Getting the right backpack before you leave can be difficult, we spent a lot of time researching, trying, and changing until we got it right. Here is what we learnt to make your life easier.
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Big Zip! Aka Front Loading:
Get a backpack that opens completely from top to bottom, (as opposite to the top loading, where you only have a hole at the top of the bag), as it makes your life so much easier when looking for something! No need to empty the whole bag everytime you are looking for a pair of socks.
Waterproof Material Is Best
Rain (especially in Asia during the rainy months) will not do you any favour and at the end of the day, dry clothes always help! Also, if you carry electronics do not take that chance. If your backpack is not completely waterproof, no problem, you can easily find good waterproof covers.
Cheap looking or lock it all?
For us, it depends on the situation (and what you have in your bag too!).
If you have a choice between stealing two backpacks, you’ll of course go for the branded one, with a lock on, and whatever will make it look like what’s in is a jackpot. To reduce the chances of getting robbed, pretend it does not have any value. Keep your electronics and valuables in your daypack that you can easily carry around. That works well when chances are to get your whole bag stolen (in public transportation for example). However when there are more chances to get your belongings stolen from your bag (hostels for example), a lock should do the job.
When you pick your backpack, make sure it has two zippers so you can lock them together if you need to. Regarding the lock, make sure it is TSA ( Transportation Security Administration) -friendly so they can open your bag if they need to control it, without breaking it. Anyway, those are advices and does not mean it will not happen, so keep your valuables on you and have an insurance too!
Loads of pockets and compartments
The more compartments the merrier! You will be able to find your things more easily by organise them in their own “spots”.
Padded hip belt and shoulders straps
The weight of the backpack will be pushing down so you want to divide it on your body, as well as make it as comfortable as possible. This will minimise back pain, and the little plus: The hip belt creates a small space between you and your bag, which allows air to pass through and help you stay cooler.
Pick a backpack with an Internal frame
You can find bags with internal and external frames, as per below.
Internal Frame VS External Frame
We would highly recommend to opt in for an internal frame, here’s why: first of all, its structure allows it to be closer from your back, and so allows your center of gravity to stay closer to its natural position. Its straps can be more easily adjusted, and allow different body types to wear it. The bag itself is way more compact as it is usually made of plastic of thin aluminium, it makes it also more flexible which increases comfort.. It is also lighter, while the internal capacity is larger.
Try to get a backpack that allows you to pack away the shoulder straps.
Indeed, if you don’t and need to check in your bag, most airlines will have to register it as an irregular luggage. Save yourself some hassle and make sure nothing hangs loose.
There is no perfect size, however you need to be able to carry it comfortably! The backpack needs to be proportional to your body, in order for the weight to be divided and balanced on your body. Backpacks can go from 5L to 85L, but we would not recommend more than 70L as it then becomes VERY heavy.
Also, the bigger the backpack, the less chances you will be able to bring it as a hand luggage in the airplane, so you need to consider this as well.
The more room you have, the more things you will put in it (that are not needed!). You also need to keep a minimum of extra space if you get things while away!
On our side, we tried a 40L backpack, and we found it was slightly too small while travelling. 60L on the other hand, was just too big (almost bigger than me!). Finally, we ended up with a 40L backpack, and a 15L day-bag (that you can attach to), with some room left in. It was perfect.
It is always extremely handy to have a smaller backpack to carry around while your bigger one stays behind. Many backpacks have a daypack zipped into it directly. It is great as you can keep it that way, detach it and take it with you, or hook it on the front of it (so you can carry them both with your valuables in front of you to avoid thefts, as well as balance the weight).
Where To Buy The Best Backpack:
Compare features and prices on websites, opt for one that has a return policy in case you are not comfortable, or just so you can buy a couple and return the ones that don’t fit. Of course, you can also go directly in shops to try them on (we would recommend small to medium sized shop with knowledgeable staff). To try it on properly with a few good kilos, so you can feel how your body and the bag work together. Don’t forget to adjust the stripes. Once you picked your final backpack, fill it up with the things you are actually going to bring and go for a short walk. Do you feel fine? Can you move and pick it up easily? If not, you might want to reconsider the amount of things you are bringing (we always take too much, I had to redo my bag 5 times over 2 weeks in order to finally get it done!).
Planning your trip? Read how to pick your travel insurance, and the things they don’t tell you!