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How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

In order to choose the best travel backpack for your needs, there are several factors to contemplate. The first step is determining what type of travel you will be doing. Consider the length of time you will be using it on any one trip.

Determine the Type of Travel You are Doing

In my opinion, there are 3 general types of travel that utilize backpacks. The first is Backpacking, the second is Expedition, and lastly there is Day Packing. Each is different and usually requires a different type of back pack. Therefore, to choose the best travel backpack, you must first determine the type of travel you are planning.

Backpacking

For the purpose of this article, “Backpacking” is the act of traveling, utilizing a backpack as your form of luggage. Many people backpack when they are going to multiple destinations, doing a large amount of walking while carrying their bag, and taking various modes of public transportation. When traveling by bus, train, or ferry, wheeled or hand luggage may be difficult. Backpacks are also convenient when traveling through old towns that have narrow passages and accommodations lacking elevators.

Some backpacks designed for this type of travel open up more like a suitcase for convenience. Others are top loading. Usually 2 zippers meet which allows you to lock your backpack compartments when you are in the street, sleeping in a hostel, or traveling by public transport.

Many backpacking packs feature a compartment that zippers over the back straps which is convenient for flights. It allows you to check your luggage without the straps getting caught on things.

Expedition Travel

In the context of this article, “expedition travel” refers to hiking in the great outdoors for multiple days, weeks, or longer. It usually involves sleeping outside, or in a tent. You may be climbing mountains or traversing narrow or rugged paths.

Expedition backpacks usually are top loaders. This means that there is one way in and out of your bag, through the top. Most of these types of bags are not meant to hang in the city, as they are difficult to lock. They generally have one zipper that goes all the way around the top of the bag. Some offer entry to the mid or bottom section through an alternate zipper. Usually these bags do not have a cover for the back straps. The bag is designed to be the most light, efficient, and convenient for hiking.

Some models offer external frames where you can attach a tent or other bulky outdoor items. The main advantage to the external frame is the ability to carry heavier loads with more attachment points for necessities. This is especially helpful on long journeys. A main disadvantage is that external frames are heavier and bulkier. They can easily get caught on nature in narrow passages.

Day Packs

Day Packs are backpacks that are used on a daytime basis. They may be used for a long hike or a day of exploring a city. While day packs are not built to carry your belongings over a long period of time, due to their smaller size, they should still be durable, properly fitted, and have convenient features. Some specialty day packs are available for camera gear, hiking, or other specific uses.

Even though daypacks are usually not long term bags, you may be hiking for a full day or wearing it while you tour an entire city. My point is that everything below regarding how to choose the best travel backpack still applies. The greatest value of a well chosen backpack is comfort and health benefits for your body.

How to choose the Best Travel Backpack

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack Size

How long will you be traveling?

Determining the length that you will be traveling with your backpack on any one trip, will help to determine the size of the bag you need. If you are carrying food or water, you must plan accordingly for the length of your trip, or at least until your first food drop. The longer your trip, the more supplies you may need, such as medications. Another consideration is if you are moving through multiple seasons then your layers may need to be more extensive.

A secondary note is that if you plan on doing laundry at least once a week, then a good rule of thumb for your clothing is to pack for a week, regardless of how many weeks you are traveling. Regardless of your length of travel, there will still be a size constraint on your backpack, determined by your physical limitations.

Are you Male or Female?

There are backpacks specifically made to contour and fit with the female body, and others made for men. The two sizes are usually “ladies” and “standard,” the latter being more geared toward men. However, there is usually no physical difference between the women’s and men’s bags.

Therefore, if you are a shorter, narrower man, you may be more comfortable with a “ladies’ fit.” And likewise, if you are a broader, taller female, you may prefer a “standard” bag. While this is not always the case, generally female backpacks tend to stop at smaller sizes then the men’s due to physical ability.

What is your height, weight, and body frame?

In how to choose the best travel backpack, the correct size and fit, is in part determined by your height, weight, and body frame. Good backpacks usually have many adjustable features such as strap length, waist bands, and front straps.

Most backpack sizes are labeled in liters. Generally, a backpack that is larger than 70 liters is extremely cumbersome. The perfect size for most people is 60 liters, although generally women are better off with 50-55 liters, and men with 60-65 liters.


Choosing the Best Travel Backpack Brand for Your Needs

Brands in general

When it comes to brands, buying a backpack is similar to, many other purchases. There are some bags that simply cost more because they are a “brand” name. However, in the world of backpacks, not all bags are created equal. Sometimes a known hiking or outdoors brand with a great reputation and a history of solid backpacks is important. Additionally, many “known” companies offer excellent warranties. With any “sporting equipment,” the old adage that you get what you pay for, often applies.

Bag Quality

In choosing the best travel backpack, it is important to consider quality. The materials that the bag are constructed from, are an important factor. Is the material durable? Is it well stitched? Do the zippers work well? Is the company eco friendly? Are the shoulders well padded? Do the adjustment features work well and have many options? This is not to say that an unknown brand, or a less expensive backpack is not of decent quality. However, there may be some advantages of going with a reputable brand. It is really important that the bag fits you correctly and comfortably.

Additional Backpack Features to Consider

In choosing the best travel backpack, it may come down to two very similar bags in size and type. So what else determines the perfect backpack for you? Some backpacks may have special pockets to hold a wallet, cell phone, or camera. Some packs have more straps and cords available to clip items outside the bag.

You may like a water bottle holder feature. It could be that you prefer one color over another. Or perhaps one material is more durable or waterproof. Remember that good backpacks are usually a financial investment and you may have this bag for a period of time. The features should be convenient for you.

I should also mention that there are backpacks, especially in the day pack category, that offer extra security features. Some bags have zippers that can be locked together so that no one can secretly open your bag. Others are cut proof so that they cannot be slit open while you are in a crowd.

Some larger backpacks have clips to wear your smaller backpack comfortably in front. When you are traveling with both a small daypack and a large backpack, it is difficult to wear both on your back. Even though the feature of clipping your day pack to your backpack on your back is sometimes offered, it tends to throw off the weight adjustments and can ultimately be heavy and painful. If this feature is necessary, be sure to keep it in mind when checking out backpacks.

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

Where to Purchase The Best Travel Backpack

Where to Purchase a Travel Backpack

It is helpful to purchase a back pack at a store that specializes in the outdoors, hiking, and/or backpacks. It is important that you find a salesperson that is trained on backpacks and is really knowledgeable. Do not be afraid to ask for help. It really takes a good associate to work with you to choose the best travel backpack.

How to Try Out Backpacks
  • You should try on as many appropriate backpacks as possible to get an idea of comfort, size, features, and fit.
  • Your salesperson should confirm the type of trip you are taking and what your needs are to determine the type of backpack you need.
  • The salesperson should size you up and possibly ask your height and weight to ensure proper sized bags.
  • A salesperson should put something heavy inside the bags while you are trying them on. They may feel different when loaded and adjustments to the straps, waist, and chest should be made accordingly.
  • You want to get the bag as adjusted as possible so you can truly compare and be sure of a proper fit.
How to Determine If You Have Chosen the Best Travel Backpack

The best way to determine if your backpack is correctly fitted is to take in how it feels on your body. Approximately 70% of the weight should feel like it is sitting on your hips, and around 30% is being taken on by your shoulders. If the weight isn’t distributed properly, ask your salesperson to readjust the settings. Once the backpack is properly adjusted, you will know. It should feel almost weightless! Now, take the backpack off and lift it from the floor with your hand. You will notice how heavy it feels in comparison!

Also See Jenny In Wanderland Article, How To Choose Your Carry-On Luggage


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