Over the past few years, my mode of transport has fluctuated between flights, buses, overnight trains, hitchhiking, motor-bike trips, 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 in a rickety bus, and eat at someplace disgusting. But while buying the travel gear, or more importantly a backpack, I make no compromises. A proper gear makes your travel easier and helps you feel more confident. Hence, no compromises.
But I wasn’t like that always!
I remember the first time I bought a backpack (some 5 or 6 years ago), 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, or perhaps more than a year, it never made my journeys any easier. But that was my rookie self. Now after years of travelling, I’ve seen and tried many backpacks and learnt what works and what doesn’t.
So if you’re looking to buy a perfect travel backpack, but aren’t sure from where to start, keep reading…
Before I get into my list of suggested travel backpacks, here are some important tips you need to keep in mind when deciding what size and features are right for you.
You can click the below links to jump ahead at any time, although I do recommend you read this entire post so you don’t miss any important tips!
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
Front + Top Loader: It is always a good idea to buy a backpack which opens from the front as well as the top. Why? For ease of use. The first backpack I ever bought was one of those tall, cylindrical looking 50 litres that only allowed me a top-loading option. 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 look for even the tiniest of objects much easier. 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 any lockable zips, which means you cannot lock or secure them, without you have them plastic-wrapped (as you do at airports). But that’s not the convenient way to travel, so make sure each compartment in your backpack has two zippers which can overlap and lock together.
Padded Straps and Back Support: Because comfort is the most important thing while carrying a heavy backpack, it’s important that its straps and hip belt are padded and adjustable. A good, ergonomic, padded shoulder straps will make the weight sit comfortably, and prevent straps from cutting into you. Similarly, a lumbar back support improves your posture by keeping your spine in a neutral arch and distribute weight more evenly.
Warranty: Though it is very unlikely that you’re going to use the warranty and get your bag repaired at all, a long warranty, however, can be a sign of quality and long-lasting gear. And then, it’s always nice to have a back-up. Knowing that your backpack has a 10 or 20 years warranty will moreover help you feel confident in carrying it the way you want.
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, about 5-6 tees, about 3 pairs of pants and a few other items, you don’t need anything bigger than 40, or maximum 50L.
Most long-term travellers have between 40-60L packs. This seems to be about the perfect size for all needs. Make sure you do not get tempted to buy anything over 60L. 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. I promise.
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 to travel as light as possible, and more importantly – to avoid excess baggage fees in flights. Yes, a 30-35L backpack gets a green ticket for carrying it as your cabin baggage – meaning you could save a few extra bucks, every time you fly, by not paying any money on the check-in baggage! Pretty sweet, yea?
Well, most decent backpacks are priced between 1,500-7,000 Rupees. For less than 4 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 recent backpack costs about 4 thousand Rupees, but I’ve bought a few others that cost between 1000-3000 Rupees as well.
As a long-term traveller, I now wanted something that is fairly better in quality, so I was happy to spend more on added extras (though I still didn’t invest too much, you see!). So if I were to suggest anything, I’d say, find a backpack which only serves your needs, do not look for anything fancy, as you definitely won’t need one of those high-tech Japanese technologies embedded on it.
- If you’ve just started travelling, buy something between 1500-3000 Rupees and under 30-50L. 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. Front loading and lockable zips are a must. Do not go over 60L, you won’t need it.
In no particular order, here is my list of 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: For the 1,800 Rupees price, this backpack seems like a real bargain, and I recommend this to newbie travellers. It’s loaded with features included adjustable padded straps, chest strap, side handles, interlocking zips and compression straps. The only problem is, it’s only top-loading. Check it out on Amazon here
FORCLAZ TREKKING BACKPACK 50L: Practical for both occasional hiking and travelling, this backpack offers you many features like 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 a front loading and comes with an impressive 10-year warranty – meaning you can totally rely on its toughness. Check it out on Amazon here.
Wildcraft Trailblazer: This is probably the bestselling backpacks 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. Check it out on Amazon here.
Wildcraft HypaDura 45 L: Wildcraft HypaDura has it all. Front-loading access, compression straps, high ventilation, flexible back-systems and zip-away straps which 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. Check it out on Amazon here.
And here’s one for laptop + camera bag…
Lowepro Fastpack DSLR 150 AW: Before I start, let me tell you that I’m a fan of LowPro camera bags, and have been using them since I’ve started travelling. However, this is the camera bag 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. Check it out on Amazon here.
And with that said, good luck choosing the perfect backpack! Should you have anything to add or ask, leave me a comment below!
Further Reading: What I Pack For My Travels