The Travel Backpack Mission
I’ve been on a mission to find a new backpack.
My old 75l is way too big for anything and I’ve been looking to get a new, smaller model.
Searching online however, it’s been really hard to uncover decent comparative reviews of backpacks for travel across a range of brands.
After hours of trying, I finally gave up and decided to hit the stores!
My efforts have been rewarded however and I returned triumphant after finding some really excellent options.
I’ve compiled this handy guide to the 5 best backpacks for travel following my research and to help others who might be on the same mission.
The bags are listed in alphabetical order, so read to the end to find out which bag I finally decided to choose!
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Key Travel Backpack Features
This list is based around models that we think are good for extended backpacking adventures. As such, the backpacks featured are …
- Big enough to fit a decent amount of stuff in, but not so big that they start becoming difficult to lift onto buses or generally get in the way. We’re big fans of less = more!
- Another key feature we look for in a decent backpacker bag is pockets and access, the more compartments and the easier to access them, the quicker it is to organise and find things when you’re living on the road.
- We’re also fans of clips and straps aka lashings, which allow you to attach outdoor items onto the outside of your bag, including yoga mats and tents. Backpacks with these sorts of features also score highly in our books.
- Lastly, we do like an adjustable harness or, at the very least, breathable straps and airflow features, which stop bags getting sweaty and smelly in all those tropical climates. Based on these factors, here are our 5 Best Backpacks for Travel.
I thought the expandable nature of this bag could be a real winner as it gives an added level of versatility to accommodate the inevitable – that is you will probably end up with more in your pack while you travel then when you started out!
Essentially the Berghaus Verden is a 45l bag, but there are 2 side pockets which both expand out to hold another 4l each, hence the added total of 8l extra space.
If you don’t fill the pockets however, they just lie flat and the space of the bag is reduced.
I was also very impressed with the harness on this bag, which is fully adjustable – a wonderful surprise on this size backpack because that sort of feature is useful reserved for larger packs.
While the Verden was one of the heavier bags I saw, weighing in at just over 2kg, I suspect this is down to the fact it had the most sophisticated harness system of any bag I looked at.
On discussion, I decided this was a weight increase that could be easily overlooked in lieu of the overall comfort an adjustable harness provides.
The Berghaus Verden 45+8 also has a great array of different pockets and a handy base compartment, which can either be incorporated as part of the main bag space or cordoned off with velcro and a zip to create a separate space.
Either way, this base opening means you can quickly get to stuff in the bottom or middle of the bag.
The Verden also comes with a fitted rain cover, a hydration system holder and adjustable side straps, which can be used to compress the bag’s contents or to attach handy yoga / sleeping mats to the outside.
I really liked the khaki colouring that I saw the model of this bag in and were equally impressed with its lightweight credentials (1.6kg) and ventilating straps.
It has an excellent number of pockets (8), as well as 2x main compartments that are accessible from the bottom and the top, as well as via an all-round zip at the front of the bag.
This is a really great feature, because it means you can lie the bag down and get access to the main compartment like a suitcase – very handy for disorganised packers!
The Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail 45 also offers compression straps on the sides and the base, as well as numerous lashing options for tying things into the outside.
Brilliant technology is utilised in their tear-resident fabric – although would be interesting to see how well this faired in reality!
The only thing that put me off this bag was the price ticket really, which was a little more than the other bags I looked at.
At 40l and the smallest bag I considered, the Kathmandu Incline XT model ensures you’ll never pack too much stuff – which is a godsend when you’re lugging the thing around for months!
The pack is really designed to be a mountaineering bag, with front pockets meant for ice tools and places to lash poles to the outside.
However, I also thought this bag would be totally suitable as a backpack number, not least because of the special GridTech fabric it utilises.
This is a common component used across many Kathmandu bags and would be great on backpacks for travel as it highly durable fabric that’s also water, UV and humidity resistant.
The graphite / orange colour scheme of this bag didn’t grab us, but I loved the roll top fastening, which is a big departure from the more typical top-lid design.
However, this bag can only be loaded from the top, meaning you have to rummaging through the entire contents to find things at the bottom – a bit annoying!
It was lightest bag I saw, at 1.5kg, but was also the smallest, so this was to be expected.
This pack comes with an incredible lifetime warranty, which is a pretty impressive guarantee if you’re planning on living out of / using your bag as much as we’ve done /will.
The North Face Terra 50 has a base compartment, as well as main compartment and 7 pockets total, including some handy front pockets.
There are also a couple of zip pockets in the waist-strap, which are great for stashing some loose money, bus tickets or sneaky snacks!
We like the sleek, vertical look of this bag, its lightweight credentials (1.7kg) and the padded harness is good, although not fully adjustable.
The price is reasonable, but the lack of rain cover or lashings meant it was just lacking those few additional features that I really value.
I loved the adjustable harness on this bag, as well as the padded and ventilating shoulder straps – so good for sticky hikes!
There are 8 pockets on the Osprey Atmos 50, which is a great number and the hipbelt ones are really handy, but there’s no side pockets or base compartment, which is a big letdown.
The bag is light at 1.54kg, but doesn’t come with a rain cover and is only loadable from the top.
We also weren’t massive fans of the Osprey’s bright colour range either and really only liked the black, which unfortunately wasn’t in stock.
Given this is one of the more expensive bags I saw, it didn’t make our shortlist.
And the Best Backpack for Travel Goes To…
So you might have guessed, but out of all the backpacks for travel we looked at, the Berghaus Verden 45+8 was the boy’s overall top pick.
The Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail 45 was a close second, but it just didn’t have the superior harness feature of the Berghaus and it was more expensive.
We think the Verden really had it all in terms of access points and pocket numbers. It’s a good size and the expandable pockets are such a great design feature. I feel a bit biased because my bag is a Berghaus too – so I know how good quality they are – but I do love those expandable pockets on my bag and certainly know how much use you can get out of them.
We feel the Berghaus Verden 45+8 really is the best backpack for travel and as you can tell, the boy was very pleased with his new birthday present!
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