What To Look For In A Travel Backpack


Do you want to be able to choose a travel backpack and have it last at least ten years of trips? Is this kind of reliability even possible? Yes it is, but you have to know what to look for. In this article we will take a detailed look at five things you should keep in mind when choosing a travel backpack.

"Five things you should have in mind when choosing a travel backpack"

What Makes A Travel Backpack Different

Travel backpacks sometimes get checked-in at the airport, but, usually, they get lugged around as carry-ons, so the baggage handlers are less likely to be throwing them around. Even so, these packs are constantly on the move even after travelers arrive at their destination, unlike suitcases which usually stay at the hotel during the trip, backpacks usually get to join in on the tours, walkabouts, shopping and trekking. Constant handling in different environments coupled with the different items that have to be carried defines the criteria for the selection of a good travel backpack.

First Criteria: Durability

Let's talk about backpacks getting absolutely destroyed. Here are the top four things that can happen, with the most likely listed first and the least likely last.

  1. Zipper malfunction
  2. Soaked bag contents
  3. Bag coming off at the seams
  4. Torn or slashed fabric

Zippers are the biggest durability weakpoints. A lot of manufacturers use clothing zippers for bags, so take a close look, your bag zipper shouldn't look like the zippers on your clothing. Proper zippers are larger and more robust looking.

If you're zippers get stuck in the open position, that's a security issue. You certainly won't be wearing that backpack on your back. You'll probably be tucking it under your arm in crowds and holding the backpack by the top handle anywhere else. Not good.

The most famous zipper brand when looking for quality zippers is KYK. Aside from that, you might want to consider 'self-healing' or 'self-repairing' zippers. These magical zippers allow you to recover from zipper malfunctions.


The next three most common ways backpacks get damaged are all related to the backpack material. Immediately, there's a cost consideration here. You can have the toughest and best material like leather or ballistic nylon but at a cost. If cost is not a problem, by all means, go for leather or ballistic nylon backpacks . Leather is a time-proven tough material and ballistic nylon was originally created to survive World War II. Other strong fabrics are canvas, polyester and nylon. Pay attention to the 'D' designation of the fabric. You'll usually see a description like '800D'. 'D' means denier or fabric weight. The bigger the denier, the denser the fabric, the tougher the material.

"Zippers are the biggest durability weakpoints"

Another thing to pay attention to is the weave of the fabric. If you can, get a fabric that is described as ripstop or having a waffle weave. These fabrics will not only resist abrasion but are also harder to slash.

If you travel long enough you will definitely experience getting rained on. What I mean is, you will definitely experience getting rained on with your backpack. Getting rained on is par for the course, but you certainly don't want to open your backpack and see everything soaked. Leather is naturally waterproof, other fabrics have to be treated to become water-resistant.

To summarize: You want robust, industrial-strength self repairing zippers and leather or at least 600D treated fabrics. One last caveat: There's a trade-off between fabric density and weight. The higher the denier the heavier the backpack.

Second Criteria: Security


Once you've selected robust, rip-resistant material security is simple: Find a backpack that has two zippers for every opening. These zippers should have a hole at the end of the zipper pulls, what is known as lockable zippers. So you bring the two zippers together, buy one these luggage locks , loop the locks through the pull holes, and voila! Your backpack is secure.

Does every zipped pocket have to be secure? No. Most backpacks have easy access pockets for loose change, tickets, snacking - inexpensive things that you want to get to conveniently - these pockets don't have to be lockable.

Beyond losing the items in your bag is the loss of the bag itself. You can get security tags that leverage mobile phone and internet technology to allow you to trace the location of your bags.

Third Criteria: Storage

When estimating the amount of stuff you're going to be carrying be sure to err on the side of overestimation. It's more acceptable to have extra space in your backpack than not being able to pack your items. One of the great utility functions of backpacks is they allow you to keep both hands free. Running out of bag space entails carrying some items by hand, defeating one of the reasons you're backpacking in the first place.

That said, look for 29 to 50 liters of combined compartment space. This should be more than enough for a week's backpacking adventure - there are laundry facilities abroad, don't worry.

Another thing you should consider are backpacks with two main pockets. With this kind of arrangement you can have soiled clothes on one compartment and fresh clothes in another - an instant mobile hamper!

"Look for 29 to 50 liters of combined compartment space"

Pockets are one of the enjoyable parts of backpack hunting because different pocket configurations really change the utility of the backpack. If your a gearhead there's a backpack pocket configuration that's made for you. If you're the adventure travel type, you can get a backpack with specialized pockets for your kind of trips. Take your time, choosing a right pocket layout will make the bag feel that it has been made just for you.

Fourth Criteria: Comfort


Before we go into a discussion of the straps and handles that spell out backpack comfort, it should be worthwhile to point out that the point were the shoulder strap meets the backpack is a common weakpoint. These stress points pretty much carry the weight of the bag when you have it strapped to your back. It pays to make sure that the stitching and/or rivets in these areas are particularly strong.

Here are the things that will give you the most comfortable backpack experience.

  • The backpack should cleave closely to the back.
  • The shoulder straps and back panel should have some form of ventilation.
  • The contents of the backpack should shift very little or not at all.
  • A sternum or chest strap
  • A waist or hip strap

If your trips won't be too much of a walkathon you can dispense with the sternum and waist straps.

Many manufacturers ventilate the shoulder strap with a porous mesh. Look at these very closely, some straps go overboard and weaken the shoulder straps with too much mesh material.

Regarding having a bag that cleaves tightly to your back, look for S-shaped shoulder straps. These straps are designed to conform closely to the back

"The backpack should cleave closely to the back"

Sternum and waist straps are weight distribution tools for long hikes distributing the weight between shoulders, back, and hips.

The back panel of the pack will be pressing on your back constantly. It will get hot and it will get uncomfortable. Look for a back panel with some form of back panel ventilation. It could be an elaborate system or something as simple as a contoured panel

Another thing to look for is external compression straps. This will allow you to clamp down on your contents and prevent them from shifting. During long walks, constantly shifting bag contents will steadily wear you out.

Fifth Criteria: Looks

They are backpack styles for the office, backpacks for the outdoors, and more, the range of colors and styles are amazing. So it's you're style, your choice.

And that pretty much rounds out our little guide. To summarize:

You want a travel backpack to be made of at least 600D treated material, self-repairing bag zippers, more than 30 liters of storage space, pockets for your specific needs, ventilated back panel, S-shaped shoulder straps, and external compression straps.

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