Best Backpack for Travellers

by Olivier De Winne
Published: Updated: 0 comment

I have travelled for a very long time now and, as I said in my previous post (How To Travel For Free), I’m never going to try and save money when buying a backpack. A good backpack for travellers can make life easier.

A big travel backpack will be too heavy.  The perfect weight is between 7.5 kg to a maximum of 10 kg fully loaded. With a small travel backpack you are never going to have enough space for your belongings. I know some people travel very light with a 15 L backpack but for me this is too extreme.


After a long rainy day, it’s awful to discover all your clothes are wet because you chose a backpack made with the wrong material which isn’t water resistant. I’m going to outline all the different types of travel backpacks because there are a lot of different features between backpacks which can be intimidating.

Basically, this travel backpack will be your home; all your belongings will be inside. It is very important to have all the key information before you decide to buy one. I’m going to help you make the best choice for your travel requirements.

If you have decided to trek every day on your travels, you are not going to need the same travel backpack as someone who will never trek. Travellers interested in trekking should have an ultralight travel backpack.

When you are choosing a travel backpack, you need to take in consideration technology and comfort, not the price. It is important to have the right travel backpack with comfortable padded shoulder straps, water bottle holder and water resistance.

With a backpack, the most important problem you want to avoid back pain. You need to have a backpack that fits you and it is for this reason that manufacturers design different backpacks for men and women. Like a snail, you are going to carry your house on your back, so it needs to be adapted to your physiology.

It is an investment because you aren’t going to change it each year. You are going to travel with this backpack for many years and, if you chose it correctly now, you will not regret keeping it for many years to come.

During your travels, your backpack is the only thing you have. To save you a lot of time, I’m going to share with you the most important points to check when you are choosing a backpack.

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What is The Best Backpack for Travellers 2021?

The best Backpack for Travellers 2021 for men is: Osprey Atmos AG 50

The best Backpack for Travellers 2021 for women is: Osprey Women’s Aura AG 50

Best Backpack for Travellers by size including the best backpacks for men and the best backpacks for women.

Mini Backpack Cheap For Men: Osprey Talon 11 Men’s Hiking Pack

Do you want a backpack for day hiking which is going to bring you high performance and comfort? At the top of this category is the Osprey Talon 11 for men. It’s very light at 1.25 Kg with a capacity of 11 Litres. If 11 Litres is too small, then you could opt for the Osprey Talon 22 for just an extra of 250 grams in weight.

Mini Backpack Cheap For Men: Osprey Talon 22 Men’s Hiking Pack if you need more Room

Mini Backpack Cheap For Women: Osprey Tempest 9 Backpack

Women’s equivalent in this category. If you need more space, look below.

Mini Backpack Cheap For Women: Osprey Tempest 20 Backpack

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Best Carry On Backpacks For Men: Osprey Men’s: Quasar 28 Hiking Backpack

Osprey is one of my favourite brands of backpacks. They have a very good reputation as a manufacturer and you won’t be disappointed with an Osprey backpack.

For the first category, our recommendation is the Osprey Quasar 28. This is compact enough to be very practical on excursions or even for daily travel commuting. It’s one of the best backpacks for work.  This 28 L backpack has plenty of pockets and is also suitable for short weekends abroad. It is rated 4.5 out 5 stars by the backpacking community.

This backpack is big enough to carry on your clothes for a long weekend and has a specially designed sleeve which stores your electronics securely (padded laptop sleeve for laptop and tablet). You can organise all you are belongings inside in different compartments. Valuable items can be accessed easily from a dedicated compartment.

When you have the Osprey Quasar in your hands, you immediately feel the quality of the material used. You know this backpack will last for a long time.  It fits perfectly to your back and feels very comfortable.

In my experience of backpacks, Osprey provides the almost perfect backpack.  To improve it, Osprey could add an anti-theft system especially to the compartment where you store your most valuable things. However, an old fashion paper clip will do the job or you can add this TSA lock.

Best Carry On Backpacks For Women: Osprey Women Questa 27

This backpack is very similar to the men’s backpack but it’s adapted to a woman’s physiology. See above for review.

Best Carry On Backpacks second choice for men is: Deuter Futura Men’s Backpack.

As with Osprey, Deuter has a very good reputation when it comes to backpacks. This backpack is a 28 L size and is also perfect for day trips or short weekend breaks. This backpack has a lot going for it. 

In particular, we like its superb hip pads offering top-end comfort and support. It also has one of the most impressive Aircomfort Flexlite ventilation systems. You will always feel comfortable when wearing this backpack.  The body of the bag is separated from the support system and creates an amazing space to get airflow to your back.

For a simple daily commute or for a long weekend, this backpack will be a comfortable companion.

One small downside of this backpack is its weight of 1,180 kg which is heavy for a 28 L backpack. However, the support system is so great; perhaps you won’t mind the extra weight.

Included in the price is a rain cover and the backpack is also compatible with a hydration bladder. The water stays cool because of the excellent ventilation system.  When you open the backpack, you will find a large compartment.  This compartment can be divided in two to create two different sections.

In conclusion we rank this backpack as our second choice purely because of its extra weight, but it offers maximum comfort and is well ventilated.  The backpack comes with a rain cover as standard and is practical to use every day.

Best Carry On Backpacks second choice for women is: Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL

This backpack is very similar to the men’s backpack but it’s adapted to a woman’s physiology. See above for review.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For Men (40 – 50 L): Osprey Atmos AG 50

This backpack uses the latest technology from Osprey; a new gravity 3D suspended mesh back system. This system provides you with a new level of comfort when you are travelling. It’s one of the best backpacks for travel.  Even at full capacity, you will feel great wearing this backpack.

Thanks to the world’s first fully ventilated hip belt, the load will feel practically weightless on your back. However, don’t forget 10 kg is the recommended comfort weight limit when travelling with a backpack.

This inside of this backpack is very simple with a floating bottom to divide the compartment into two. It is a good idea to keep your rain coat on the top of the bag.

At the front of the bag, you have a flat pocket to store something fairly flat. I use it to stash my flip flops ready for when I need them. When wearing my flip flops, I can easily attach my trainers to the side of the bag using one of the straps.

A guide comes with this backpack explaining how to adjust your backpack according to your body shape. The first time you use your backpack, take time to do this properly. Arranging your belongings in this backpack is very easy. Just follow our packing advice as this backpack needs to be filled from the bottom to the top.

The Osprey Atmos AG 50 is the Off The Tourist Treadmill backpack of choice in this category. Once again, it is another example of why Osprey is number one in backpacks. With this backpack, you will be carrying your belongings in total comfort and limiting body sweat with its good ventilation system.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For women (40 – 50 L): Osprey Women’s Aura AG 50

The best travel backpack for women in this category is the Osprey Women’s Aura AG 50. In essence, this backpack is the same as the one described above but it’s adapted to a woman’s physiology.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 (40 – 50 L) second choice for men is: Deuter Futura Pro 40

This backpack also comes with a good ventilation system and is very comfortable to wear as well. The load is well distributed, and it comes with a rain cover as standard in an easy access pocket.

It has more pockets than the Osprey in the form of stretch pockets on the side and front for additional storage. It also has a useful pocket inside to keep your items safe. This backpack is also compatible with Deutler’s hydration system.

Finding the right fit according to the load of your backpack is easy with this backpack’s load adjustment straps. Easy and precise adjustments can also be made to the hip belt.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 (40 – 50 L) second choice for women is: Deuter Futura Pro 38 SL

Futura pro 38 SL is the same as the Pro 40 but for a woman’s fit.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For Men (50 – 70 L): Osprey Aether AG 70

If you need more capacity in your backpack, then this category is for you. The best choice in this category is the Osprey Aether AG 70.

This backpack is designed for multi-day backpacking and is able to carry significant loads. You get the multi-award-winning AG anti-gravity back system. This will allow you to travel in comfort even with significant weight on your back. This backpack is very comfortable to wear and the new system allows the load to be transferred to the legs.

When there are clouds in the sky there will be no need to worry, the Osprey Aether AG 70 includes a rain cover as standard (for Europe only).  At the front, you have an easy access pocket to store your rain coat and a zip to get access to your belongings.

Although non Europeans don’t have a rain cover as standard, you may have a top daypack. You can remove this daypack in 4 clicks. I love this feature because you can leave your main pack in you room and explore the city with the small backpack.

Needless to say, if you choose this Osprey backpack, you get the assurance of buying from a quality manufacturer.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For women (50 – 70 L): Osprey Ariel AG 65

Osprey Ariel AG 65 is the equivalent backpack to the AG 70 but is designed for a woman’s fit.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 (50 – 70 L) second choice for men is: Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 rucksack

Our second place choice in this category is the Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 rucksack.  This is a 65 L backpack with two extensions and a pocket on the side for a total capacity of 75 L. the Berghaus Wilderness does not have the same fixing system as the Osprey but it is easy to adjust with the BIOFITT back system. You will find a multitude of pockets to organise your backpack and a useful front zip to give you access inside your bag.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For Men (70+ L): Aether AG 85

This category is for serious trekking expeditions, where you need to carry a lot of travel gear.

The Osprey packs volt is the best in this category. It is very robust and can carry a significant load. The support system is especially designed for that. You can really challenge yourself with this backpack and it will keep up with you.

It is full of design features like Stow-on-the-go to attach your Trekking Poles to the pack quickly and access water bottles on the go.  It also has Powermesh pockets on the front and side and a useful pocket on each side of the hip belt. If you want to go on a big adventure, this backpack is definitely for you. You will have the backing of 40 years of Osprey experience in this backpack.

Best Backpack for Travellers 2021 For Women (70+ L): Osprey Xena 85

The women’s equivalent is the Osprey Aether AG 85.

Why Do I Need A Backpack And Not A Suitcase?

One of the benefits of a suitcase is that you can fold your clothes and open it out to see all your clothes, tech and accessories. Not so for the backpack.  With a backpack, you need to fold your clothes differently in order to distribute the weight evenly. 

You need to remember where you have put your clothes in the main compartment of your travel bags. You can use the compression straps to help you to keep your gear straight. Unlike a suitcase, you can’t open a backpack and see what is in the middle except for the Osprey Stratos or Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 rucksack.  With these backpacks, you have a front zip to gain access to the middle of the pack.

If you are travelling with a backpack, you need to be organised.  After several years, you will learn how to organise a backpack more efficiently and you will notice that you are travelling lighter. You are going to realise that a backpack can be very well-organised.  At your disposal, you will have a lot of pockets where you can store your water bottle, torch, pens, etc.  You won’t need to keep track of each item because they will have a place and you will know exactly where they are when you need them.

As we all know, you need to use the right tool for the right job. A suitcase is for carrying your belongings from point A to B rather than moving to multiple destinations. Imagine yourself in Vietnam, in the middle of the traffic with a suitcase! When you are backpacking, you are always moving from one point to another.  During your day, you will need to take a bus, a train or a tuc-tuc so you need to have something for your belongings which is easily transportable.

With a backpack on your back, your hands are still free to take a photo or ask for directions (I talk a lot with my hands!) It is also very easy to climb stairs or steep streets. Backpacking also means that you can walk to find your bus or the train station.

Also, a good backpack lasts a very long time compared to a suitcase. Furthermore, a backpack is flexible and is not going to break if it falls on the floor.

In essence, a suitcase and a backpack are made for two completely different things.

How To Know The Difference Between A Good Backpack for Travellers And A Bad Backpack for Travellers?

Firstly, you need to check the quality of the fabric. The backpack needs to be a compromise between robustness and weight. Usually, you can feel this.  A bad backpack is made with poor material.

The big names in this industry are Osprey or Deutler because they use high-tech materials which are engineered especially to be resistant and comfortable.

A bad backpack usually feels rigid, its mesh support feels fragile and the foam shoulder paddings are hard.  This is because companies save money where they can. There is no secret.  Basically, you get what you pay for.

Undoubtedly, it is more expensive to buy an Osprey 70 L than something on the market twice as cheap. However, you are going to keep your quality backpack for many years and you will travel in comfort.

What Is The Best Size Of Backpack for Travellers?

My advice is to not take too many belongings on your travels. If you pack a lot in your backpack before you leave, you need to remember that you will have to carry all these clothes and other things during your entire trip.

Whilst you are away, you will notice that you never wore this jumper or these trousers. However, you packed it so you still need to carry it! It is very difficult to remove items from your backpack, but it is easy to buy what you need on the way. So, less is better. Each time you put an item into your backpack when you are packing, ask yourself this question: Do I really need it? If the answer is no or probably, then don’t take it.

Another thing worth realising is that it is very easy to wash your clothes whilst you travel.  You can find a laundry or ask the owner of the hostel or guest house how much it would cost to clean your clothes. Usually, you pay by kg and it is very cheap. Personally, I pack for 10 days whatever the duration of my trip.

Backpack Sizes

What Are The Different Parts Of A Travel Backpack?

Backpack Body Material

Even if your backpack doesn’t need to be fully waterproof, it needs to be made with quality material to protect your clothes from rain.  In addition, you need to have a removable rain cover to protect your belongings in case of heavy rain.

On top of that, the material needs to dry as quickly as possible to avoid moisture. With a good backpack, you are going to protect your clothes from the rain but, if you need to, you can dry it. The best solution is to expose your backpack to the sun whilst you enjoy a cup of tea. Usually in Asia, the rain is heavy but doesn’t last long.

In short, the material needs to be resistant to avoid any instant damage, but needs to stay light.  As I’ve said, a good quality backpack lasts a very long time.

Hip Belt And Harness.

These are the main supports for your backpack.  They allow the weight of the backpack to be transferred into the leg muscles.

When you pack your backpack, you need to think carefully about weight. The weight needs to be centred and uniformly spread. You can’t have heavy things in just one side of the backpack. Also, your backpack needs to look like a tower; very straight from the bottom to the top.  Curved backpacks are not good.

The hip belt and harness need to be very comfortable and not damage your shoulders. The protection needs to be hard enough but soft as well to be efficient and give protection at the same time. The harnesses on some poor quality backpacks can damage you very quickly.  This is because of inferior fabric quality. It is very important to get a comfortable fit which will remain year after year.

Multiple Pockets

A good travel backpack has a lot of pockets.  As I said above, your backpack needs to be organised because you can’t open it like a suitcase. Small pockets give you the ability to separate things and give you quick access to your possessions.

Organisation is so important when you backpack. Having easy access to your water bottle, rain coat or flip flops is essential and makes life much easier. You will find the right way of arranging your things, and when you are happy with this, it will make you a very efficient traveller. You won’t need to empty your backpack each time you are looking for something.

Always, take a few plastic bags with you when you backpack.  I use one for my trainers when I wear my flip flops to avoid transferring dirt onto my clothes and another to separate my dirty clothes from clean ones.

Double Zips

A good practice is to have double zip to close your backpack properly. With a double zip you can put a lock on it. If you travel to the US, it’s compulsory to use a TSA lock.  This is the one I use.

To protect the small pocket in the backpack, you can use a paper clip! I learned this in the New York subway. This is valuable advice not just for your backpack, but it is also very useful when you are going somewhere with a day backpack.  Close your zip with a paper clip and it is enough to discourage pickpockets.

If you are worried about theft in hostels or guest houses, you can buy this system to protect your belongings.  The backpack can be attached to the bed and will remain protected while you are out exploring worry free!

Backpack Designs For Men And Women

Manufacturers create different backpacks for women and men for a reason. This is because we don’t have the same physiology. Never buy a backpack which doesn’t make it clear whether it’s for men or women. You need to go for the right category.

Serious manufacturers have done a lot of studies about physiology and the ideal position of the back protection and belt. Backpacks are designed to protect you and to make your life easier, so make sure you choose correctly.

How To Pack A Travel Backpack?

As I said above, you need to find a good system for you.  However, to help you get started, here is some general advice:

  • Start from the bottom and work your way up.
  • Put all your clothes on your bed and sort into categories.
  • Start packing the least useful and heaviest at the bottom and go up layer by layer until your reach the top.
  • Keep the lighter items and most frequently used items on the top
  • Make sure you keep your back pack in a nice straight tower.
  • Distribute weight evenly.
  • Try to use compartments as much as you can. If you don’t have enough, you could try using packing cubes to help you organise your backpack. Those one are cheap and very good.
  • Keep snacks, sun cream, copies of essential papers (Download our 10 best tips to travel safely under) or sunglasses at the top of your backpack.
  • Use the side pocket to carry a water bottle.

Do I Need An Ultralight Backpack?

No, you don’t need an ultralight backpack, unless you really want to travel very light. These kinds of backpacks are built to reduce weight and for this reason they are made with light material.

I can hear you thinking, what kind of answer is this?  The answer is yes and no.  What I mean is that it is good to choose a very light range, if you fall into the category of people who this backpack was originally designed for. 

Basically, ultralight backpacks are designed to carry less weight. For the same size backpack, they work differently. If you travel with a traditional backpack, you will be comfortable with 7 kg or 10 kg because you have strong framework and a comfortable harness and hip belt. I suggested that you don’t exceed 10 kg, but a traditional backpack can still hold a lot more. So, if you need to carry more for a short period of time, you can. 

On the other hand, the ultralight backpack is designed to carry lighter weights and if you exceed the suggested weight guidance, the backpack may break or quickly become very uncomfortable for you.

So, my advice is not to choose an ultralight backpack for travel, unless you are taking part in competitive trekking.

How To Clean A Travel Backpack?

Cleaning a backpack is very easy. Most of them are made with good materials which are deliberately easy to clean. The dirtiest part on the backpack is the bottom because you will be leaving your backpack upright on the street or on dirty roads while you are waiting for a bus. Obviously, the amount of dirt will depend on whether you are travelling in muddy places or not.

To remove dust and dirt, simply wipe down your backpack on a regular basis. If your backpack is very muddy, use an old toothbrush to remove it. If your backpack is really dirty, you can remove all your clothes and use a garden hose to wash it.  You can even remove the frame and put your backpack in the washing machine on a cool wash cycle. However, take care and check the label first to find out whether your backpack is able to go in the washing machine!

I hope this ultimate guide help you to choose the right travel backpack for you. Let me know in the comment below what is the best size Backpack for Travellers for you?

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