Oliver Lynch

Oliver Lynch

Long time traveller who is all about food, language and doing random stuff. Also writes screenplays and drinks lot of beer.

Life On The Road: Choosing The Best Backpack For Travelling

When you’re living out of a bag, make sure you’ve got a good one! These are some of the best rucksacks for travelling…

Depending what type of travelling you’re doing you may need a bag you can put all your bits in for a few months, or perhaps just a bag big enough for a week’s supply of beach wear. Choosing a the right backpack for your travels is one of those tricky things; they can be quite expensive and you certainly don’t want any bag mishaps when you’re in the middle of the jungle/desert/rural Bolivia…

Just to clarify what a bag mishap is: busted zips, split fabric, broken arm strap, broken buckles and pieces of metal or plastic poking into your back.

Buying a cheap bag can be a false economy, so here is the Gone Travelling guide to buying the right type of rucksack for your travels.

Know Your Bags

Rucksacks and backpacks are essentially the same thing. Technically a backpack is under 35 litres and can be any type of bag worn on the back. A rucksack is the kind of bag you’ll see backpackers wearing, often with bed rolls or shoes dangling from the back.

Sizes for bags are done in litres. For reference, your school bag was probably around 20-30 litres.

Whatever bag you choose, the best one for your style of travelling may vary – if you carry lots of equipment or expect to buy lots of trinkets, you might need a bigger bag. If you’re the kind who travels light you may find the best travel bag for you is a small one (around 30-40 litres).

What Type Of Trip?

Are you off for a week, a month or indefinitely? That will have a massive bearing on the type of bag you pick up.

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

Week/Long Weekend

Most long weekend trips these days are taken on budget airlines, so you’ll most likely be looking for a cabin bag sized pack. These tend to be around 45 litres. A good 30-35 litre bag can also work if you don’t need lots of stuff.

A Month Of Hopping

If you’re moving from place to place you will want a rucksack which you can easily pop on and off your back with minimal effort. A 45 litre pack will usually be sufficient, but if you’re the type who fills up with trinkets, or if you’re doing a specialist activity (trekking, sports etc) then you’ll be looking at nearer 50-65 litres.

A Long Trip/Indefinite

Round the world backpackers or those who don’t anticipate coming home any time soon may benefit from keeping their bag smaller. Chances are you’ll pick up new stuff but chuck other stuff as you go. 65 litres should be the maximum size but if you can, try and live out of a 40-50 litre pack. It will force you to be selective with the stuff you haul around and it will keep the weight down.

Trekking & Sports/Cold Weather

If you’re doing any hiking, going anywhere cold or doing some serious sports then you’ll probably need a bigger bag, around 60 litres plus, for all your extra equipment. This is assuming you’ll be carrying different layers of clothing, supplies, sleeping bags and other trinkets.

Which Bag Features?

Pic: wokandapix (Pixabay)

Assuming you’re going for a longer trip (over a few weeks) – then these are the features you’ll want in your rucksack.

  • For bigger bags: Zip around opening, so you can access the whole bag easily.
  • Detachable day pack, very handy, normally around 10-20 litres.
  • Waterproof covering – often an attachment in a pocket.
  • Lots of compartments is good.
  • Decent padding on the back and a good waist and chest strap.
  • Zips that can be padlocked shut.
  • Avoid wheels on backpacks. It makes it heavier and bulkier.

Our Recommendations

North Face Terra 50

North Face are reliably good quality rucksacks and you can’t really go wrong with pretty much everything they do. The Terra 50 litre is the ideal pack for long term travellers or hiking but is a bit too big for hand luggage. It has a compartment at the bottom for a sleeping bag (or whatever else you want to put in there), two good sized external pockets and a few internal pockets for stashing your trinkets.

On the downside, the zips might be a bit small for padlocks, but with a bit of ingenuity you can still secure your bag.

Also available in 65 litre.

Lowe Alpine Carry On 45 LiteFlite

Lowe Alpine are another solid brand who offer excellent choices for travel bags. This cabin baggage sized rucksack is ideal for the long weekender or the mid term light traveller. It zips all the way around, can be carried on the back, over the shoulder or like a suitcase and is a solid piece of kit. At 40 litres you’ll be able to get most of your essentials in there for a week or a month away.

Osprey Farpoint 80 litre

This 80 litre pack is perfect for the long term traveller. With options for wearing as a backpack or carrying like a suitcase, you’ll be able to get enough in here for all eventualities. It’s also a super lightweight material, has several pockets and zips all the way round for easy access.

If 80 litre sounds like a lot but you like the look of this bag, check out the 40 litre version (which is cabin baggage sized) and the 55 litre version.

Osprey Waypoint 80

Another solid choice from Osprey, this one comes with the coveted 20 litre day pack. So, you’re getting two bags for the price of one with this. As with the Farpoint, the opening zips around so you can easily access the whole bag. It’s got an ergonomically moulded back mount and is probably one of the best rucksacks for travelling you’re going to find.

Kelty Redwing 50

The Kelty Redwing pops up on best budget travel bag lists quite a lot, mostly as it is a steal. It’s lightweight, has seperate compartments for electronics (laptop), has a U-zip (easy access to the bag), has loads of extra pockets and is generally a bit of a bargain.

It’s available in various sizes including a women’s 40 litre, 44 litre and 32 litre.

The North Face - Never Stop Exploring

If none of these fit the bill, browse our partners at North Face and Berghaus for some excellent quality rucksacks for all your travel needs.

A good rucksack should last you a good few years, so it’s better to spend more than you’d expect and have a quality bag that endures. So if you’re looking for the best rucksack for travelling, make sure to have a look at our recommendations!

Got anything to say about choosing the best travel rucksacks? Think we’ve missed any essential information or key points… Put us right in the comments below!

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