Choosing our Travel Backpacks

Like most aspiring travellers, we’re trying to find ways to get rid of our possessions so that we can travel as lightly as possible when we’re on the road. However, while we’re in the process of packing up, giving away and selling our stuff, we’re also having to buy all the gear we need for our trip; which includes the most important piece of kit – the backpack.

Andrew trying on backpacks for our round the world trip

What Makes the Best Travel Backpacks?

Most travellers will disagree about what makes the best backpacks; we read so many recommendations and warnings during our initial research that it made our heads spin. In the end, we decided that these were the most important things we needed in a backpack:


Above all else we wanted to find a comfortable backpack that we could easily walk with for long periods of time should we need to. For me, that meant looking at backpacks for women, which would suit my frame well.


We knew, partly from experience but also from reading so many travel blogs, that we didn’t want huge rucksacks. We wanted something that would be lightweight and easy to carry – something that would force us to pack only the essentials. At the time when we first started searching backpacks for travelling, we were also booking our summer trip to Rome. It was then, confronted by the hefty charges to store our luggage in the plane hold, that we decided to buy backpacks small enough to fit as hand luggage, that meant that we were looking at something almost scarily small – a backpack only 56cm long, 45cm wide and 25cm deepthat’s  between 35 and 40 litres big.


We didn’t need much persuading when it came to choosing a front-loading pack rather than a top-loading one. We’d had experience of how annoying it could be, having to unpack all our belongings just to find that one item stuffed right at the bottom. So, we made it our mission to find front-loading backpacks which we could easily unzip to find what we’re looking for.


We weren’t looking for cheap backpacks; they’re our most important piece of travel gear, something that needs to be strong enough to endure being hauled, bashed and thrown around while protecting all our stuff. So, with that in mind we were prepared to pay up to £100 each for our backpacks.

We were also looking for packs that had the following general features:

  • Waterproofing
  • Padded straps and hip belts
  • Lockable zips
  • A space between the back and pack for airflow

So, Which Backpacks did we Choose?

Once we had an idea of what we were looking for we headed to a few camping and outdoor shops to test out the packs in person. We tried on dozens of different sizes, styles and makes and asked the shop assistants for weights so that we could test how the backpacks would feel once they were full.
Our Osprey travel backpacks
One type of backpack that consistently came out best was Osprey.  When I asked shop assistants for recommendations, they pointed out the Osprey backpacks. What we particularly like about Osprey packs is that they’re made from lightweight, water-resistant material that looks great. After trying on a few different types and sizes of Osprey packs, we narrowed down our favourites and searched online for the cheapest price. Here’s what we ended up buying:

  • Amy chose an Osprey women’s Aura 35 Litre backpack which cost £89 from Joe Brown Sports online with free delivery
  • Andrew went for an Osprey Atmos 38 Litre backpack, which cost £88 from Taunton Leisure online with free delivery

We’ve already used our new backpacks for small trips around the UK and our trip to Rome – we’re confident they’re the perfect choice for our big trip.

The Best Travel Backpacks

Pin Me!

So, what do you think of our choices – what backpack would you recommend?

You may also like...

14 thoughts on “Choosing our Travel Backpacks

  1. It took Tony & I a really long time to settle on our packs, but we are over the moon with the ones we got. We were looking for much the same features you two are, though it seems in the U.S. our choices were a lot more limited as very few packs are panel-loading here, which is a huge pain. I really loved the Osprey bag I initially chose, but as it was top loading and had no way of locking it, I wound up having to return it. In the end, I went with the pricey but AMAZING Eagle Creek Rincon Vita 65L – note that it’s actually a 45L main pack (which is exactly carry-on standards) with a 20L daypack. My parents were kind enough to purchase it for me as a graduation gift, and I am so happy with it. It’s amazingly comfortable, forces me to pack light (and honestly, on travel days, it hardly feels like I’m carrying anything) and the one thing I love most of all is that the day pack has straps so that I can attach it to the main pack on either the front or back (so that I can wear it on my front, but clip it to snaps on the main pack’s shoulder straps which is far less cumbersome and uncomfortable than having to wear the day pack’s straps on my shoulders as well). Tony also went with an Eagle Creek pack (we got it on discount out of a rummage bin and actually have no idea what it is) that is also lockable and carry-on size and immensely comfortable as well. We’ve had to change some gear along the way since starting our travels, but our packs have been better than we hoped! Really, good packs and good footwear are the MOST IMPORTANT things you’ll be bringing with you so it’s critical to get those right!

    • Sad that you had to return your Osprey, Steph! Sounds like you both got great packs in the end though. Andrew was keen on an Eagle Creek bag at one point (I think he read some rave reviews about them online) but they just weren’t available in the UK. It would be really interesting to hear what gear changes you’ve made on your trip so far – I have a suspicion we’ll be discarding and swapping items once we’re on the road. Footwear is another tricky one and something we need to look into, what make/type of shoes do you wear for travelling?

  2. Steph is right, the bag and the shoes are critical. We have been lucky in the bag department. We almost didn’t get the Eagle Creek bags because we just couldn’t find them anywhere to try out, but in the end we got lucky and found some to try. They really are fantastic, better than most anything else we saw by leaps and bounds, but also more expensive and hard to find. There was an Osprey bag I liked early on, but I found that the straps on the Osprey bags just weren’t built in a way that was comfortable for me. My second choice bag was a Dueter, and I can say they are one of the best as well. So glad you two found bags you like. I feel like we’re packing light at around 40-45 litres each, I have a hard time imagining less! As far as shoes go, I am wearing all Tevas. I have a pair of barefoot sandals (the Zilch) that I loooove and a pair of low converse-style sneakers (the Fuse-ion) as well. Both have been great for me, but be careful, we learned the hard way that a barefoot sandal does NOT work for everyone. Make sure you wear whatever you plan to take A LOT before you go, and despite that be prepared to have to change. Steph ended up dumping both her shoes (Merrell sandals and the woman’s Fuse-ion) in favor of some sporty Eccos and a pair of Tevas with great heel support (the Tirra). In the end we didn’t blink at having to make these changes, it all comes with the territory I guess!

    • Thanks for the advice Tony – I’m almost wishing we could have got our hands on some Eagle Creek packs now! We’ve actually got a mini 10 litre Deuter bag that we love, I hope we can fit that in our main packs to take with us; if not then we’ll have to leave it behind unfortunately. Thanks for the shoe recommendations too, we will take a look at the Teva range and see what we can find – the barefoot sandals sound good. We will have to start looking for those soon to have a chance to wear them in – thanks for that tip!

      • I will just say that the barefoot shoes did not work well for me at all. I have relatively high arches and I am a heelstriker (and possibly a suppinator to boot) so I need shoes that offer LOTS of heel cushioning. The barefoot shoes obviously do not so I spent the first 2 weeks of our trip in serious pain, which didn’t help my mood that first month! I’m still bummed the ladies Fuse-ions didn’t work for me, but again, I think I just need shoes with more arch support than what they provided. I didn’t realize my feet were so finicky before we left, but now I know how important it is that I get shoes that work with my feet!

        • That sounds awful Steph – I’m glad you found some comfortable shoes in the end. I have no idea how my feet will cope in different types of shoes, especially as I spend most of my time sat down at work in front of a computer (which is another reason I’m taking this trip!). So like you, I’ll have to try a few pairs to see what works I think. Thanks again for all the tips!

  3. Pingback: Travel Checklist | Our Pre Travel Checklist

  4. Pingback: Choosing a Travel Laptop | What's the Best Travel Laptop?

  5. Pingback: Adapting to Travel | Here's How We're Coping After a Month of Travel

  6. Pingback: Pre-Trip Costs | Breakdown of Pre-Travel Expenses For Our RTW Trip

  7. Pingback: Our Travel Packing List for the USA

  8. Pingback: Preparing for your Next Adventure - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure

  9. Pingback: Everest Base Camp Packing List - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure

  10. Pingback: How much did our Everest Base Camp Trek Cost? - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge