A good backpack can make or break your trip – you will either start punching and kicking it every time you relieve your poor shoulders to set it down on the ground, or… well to be fair, I’ve always felt that way even with a good backpack, because I overpack and start attaching more and more things to the outside straps of my pack. But that’s another story…

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Back to your backpack. Whether a backpack is the right for you and your particular trip depends on an abundance of influencers – the length of the trip, the destination and its climate, how you plan to get around, your physical features and much more. There are billions of brands and models out there, and I’m sure every single one will sit perfectly on at least one back. The key is finding the right one for you. A few things to consider:

1. The Size

Are you travelling for a 6 days, 4 weeks or several months? Do you need to pack bulky jumpers and warm layers, or bikinis and tank tops for the beach? How strong are you, and how much weight can you comfortably carry?

These questions are important when you decide on the size of your backpack. The most common guideline is 30-50L for a weekend trip, 40-60L for one or two weeks, 50-70L for a month, and 65L+ for a longer period.

When I travelled Canada for two months in autumn my 55+10L backpack was a little low-aimed… Next time I would decide on 70L instead. That said, I use the same 45+10L backpack for active day trips in Scotland (such as hiking), that I backpacked Costa Rica with for three weeks. The climate makes a big difference.

Before you decide on a size think about what you would like to pack, and make sure you leave enough space for some inevitable shopping sprees on markets and vintage stores.

2. Roll or Carry?

Do you want to carry your backpack on your back only? Or do you want to carry it in your hand or roll it from time to time?

Many brands now produce convertible backpacks with additional cross-body straps, or wheels and a handle. The benefit is of course, that you can give your shoulders a rest from time to time. That’s particularly nice, when you have a very heavy, bulky backpack with you. The disadvantage is that the wheels and handle not only add additional weight to your load, but they also use up precious space inside your backpack!

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If you go for traditional shoulder straps, make sure they are padded – just as your hip belt and the pack’s back, for maximum comfort.

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3. The Fit

Not every back is the same, hence different backpacks fit different people. Start with measuring your torso, as this has an impact on the frame size you want to choose. A guideline to keep in mind is: 40-45cm = small frame, ~50cm = medium frame, 50+cm = large frame.

While unisex backpacks are fine for many women, it might be worth to check out women-specific backpacks. They tend to be designed for shorter torso lengths, narrower shoulder width and have curved waist belts.

When you fit your backpack, make sure you tighten the hip belt first, then the shoulder straps. This will ease the weight off your shoulders and move it towards the centre of your body.

4. The Loading Direction

When it comes to loading my backpack, I’m a classic kind of girl – I’m a top-loader. I find stuffing items in a lot easier from the top, and I developed quite a system of how to arrange them in my tube of a backpack.

Once I’m on the road however, I do appreciate the zippers on the side, which allow me to access items buried deep beneath the rest at any time. However, as I often pack my belongings in dry bags, I have to take out everything all the time anyways…

That’s why many people prefer a front-loader. It opens like a weekender bag or even a suitcase, which gives you the perfect overview of what’s in your bag with all the advantages of a backpack.

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5. The Brand

There is a jungle of brands to choose your backpack from, but generally it is best to go for either an outdoor or luggage expert. Some of the best ones to look out for – and the most common among the Travelettes of our Facebook group – are Osprey, Deuter, Lowe Alpine, Gregory, The North Face and REI. They all produce a great variety of backpacks, and other travel and outdoor gadgets that might come in handy for backpackers, like rain covers or dry bags.

A good backpack will cost you at least between $150 and $300 – depending on the materials, weight and other gimmicks.

6. The Material

Make sure that the backpack is made of water-resistant material. You might not find an absolutely waterproof backpack, but a regular one should protect your belongings from the occasional rain shower. You should be able to pour a cup of water over it without the contents getting wet.

In addition, I got a rain cover to pop on when it pours down non-stop. This also comes in handy on the plane, as it hides all the loose straps of my backpack which the airlines hate so much. I also stow my clothes in thin dry bags – fancy clothes in one, outdoorsy stuff in another, a third one for undies and socks.

7. The Daypack

At home, I use a backpack on almost every single day. It’s the only bag that fits my laptop and notebooks, and I can comfortably carry on my bike. I can’t imagine travelling without one, so bringing the right daypack is just as important as the main backpack. Many people swear by detachable daypacks, but I guess I’m just too picky. I want my daypack to make me feel like my normal self – that’s why I usually bring the same one I’m wearing at home. It’s important however, that I can roll it up and fit in my big backpack, so I don’t have to carry it in my hands all the time.

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I asked around the other Travelettes and we came up with a couple of our favourite backpacks, which we can highly recommend for your next adventure, wherever it may take you:

Around the World with…

How to Choose the Right Backpack - Around the World travel backpacks

…a big backpack that can hold loads of your things, has a comfortable hip belt and padded shoulder straps.

Left to right: Gregory Women’s Jade (60L) / Osprey Women’s Ariel (65L) / Deuter Aircontact (55+10L)


A Weekend in the Hills or a Month in the Sun with…

How to Choose the Right Backpack - A weekend in the hills or a month in the sun travel backpacks

…a considerably smaller pack which still fits warm gear for two days or a month of tank tops and sundresses.

Left: Osprey Women’s Kyte (46L) / Right: Deuter Women’s Futura Pro (40L)


Whenever, wherever – with gimmicks

How to Choose the Right Backpack - whenever wherever with gimmicks travel backpacks

These packs have a special something for any situation.

Left to right: The Front Loader – Lowe Alpine Travel Trekker II (60L) / Roll’n’Carry – Osprey Ozone (50L) / The Convertible: The North Face Base Camp Duffel (2 in 1: backpack and duffel bag)


The Ultimate Daypacks

How to Choose the Right Backpack - Daypack

We love our fancy daypacks in the city, but a sporty one might be more comfy to carry on a quick hike – it depends on what you are up to!

Left to right: Herschel Little America / Kelly Moore Chapel Convertible (doubles up as camera bag) / Deuter Speed Lite (15L)

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Hopefully this will help you to make the decision of luggage easier. With the right backpack, nothing stands in the way for a fully equipped trip to __________ (insert your dream destination). Now it’s your turn – which backpack did you choose?

*This post contains affiliate links.

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!