If you enjoy traveling light and being constantly on the move, a backpack is a much better packing option than a suitcase. It offers a perfect balance between functionality and compact design, allowing you to easily bring your essentials anywhere you go.
When choosing a traveling backpack, the most important aspects to consider are its size, comfort, and organization. While travel backpacks have many things in common with each other, they come with many different design solutions that cater to the specific needs of every backpacker.
To help you decide, we have created a buying guide where we break down all the features that a good travel backpack needs to have. On top of this, we have also reviewed the best travel backpacks currently on the market so you can get a well-designed model that will make your travels easier and more enjoyable.
How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack – Buying Guide
One of the most important things when getting a new backpack is the size. Which one you should get depends on several factors, but mostly on what you plan to take with you and how large a backpack your body can carry.
If you plan to take short trips that last a couple of days, then a smaller backpack may suffice. On the other hand, if you plan on going backpacking for a few weeks, you will need to look among large backpacks for traveling.
When you start listing products, you’ll notice that manufacturers often specify the volume of the backpack, and use liters to do so. This usually ranges from 30 to 80 liters for travel packs, with 40 to 50 liters being optimal for most people. Keep in mind that a luggage backpack that is too large can’t go inside the cabin, and you’ll often need to pay additional fees for it.
In relation to this, it’s very practical to get a carry on backpack, with a size that complies with airline regulations. While this varies somewhat from one company to another, most have a limit of 45 linear inches, or 22x14x9 inches in dimensions. If your backpack can be compressed to this size or smaller, you will be able to take it inside and save some money.
In general, your new backpack should be just a bit bigger than you need at that moment so you can neatly pack all your things and have some extra space for things you decide to buy on your trip. So, the best travel backpack size depends mainly on your travel needs and preferences.
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The backpack has it’s own weight when empty, and it’s closely related to the total size as well as some features that come with it. This can vary significantly from one product to another, and getting the lightest backpack possible isn’t always the best choice because it means reduced functionality and fewer features.
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Straps are an integral part of any backpack. They should be well-made and strong so they can endure the weight of the pack without tearing. They should also be designed to be comfortable for the person wearing the backpack. Shoulder straps are most important here, and they should be properly positioned on your shoulders without cutting in. Some backpacks have additional straps around your waist or chest.
Waist straps significantly help with weight distribution – instead of putting all the load on your shoulders and spine some of it is transferred to your hips. This way it will be much easier for you to carry the same amount of weight, and you can do it for a longer period. It’s also very useful if you have problems with your back or shoulders since it reduces the pressure. As we mentioned, some also have a chest strap, which further helps with weight distribution and stabilization.
A frame can give your backpack additional strength so it won’t fall apart when you load it. It allows the backpack to retain its shape even when you pack it full and even gives a certain level of protection to the content inside. This is particularly useful if you check in the backpack as luggage since it can go through some rough treatment. Some models come without a frame, while those who do have either an external or an internal one.
Even though frames are more common in hiking backpacks, they can also be found in some travel backpack models. If you’re getting a smaller backpack then a frame isn’t really necessary, but you should certainly consider it if you’re getting a pack with a larger volume and overall size.
The most common materials used for making travel backpacks are polyester, nylon, and canvas. While polyester is probably the most common because of its high strength and low weight, all of them have their ups and downs.
You will often see that manufacturers use denier (D) to show how good and tough a fabric is. Denier is a measurement that shows the thickness of the fabric, and a larger number indicates greater strength and higher quality. However, keep in mind that fabrics with a higher denier rating tend to be heavier. Because of this, some manufacturers combine materials on their backpacks with some parts (like the bottom) being reinforced so they can handle the weight better.
While your backpack doesn’t need to be fully waterproof, it should make sure your gear doesn’t get wet until you reach a shelter. You’re bound to encounter rain at some point, and the best travel backpack will be water-resistant and protect the content you have packed inside.
Water protection can come from the fabric itself, or the backpack can feature some type of waterproof coating like DWR. As an alternative, you can get a separate waterproof rain cover for your backpack.
High-quality zippers are an essential part of your new backpack. They will be used a lot and exposed to pressure when your backpack is full, so they need to be heavy-duty. If it bursts, the backpack becomes pretty much useless until you repair it. In addition, it should operate smoothly and not get stuck when opening and closing.
As you probably know, some manufacturers like YKK have made a name for themselves in the zipper industry, and you can count on their products to be reliable. However, this also raises the price a bit, which can be a problem for some people.
Besides quality, some zippers add to the security and are designed with holes so you can use a padlock and lock your backpack. If you choose to get lockable zippers, make sure they’re TSA-friendly so security officers can open them without damage.
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When it comes to access, there are usually two options – either the backpack is loaded from the top or it has front loading. Top loading means that the pack has an opening on top, and is more common in hiking and backpacking backpacks, and it keeps your things secure. However, it isn’t the greatest solution for travel because it’s more difficult to organize everything properly.
For this reason, the best traveling backpacks have front loading. It’s usually a long U-shaped zipper that opens the backpack like a suitcase and gives you direct access to the storage compartment. In addition to this, some travel backpacks with laptop compartments have a side zipper too for direct access to the laptop.
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Compartments and Pockets
While we’re on the subject of organizing your things, we must discuss compartments for a moment. Most travel backpacks have at least two compartments, or three if there is one dedicated for your electronics. However, they are not designed the same way, so make sure the backpack your getting allows you to sort everything the way you want.
Well-placed compartments allow you to keep separate electronics, clothes, and hygiene products, as well as keep dirty and clean clothes apart. In addition to this, it’s a plus if your backpack has a few external pockets too, for example side pockets for keeping a water bottle or an umbrella close by.
Travel backpacks come with many accessories to make your experience even better. One of the features we like very much is a USB port that allows you to charge your phone on the go. Unlike solar backpacks, these don’t generate power but require a power bank inside.
Furthermore, some backpacks come with wheels and a longer handle (backpack suitcases), so you can drag them too. Finally, some models have an additional zippered compartment for tucking away all the straps sticking out, making the backpack much easier to transport.
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Q: Why Travel With A Backpack?
Backpacks make carrying the weight much easier than a suitcase. Since the weight is on your back instead of in your hand, the balance is much better. It’s also a lot more comfortable and you can go longer distances with your luggage.
Furthermore, a high-quality backpack has a flexible shape and won’t get damaged easily. It’s on you all the time, and the surface you’re walking on won’t make much of a difference. You won’t need to pick it up when stepping into public transportation or climbing a flight of stairs.
In addition, both of your hands are free which is very useful. We aren’t saying that suitcases are bad, they just offer less versatility compared to a backpack. They can still be very handy if you’re going on a short trip, or you have a back problem and want to avoid wearing a backpack altogether.
Q: What Is The Difference Between Regular And Travel Backpacks?
The main difference is the design. Travel backpacks feature long zippers which allow them to fully open and give you the possibility to add something to the backpack or remove a thing you need without taking everything out. On the other hand, regular backpacks come with top openings, which makes it difficult to find what you need.
In addition to this, travel backpacks are often made to comply with airline requirements (at least in terms of size). This allows you to take them with you as carry-on luggage, save some money on luggage fees, and leave the airport faster when you land.
Q: How To Take Care Of A Travel Backpack So It Lasts Longer?
It’s good if you care for it after each trip (not necessarily wash it). Before storing, you should remove not only the content, but also dirt, crumbs, and residue. You can shake it upside down so that dirt falls out, and you can even use a vacuum cleaner to reach some tough places.
However, if it has stains, you will need to wash it. While some are safe for washing in a machine, it’s usually not recommended to put your backpack in a washer. Take a clean sponge, and mix some warm water with a mild detergent.
The alternative is soaking the whole backpack in the same water and detergent mixture, in your tub for example. Then you can also scrub it and make sure you rinse it off well. It must be completely dry before you store it, because it might develop mold or a nasty smell which will annoy you the next time you use it.
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Globo Surf Overview
The best backpacks for traveling will make packing more convenient and make you more mobile. We did our best to present different types of products in our reviews, so you have enough options to choose from. Using the information in the buying guide, we’re sure that you can pick out a great bag for any type of travel.
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
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- Shoe Glue
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- Tactical Boots
- Backpacking Stove
- Backpacking Sleeping Pad
More Backpack Reviews:
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- Kids Hiking Backpack
- Patagonia Backpack
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- Black Diamond Backpack
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Have you tried a travel backpack that made it onto our list? Which one did you get? Were you satisfied with the size? How about functionality and durability? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.