What size backpack should you take on your trip? Well… that depends.
There are a lot of gear reviews on-line. It can be overwhelming. Let me put your mind at ease and tell you a secret that for whatever reason, people don’t want you to know:
In these amazing times we live in… there’s actually not a lot of bad gear out there.
I tell you this, because chances are that most of the stuff you look at that your instincts tell you is good… probably is. Are some gear pieces better than others? Yes. Does the old adage “you get what you pay for” apply to traveling and travel gear? Absolutely. Therefore, I’m simply going to offer you my opinion on backpacks because they’re a core part of traveling.
There are a LOT of very nice backpacks out there and the one rule I would adhere to more than any other is to stick with a major manufacturer (Osprey, REI, North Face, Deuter, Arc’Teryx, etc). Are there some unknown brands on Amazon for cheap? Sure. Are they reliable and covered by lifetime warranties? Nope. And even if some of them allegedly are, in the end, you’ll most likely get what you pay for. A lot of those companies change names, go out of business, etc., so if your product breaks, you’re pretty much s.o.l.
That said, after doing some solid research, I recently decided to give one of those unknown brands a try, and purchased a small $50 anti-theft waterproof laptop backpack from a company I’ve never heard of called “Kopack.” I’ll give it a full review after using it for a few months. If it’s not good, I’m only out the $50, as opposed to a LOT more for a name brand bigger pack. So what bags do I currently use?
I think most major backpack manufacturers are quite good. The one you choose should be about how it fits your particular body, the features it offers, and the style you like. I currently have three Osprey packs, one small sized for quick day outings, one medium sized that’s an official airplane carry-on rated pack for weekend trips, and one large pack for extended trips, international travel, and long vacations.
The small pack I use is the Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack. Technical details and links at the bottom. What’s great about this pack is that it’s light weight, has plenty of room for things like snacks, an extra layer of clothing, your phone, a bottle of water, and whatever basic accessories you want to carry. It doesn’t feel like you’re wearing very much, which is great for a day hike or walk around a new town. It’s also the pack I’m wearing in the featured image of this post, on a boat in Scotland!
The medium pack I use is the Osprey Porter 46. It has very nice compression straps for compacting your stuff down, it’s very roomy and is officially airline carry-on approved. The straps and waist belt can be hidden by a zip-up compartment which converts the bag in seconds from a backpack to a carrying bag. It’s quite spacious and comfortable and perfect for things like a long weekend trip with friends, to see family for a weekend, or go for an overnight somewhere. As an example, a friend of ours was getting married in Portland and I used this pack for most of my gear. The picture below shows how nicely it fits, fully packed, into an overhead compartment on a Southwest Airlines flight. The fine folks at Backcountry Edge also did a nice review of this bag on YouTube right here.
The large pack I use is the Osprey Farpoint 70.
It has many of the same features of the Porter 46, but it can hold quite a bit more, and is very comfortable for extended trips / touring around different places. It also has a front opening and loading system that is GREAT if you’re carrying camera gear, laptop, etc. Everything is quickly accessible and it’s easy to change the load each morning for what you’re planning on doing that day. If that wasn’t enough… the extended compartments on the outside of the pack are not only another detachable smaller backpack (what?!), but you can leave that second pack on the back, or… lock it to the shoulder straps so you can carry it on the front of your body and balance your load even better! That is an amazing feature you will LOVE when you are traveling internationally and want have your camera and food on your front and all your other stuff on your back. It really is awesome. See reference photo below.
I’m also a big fan of REI’s backpacks. They’re not as expensive as some of the other manufacturers, but definitely as well made as Osprey or any other known backpack maker. As I said above, it really comes down to fit more than anything. I chose Osprey because they fit my body type the best. You really shouldn’t buy a backpack without going into your local outdoors store and having them fit you. Fittings are free (if they charge for that, run the other way!), and I think they’re crucial for you to get the right pack for your body so you’re comfortable in whatever outdoor endeavors you choose. I was honestly leaning towards a different brand I saw on-line, but when I tried it on in the store, I changed my mind.
For details on the Osprey packs I mentioned, see these links:
So what about the best way to pack a suitcase, the best cameras, and other advice?
Head on over to any of my Travel Tips to find out!
And check back often, as I frequently add more!