How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack

So what makes a backpack a good backpack? Let’s find out…

Over the past few years, my mode of transport has fluctuated between flights, buses, overnight trains, motorbikes, walking, you name it. And this has forced me to change my travel backpack quite a few times – sometimes because I was unsatisfied with the product, and sometimes because it no longer served my needs well.

When it comes to travelling I’m totally okay to adjust to the situation. I can sleep at an airport, travel on a rickety bus, and stay at a cheap hotel accommodation in India. But while buying the travel gear, I make no compromises. Superior travel gear makes travelling easier and more enjoyable. A good travel gear makes sure I enjoy

But I wasn’t always like that!

I remember the first time I bought a backpack for my Gangotri to Gomukh trek in Uttarakhand I bought it without a single thought. It had no padded straps, no hand rest, no waterproofing, and it was only a top loader. What’s worse is that it came with no warranty (I’ll tell you why the warranty is important for your backpack later in the article). Though I used it for many months, it never made my journey easy.

But that was my rookie self. Now, after years of travelling, I’ve seen and tried enough backpacks and have learned what makes a backpack a good backpack!

So if you’re looking to buy a perfect travel backpack, but aren’t sure from where to start, keep reading…

How To Find the Best Travel Backpack

Before I get into my list of suggested travel backpacks, here are some important tips you need to keep in mind while deciding what size and features are right for you.

You can click the below links to jump ahead at any time, although I recommend you read the entire post so you don’t miss something important!

Important Features To Look For In A Backpack
  Understand What Size Fits Your Needs
  How Much Should You Ideally Pay For A Backpack
  My Recommended Travel Backpacks

Important Features To Look Your In A Backpack!

Front + Top Loader: It is always a good idea to buy a backpack that opens from the front as well as the top. Why? For ease of use. The first backpack I bought was one of those tall, cylindrical looking 60 litres that only allowed top-loading. Though it looked really beautiful, the problem was, every time I had to take something out, which was kept right at the bottom (usually my sleeping bag), I had to empty out my entire backpack. It made backpacking literally tough until I switched to a front loader. Front loaders, like suitcases, allow you to open the front of the bag and spot things in your backpack fairly easily. And if you can just find a backpack which is a top + front loader, it’s even better.

Water Resistant: Even if you’re not a serious hiker, having some waterproofing for your backpack always comes in handy. There are hundreds of options to buy something that comes with a built-in rain cover or are made of water-resistant material. If not, it is best to buy an additional rain cover that fits your backpack.

Lockable Zips: Remember, almost 70 percent of budget hiking backpacks come without lockable zips. This means if you are flying, you cannot lock your bag. So make sure each compartment in your backpack has two zippers that can overlap and be locked together.

Padded Straps and Back Support: Because comfort is the most important thing while carrying a backpack, it’s important that while choosing a backpack you check that the straps and the hip belt are padded enough, and are adjustable. Good, ergonomic, padded shoulder straps will make the weight sit comfortably on your hips, and prevent straps from cutting into your shoulder. Similarly, lumbar back support improves your posture by keeping your spine in a neutral arch and distributing weight more evenly.

Warranty: Though in most cases, it is very unlikely to claim the warranty, having a long warranty, means the company is sure about the quality of the product. Hence, always invest in products that come with a warranty. It’s moreover nice to have a backup. Knowing that your backpack has a 10 or 20 years warranty will make you feel confident in carrying it the way you want.

Understand What Size Fits Your Needs

If you’re one of those people who always carry too much, then buy something bigger (definitely not too bigger though). But if you’re someone like me, who can spend a couple of months, with a bit of toiletry, a pair of shoes, 5-6 tees, and about a couple of pairs of pants you don’t need anything bigger than 50 or 60L.

Most long-term travellers have between 50-70L packs. This seems to be the perfect size for all needs. Make sure you do not get tempted to buy anything over 70L. Because you honestly will not need it. A backpack so big will only make you look like a clown – whether you keep it empty or miraculously full. So choose smaller, it will be worth it. Believe me.

And before you make your choice, remember this as the rule of thumb: Your pack should be proportional to your body size and weight.

Another interesting, yet smart idea to help you further make a choice: Many frequent backpackers also stick to the 30-35L range, as this helps them travel as light as possible, and more importantly – avoid check-in baggage. Low-frills airlines like AirAsia and FlyScoot, among others, charge for every piece of check-in luggage. So if you carry just one backpack no bigger than 35L, you can just shove it in the cabin.

How Much Should You Ideally Pay For A Backpack

Well, most decent backpacks are priced between 5000-15,000 Rupees.  For less than 7 thousand you can get a really decent pack. Don’t get tempted to buy the cheapest one, similarly, don’t buy something too experience either – particularly if you’re just starting travelling. My current backpack costs about 20 thousand Rupees (by Fjalraven Outdoors) but I’ve bought a few others in the past that cost between 3000-5000 Rupees as well.

As a long-term traveller, I now wanted something that is the best in class, so I was happy to spend a little more and get one of the best backpacks out there.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’ve just started travelling, you can get a good backpack for your use for about 5000 Rupees and under.
  • Get something no bigger than a 60L, unless you’re planning a few months-long trips.
  • Try to have a front-loading pack, with lockable zips. Give proper consideration to shoulder padding and adjustable waist belt.
  • If you travel often, buy something long-lasting. Make sure the backpack comes with at least 10 years or a lifetime warranty.

My Recommended Travel Backpacks

In no particular order, here is my list of the best travel backpacks for travel. This includes some of those that I’ve personally used and recommended, and some of those that I’ve seen in a store, perhaps even tried, but did not buy.

  • ARPENAZ 40 LITRES BACKPACK: This backpack is a great fit for those weekenders and newbie travellers without no special requirements. It comes with features including adjustable padded straps, chest straps, side handles, interlocking zips, and compression straps. The only problem is, it’s only top-loading.
  • FORCLAZ TREKKING BACKPACK 50L: Practical for both occasional hiking and travelling, this backpack offers you many features like a chest strap, load adjuster straps, hand rest and an adjustable back. What makes it better than other bags at this price tag, is that it’s front loading and comes with an impressive 10-year warranty – meaning you can totally rely on its toughness.
  • Wildcraft Trailblazer: This is probably the bestselling backpack in India by Wildcraft. Other than using it for myself for almost a year, I’ve seen at least a dozen other travellers using it, and none of them ever complained, except for the fact that it is also only a top-loader. But if you’re okay with it, it offers you a 50L space and two additional compartments. The hip belt and back padding is no less perfect either. If you’re looking for something that looks and feels good, and you’ve just started travelling, don’t feel scared of investing in Wildcraft Trailblazer 50L.
  • Wildcraft HypaDura 45 L: Wildcraft HypaDura has it all. Front-loading access, compression straps, high ventilation, flexible back systems and zip-away straps are great for flying. Its 6,500 Rupees price tag is well warranted. It moreover comes with a lifetime warranty, meaning this backpack is going to stay with you for at least a few good years.
  • Fjalraven Kajka: Made of Polyester and vinylal, the Fjalraven rucksacks are known for rough handling and still not deteriorating. I have used Fjalraven Kajka for backpacking in the Himalayas and as well as trekking, including a trek that lasted two weeks, treating it like a sack of potatoes and it proved to be a loyal friend. The rucksack came with more adjustable straps than any of the trekking rucksacks I have used so far. It is a front and a top loader and comes with a detachable hood.

And here’s one for a laptop + camera bag…

  • Lowepro Fastpack DSLR 150 AW: Before I start, let me tell you that I’m a fan of Lowepro camera bags and have been using them since I started travelling. However, Fastpack DSLR 150 AW is the one I’m using right now. The Fastpack series by Lowepro makes it super handy to take out your camera without taking the bag off your shoulder. Another commendable feature is the safety it provides to the camera, thanks to its perfect cushion padding. I’ve used this bag to carry my laptop and camera while hitchhiking, during bike expeditions and even while trekking, and it saved my stuff from every rough travelling possible. It is ideal to carry a DSLR (with attached lens) + 1 extra lens + a 12-inch laptop and a few accessories.

And with that said, good luck choosing the perfect backpack! Should you have anything to add or ask, leave me a comment below!

  1. Faisal Ansari

    It’s a great article but you missed one of the biggest bags manufacturers in India. Harrisonbags. lol. I work for them. Do check them out. They also have a discount running at the moment. 10% off on laptop and college bags.

  2. Joy Generoso

    I have a back problem, so definitely backpacking isn’t for me. However these are great tips! 🙂

  3. Mimi & Mitch

    This is great advice for those that are looking to buy their first backpack, we like to travel Carry on now, a little luggage isn’t too bad anymore if you’re not backpacking!

  4. Punita Malhotra

    That is a great, detailed guide on backpacks. It is so important to have the right one, because its going to be on your back all the time.

  5. Tom @ Adventurous Travels

    Cool tips! Choosing the right backpack is important. Once I went on a hiking trip in Slovenian Alps and I had a backpack with me which I had bought for a bit over 10 USD which had seemed an amazing bargain back then. However, right before we set off, the shoulder strap broke off completely and I had to beg the staff to borrow me some needles and threads to stitch it up. Thanks God they had it because the hike turned out to be difficult!

  6. Nice Post Dev. Should come in handy to a lot of people. Myself included. 😛

  7. These are useful tips Thanks for sharing this helpful information !

  8. Jithin Thomas

    Very informative article. I am planning to buy a new backpack and am sure this will help me

  9. thnx …helpful information

  10. Vidyasagar H

    Excellent guide for backpack buyer, thanks for sharing detailed information.

  11. i love when you say Understand What Size Bag Fits Your Needs. Useful tips brother.

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