Picking your backpack
Selecting a backpack is based on your personal style and travel habits. Some prefer light, comfortable backpacks but plan shorter trips, flashpack or travel at a slower pace. Others prefer a heavier, industrial style pack that can handle the elements and endure wear and tear. The options and styles of backpacks are continuously growing and changing.
Size matters! When selecting a backpack, size matters. Do not pick a backpack that is bigger than you, since you most likely won’t be able to lift it or go far when its fully packed. It might be tempting to get a larger size with the mindframe of wanting to pack everything, but just like travelling people tend to overpack.
Choose straps that will be comfortable. If the straps are too big, it might be uncomfortable and painful during long treks. Padded straps are recommended and becoming a norm with newer backpacks. Purchasing a backpack with a padded hip strap, shoulder strap and possibly a chest strap can make the backpack quite comfortable to carry around. The padding helps spread out the weight and doesn’t put extra burden on your already sore body.
There are three options with frames: internal, external and no frame. External frames are bulky, heavier are not necessary for the beginner backpacker.
This section is broken down into:
- Best Top-Loading Backpack
- Best Panel Loading Backpack
- Best Convertible Backpack
- Best Female Backpack
- Best Child Backpack
This is the most common style used by backpackers. These types of backpacks are not meant for world travel, but are used for long trips. They are lightweight, comfortable, waterproof options.
|Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack||50.8 liters||Read Reviews|
|Mozone Lightweight Hiking Daypack||40.0 liters||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Packs Kestrel||48.0 liters||Read Reviews|
|High Sierra Titan Frame Pack||54.9 liters||Read Reviews|
|HBAG Discovery 80L 5400ci Internal Frame Camping Hiking Backpack||80.0 liters||Read Reviews|
|Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Multipurpose Backpack||Read Reviews|
- Durable: A decent top-loading pack is designed to withstand the elements.
- Drawstring opening: These packs are designed to last and to be waterproof. So things like zippers aren’t used.
- Comfort: These packs are built for comfort on long hikes and are made for the adventurous. Meaning long walks when moving locations are easier.
- Flexibility: These packs are probably the most versatile since they are purpose built for multi-day hike trips that allow for you to bounce between urban and natural landscapes.
- Waterproof: Another reason to love the design of a top-loading pack is the waterproof capabilities.
- Packing: The top-loading feature can make packing and unpacking a pain. Meaning if something is in the bottom of your pack, you better start digging.
- Checked baggage: These bad boys can be large and often can’t fit in overheads meaning you get hit with additional baggage fees.
- Straps: The straps hang all over the place. They might be helpful for hiking the Rockies, but not so helpful when throwing under a coach bus.
- Awkward: They’re designed for riding on your back, not for waiting on a metro platform. My top-loading pack is wonderful on my back, but due to its shape can not stand upright on its own.
Sore thumb: With a top loading pack on there is almost no chance of looking like a local. You’re pretty much pegged for being a tourist right off the get-go, which can be a nuisance.
Best Top Loading Backpack 2017
Keltey Redwing 50 Backpack
Take flight with the best-selling pack in our lineup: the Redwing. The Redwing 50 features PerfectFIT™ suspension for on-body adjustments to customize your fit in seconds. Hybrid-loading U-zipper design works as both a top loader and panel loader, allowing easy access to all your gear. An additional stash pocket on the front of the pack makes it easy to tuck away a jacket or hoodie, and inside we’ve updated the organizers for maps, electronics, pens, and other travel essentials. The hydration sleeve is a dual-use pocket that can carry a laptop without worries. LightBeam™ single aluminum stay and Dynamic AirFlow back panel keep your load stable and comfortable.
- Redwing is a tried & true trail value for all day hikes or a quick overnight, a true multipurpose pack from international travel to a day on the trail
- Perfect Fit Suspension supplies you w/ customized comfort without the hassle, accurate on body adjustments w/ 3 simple steps for pack fitting success
- Features: Top Loading,Zippered side pockets, front pocket w/ organization, Stretch front pouch, Hydration Compatible
- Suspension Features: Perfect Fit Suspension, HDPE frame sheet, Hex Mesh back panel, ventilating back , Sternum strap, Load lifter strap
- Dimensions: Size (L x W x D) 26 x 16 x 12 in, Weight 3 lbs 11 oz, Volume 50 L, Torso Size 15.5 – 21 in
- Pockets: 1 interior slip, 7 interior zip
Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack
The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a jack-of-all-trades. With a separate zippered sleeping bag compartment and external sleeping pad straps, it’s a fully functional overnight pack. Or cinch down the StraightJacket side compression straps and take it out for a day of peak bagging in the high country. Whatever you put inside, Osprey’s LightWire frame transfers the load to a comfortable spacer mesh harness and hipbelt. This innovative suspension system ensures all-day carrying comfort, especially in warm conditions when the Airscape mesh backpanel comes into play. When it comes time to unpack, the main compartment has top loading or side zip access providing multiple portals to get at your gear without struggle.
- Osprey’s stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment is designed to quickly attach and carry trekking poles while wearing a pack
- An integrated and removable rain cover protects your gear from foul weather. It stows away in its own external pocket at the bottom of the pack
- An external reservoir sleeve is located behind the shoulder harness Allowing easy Loading/unloading of a hydration reservoir
- The zippered sleeping bag compartment provides easy access to your sleeping bag through the bottom of the pack
- Side zippered access allows easy accessibility to the inside contents of the pack’s main compartment
High Sierra Titan 65 Frame Pack
Titan 65 is our newest 65-liter, top-load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid. Also features a front-load sleeping bag compartment with divider. S-shaped ERGO-FIT shoulder strap harness with load-lifters adjust to fit regular size torso. High-density foam padded back panel, with large AIRFLOWÖ channels and uniquely contoured internal frame structure, helps keep your back cool and dry. Hinged front pocket, with mesh side gussets, can hold ropes or other gear. Lightweight nylon fabric sports convenient webbing daisy chain on the front, padded grab handles on both sides and a removable media pocket attached to the backpack strap. Also included is an internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube (reservoir not included). Adjustable side and bottom compression straps and adjustable sternum strap stabilizes pack. Soft lashing hardware holds ice ax/hiking poles. Dual mesh pockets hold 1000ml water bottles. Convenient zippered pockets on padded waist belt are ideal for quick- reach items.
- Drawstring Zipper closure
- 8″ high
- 16″ wide
- 65 liter top load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube (reservoir not included)
- Front load sleeping bag compartment with divider
Designed similar to travel suitcases/baggage, they fully unzip to give you easy access to your gear. They often have straps that can be hung or placed ontop of shelves, making this a popular option for on the go travelers. The backpacks are designed to meet baggage requirements and are quickly become a staple in backpacking through Europe.
|Kelty Redwing 32 Liter Backpack||32 liters||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Daylite Backpack||13 liters||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Packs Talon 22 Backpack||22 liters||Read Reviews|
|Black Diamond Speed 30 Outdoor Backpack||32 liters||Read Reviews|
|Black Diamond Sonic Pack||24 liters||Read Reviews|
- Size, not having to worry about having to check your bag is a big plus. The majority of these packs are designed to be carry-on friendly.
- Easy access, with a compartment that fully opens to give you access to your clothes and whatever else you carry. This is the big one, making packing and unpacking a breeze.
- Side handles, this may seem like such a small thing, but as a frequent traveler, I can attest it is not. A side handle makes hopping on off public transportation, running through the airport, or just carrying your pack around much easier. You do not need to worry about clubbing that woman behind on the subway with your massive pack on.
- Compartmented, these packs have more compartments built in so you can organize your stuff much better.
- Comfort, the design of these packs is both a positive and negative much like the top-loading packs. In order to keep a low profile, the back straps are often thinner and not as comfortable. Ouch.
- Zippers, the biggest weak point on panel loading packs is the use of a zipper as the main way to access your goods, meaning they run the risk of breaking over time. Especially on a particularly rough trip.
- Weight distribution, these packs are similar in shape to a suitcase and not exactly good for long distances on your back. The ergonomics and weight distribution just aren’t there.
Best Panel Loading Backpacks
Kelty Redwing 32
A sized-down version of Kelty’s best-selling Redwing with all the features and organization needed for around-town travel or a day on the trail. With a full-access U-zipper, the Redwing works both as a top-loader and a panel loader, adding convenience to any adventure. The multi-purpose padded sleeve will protect sensitive items and also doubles as a hydration sleeve. Water bottle pockets and zippered side pockets keep everything you need organized and easy to get to. HDPE frame sheet makes up the frame while the dynamic airflow back panel and AirMesh shoulder straps and lumbar pad keep the ventilation going. Waist belt can be tucked away when not in use.
- Volume: 1900 cubic Inch (32 L)
- Weight: 2 lb. 8 oz. (1.13 kg)
- Hybrid loading with top or panel loading options
- Hydration compatible
- Suspension: One Size
Osprey Talon 22 Backpack
The ever popular Talon Series has truly become Osprey’s legacy pack and has defined the pack category of lightweight, high-performance, multi-sport packs. While updating these packs for 2014, Osprey was careful to maintain all of the features, fit and style that have contributed to this series’ success. Updates include lighter weight and design adjustments to enhance comfort in each volume.
- Located between the Talon backpanel and main pack body is an exterior hydration compartment
- The BioStretch gender specific built-in hipbelt is a mesh covered, die cut slotted hipbelt featuring zippered stretch mesh pockets
- The adjustable Biostretch gender specific harness consists of mesh covered, die cut foam with sewn in spacer mesh, a stretch woven harness pocket and an adjustable sternum strap with rescue whistle
- Panel loading main compartment access with zippered mesh backpanel pocket.
- The Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment is designed to conveniently stow your poles when not in use.
Black Diamond Sonic Pack
Black Diamond Men’s Sonic Pack ErgoActiv suspension with OpenAir back panel Zippered panel access Soft, breathable 3D mesh on hipbelt and shoulder straps Hipbelt stash pocket, side stretch pockets, and front cord compression and storage Retractable trekking pole/ice axe loop, bike light slot, hydration compatible Also available as women’s-specific Chase The SPECS Material: 210d nylon ripstop, 400d nylon twill The SPECS for Medium Volume: 1465 cubic inches / 24 liter Average Stock Weight: 2 lbs 6 oz / 1.08 kg The SPECS for Large Volume: 1587 cubic inches / 26 liter Average Stock Weight: 2 lbs 7 oz / 1.11 kg
- ergoACTIV suspension with OpenAir backpanel and SwingArm shoulder straps
- Zippered panel access opens wide for quick access to layers and food
- Soft, breathable 3D mesh on hipbelt and shoulder straps
- Hipbelt stash pocket
- Side stretch pockets for water bottles, maps and more
|eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Packs Meridian 60L/22" Wheeled Luggage||Read Reviews|
|Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack||Read Reviews|
This is targeted to a small market of travellers. The packs have no real similar design to set them apart from other backpacks. There are packs to suit each style of traveller, from a person who is going on a short distance to a long distance traveller. These bags are meant to offer comfort and durability over style.
Best Convertible Backpack
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible
The eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle Travel section in December 2009: …Best-of-field award for design, materials and value.Quite possibly the last Travel Pack you may ever need, this Carry-on Convertible is loaded with smart features; If your laptop’s middle dimension (width is no more than 11.75, and the longest dimension (length is between 10.0 and 19.0, the Laptop Sling will adjust for a perfect fit, expandable compartment, contoured Airmesh backpack straps, travel organizer, fold down shelf, the list goes on and on – and at 3.7 lbs, it’s amazingly light weight.
- Guaranteed for life under the eBags Lifetime Warranty
- This ultimate carry-on travel backpack includes tons of organizational details and a laptop compartment
- Main compartment is 21.5″ H x 5.5″ D x 13 to 14 W and front compartment is 21.5″ H x 3 to 5 D x 13 to 14 W
- Full expansion zipper adds over 10 percent of packing space for all those treasures you pick up along on your journey
- eBags patent-pending Laptop Sling adjusts to securely cradle laptops sized up to 11.75 x 19
Osprey Packs Meridian 60L/22″ Wheeled Luggage
Osprey’s Meridian 60L/22 inch is a traveling chameleon. This wheeled duffel bag is sized to fit perfectly in the overhead compartment and rolls effortlessly through the urban landscape on the rugged HighRoad chassis. But when you reach the end of the civilization, unzip the rear panel to reveal technical backpack suspension. A mesh backpanel provides outstanding ventilation while mesh covered hipbelt and shoulder straps cushion your load on the trail. The suspension system is highly adjustable to fit a wide range of torso sizes and can be removed entirely to add more packing capacity when you need extra volume. Inside the main compartment, you’ll find four zippered side pockets to keep your gear organized. Internal compression straps hold everything in place during transit.
- Lightweight, high-rolling clearance chassis provides maneuverability
- A comfortable harness for backpack style carry with torso adjustability, stows in the rear panel pocket and is removable for additional storage room
- A detachable daypack for day trip adventures includes a 15″padded laptop sleeve, padded tablet sleeve
- Dual tube extended handle for extra control of large loads on rough surfaces
- Rear panel pocket holds magazines and an ID card window helps you quickly spot your bag on the luggage carousel
Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack
A military-inspired backpack with a slim, urban profile, the Rogue samples went fast in the Timbuk2 office. Clean on the outside, the Rogue is rather clever on the inside. A stretchy, air mesh laptop sleeve keeps your laptop safe and cool and internal organization provides a place for pens and power cords. On the outside, its cushy straps are super comfortable and come with a bottle opener for hydrations emergencies. And as a nod to the hardcore, daisy-chain webbing provides attachment points for your U-lock, carabiners or more serious strap-on accessories.