choosing a backpack

How to Choose a Travel Backpack

The biggest decision you’ll make before you go on a round the world trip is what kind of travel backpack to take. How big should it be? How much should you budget? Should it have wheels? What about a day bag? Which brand is best value for money? Let’s explore some options.

How big should it be?

Depending on how light you pack, you could go for anything between a 50 and an 80 litre backpack. I once shared a room with a girl who brought a 40 litre bag with her on a 3 week trip. I was amazed that she managed to fit everything she needed into such a small bag, but then I realised her shampoo ran out two weeks into the trip and she rinsed out her pants in the sink to wear them the next day.

So unless you’re like my smelly friend here, for a trip from 3 weeks to 3 years, you’ll probably do fine with a 60-65 litre rucksack, 80 litres if you can’t live without your hair straighteners and that extra pair of heels 😉

How much should I budget?

It’s a really tough one, but I’d say put aside at least £100 for a decent bag. The better quality your travel backpack, the more you’ll come to love it as you travel. You can put a quality bag through a lot and it will stay intact, fresh, and ready for your next adventure! Bags which cost over £200 are rarely worth it, so don’t get ripped off.

I’ve had my backpack for over 7 years now, and it’s still in great shape. In fact, they don’t even stock my style of bag anymore, that’s how old it is! If you’re on a budget, you need to repeat the mantra of backpack buying before going ahead…

Is it big enough? Is it sturdy? Is it comfy? Is it (semi) waterproof?

If the answer is yes to all of these, then it doesn’t matter how much it costs. In fact, some of my favourite budget backpacks have all of these qualities, and they’ll leave you enough change for a meal out when you arrive!

Best for budget: Berghaus Torridon 65 litre

Best for mid-range: Caribee Mallorca 70 litre

Best for splashing out: Lowe Alpine Axiom Cerro Torre 60-80 litre

Wheels or no wheels?

Personally, I go for the ‘no wheels’ option, as having a bag on my back allows me to move around quicker and well, it makes me feel like a proper explorer! Bags with wheels on the bottom tend to have a solid ‘frame’ on the back to keep it upright which digs into your back when carrying it, plus the frame takes up valuable packing space.

However I can understand that some people are more comfortable pulling their stuff along than housing it on their back, so if you fall into this camp, then I think one of the best travel backpacks with wheels on the market is the Berghaus W Jalan, which not only has wheels, but a handy zip off day bag (a must have, in my opinion).

Best for wheels:

Berghaus Jalan wheeled bag

Berghaus Jalan 65L plus 15L zip off bag

What about a day bag?

It’s completely down to personal perference on this one, but I really like having a zip off day bag as part of my backpack. The zip off bag is convenient for taking on board with you when travelling by bus, boat, train etc. Plus when you’re travelling by plane you can zip it to your main bag (and padlock it), and this will free up a ‘piece’ of baggage (perhaps a beach bag or something) to take on board with you.

I found this really useful when travelling from my final stops and my souvenirs were taking up quite a lot of room. You can always use a couple of Carabiner clips to hang stuff off too, and you can pick these up for a couple of quid a pop.

Top-loading vs side-loading backpacks

Lastly don’t ignore the way in which you open your bag. Bags which open from the top make it fiddly to find everything, and you’ll start to hate that T Shirt or pair of pants which always seems to be stuck at the bottom. Invest in a bag which opens from the side with a zip, and learn to roll your clothes like a toilet roll so you can see at a glance where everything is (and to avoid creases!)

Whichever type of travelling backpack you go for, make sure your bag fits comfortably and has adjustable straps around the hips and chest for blister-free bag joy. And remember:

Travel light, travel far, travel in comfort.

Do you have any more advice on picking the right travel backpack? I’d love to hear it, using the comments box below!

PS: By clicking on the links within this post and buying the products, this will cost you no extra, but it will generate a small referral commission to buy me some coffee, which I desperately need to write… Full circle!


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Hayley is the author behind A Life of More, a travel and lifestyle blog with the goal of helping you to live a happier and more fulfilled life, whether you're currently travelling or happily settled.

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Comments 8

  1. Sarah

    So – am I gonna be one of the smelly people? I’ve just purchased an Osprey Farpoint 55 for some long term travel!

    I do believe myself to be a light packer. Well. I hope so.

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  3. Sarah

    Do you have a packing list and I’ve just missed that blog or is that something you’d never write on?

    South east asia is the plan but my plan changes daily and it will until I book a flight. I’m a disaster!!

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    LovePuffin Travel Blog

    I don’t have a packing list just yet but definitely something I’d like to nail (if only for my own sanity!)

    I hope you have a great time on your travels. Do you have a blog I can follow along?

  5. Sarah

    I will have a blog (I even have pre trip posts written!) – it just hasn’t been set up yet. The Sarah Story has not been written yet!

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  7. Sarah

    Story will be strange all right. Currently having trouble choosing a destination……too many choices!

  8. George

    Front loading bags are a revelation – I would personally recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40! I’ve used this for many a trip from a few days to a few months, and it holds everything I need 🙂

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