Picking and Choosing a Travel Backpack

An old travel backpack that seems to survive the many travel adventures.
An old travel backpack that seems to survive the many travel adventures. | Source
Buying a suitcase over  a backpack does have its own advantages as well as disadvantages
Buying a suitcase over a backpack does have its own advantages as well as disadvantages | Source

Travel Backpack vs. Suitcase

The usual way to travel is either lugging along a suitcase or a backpack. Which is better for you depends on your travel and personal requirements.

However, choosing the wrong travel bag will not only waste your money, but will also ruin your trip.

So let us have a quick look at the pros and cons of both, travel backpack and suitcase.

Suitcase:

Advantages -

  • Good storage space and contents can be easily retrieved.
  • Less creases on clothes
  • Fragile items can be more secure.

Disadvantages -

  • You cannot carry into the aircraft cabin
  • If there's no roller you will have difficulty carrying the suitcase for an extended period of time
  • If there's no elevator in your hotel, it will not be easy to carry your suitcase up to your room floor.
  • Suitcases are generally heavier than a backpack

Backpack:

Advantages -

  • Can be stowed in the aircraft overhead compartment (for the smaller backpack)
  • If there's no elevator in your hotel, it is a lot easier to carry up the stairs, compared to the suitcase
  • Free up both your hands to do other things like reading a map.
  • Can be used as a pillow if your flight is delayed
  • Ideal if you want to travel light
  • Your travel itinerary can be more impromptu; allowing you to explore areas, or shops easily with your backpack on, after you have checked out of your hotel

Disadvantages -

  • May not be big enough to pack more things
  • May be hard to lift and get onto your back
  • If you buy a wrong backpack, it might add additional strain to your shoulders and back.

If these have reaffirmed your decision to buy a backpack, let's look at various types of backpack, available in the market.

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Buying  a Hiking Backpack for traveling is a common mistake made by most people
Buying a Hiking Backpack for traveling is a common mistake made by most people | Source

Travel Backpack and Hikers Backpack

There are several types of backpack available in the market.

They all come in different sizes, design and features. Many of these backpacks were developed for specific uses and will differ greatly in their specifications. So if you know some of these basic types and features will help you select the right backpack for your needs.

One of the most common mistakes made by most people were to buy a backpack designed for hiking and not for travel.

Hiking Backpack

Hiking backpack is designed for hiking and is top-loading. It is a lot bigger in size, compared to travel backpack. Hence you cannot carry on to a plane cabin to store at its overhead bin.

With a top-loading backpack, all of your stuff will be piled on top of each other. When you need to get something, you have to take all the stuff out of the bag.

Hiking backpack also come in various sizes depending on whether your trip is for a day or more. So it can be from 15L to well over 80L in size.

You may need this extra storage space for your sleeping bags, cooking utensils, etc. when you go hiking. When you are traveling to, says Malaysia, you don't need to carry all these things.

Hence, you don't need to buy a backpack with big capacity such as hiking backpack.

Comfort Backpack

Your travel backpack must also be comfortable. A good travel backpack should have a thick, but yet soft padding to help buffer the backpack's weight. This is not just for the shoulder straps, but also for the back piece. Padding that has large grooves will allow air to circulate. This helps keep you cooler.

Other features that you may want to look for are sternum strap and the waist belt. These two additional features will help redistribute the bag's weight to your hips, hence relieving some of the burden off your shoulder and most importantly, your back.

Backpack Material

An ideal material for travel backpack should be thick, but lightweight and at least partially rainproof (fully rainproof will cost more!) You also want it to be durable, coated fabric that is tear-resistance. There are so many choices and the price varies accordingly. The selection is very personal to suit your preference and budget. So, you need to see and touch it for yourself, before finally deciding on the material type.

Backpack - Sweaty Back

When you move around especially in the hot summer days, your back will get sweaty. This will be aggravated if you have your backpack behind you. So, when you buy a travel backpack, choose a lumbar shaped design that has gaps between the backpack and your back to allow air to move in between. This will not only help keep you slightly cool, but will be more comfortable as the weight will be redistributed evenly.

Backpack Zipper Lock

Buy a travel backpack that has two zippers for each of the compartment and use TSA approved padlocks to secure them. This will not only reduce the chances of people stealing your stuff, but also putting unwanted stuff in your backpack.

If your backpack do not have zipper lock, or for added security, consider buying Pacsafe which will wrap your whole backpack with a metal mesh. You can then lock it, even to another bigger item, to prevent it from being moved. The downside of using Pacsafe is the additional weight that you will be carrying, in addition to your backpack and all the things in your bag.

Alternatively, you may buy a backpack cover that is rainproof. This will act as a security cover as well as rain cover.

Travel Backpack Handle

Finally, look for a travel backpack that has top or side handle. This will help load and unload your backpack easily.

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Packing Tip

Pack all your heavy stuff on the upper part of your backpack, next to your spine. This will lessen any back or shoulder pain.

Buying Backpack Online Tip

Before buying backpacks online, it is important that you try them out first.

Go to a shop and try on various brands, designs and models. Choose one that best suit your intended travel needs.

Once you have decided on the model, you can then buy them online


Buying a Travel Backpack

Size of Backpack

A travel backpack on the other hand is smaller and usually about 22″ L x 14″ B x 9″ D. With this size, you can take with you to the aircraft cabin, on most airlines.

There are, however, larger sized travel backpack, to cater to travelers who need to carry more stuff and willing to check in their backpack, when flying.

Backpack Size Guide

If you plan to buy a travel backpack that is larger than 43L, then choose one that is proportional to your body.

Check for the torso and hip sizes guide on the label. This will tell you if it is suitable for your body frame. If you choose a larger backpack, it might not balance properly and will give you back pain. You might even topple over!

Front Loading Backpack

A travel backpack should be front loading. This is similar to a suitcase and gives you easy access to all your things, unlike the top loading hiking backpack. It also helps to better organize your clothes, toiletries and any personal items.

Backpack Compartments

Almost all travel backpacks are now sold with several compartments, to help you organize your packing better. You may want to pack your clothes in the main section and other smaller items in the side pockets.

For a carry on travel backpack, i.e. allowed to be brought into the aircraft cabin, choose exterior compartment that is large enough to store a quart sized bag, to hold your toiletries and other liquid items. (You need to take them out during airport security examination).

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Plan Your Travel

Now that you know how to buy a travel backpack, enjoy your shopping experience.

Be sure to also plan your journey well and enjoy yourself.

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Comments 17 comments

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@lindacee , You are not the only one with this predicament. Packing for travel is tough esp. when it is for an extended period. If we stay longer in one place, it's not too bad as we can do the laundry. If we are on the move so often it is difficult. Travel backpack comes in many sizes so you may have to get the bigger one! Thanks for dropping and sharing.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

I do so wish I could manage to get all of my travel necessities into a backpack! I always tend to go overboard packing when traveling for an extended period of time. Your Hub has inspired me to lighten the load and shop for an airline approved backpack next time. greatstuff, this is indeed great stuff for travelers and hikers!


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@Mommiegee , Sorry I missed out on your comment and for taking this long to response. Thank you, travel backpack is better for most traveler esp. if you want the flexibility.


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

Simone, Thanks for the visit and with your experience and knowledge on backpacks and other bags, I'm glad this guide has new things to look out for, when buying a backpack.


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@davecurrtis , I am glad this article has been of help, in some way. Have a great day.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

I've spent a lot of time refining my luggage collection, and have learned a LOT from testing out different bags and backpacks out in the field, but this guide has brought up a bunch of considerations that hadn't occurred to me. What a useful Hub!


Mommiegee profile image

Mommiegee 4 years ago from Alabama

Great article. Travel backpacks are so much better. Voted up!


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@anusujith. Yes, that happened to me as well. I saw a write up, only after I had bought something. If I had read that earlier, it would definitely change my buying decision. Well, that's life!


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@Robert. Thanks again for the nice comments and sharing your experience.


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@mbwalz. Thanks for dropping by, commenting and Sharing. I appreciate that.


anusujith profile image

anusujith 4 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

I just purchased a backpack. it is brand one. But due to my careless it was spoiled. I just repaired it, seems to be good.

Your Hub is pretty useful. But for me it became late advice for me... No problem when I buy next one I will again read it...


Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

Another awesome article! I backpacked Europe, spent some times on pacific islands, and traveled around Southeast Asia a bit. A good backpack can make a trip so much more enjoyable and far less of a hassle. Great article! Thanks for writing.


mbwalz profile image

mbwalz 4 years ago from Maine

Great advice! Although I have a well loved hiking frame pack with which I traveled/hostelled/Eurailed thru Europe in '86 that looks like the one above. It was very ergonomic and you couldn't carry much - a good thing! But I now stay in apartments and pack for the family. I have an excellent L.L. Bean carry on backpack and a very small day pack that I like (packs right in the rest of the luggage.)

Great advice, voted up and shared!


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

Thanks Riverfish24


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

@leahlefler. Travel backpack which is front loading, will the easiest to find your stuff. There are great for packing kid's stuffs, as when you need to get the things in a hurry, it's easier to locate them. Thanks for dropping by and commenting leahlefler.


Riverfish24 profile image

Riverfish24 4 years ago from United States

Very useful hub! Nice work.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Travel backpacks are great! We always travel with one when we fly, as it fits neatly under the seat in front of us and I can put a lot of travel toys for the children in the backpack! My parents often travel with one, too, because they don't like the airline baggage fees, so they get a big backpack and try to fit their clothes into it!

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