About to hit the road? Unsure about what backpack to buy? Need help? Buying a backpack might seem a daunting task because of all the options available, but don’t worry because help is on the way. This post will help you by pointing out what in my experience are the features you should not miss out when doing your purchase, without having to spend more than what you need to.
I will also tell you why that feature is important, because you should understand why you are spending money on it. The backpacks I suggest are in the mid price level- you really don’t need more. Let’s begin!
- When buying a backpack expect to spend between 150-250 $US for a good, versatile model. Sure, you’ll find them cheaper, but beware of quality. And you will of course find them much more expensive, but it is not necessary to spend as much. I strongly suggest you make an investment that will last many years, maybe even forever if you plan on travelling a lot. If all you want to do is a three week trip and don’t plan on repeating, or not much anyhow, then spend less.
- Backpacks are initially classified as internal or external framed. Make sure you choose internal frame because you don’t want aluminum bars dangling around, plus they use space better.
- Internal frame backpacks are then classified as top or front load. Don’t even consider getting a top load backpack! I can still picture my good friend Jack having to take out most of his stuff out of the backpack every morning when looking for clean socks or something else. I, on the other hand, can very much see where everything is when I have mine open. It simply makes life so much easier.
- I have seen a few sites that recommend not getting a backpack that includes a daypack and instead bring an additional daypack but don’t say why (??). Nonsense. Get one that does. There are several advantages:
1) When having to walk more than 5 minutes I appreciate having my hands available to look at the map or not having the front of my t-shirt sweaty because I’m carrying the daypack on my chest. 2) When visiting a city/town/whatever I can leave my main backpack with all my stuff in my room, unzip the small one and take it with my travel guide, camera and water bottle. 3) On rainy days, because it is attached to the main one, it will stay dry thanks to the backpack rain cover you have.
- Make sure all or at least the main zippers are double zippers, double stitched, lockable and covered. But do not lock them when flying into/within/out of the USA: assume with reason that an ATA officer will break it to check what you are carrying. Save the lock for later.
- The last characteristic you have to decide on is volume. Popular advice is to buy a medium sized backpack because you will be dragging less stuff around if you don’t control yourself. But I got one of the larger ones and I am sooo happy I did. If I’m not going to travel much, I pack less. If I am, I pack more. And at any rate I want to have some extra space so I can bring home souvenirs I like without having to carry them in my hands. Long story short: it’s up to you. But if you get a big one, remember to plan accordingly. This is a picture of me in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, with my previous Eagle Creek Grand Voyage. Too big for some, great for me.
If you follow these guidelines you have narrowed down you’re quest of finding your perfect backpack quite a bit. From here it’s perhaps a matter of design, colour and brand. I would stick to the most important brands like Jansport, Eagle Creek, Kelty, Osprey and a few others to guarantee best results (these brands are better aimed at traveling backpackers, where as The North Face and others tend to focus more on mountain gear).
Which one would I recommend? I bought the Eagle Creek Grand Voyage eight years ago. Since then it has gone around the world 5 times, been north of the Arctic Circle, in the desert of Tunisia, in the tropical jungles of Brazil, and in isolated islands of Indonesia, and I am still using it. If I could go back in time I would definitely get the same one. Apparently they now have a new model, the Thrive 90 L or in smaller volumes, so today that would be my choice. May 2013: I recently got my new backpack, also large volume for the reasons mentioned before. It is a Deuter 80+10 with several bells and whistles and in the same price range– watch my video review!
You might also want to use this little widget below, allowing you to filter more than 400 backpacks easily and quickly making your search much more convenient.