March 5

How to Choose Your Ideal Backpack

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.

    1. 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).


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  1. Hola Fede!!

    I know you laugh on me when you saw my backpack this year when we went surfing because is one with top load, which is a PAIN!!

    This post really help me to narrow my options in 2 great backpacks: the Eagle Creek Rincon 90L and Deuter Traveller 80+10. Both with daypack and same price, well with a difference of 2 dollars.

    As everything in this site, these tips are awesome and I hope everyone found it useful because it is.

    Saludos Fede!!

    1. Both great choices Kike, glad these tips helped you. By the way, sorry for laughing…pphhhh…hahaha!! 😉

  2. Thanks for sharing this useful information. I really need to select the right backpack since I always indulge in traveling. These tips can really help me a lot in choosing the right one.

    1. Lol…thanks for the aknowledgement Leif, glad it helped too 🙂 Hilarious photo on your florida article by the way hahaha

    1. I’d rather go big and not fill it up than limitting myself to smaller sizes. And I love to bring home stuff from the places I visit!

  3. My brother used to go hiking at least every quarter so he actually invested on his hiking gears since then. Everything in light weight including his back pack. He’s very happy with his northface stuffs with him all the time.

    1. If he is a hiker, it is an investment worth making. It all depends on how much you are actually going to use it, right?

  4. Good post! Very useful info. About the daypack thing:
    Sometimes when a day pack zips to the front of the backpack, it can throw your weight off in a very funny way. And, all that stuff hanging on the outside of your pack just gets bulky. We chose non-daypack bags and then got a thin, foldable day pack for daily adventures. It worked quite well for us. You just have to be sure everything you’d want in your daypack also fits in your main bag. You don’t want to be doing the front & back combo. It isn’t comfortable.

    1. I guess that can work too. However I prefer a BP that includes the zip on/off day pack because like this I don’t have to move things from one to the other. If I’m in a place where I just want to leave my big Backpack (say airport or train station) and I don’t want to fiddle with things I simply unzip and go. It all comes to personal likes though. Thanks for the input, and proposing this alternative to other travelers!

  5. Great article! I agree to get a backpack around €200. It’s wise to spend a bit more, but it haven’t has to be a high end product. I personal love the front load backpacks, especially if you just stay at a place for 1-3 nights.
    A good shop will give you some weight & you’ll be able to walk around for 30-60 minutes. I would recommend to do it, even if it looks a bit strange. But that way you’ll find out the best carrying system for you.

    1. It is a great piece of advice Melvin. As you very well say it is best you simulate what you will be carrying in the shop and be safe rather than sorry.

  6. Awesome advice. Thanks! I hope to do an RTW trip in the next few years so I’ll know where to turn when I go shopping for that perfect backpack!

    1. You are welcome Lauren. Make sure do do that RTW trip…it will be an unforgetable experience!


  7. I don’t like top loaders at all either but I guess they cut back on weight and use space a bit more efficiently. Suppose that design is for backpacks being used to haul stuff camping, doesn’t do much good when you need socks quickly.

    1. Perhaps at the end of the day a buyer will have to evaluate what is more important. In my case comfort when looking for and putting away stuff is more important than a few hundred grams more…

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