There are many different types of travel bags available in the market, each designed for a specific purpose.
The reality is that each type–roller bags, daypacks, duffel bags, carry-on, backpacks–serves a different type of traveler better than others. The key is to finding the bag that fits your needs.
Apart from all this, not all backpacks are equal. There are travel backpacks are designed specifically for traveling. Sometimes people confuse hiking backpacks with travel backpacks. Now you’re probably asking what’s the difference? It’s in their intended use and thus their design and features.
Travel vs. Hiking Backpacks
Hiking backpacks are designed for hiking or trekking which is normally a few days long or sometimes a single day trip, whereas travel backpacks are used for traveling which may last for months, not to mention also across multiple countries.
The difference in use between hiking backpacks and travel backpacks controls their design. Hiking backpacks are lighter and generally compact. On the other hand, travel backpacks are generally built tougher, able to carry more stuff, have panel loading.
These along with other differences can make you life a lot easier and less stressful when traveling, say for example easier access to clothes and gear in the middle of a bus terminal minutes before your departure.
Travel backpacks have various features, each has its own purpose and role. These features together decide what kind of backpack you get.
This quick guide will help you understand these features so that you can decide which style bag fits your needs the best.
Suspension System. Comfort is one of the most important features in any backpack and especially a travel backpack. To carry weight for long periods of time, you’ll thank yourself for a super comfortable backpack that is easy on your body. Most bags use a combination of suspension and straps to distribute pressure. Padding on the straps and pressure areas also make it more comfortable. A good suspension system means the bags is comfortable to carry with least stress on your body.
Hip Belt. The Hip belt is another comfort feature. It makes sure the backpack is securely intact and the weight is equally divided between the upper and the lower body.
Number of Compartments. The more the compartments in a backpack, the easier it is to manage your stuff. Some people may prefer fewer but larger compartments whereas some may want lots of small compartments. It basically depends on your usage and preference.
Top vs Side Opening. Backpacks generally have two types of openings: top opening and side opening (also known as panel loading). Top opening backpacks only open from the top while the side opening backpacks can open from top up to the sides of the bag. I’ve found that the ideal type for traveling is the side opening since you won’t have to unpack everything when you want an item located near the bottom.
Zippers. The number and quality of zippers also matters. Although is not a very important feature as compared to others but good quality zippers and design can make or break your trip. You don’t want you zipper busting half way through your trip.
Material & Build. High quality material and construction is essential for any backpack to survive global adventures and long-term travel. Ultimately the materials used and build of the pack determines the durability and toughness of your backpack. A back with a tough material can last years and pays off in the long term. This is where paying a little more pays back dividends years down the road. If you’re buying a pack for travel lasting more and you’ll be using it day-after-day you’ll thank yourself for spending a little more on a good option.
Now let’s take a look at some of the Pros and Cons travel backpacks may have.
Pros & Cons of Travel Backpacks
- They are ideal for traveling as they are designed for it.
- They have enough space/compartments to carry all your important gear–and allow you to access it easily.
- They have good comfort features which makes them good for traveling and carrying around.
- For female travelers there are women specific travel backpacks that provide a better fit
- Travel backpacks have better security mechanisms than hiking backpacks.
- Easy access, you don’t want to have to unpack your ENTIRE bag to retrieve something from the bottom.
- They are generally heavier and larger in size (thicker straps = durability, etc).
- Some travel backpacks do not have enough small pockets to carry items like water bottles.
- Most travel backpacks are not convertible or packable hence they lose out on portability.
Considering all these things, I compiled some of the best travel backpacks available on the market.
Best Travel Backpacks for Backpacking & Long-term Travel
This one falls in the category of smaller travel backpacks, although it also includes a 15 L capacity daypack. It is designed for comfort and convenience, and overall is a simple travel backpack that can do it all and survive abuse thrown at it day in and day out. Osprey is one of the most reliable and dependable brands when it comes to backpacks, plus they have a lifetime guarantee and will replace your pack if anything ever breaks (for free!). That is a huge bonus and I’ve had to use it once before when the frame broke in my Osprey Atmos 50. One drawback is its stiff, large frame which can be cumbersome at times compared to other travel backpacks.
Capacity: 40L with a 15 L daypack
Weight: 3 lbs.
Construction/Material: 420D Nylon with alloy frame
Pockets: 4 zippered and 3 drop in
Other features: Detachable daypack, sternum strap, gear attachment points
Another great travel backpack by Osprey. You’ll see that Osprey holds a spot for many of the top travel backpacks on the market. The Waypoint 80 Travel Pack falls in the medium to large size category and can easily be used for any global adventure. You can fit all your gear plus whatever you may pick-up along the way during your travel. It has a very good and comfortable suspension and also includes a detachable daypack. I also love that this pack doesn’t have any lose straps when secured, so you don’t have to worry about it getting caught or damaged when you check it on flights.
Capacity: 80 L including daypack
Weight: 5 lbs.
Construction/Material: 420D Nylon
Pockets: Three interior pockets, one slip pocket, one exterior main zipper and two side pockets
Other features: Detachable daypack, side pockets, sleeping pad straps, hip belt
A very popular small to medium category backpack that is well-rounded and reviewed. Built with a hydration compatible design it can easily crossover as a hiking backpack on your adventures. The Kelty Redwing 50‘s suspension provides enough comfort to carry all the load and is built super tough. The bottom line is that its a great pack for long journeys.
Capacity: 49 L (No detachable daypack)
Weight: 3 lbs 3 oz.
Construction/Material: Polyester fabric with single aluminum frame
Pockets: 2 zippered side pockets, zippered stash pocket, large front pocket and a large pocket on top
Other features: Both top as well as panel loading, side pockets, sternum straps, hip belt
Get It Here: Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack
Yet another bag by osprey, but this is one of the few backpacks that lie in the legal carry-on size category. Although it seems on the smaller side, it’s still spacious enough to carry enough for a long-term trip. Lightweight and affordable it’s a great choice for any traveler looking for a high quality and durable pack without breaking the bank. With the lower price and lighter weight you give-up some bells and whistles such a fewer pockets and no daypack. Another great feature of the pack is it’s straitjacket compression straps that keeps all your gear compact and safe.
Capacity: 46 L including daypack
Weight: 3.1 lbs.
Construction/Material: 1680D & 410HD pack-cloth Nylon, stiff foam frame
Pockets: 3 zippered
Other features: straitjacket compression straps, sternum strap, nylon hip belt
A small, compact and lightweight backpack. If you don’t carry a lot of stuff and want to keep it light, this bag is for you. The REI Vagabond Tour 40 Pack is a great option for the light traveler and someone who wants a simple and to the point backpack.
Capacity: 36.5 L
Weight: 2 lbs 8 oz
Construction/Material: 420D Nylon
Pockets: Three zippered, 2 drop-in
Other features: Flap zips over shoulder straps, sternum strap, padded hip belt
Get It Here: REI Vagabond Tour 40 Pack
The Eagle Creek Deviate Travel Pack is almost the perfect size for long-term backpacking. I find that 50L is at times too small and having just a bit more space sometimes would be ideal. Lightweight and durable with a capacity of 45 L and a 15 L daypack. Good suspension, features, and durable design make this a serious competitor. Plus it’s detachable 15L daypack can come in handy when exploring new cities or taking a short hike.
Capacity: 60 L including daypack (15 L)
Weight: 3 lbs 8 oz
Construction/Material: 200D Nylon, polycarbonate frame
Pockets: 5 zippered, 1 RFID blocking pocket for phone
Other features: RFID blocking pocket, detachable daypack, removable brain, travel duffel, sternum strap hip belt
Get It Here: Eagle Creek Deviate Travel Pack 60L
This backpack is designed for maximum security. Lockable pockets and anti-theft cable makes sure your goods stay safe and secure. The PacSafe Venturesafe 65L GII has enough main compartment space to carry all your gear. It may feel a bulky and heavy at times and the pockets may seem difficult to access due extra security features, but if you want to insure you belonging are as safe a possible this is a pack to consider.
Capacity: 65 L
Weight: 5 lbs 11 oz.
Construction/Material: 420D Nylon 3-line ripstop, aluminium frame
Pockets: 3 internal zippered, 1 external zippered, 2 external
Other features: Anti-theft cable, slash resistant, interlocking zippers, sternum strap, hip belt
Get It Here: PacSafe Venturesafe 65L GII