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How to Buy Backpack

Updated on June 26, 2021
greatstuff profile image

As an engineer, Mazlan had the opportunity to travel and work abroad. He has traveled to over 30 countries.

With so many designs and specifications, you will be overwhelmed with choices when buying a backpack. This article will guide you on how to buy a backpack that suits your travel needs irrespective of your budget.

But first, let's look at other travel bag options.

Travel Backpack vs. Suitcase

The usual way to travel is either lugging along a suitcase or a backpack. Which is better 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.


Advantages -

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

Disadvantages -

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

Disadvantages -

  • It's not big enough to pack more things.
  • Can be difficult to lift and get onto your back.
  • If you buy the wrong backpack, it can add additional strain to your shoulders and back.

Travel Backpack and Hikers Backpack

There are several types of backpacks available in the market.

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

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

Hiking Backpack

The hiking backpack is designed for hiking and is top-loading. It is a lot bigger in size, compared to a travel backpack. Hence, you cannot store it in the plane overhead bin.

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

Hiking backpacks also come in various sizes, from 15L to well over 80L.

You may need this extra storage space for your sleeping bags, cooking utensils, etc. when you go hiking.

Comfort Backpack

Your travel backpack must be comfortable. A good travel backpack should have thick but soft padding to buffer its weight, both for the shoulder straps and the back piece. Padding that has large grooves allow air to circulate to keep you cooler.

Other features are the sternum strap and the waist belt. These two additional features will redistribute the bag's weight to your hips, hence relieving some of the burdens off your shoulder and most importantly, your back.

Backpack Material

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

Backpack - Sweaty Back

When you move around especially on the hot summer days, your back gets sweaty. 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 not only helps 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 compartment and use TSA-approved padlocks to secure them. This reduces the chances of people stealing your stuff.

If your backpack does not have a zipper-lock consider buying Pacsafe which wraps 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.

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

Travel Backpack Handle

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

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 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.

This SwissGear Travel Gear Scansmart Backpack is one of my favorites. It is light, will fit in my 15inch laptop, and can be carried onboard.

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 it with you to the aircraft cabin.

There are, however, larger-sized travel backpacks, 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 tells 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 can pack your clothes in the main section and other smaller items in the side pockets.

For a carry-on travel backpack, choose an exterior compartment that is large enough to store a quart-sized bag, to hold your toiletries and other liquid items.

Plan Your Travel

Now that you know how to buy a travel backpack, click here to plan your journey well.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Mazlan A


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    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      @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

      Linda Chechar 

      9 years ago from 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 imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      @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 imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      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 imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

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

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 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


      9 years ago from Alabama

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

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      @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 imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

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

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

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

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 

      9 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 

      9 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

      MaryBeth Walz 

      9 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 imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      Thanks Riverfish24

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan A 

      9 years ago from Malaysia

      @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


      9 years ago from United States

      Very useful hub! Nice work.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      9 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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