How To Choose The Right Backpack

Size matters

When it comes to the size of your backpack, bigger isn't necessarily better.  The size of your bag comes down to how much stuff you're going to be taking with you.  Many first time backpackers tend to pack way too much stuff and end up buying an unnecessarily big backpack.

Backpacks come in sizes ranging from 35L to over 100L.  The trick is to find a bag that is the right size for you.  If it's too small then it'll be challenging to fit everything you need into it and if it's too large then it's going to be bulky, heavy and cumbersome.

If you pack properly, you should easily be able to fit everything you need for your trip into a bag in the 50-70L size range.

Travel Tip
Low cost airlines have strict restrictions for size and weight of carryon bags. If you're looking for a bag that you don't have to checkin each time, visit the airline's website to see what their restrictions are.

Front loading

When it comes to how a backpack is loaded, there are two types: top loading and front loading.

While top loading backpacks might be lighter and fit better, you'll quickly come to realize that front loading backpacks are much easier to travel with.

Front loading backpacks have more pockets and pouches to separate things into.  They also unzip and open up like a suitcase so it's simple to get something out of it.  With a top loading backpack you have to frustratingly take everything out of it if what you need is at the very bottom of the pack.
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Design

1) Quality made

When it comes to backpacks don't skimp on quality.  After all, the bag will contain your life while you're traveling.  Spend the money to get one made of quality, waterproof material so everything doesn't get soaked when you're inevitably caught in a downpour.

2) Weight

Obviously you want to get a backpack that is lightweight - your back will thank you.  Some backpacks can weigh up to 10lbs empty so look for one that weighs 3-5lbs.

3) Frame

Don't get a backpack that's straight out of an old hiking movie from the 70's.  These external backpacks have their frame and support rods sticking out on the outside of the pack making them big and clunky.  Nowadays most backpacks you'll find have an internal frame where the rods and frame are built into the backpack and hidden from view so get one of those.

4) Ventilation

There's nothing like wearing your pack for a couple of hours and having your back drenched in sweat because of the lack of ventilation between your back and the pack.  Some backpacks come with a ventilation bubble that allows better air circulation when you're wearing your pack.

Features

1) Shoulder straps

With the weight of your pack pushing down on your shoulders you'll want a backpack with padded shoulder straps.  Nice thick padding on the straps will take pressure off your shoulders and be better for your lower back.

2) Hip belt

As with your shoulders straps, you'll also want a nice padded hip belt as well.  The weight of the backpack will be pushing primarily down onto your hips so a good hip belt will provide better support and distribute that weight more evenly.

3) Pockets

Traveling can be messy and unorganized so a backpack with more pockets will keep you a little more organized.  Also, pockets on the outside of your backpack allow you to easily access whatever you need.

4) Zippers

Each compartment should have two zippers that can be interlocked together.

How much does a backpack cost?

The price of your backpack will depend on alot of different variables like its' size and the different features it has.

In general, though, a medium sized backpack will cost around $200.  It's a steep price to pay but a good backpack will last you many years and many trips so it's worth it.
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More Trip Planning

How To Plan Your First Euro Trip
Backpacking Europe: Everything You Need To Know
9 Euro Trip Itineraries
The Ultimate Backpacking Pack List
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