Best Travel Backpack For Backpacking Abroad
Ahh, yes. Travel backpacks. I m glad companies are finally starting to design backpacks specifically for travel. In the past people traveling to Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and wherever else their spirits took them were forced to use a normal hiking backpack that was designed for all-day hikes in the wilderness. However, for city-hopping via train, plane, and bus these backpacks fell short in the urban environment.
Reasons Why Traditional Hiking Backpacks Aren t Ideal for Travel
On my first trip to Europe I did a ton of research before I bought my backpack. I went to about five outdoors stores and visited dozens of websites before I finally decided on the Osprey Atmos 50. It was a great backpack. It was lightweight, comfortable, and it would have been amazing for taking long hikes in the back-country. However, I wasn t going to scale any mountains — I was going to Paris, London, Budapest, and Amsterdam. The bag worked fine for my trip but after a few months of traveling with the bag I became well-aware of its shortcomings.
The main problem was gaining access to all my clothes and other stuff in the bag. That s because hiking backpacks generally only open from the top, so trying to get to anything inside the bag requires you to unpack a lot of stuff first. It was a huge pain in the ass. When you re hiking a top-loading bag is perfect because you haul all your gear to a campsite and then unload it as you setup camp. But when you re traveling you don t want to unload your entire bag every time you change locations. You want to open you bag, get whatever you need, and then be on your way.
So What s The Deal With Travel Backpacks?
So easy to pack!
The idea behind a travel backpack is simple: the backpack zips opens like a normal suitcase — none of that top loading nonsense. This way you can easily access whatever you need without much hassle. Additionally, most travel backpacks don t have all those extra straps and the suspension system (i.e. the shoulder straps and hip belt) can be stored away behind a zippered panel so it s safe for transport in buses, planes, etc. So you re probably thinking that this all sounds great so what s the catch. Well, travel backpacks are still relatively new so they re not as advanced as traditional hiking backpacks. Therefore, there are still a few drawbacks:
- The suspension system: The shoulder straps on a travel backpack are not always as advanced as a traditional hiking backpack – although it does depend on the backpack. Travel backpacks are designed to be worn for maybe an hour — assuming you don t overload it. This should be plenty of time for most city-hopping trips where you ll be using public transportation. However, you should think twice about buying a travel backpack if you plan on doing any long distance hiking on your trip.
- Hip belt: A lot of travel backpacks skimp on the hip belt — some don t even have one. The problem here is that most of the weight of your backpack should actually fall on your hips — not your shoulders. Very few travel backpacks include a fully functional hip belt, so this is another reason you don t want to use this style of backpack for an extended amount of time. Again, it shouldn t pose too much of an issue since you won t be wearing the bag for an extended amount of time.
- Zippers are the weak spot: The zipper will always be the weakest point in any bag — there is no getting around that. Generally, most major manufactures use heavy-duty zippers so you don t have too worry too much about breaking one, but it is possible. Another concern is that traditional zippers aren t waterproof. Nicer bags now come with waterproof zippers, but if not, you may consider a rain cover for your bag.
- Boxyness: Travel backpacks are a little more boxy than the average hiking backpack and that s because they re designed to be more like a suitcase. This is a minor complaint but if you re used to using a hiking pack then you might notice the difference.
Our Favorite Travel Backpacks
Each travel backpack listed below is designed for travel. Note about carry-on sizes: Each airline has their own rules about carry-on size limits and they usually specify their maximum length x width x depth. It gets a little confusing because a backpack might be under on the width and depth but slightly over on the length. Most of these bags aren t super ridged, so the sides will compress if you need to force your bag into one of those little size templates that airlines use. The airlines are usually much more strict about the weight of the bag. As a general rule, a 50L bag is about the max size for carry-on luggage, so I wouldn t go over that size.