Choosing the right backpack

So, you’ve decided to go traveling and are now on the lookout for your mobile home. Yay! Congrats on getting this far.

Like always, the best way to go about this is to ask yourself a bunch of questions and really, come up with a shortlist of your must haves. Here’s some pointers.


In my opinion, I would roughly classify backpacks as below:

Home on Wheels: Yup, there is a whole class of backpacks that come with wheels these days. Though not as widely popular in the backpacker circuit, you do occasionally spot these. If you are considering one, keep in mind:

– the convenience comes at a cost. ie., they are likely to be heavier and rigid. Think about it, wheels need a frame to house them and in most cases are not detachable.

– the definition of roads (especially when traveling in Southeast Asia) is very loose. Dirt tracks, ditches, puddles, pot holes all make up so called roads.

Top load: this seems to be a popular choice among backpackers around the world. Of course this type is an also evolution from the original hiking, trekking style and stays true to its origin. The idea is pretty simple, stuff everything in and keep going until you can fit no more. Just, don’t think about having to pick anything out while on the road! They do make it a little convenient by adding outer pockets, I guess.

Front load: It opens like a suitcase, and has all the features of a top loading backpack. For some reason, there aren’t many brands that offer this kind. Which is a surprise, considering their efficiency and practicality. Oh, and don’t forget to get one with a day pack! These are a blessing in disguise.

Now that you’ve decided on a category, the next big decision is size. While this may not be as much of an issue if your backpack is on wheels, for the remaining two, it makes a huge difference.


2 Rules of thumb:

First: Travel light. Unless you are planning on tackling the remote Amazonian rain forest, chances are wherever you are going, there is people. Which by virtue, implies there’s going to be someplace that is going to sell what you are after. It may not be packaged the same, but trust me, if you look hard, you’ll find a close substitute.

That said, there’s still some essentials worth carrying. This may save you some cash at some point in your trip. It’s a balance. Figure out your ‘must haves’ from ‘nice to haves’. The latter in most cases, ends up on the reject pile when packing.

Second: No matter how much you need, or want, there’s only so much you can carry. This is especially true when traveling solo. This is also true, when traveling as a couple ( believe me, I know).

Note to couples: When deciding on the size, think of yourself. It may be the two of you, but in the end, remember, your backpack sits on your shoulders.


I’m not one for labels. But in this case, I would strongly recommend one. Osprey, Kelty, Deuter, etc., whichever it may be, pick one. My reasoning- Backpacks is still a niche market. There’s a reason these brands are recognized and there’s a whole lot of science that goes behind designing the specifics. From padding, to material, texture, zippers, the list goes on. While on the road, your backpack is going to see some rough handling and wear and tear. Do yourself a favor, shell out some cash and buy a good one.

Once you’ve worked out the above, the rest is simply a matter of preference and availability. Happy shopping!

Holding onto our day packs while our main packs are stowed under the seats.


There’s stores ( I went to REI, in the US) that are happy to help you decide and do a fitting for free. Make use of these. Buying online, it’s difficult to gauge the fit. No matter where you get yours from, figure out the return policy, just in case.

– Ensure your backpack comes with a warranty. Again, it’s going to see a lot of wear and tear. Most popular brands offer a lifetime warranty.

– Packing cubes especially those that offer compression are awesome. Get them.

One thought on “Choosing the right backpack

  1. We really didn’t think when we left on our 7 month trip last year and just bought the cheapest backpacks possible! Bad move. For our next trip we will definitely be investing! Good tips, especially the packing cubes 🙂


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