40 L 

Colors: Black

Best For: Work Trips

Price: See Here for Latest Prices   

Nomatic is new to me, but It’s made with durable, water-resistant materials.

The strap system allows you to go from duffel to backpack carry.

Nomatic travel bags come with a custom laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate as you travel. There are multiple compartments for shoes, clothes, and tech to help you keep your gear organized as you travel.

Pros:

  • Stylish
  • Fits perfectly in Overhead Compartment
  • Has so many extra compartments for storage      

Why Choose a Backpack over a Suitcase for Travel?

There really is a specific backpack out there for any style of travel, but why should you choose a backpack over a suitcase? 

My answer to this has always been the same. Even with a trip to say Paris, you will run into trouble with a suitcase.

They are heavy, inconveniently shaped, and guess what! They rely on wheels which are usually broken and only work on a flat smooth surface. That means in Paris which has a lot of cobblestone road you will be cursing at the dam thing! 

Here’s another scenario that is common. You show up at your nice hotel and the elevator is broken. While the cool and savvy traveler runs up the stairs with his backpack you will begin to curse once again as you drag that thing up the stairs. 


We hope this post helped make your backpack search easier. With so many backpacks out there nowadays, I know that it can be difficult.

We’d love if you shared and liked our post on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook! It helps us out and we really appreciate it.

Related Articles

About author View all posts Author website

Stephen Gollan

Stephen Gollan

Uncharted Backpacker is a glimpse at the past eleven years of globetrotting I have done. Now at over ninety countries I share my travel knowledge for you so you too can travel the world and see what wonders it has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.