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Choosing a good backpack can be one of the most important decisions you make before you go traveling. Here is a general and personal guide about what we would suggest you look for when investigating backpacks. These are just our opinions and may not relate to your personal situation.

Clare with a backpack at the beachWith the right backpack you can go anywhere


The bigger the pack the more likely you will fill it. You will read everywhere the advice that you should travel light. I can only concur. The lighter your pack, the easier it will be to carry around town, from the bus or train station to your hotel. Not only that, if you see a nice place on the way, you will feel more free to stop and enjoy it. If you need to put your pack away, you will find it easier to fit in a locker, fit under your seat, in the overhead compartment. You will be able to keep it closer to your sight on dubious journeys. You will stand out less as a backpacker, and conversely you will fit in more. You can ignore this advice, buy a large backpack, fill it and struggle around the world, you may still have a fantastic time, but could it have been even better? Once you are on the road you can't change you mind. Why not listen to the experience of the net travellers.

So what size? We went for 40-45 litre packs. Not tiny, but enough room to put the essential plus some more. See 'what to pack'. You need room to put the inevitable souveniers and other objects you will accumulate as you go. The size required will of course depend on when and where you travel. If you are going to hot climates only, you can get away with much less clothing. If you are not panning on camping, you don't need a sleeping bag or other camping gear. If we ever want to camp, we would try and hire some gear. Much easier than lugging around heavy equipment for only a few uses. If you are looking for a small size, you may find then hard to come across, as most travel packs come in sizes 50-70 litres. For something lighter, you may need to go with a traditional backpacking pack. See the section below comparing these.

Travel Pack versus Back Pack

Travel packs are made for the most common form of backpacker. They have straps that can be hidden away for when you need to store you pack or travel on transport. Unless you will be carrying camping gear, and doing lots of long distance hiking, the travel pack is probably the best way to go.

Detachable daypack

Do you go with a detachable backpack or not? We went with one of each. We bought a small backpack that we can fold up and put inside the bigger one when we don't need it. It helps keep the size of the pack to a minimum. If we had an extra bag hanging off the back, we most likely would fill it up. Our other pack has a small 10 litre travel sack, that will be handy for taking a camera and other small items when exploring a town on foot. It will be a bonus if it has divided sections, so you can separate potentially wet stuff like food and drinks, from cameras and guidebooks.


You need to be able to lock up and secure your bag when needed. It is handy to have only a few zips, and to have these zips so that you can padlock them together.


Most reasonably priced packs will last well during a single long trip, and for most people this is all you require. If you want a pack for the rest of your life, you may look at those made from very durable and well made materials, but you will have to pay more. Most likely, the more you travel you will find that you have different needs from a backpack so you will want to purchase something else at a later date.


A backpack has to be comfortable for the times you have to walk long distances with all your gear. If you are traveling pretty light as you should be, the fit becomes less important. As long as the backpack has some adjustable setting, with the right advice, you should be able to get a good fit. If possible, use the expertise of the shop assistant to set it right before you leave the store.


Of course it has to look good! Probably a dark colour would be better, you wont notice it getting dirty as much. Any bright colours will make you stand out even more. You also have to consider if you want to look like you are pretty trendy and you have all the latest gear. If so, buy a name brand backpack, even get one second hand, or even get a cheap imitation copy from somewhere in your travels.

See also


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