If you’re a regular traveller, you’ll know the importance of a backpack.  A backpack is so much more versatile and convenient than a suitcase for the serious traveller.

A backpack is smaller, easier to carry, suitable for every kind of trip and it can take much more abuse on the world’s various public transport systems!

But with so many backpacks on the market, it can be confusing to know what to look for. Here’s our guide to what to look for in a great traveller backpack.

Should I Get a Big or a Small Backpack? Does Size Matter?

Many people automatically choose a big backpack for travel. While it’s important to choose a backpack that can fit in everything you need, it’s much more essential to find a backpack that suits your body size.

If it’s too big, the weight will be distributed unevenly, and this can cause back problems or even make you topple over while walking.

The way to choose the right size is to try them on, preferably with weight added, to see how it feels.

First and foremost, it must feel comfortable on your back, at the same time as having enough room for everything you need to carry.

Ideally, leave a little extra space for all the keepsakes you’ll want to bring back from your travels.

Backpack size is measured in litres. 50-55 litres should be fine for a woman, and 60-65 litres for a man, as men will generally need a little more space due to their bigger clothes and shoes.

It’s also worth remembering that a backpack that is too big or heavy won’t be allowed in the cabin of a plane, and you’ll have to check it in like a suitcase. 30-45 litres is generally acceptable as hand luggage.

What Material Should the Backpack Be?

The material should be lightweight and durable. Even if it’s not 100% waterproof, a travelling backpack should at least be water resistant, in case you get caught in a downpour.

Wet, smelly clothes aren’t what you want on your travels, after all.

Two of the most popular and practical backpack materials are rip-stop nylon and cotton canvas. Both of these are water resistant, hard wearing and light to carry.


Obviously, security is a huge priority in a backpack for travellers. Here are some of the main features you should be looking for:

  • Lockable zips. Each compartment should have two zips that you can lock with a padlock, to protect your valuables from opportunistic thieves.
  • Reinforced straps. Many backpacks now have toughened straps. This makes it more difficult for a thief to cut through, while still being lightweight.
  • RFID blocking technology. This is something you really should consider due to the rise in digital theft. Digital thieves carry equipment that can read the information contained in the chips on your bank card and passport. A backpack with RFID blocking panels allows you to carry these items without the risk of your money, or even your identity, being digitally stolen.

Is Comfort Important When Buying a Backpack?

The perfect trip backpack is the one that you can carry the most comfortably, even over long distances. Ideally it should have the following features for comfort and ease of carrying:

  • Internal frame. Most backpacks these days have an internal frame, usually made of hard wearing plastic, as opposed to the old-style traveller backpacks with external metal frames. An internal frame is definitely a priority as it makes your backpack slimmer, lighter and easier to carry.
  • Lumbar support: Look for a backpack that is curved to fit into your back rather than straight, as this will prevent the pack from jarring your back as you walk. The curved part should also be padded for maximum comfort, support and breathability.
  • Hip belt. Over time as you travel, you will be increasingly glad of a hip belt on your backpack. This protects your back by preventing all the weight from being distributed across your shoulders. Make sure the hip belt is adjustable to suit your size and the weight of the pack.
  • Padded straps. The shoulder straps and hip belt should be as thickly padded as possible. This will make your backpack more comfortable over long distances, and take some of the pressure off your back and shoulders.

The Backpack Design

Backpacks come in two main styles: travelpacks and toploaders. A travelpack opens at the front like a suitcase. Toploaders, as the name suggests, open via a flap at the top and fasten with drawstrings. Ultimately, the style you choose is entirely down to your own preference.

Some other design features to consider include:

  • Separate compartments. These are a great idea as they allow you to keep your clean clothes separate from your dirty ones, and prevent your muddy shoes from coming into contact with your tech gadgets!
  • Compression/ expansion. These capabilities can come in handy if you regularly go on trips of different lengths, or if you’re likely to make a few purchases while you’re away.

Backpack Prices

You can expect to spend anywhere between £50 and £200 on a good traveller backpack. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best; usually £100 – £150 will get you a more than adequate backpack for your needs, but if you’re lucky you might find your perfect pack a lot cheaper than that.

Mountain Warehouse actually have a sale on as most brands would this time of year so it’s worth keeping an eye out for a cheeky deal. I got mine years ago and it’s been a trusty partner.

Ready to Buy Your Backpack?

Buying a backpack is all about personal preference, but you want one to last and have many adventures with you. Don’t rush the decision. Go online and read backpack reviews. Go into shops and try on as many backpacks as you like. Ultimately, the best backpack to buy is the one that feels right for you.

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