I'm looking to buy myself a new backpack for my 1 month vacation. I want a backpack that would serve my incoming and all future traveling needs, so I want to make the most educated decision.

What characteristics should I look for in a backpack? The obvious ones might be space, comfortability, and such, but as a newbie in traveling, I may not see some of the things that regular travelers wish they had in their backpack.

Aside from the price, what should be in my criteria of evaluating which backpack to buy?

  • To those who are voting to close as primarily opinion based, can you give suggestions to make this more objective? I personally think that finding the optimal backpack is kind of an objective question, but that just might be me. How would I improve this question?
    – Zaenille
    Feb 20, 2015 at 13:25
  • 4
    Well given the variety of backpacks, it's clearly not objective or there'd be a 'best' one. What size? 40L? 90L? Do you want a day pack as well that straps on? Should it have wheels? Must it be lockable? Open from top or front? All of these criteria I know of people who want them and others who don't - it's a personal decision :/
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 20, 2015 at 13:36
  • Well, for example, someone like me doesn't know what 40L or 90L is for a backpack. Maybe an answer which discusses these factors would suffice? And then detailing on the factors. For example : A backpack can either be X-type or Y-type. Pick X if you prefer hiking, and Y if you prefer city travelling. I still believe that a generic answer can possibly be given here. Think of an answer that would help future Travel.SE'rs decide on a backpack as well, rather than helping my specific situation. Do I make sense?
    – Zaenille
    Feb 20, 2015 at 14:32
  • Not only is it opinion-based but also too broad (for the latter hint: look at the answers it has attracted). You should specify what type of holiday you are talking about. Will you be on the move every day? Walking? Hitch-hiking? Hiking? I have an 80L backpack that I use as a suitcase, all I need it for is to carry my stuff from the luggage belt to the hotel. Is this what you are looking for? ;)
    – JoErNanO
    Feb 20, 2015 at 20:37
  • Colour would make a good criterion. I like the dark grey tones because they don't clash with my outerwear.
    – Gayot Fow
    Feb 21, 2015 at 1:09

2 Answers 2

  1. Find a pack of appropriate size.

  2. Find other things from the store and stuff every compartment to the max. While packing everything you'll need.

  3. Put it on and walk around. Climb some stairs or step onto a bench/chair.

Is it comfortable? Can you easily access some compartments while wearing it? Can you use the zippers while wearing gloves? Does it inhibit your movements? Can you touch your toes? Can you put both hands behind your head? Can you put your hands in your pockets? Can you tie your shoes?


First, establish the use for the backpack. Will you be wearing it all day, in all kinds of weather, while walking 8 or 12 hours through nature? Or will you be putting it in the luggage compartment of buses or trains? Will you be using it in a city where you need to worry about pickpockets or bag-slicers? Does it matter that it fits the rules for carryon sizes on airplanes? For which airlines?

Second, establish the volume you want. You can get anywhere from 20 to 90 litres with backpack straps on it. I can fit all I need for an indefinite trip into 45L with the help of packing cubes, but I don't bring a hair straightener, 5 spare pairs of shoes, a bathrobe and so on. If you already own some suitcases or backpacks, you can do some trial packing to work out what volume you need. Compression sacks will help make things like sleeping bags or sweaters smaller, but remember they don't reduce weight.

Third, establish a budget. If you think you don't have an upper limit then you haven't yet looked at what the most expensive backpacks cost. You can spend a LOT of money on a high end Tom Bihn, for example, but do so because the slashproof fabric or waterproof zippers meet your needs. Or rule it out because there's no internal frame to help you carry that all day long on a trail.

Finally, start reading reviews looking for comments about adjustability or reliability or waterproofness or whatever. It's entirely likely some of the items in the reviews won't matter to you. That's why you have to think long and hard about how you're going to use it.

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