Choosing a backpack for travelling

How to choose the perfect backpack for travelling

As soon as we’d made the decision to go travelling I knew one of the first things I would need would be a good backpack. Choosing a backpack for travelling can be tricky, I spent hours researching online before choosing mine. With so many different brands, sizes, shapes, colours and prices the choice can be a bit bewildering! In the end I settled on an Osprey Farpoint 55 and, long story short, I love it! Read on to find out how to choose the perfect backpack for travelling.

Find a backpack with these essential features

Choosing a backpack for travelling - Padding

Look at all that lovely padding

There are a few things any backpack you select will need, don’t dive in without checking these off the list first:

1. Lockable zippers – These are essential not just to stop your stuff getting stolen but also to stop people sneaking things IN to your backpack when you’re travelling. Buy a good padlock to go with your backpack too!

2. Waterproofing – Most backpacks have some level of waterproofing but it’s worth checking that yours is sufficient for your needs. We were travelling through Asia during the rainy season and got caught in a few downpours! I’ve never had a problem with any of my stuff getting wet inside my Osprey.

3. A padded hip belt – This will be a godsend when you have to walk any significant distance with your backpack. Your shoulders will thank you!

4. A padded back cushion and padded shoulder straps – As above really, don’t scrimp on the padding, you will definitely regret it! Lisa and I have occasionally walked a few miles with ours and it’s pretty tough going even with a really comfortable backpack.

Decide how much you want to spend (and stick to it)

It’s important to decide on a budget before beginning your search. If not you’ll end up finding your dream backpack is 3 times more than you want to spend! My budget was a maximum of £100 but obviously if I could find something for less then all the better. I’d say there’s a cut-off point on being able to buy a quality backpack that will last years and going for a cheap option that might fall apart after 6 months. Equally I would never spend more than £150 on a backpack. For something as important to your travel plans as this I’d say it’s worth paying a little more up front and having the confidence that it will last.

Choose the size to suit your needs

Choosing a backpack for travelling - Size IS important

Size IS important, think carefully before you choose!

There are a number of sizes to choose from when selecting a backpack and it can be difficult to decide what’s best for you. It’s tempting to go big but remember you’re going to be carrying this around with you everywhere you go. If you overpack it will be very hard work and can leave you dreading every time you have to put it on to move to your next destination. This is a very personal choice so you’ll need to weigh up (see what I did there?) the pros and cons of any size you pick.

I went for a 55 litre which has been perfect for my needs. The Farpoint has a 45 litre main compartment and a 10 litre day pack that detaches and has been invaluable for any day trips we go on. I’ve found that it easily holds everything I need and even when full it’s not too heavy to carry around. It weighs around 16kg when fully packed up which is also comfortably below the majority of airlines weight limit of 20kg. Lisa has a 65 litre Berghaus backpack and it can be difficult for her to carry sometimes, we often end up swapping for long journeys. Lisa’s weighs closer to 18kg and even this small difference makes it much harder work over long distances.

Find the correct shape for your body type

Choosing a backpack for travelling - Get down to your local store and try some on!

Get down to your local store and try some on!

This is probably the biggest decision to make. There’s nothing worse than having a backpack that’s uncomfortable to wear. You might be stuck with it for a long time! The only way to really test a backpack for this is to go to a local shop and try a few on. I tried the Osprey Farpoint (as well as quite a few others) on in my local Blacks store in Cheltenham and straight away could tell it was really comfortable. It’s a unisex fit so in theory it should be comfortable for males and females. There are also a few female specific fit backpacks out there which could be more comfortable if you’re a girl. Backpacks often come in different sizes for a better fit too. I’m 5’10” and have the medium/large size which works well for me. Lisa is 5’5″ and sometimes struggles with her larger Berghaus, she finds mine comfortable when we switch though!

Choose the type of backpack you want

Choosing a backpack for travelling - I love my travelpack

I love my travelpack

There are two main types of backpacks. The traditional type with a hole at the top to put everything in and the ‘travelpack’ type. My Farpoint is a ‘travelpack’. This means that the whole top compartment unzips and opens like a suitcase. I would highly recommend this type of backpack to anyone planning long-term travel, it makes packing and unpacking so much easier! You’ll no longer lose things buried at the bottom as frequently happens with a traditional backpack and it makes packing up and moving on much less of a chore. The straps also pack away into a zipped compartment on the back which is great for taking it on a plane.

Most travelpacks will also come with a detachable daypack. These are really useful and the daypack that comes with the Osprey is excellent. Lisa and I both have daypacks but we much prefer the Osprey. It’s comfortable and has a few different compartments that have been really useful compared to the basic one that comes with Lisa’s Berghaus.

Go with a well known brand

Choosing a backpack for travelling - Brands

There are a number of different brands to choose from when selecting a backpack. I didn’t have any particular brand loyalty but I did want to be sure that I was buying something that would last a long time. There are a few well-known brands that should make products that will last. Osprey, Berghaus, and Kathmandu all have an excellent reputation for quality products, if you’re in the US I’ve also heard good things about REI. As I’ve mentioned Lisa has a Berghaus and it has lasted very well so far. You should be fine with any reasonably well-known brand, but I’d be cautious around budget brands or heavily discounted items as you may find these don’t last at all.

I hope this helps in your search for the perfect backpack! I’m really happy with the choice I made and would definitely recommend the Osprey Farpoint 55 to anyone still struggling to make a decision.

Take care,



Do you have any tips on choosing a backpack for travelling? We’d love to hear them in the comments below 🙂

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